Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thug NSW cops caught on Video

AN INVESTIGATION should be launched into the state's police riot squad after a violent arrest was filmed on a Sydney street, according to the top lawyer representing two brothers charged over the incident.

David and Peter Bunker were making their way home after a night out when they happened upon a crime scene in Oxford Street. Within seconds, they were part of their own alleged crime scene.

CCTV footage from a nearby nightclub appears to show one of the brothers being repeatedly kicked and kneed by members of the Operational Support Group while a group of other officers pin him to the concrete.

"When you look at this footage, it is deeply concerning that it could be suggested that grave issues of law and order have been abused," said barrister Winston Terracini, SC, having been instructed by solicitor Nick Boyden. "We will raise these issues in any tribunal if the police conduct is to be denied."

Police tape had been strung across Oxford Street and the footpath after a uniformed officer was run over. Constable Sarah Maxwell, 27, suffered serious head injuries when hit by a vehicle during a routine licensing operation on Monday, October 5. She had run across the road to break up a fight about 2.40am.

But it was another melee about 20 minutes later - involving David Bunker and about six police - that is the subject of a court case that will thrust the actions of the black-clad officers from the Operational Support Group into the limelight.

Police statements tendered in court allege David Bunker assaulted a policewoman after crossing beneath the blue-and-white crime-scene tape that she was guarding.

Both brothers have been charged with assault and resisting arrest. Contesting the charges, they and their legal representatives claim police were not only brutal but wrong to take them into custody.

The brothers claim they were trying to get back to their apartment in nearby Brisbane Street.

What the police involved did not realise was that the whole sequence of events was caught on film.

Stills from that CCTV footage - shot by a camera outside a licensed premises - are displayed above (with the whole sequence of events able to be watched on

The case is due to be heard in the Downing Centre next month.

Mr Boyden, a solicitor from the Australian Criminal Law Specialists, said the footage would prove embarrassing to the force: "At least 10 officers were involved in the arrest of my clients. Police are supposed to protect the community … the behaviour of some of these officers needs to be explained. Police have alleged in statements that my client disobeyed a direction to move on and that he lifted up the tape and stepped through striking a policewoman but we claim the video images show it was the other way around."

The alleged assault occurred in the same street police twice fired a Taser at a 28-year-old man in March 2009. The man involved in the Taser incident - also caught on CCTV - is being represented in civil action against the police by the same law firm.


Ambulance officers monitor hospital crisis as study shows ramping wait

This is an Australia-wide problem

FRONTLINE senior ambulance officers are being placed inside Queensland's busiest public hospitals to monitor the ramping crisis outside accident and emergency departments.

Apart from attempting to prevent blockages in the system when ambulances arrive at congested ramps, the officers try to ensure paramedics get food and toilet breaks as they can be kept waiting for more than four hours during peak periods.

The negative impact of ramping on patients has also been documented for the first time with Griffith University research finding a trip by ambulance to hospital is not always the quickest way to get treatment. Patients arriving at hospital in an ambulance not only wait longer to be triaged, they are at risk of possible misdiagnosis and tend to stay longer recovering in the emergency department than people sitting in waiting rooms.

A report in The Sunday Mail last week outlined how nurses at the Gold Coast and Logan hospitals were being assigned to ramp duty and admitting patients to accident and emergency departments due to "bed blockage". Hospital insiders have since revealed the new role for Queensland Ambulance Service employees, estimating at least eight QAS officers in the state were rostered inside Queensland Health facilities to "monitor" ramping.

Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union ambulance organiser Nigel Stamp, an experienced paramedic, confirmed the QAS had appointed hospital liaison officers in the past six to 12 months. He said the officers monitor the arrival of ambulances and negotiate with nurses in accident and emergency departments. "They're frontline officers. What they do is they time and record when the ambulances get there and go. They also look after the ambos if they haven't had a break," Mr Stamp said. "That's the problem. We can't get people off to get a meal break. If a patient is pretty crook one ambulance officer will be doing the paperwork and the other looking after the patient."

