Wednesday, June 23, 2010

That good ol' socialist "planning" again

No books, no staff in Kevin Rudd's new libraries

SCHOOL libraries built under Kevin Rudd's controversial stimulus program have no new books on their shelves and no staff to run them.

Librarians have panned the Rudd Government for spending billions on new library buildings but not a cent on resources or staff training. Queensland teacher-librarians have warned Education Minister Julia Gillard that better buildings won't equal improved learning without resources and staff.

The Rudd Government has spent more than $3.9 billion on 3400 library projects under its Building the Education Revolution program, including $1 billion on 1200 Queensland libraries. The cash was only for construction or fit-out, not "non-portable" items like books.

Submissions to a federal inquiry into school libraries and teacher-librarians reveal frustration over chronically underfunded libraries and a lack of consultation on building projects.

The School Library Association of Queensland welcomed the cash injection but said "many facilities do not meet student or school needs" because schools weren't given a say in their design.

Gold Coast librarians said follow-up funding for librarians and resources was crucial. "Members of the Gold Coast branch of School Libraries Association of Queensland have visited new libraries funded by the BER, with state-of-the-art technology and inviting learning spaces, but they have minimum books on the shelves," its submission said.

The Sunshine Coast Teacher-Librarians Network was disappointed there was no cash for resources leaving "ageing collections that are no longer functional for students in the information age".

A spokesman for Ms Gillard said State Governments were responsible for funding library staff and books. "While the Government provides funding for schools, the day-to-day management of schools and allocation of staff, including teacher-librarians, is the responsibility of the government and non-government education authorities in each state and territory," he said.

In its submission, the Queensland Catholic Education Commission warned "improved buildings will not translate into improvements in library services and learning outcomes" without adequate resourcing.

A survey by the Children's Book Council of Australia found the average school library budget was just $25 per student. Many school library budgets fell below 1975 funding levels, the survey found.


Mother of slain Melbourne teenager slams police agency

Victoria's OPI seems to be a twin of the old Queensland Police Complaints Tribunal, commonly known as The Police Whitewash Tribunal. Queensland improved on that decades ago. Not so Victoria

THE independence of the Office of Police Integrity has been challenged by the mother of a teenager shot dead by police 18 months ago.

Shani Cassidy, mother of Tyler Cassidy, who was shot dead by police in December 2008 in circumstances his family believes were preventable, told the OPI and state government that an independent body needed to be established to investigate police shootings.

"An independent body needs to be set up to independently investigate police deaths in custody and see whether the police action was justified," she said in a submission to an OPI inquiry into deaths associated with police contact.

"The police have been able to control Tyler's investigation by choosing whom to get statements from and hone their questioning to suit their stance. We demand change because the system does not work at the moment."

Ms Cassidy told The Australian yesterday the OPI had instructed the family that it did not have the resources to probe the shooting, in which police fired 10 bullets, six of which hit the 15-year-old.

Police said that they opened fire on the teenager, who was armed with two knives. Ms Cassidy, who said her son was "in crisis", contacted police 30 minutes before the fatal shooting to say Tyler had left the house in a distressed state.

"The OPI has just stood back and let the police run the investigation," she said. "From the minute that Tyler was killed, everything was cordoned and contained by the same people that killed Tyler." Ms Cassidy and her partner, Greg Taylor, said a 1700-page police brief to the coroner, which has still not been completed, was "biased and amateurish" and "just tells their side of the story".

They said 700 pages of the brief concerned Tyler's school and medical records for the five years leading up to his killing.

The police probe into the shooting, including an inability to locate all the bullets fired on the night, was grossly inadequate, potentially crucial evidence had not been handed to their lawyers, and they feared the inquest would be handicapped by the police "buddy syndrome".

"I just want a fair go for Tyler," Ms Cassidy said. "He was a 15-year-old boy. They should have stood back. They didn't have to put six bullets into him."

Ms Cassidy's submission to the OPI inquiry has been made through the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre, which says the failures of police investigating their own is a "consistent . . . theme".

Tamar Hopkins, principal solicitor at the centre, told The Australian the state government's proposed Victorian Integrity and Anti-Corruption Commission would leave a failed system intact, with the OPI left untouched.

"This was a generational opportunity squandered, leaving the police as unaccountable as they ever were," she said.

A spokesman for the OPI, Paul Conroy, confirmed last night that the OPI had been in contact with Tyler Cassidy's family and advised them "that it is not feasible to conduct a parallel investigation duplicating the homicide squad's preparation of a brief for the coroner unless there is some demonstrated need".


Confirmation that top Victoria police refused to prosecute a prominent footballer despite a strong brief

And Victoria's Office of Police Whitewashing has finally decided to look into it. It took exposure of the matter on a TV program to get even that semblance of action, however

RAPE charges against Saints star Stephen Milne were dropped partly because they would cost too much if the case failed, a former detective has claimed. Mike Smith backed allegations made by his co-investigator, Scott Gladman, that other police had tried to derail their investigation.

No charges were laid against Milne or teammate Leigh Montagna over a woman's claims that she was raped at Montagna's home. Both men deny any wrongdoing.

