Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Who'd a thunk it? Bureaucrats actually fired for bungling! A rare event indeed. But the matter has been a huge embarrassment for the government so maybe that is what it takes

TWO of Queensland Health's most senior bureaucrats are believed to have been sacked over the payroll crisis, as the embattled department braces for the release of a top-level report into the multimillion-dollar bungle.

The Courier-Mail understands deputy director-general Michael Kalimnios and corporate services executive director Adrian Shea were tonight served notices of contract termination over the ongoing debacle, ahead of the latest pay run results this week.

The move by Queensland Health director-general Mick Reid late last night also comes ahead of a major report into the payroll crisis being tabled in State Parliament tomorrow by Auditor-General Glenn Poole.

Mr Kalimnios has been heavily involved in the roll-out of the $44 million payroll system, which has left nurses and doctors unpaid or wrongly paid for months.

A spokeswoman for Health Minister Paul Lucas declined to comment, but senior department sources said the termination notices had given the pair 30 days until their contract ended.

Meanwhile, workers' entitlements may be scrutinised under plans to fix the fiasco.

The Auditor-General's report is expected to recommend discussions between Queensland Health and unions about simplifying awards. But unions are likely to oppose any proposal to change conditions for which they have fought, particularly given that the payroll troubles have been of Queensland Health's own making.

Australian Services Union branch secretary Julie Bignell said that if such a recommendation was implemented, it would create more work for the department's already over-stretched payroll staff. She said its current staff of 800 would need to be doubled to roll out the changes.

The eighth fortnightly pay under the new system is due on Wednesday.


Rudd the rotten and Queensland government corruption

By Piers Akerman

In an extraordinary coincidence, as Kevin Rudd was being tipped out of the Prime Minister’s office, an Aboriginal woman denied justice by Queensland’s Goss Labor Government - which Mr Rudd once was said to have run - had more than $120,000 in extraordinary damages tipped into her bank account.

Such sweet synchronism.

That step provided concrete vindication for those who have pressed the case of the Heiner Affair, the massive abuse of power blocking the carriage of justice against ex-members of Wayne Goss’s Cabinet and senior public servants who helped to illegally destroy documents, known to be wanted as evidence of unlawful treatment of state wards there.

The documents were assembled by ex-magistrate Noel Heiner in an inquiry into the operation of John Oxley juvenile detention centre and included reports of sexual attacks, among them the pack rape for which the Queensland Government has just awarded compensation.

The link between the Goss Cabinet’s wilful destruction of documents relating to the rape and Mr Rudd is simple. He was the Premier’s chief of staff when the Goss Cabinet ordered the documents shredded in 1990 and has since given contradictory statements about the matter.

In 2007, a bench of retired senior judges all wrote to then Queensland Premier Peter Beattie seeking appointment of an independent special prosecutor into the affair; and were rebuffed.

Last week, a second notice of concern was sent to Premier Anna Bligh by some of these ex-judges and a raft of senior law lecturers over the manner in which Queensland’s Parliamentary Crime and Misconduct Committee acted in refusing to refer the claims for independent review.

Mr Rudd’s failure to provide an unambiguous statement on his knowledge of the documents’ destruction gave many observers one of the first clues to his personal character flaws.

That he could obfuscate, sideline inquiries and claim independent examinations that never existed revealed much about a man who drove himself to be PM.

Yet, as we have seen with the recent inquiry into the 2004 death of Mulrunji (Doomadgee) in police custody on Palm Island, it took nine investigations before evidence of a cover-up was finally revealed and police officers ordered to be disciplined.

An exhaustive audit by Sydney QC David Rofe shows that the Heiner Affair has never been properly investigated and its findings suggest that criminal offences may have have occurred covering a wider range of officials.

But Mr Rudd and others linked to the Goss Cabinet have avoided any independent investigation, such is Queensland’s lack of regard for natural justice.

In The Sunday Telegraph on October 14, 2007, I wrote: “My initial admiration for Rudd, the man, has diminished over the past nine months until I have the gravest concerns about his fitness to head a political party, let alone run this nation”.

Forgive me if this sounds like “I-told-you-so”, but I wrote that my concerns about his character related to “what I perceive to be an unalloyed ruthlessness, a lack of loyalty to anything but his short-term political ambitions and his projection of a carefully constructed image that has little or nothing to do with Rudd the man”.

“Everything he does, every word he utters, comes from a person who is totally absorbed in his mission to get ahead, no matter what the cost and no matter who has to be jettisoned in the process,” I wrote.

“Despite his claim to be a conservative Christian, the reality is that everything with Rudd is about power and when he is before an audience not enamoured of religion, he is happy to tailor his persona and step back a few paces from his ready avowals of faith....

“The list of excuses he has made for various blunders, from the phony Anzac Dawn Service he was to take part in with Channel 7’s Sunrise crew - an essential medium for the delivery of the hand-wrought Rudd image into Australian households - to his night on the tiles with New York Post editor-in-chief Col Allan, runs on and on.”

But it was his “consistent refusal to address grave concerns about the Heiner Affair, which bring so many question marks about his character together ... “.

I mentioned an ex gratia payment by Queensland’s government, in return for someone’s silence about activities around John Oxley juvenile detention centre, and said the “people should have sufficient knowledge to know he (Mr Rudd) is not fit to run the nation”.