The Office of Police Integrity yesterday announced an inquiry into Mr Gladman's claims.

Last night, Mr Smith told Nine News that money was one of the reasons they were given for the decision not to go ahead with the case. He said it was suggested that because Milne and teammate Montagna could afford top lawyers, "it would cost the department a lot of money" if the prosecution were unsuccessful. "We thought we'd done a great job," he said of the investigation. "We couldn't do a better brief of evidence if we tried."

He said the news that his superior officer and the Director of Public Prosecutions had decided not to prosecute was a turning point in his career. "That one investigation shattered it for me," he said.

The mother of the alleged victim said the family was bitterly disappointed with the decision six years ago, but had finally managed to get their lives back together. "Detective Gladman's bravery and honesty may bring about an end to it once and for all. He's always shown integrity over the matter," she said.

Mr Smith said he had urged the family to make a formal complaint after constant leaks of information, including media being alerted within 15 minutes of the alleged victim going to police.


Revolt against Rudd will be ugly

The image of Australia as a nice place for relaxed politicians is going to be on hold for a while. PM Rudd is in big trouble, and the sound of knives is being heard throughout the land. A leadership revolt is in the air, and whatever happens, it’s not going to be pretty.

Elected in 2007 with a huge win, Rudd is nobody’s idea of a fool. He survived the murderous Labor competition to become leader, too, which is about as much fun as swimming the Pacific inside a shark. With great energy, he swung into major reforms, and got a reputation for being a hard boss. So far, so good.

Then, this year, the wheels fell off, all of them. In the greatest reversal of political profile and positions since Ben Chifley sent in troops against the miner’s strike, everything collapsed.

1. The Emissions Trading Scheme, a pillar of election promises, and no small amount of grandstanding about environmental credentials, went up in smoke.

2. The Home Insulation Scheme, another environmental initiative, was bungled, resulting in several deaths, and a major investigation into widespread fraud.

3. The 40% super tax on mining produced a ferocious response from the mining industry, which even left the Liberal Opposition in their wake in terms of attacking the government.

The result of all these merry misadventures is that Labor now has a primary vote of 35%, the lowest in decades. Labor's credibility has been maimed, severely. Rudd’s own popularity is now historic, in that many people now want him to be history. These setbacks have appalled the Labor Party, so much so that the convention of saying nothing negative about policy has vanished.

For those who don’t know, the Labor Party in crisis is about as squeamish as a chainsaw mass murderer trying for a personal best score. It has a left and right wing, both of which not very cordially loathe each other on occasion. Power brokers in the Labor Party aren’t known for their collection of Nobel Peace Prizes, either.

The choices of alternative leader are easy enough: Deputy PM Julia Gillard, or Deputy PM Julia Gillard, or perhaps even Deputy PM Julia Gillard. There isn’t anyone else, and everybody else is very strongly on the nose with the public at the moment. Treasurer Wayne Swann, heavily identified with the mining tax, will have to fall on his sword, or someone will help him fall on it.

That’s not all bad news for Labor. Gillard has done the almost impossible already, getting genuine respect as a hard case in Canberra. Her political technique is excellent, and not much gets past her in media presentations. If Gillard becomes the next PM, Labor can at least be sure it’s not getting a dud.

The real bad news for Labor is an unwholesome déjà vu. This is the second time in so many years that an Australian political leader has been hanged by a high profile issue, and left swinging in the breeze by his party. The other was former Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, also hung out to dry in an absurd, indefensible position.

Coincidence, or have Australia’s political scientists been doing more than watching reruns of Lost?

What’s a surprise in this case is that Rudd, who’s an ex-diplomat, and knows the game, has been left holding so many babies. Politicians don’t need to go looking for problems, and he would know that. Politicians, in fact, are often donated problems by their friends and advisors.

As a load of unsaleable garbage, the mining tax would take the cake as a prime example. Australians don’t lie awake at night hoping for a new tax. Particularly not at 40%. None of the usual precautions against a suicidal policy seem to have been taken in this case. There was no sounding out, no obvious sign of policy evaluation. That’s extremely suspicious. It's like a doctor not doing a diagnosis before an operation. It's not supposed to happen.

For the Labor Party to be genuinely that careless is a real concern. It’s not really too probable, because this is only a first term, and first termers tend to be more cautious. For it to provide a short pier for someone to take a long walk is much more likely. Like Turnbull, Rudd has found himself without support, and in mid air with an impossible issue.

Wile E Coyote had much the same problem, but he was syndicated. The question is, has Australian politics entered a new, virile, even more mediocre stage? Can we now elect people who can be removed at will by any tedious little maggot in a position to make policy? Or is this Canberra at its unhygienic best, a septic little country town full of no-hoper political time servers with nothing better to do than make Australia look like an idiot factory?

I ask because one thing is becoming obvious. Rudd and Turnbull both have one thing in common. They put in a lot of work. These nutcase slapdash policy approaches were obviously created by people who do very little work of any kind. Responsibility for errors of judgment or political naiveté is personal, but policy responsibilities are everyone’s business in politics.


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