Between a Queensland Labor Government anxious not to let light shine on Labor’s dark history and a media which actively promoted Mr Rudd’s candidacy for prime minister, the Australian people were denied, and are still being denied, the truth about the man who was their last leader.

Almost three years on, a majority of his ALP colleagues and the party’s power brokers have decided that the Australian people will no longer support Mr Rudd.

In that time, we have had more illegal boats arrive, we have had lethal pink batts placed in our roofs and we have seen billions of dollars squandered on a useless school building program.

What a lot of time that the nation has spent on this one flawed character.


South Australian hospitals "broke" too

Doctors, hospitals have no money for medical supplies. A similar story to NSW

DOCTORS cannot get basic medical supplies replaced because hospital budgets are running out, they say. The Australian Medical Association says this year is particularly bad, with spending restrictions affecting doctors' ability to do their jobs.

While the State Government insists equipment is provided as soon as possible, doctors say administrators are under pressure to save money - so they delay purchases. AMA state president Andrew Lavender said the situation created inefficiencies and adverse patient outcomes.

"It's always based on assumptions that are never practical," he said. "In most circumstances there isn't a specific budget allocated for equipment ... so we end up with a situation where because of the lack of a scope, for example, we're unable to deal with the number of patients that we were in the past."

Dr Lavender said it took a "huge amount of time" to organise repairs, because doctors had to ask bureaucrats to process the claims. He highlighted one example where Royal Adelaide Hospital doctors needed a flexible cystoscope (to investigate cysts), but the $10,000 price tag meant the request had to go to the regional chief executive.

University of Adelaide professor of surgery Guy Maddern said it could take up to 12 months for crucial equipment such as imaging equipment to be replaced. "We have really important pieces of equipment that have become broken or obsolete," he said. "We desperately need them and at the moment we're being told there's no replacement budget for the foreseeable future. "Every time a piece of equipment breaks we begin a six to 12-month process and even then we don't have a guarantee we'll get it."

SA Health chief executive Tony Sherbon said there was an $18 million budget for replacing and upgrading hospital equipment this financial year. "Out of this, over $2.2 million has been allocated at the RAH, including $70,000 for endoscopic equipment," Dr Sherbon said. "If there is an urgent need ... then it will always be provided as soon as possible."


Global cooling hits Sydney

There is such a lot of unusually cold weather worldwide that it is reasonable to call it global cooling

Sydneysiders have shivered through the city's coldest June morning since 1983 after the temperature dropped to 4.7 degrees just before 7.00am this morning.

Weatherzone meteorologist Martin Palmer said several Sydney suburbs had some of their coldest morning's in years, with the temperature dropping to -4 degrees in Richmond, their coolest June morning since records began back in 1995. The temperature dropped to -1.8 degrees in Campbelltown.

Mr Palmer said the cold morning's would continue to at least Thursday.

"Basically there is a big high pressure above us which for the next few days will keep things calm and still but it means very cold nights," he said.

"That will continue for the next few days, we will expect the coldest nights to be over by Thursday and we will have more clouds on the weekend which will keep temperatures up at night."


Learn how not to reason at the University of Western Australia

By Jo Nova

Tomorrow night the University of Western Australia (UWA) is hosting “Climate change scepticism under the spotlight”, where people who ought to know better are reverting to stone age reasoning. “Hail the Gods of Science!” The shame, the shame, it’s my old university.

Australian Professorial Fellow Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, from UWA’s School of Psychology, will discuss the perils of ignoring consensus in science…

The UWA School of Science ought to be grovelling embarrassed. Any scientific professorial fellow ought to warn about the dangers of ignoring the empirical evidence, or the perils of missing the whistleblowers who point out logical flaws.

Can we add that up?

Let’s follow the reasoning on consensus science. How do you weight the scoring system? Is one post-doc worth 3 honors students, or 5? Do we dilute citation-value according to the number of authors on each paper? Does a Nobel peace prize winner trump a class of undergraduates? Quick, we need a committee to figure it out. I can feel the need for a emergency formation of the Scientific-Authority-Demarkation-Institute. UN based of course.

I have written many times about how Lewandowsky uses Argument from Authority ad nauseum along with ad hominems, and lightly seasoned with Argument from Ignorance. (Picasso Brain Syndrome is probably my choice pick.)

I saw him speak at a similar venture in December, and he spent several minutes on a long rambling ad hom about John McLean. It’s worse than just being unbecoming. We should not tolerate this poor standard of reasoning in an undergraduate of science, let alone a teaching staff member.

The Witchdoctors have moved into the Faculty of Science (which is now BTW awkwardly known as Life and Physical Sciences).

Scientists one and all, it’s time we talk about the dangers of consensus. The Truth, whatever it is, does not lie with qualifications, committees, or unmeasurable “esteem”.

The big problem for us is, how do we reclaim the universities? Can we shame them into picking up their standards?



Paul said...

Two token sackings, meanwhile the pay bungle continues unabated. Two years they reckon.

Paul said...

Meanwhile, workers' entitlements may be scrutinised under plans to fix the fiasco.

"The Auditor-General's report is expected to recommend discussions between Queensland Health and unions about simplifying awards......"

I predicted some months ago that this was the real agenda driving the pay debacle. "Award simplification". I seem to recall it was pure evil when proposed by the Kennett Liberal government in the early 90s, but when a Labour Government does it it becomes OK. To quote the odious Rahm Emmanuel "Never let a good crisis go to waste".