LHMU ambulances services organiser John Webb maintained the appointment of hospital liaison officers was a positive step, but it illustrated the crisis in resourcing at public hospitals.

The research shows ramped patients can wait twice as long to be triaged as those at the accident and emergency department at the Gold Coast Hospital and are more likely to be "access blocked".

Assessment of a patient on an ambulance stretcher could increase the risk of adverse incidents or missed diagnoses, the report by Griffith University's Research Centre for Clinical and Community Practice Innovation said.

Griffith's School of Nursing's Dr Brigid Gillespie said the research, found ramped patients were likely to spend more than eight hours in accident and emergency compared with other patients.


Rudd, the isolated man

THE most potent clue to Kevin Rudd's future came from the most peculiar place last week. Not from former Labor ministers, former state treasurers, old Labor friends or unnamed Labor sources all critical of how quickly the Prime Minister has tarnished the Labor brand, not to mention the Australian economy.

In a strange intervention, Annie O'Rourke, the Prime Minister's former adviser, wrote a mea culpa explaining she was to blame for the PM's failure to attend the Melbourne funeral of Labor luminary John Button in 2008.

Anyone who understands the Australian Labor Party, its history, its culture, its rhythms, will understand that this is the most telling sign that the ALP is fed up with Rudd.

The slumbering Labor bear has woken and it's rumbling with wintry discontent.

What started as disdain for the way Rudd snubbed Button's memory has become deep-seated animosity. That's why O'Rourke entered the fray with lame explanations that the PM's meetings prevented him from flying to Melbourne for Button's funeral. The PM was also feeling flat, she said, and she thought a hospital visit to new mother Cate Blanchett was what he needed.

"The PM would get a boost from seeing a newborn baby. He adores them."

O'Rourke's excuse, which reads like a mother's note for a sooky child, will only pour salt on wounds. Other Labor ministers, backbenchers, former prime ministers and premiers cancelled meetings to attend the funeral. No one waits on a sofa for news to arrive that a funeral is on.

Choosing a movie star over a Labor star was classic Rudd. Blind to Labor traditions, Rudd signalled his contempt for the party's culture of revering its icons, for its long history of mateship born out of the 1890 strikes, for its tribal core of true believers where long service, loyalty, earn your stripes and take your turn count for much.

Rudd's cold shoulder to Button's memory disrupted the natural order of things in the ALP.

But, then, Rudd was never part of Labor's natural order. There is no history of Labor in his blood. No steaming Labor passions. He told David Marr that when he heard of Gough Whitlam's dismissal on November 11, 1975, he leaned briefly on his mop, then returned to cleaning the floor of Canterbury hospital.

As Marr writes in the latest Quarterly Essay under the heading "Power Trip: The Political Journey of Kevin Rudd", as a university student "Rudd did not lift a finger for Labor in the high political excitement of Malcolm Fraser's early years". No protest marches against John Kerr. No manning the booths in '77 or '80. Rudd entered federal parliament as a Labor blow-in. Sure, he worked in Queensland for premier Wayne Goss, but it was just a job, like mopping the hospital floors.

The ALP is a tribal beast. The cleanskin routine worked for Rudd in 2007. Now Rudd is discovering the cost of not being part of the tribe.

Queue jumpers are not welcome. Unknowns are for Australian Idol, not the ALP. Labor friendships - and hatreds - are decades old.

The party will eulogise men such as train driver Ben Chifley, men such as John Curtin and Paul Keating who left school at 14 and 15, feisty union leaders such as Bob Hawke, even flawed visionaries such as Whitlam. And Button. All men with Labor pulsing through their veins.

That's the thing about Labor. Everyone fits in somewhere. Old Labor or New Labor. The Left or the Right. Labor seeds, grows and backs its own. Especially when they are in a corner. Rudd is in a corner now. He is running up against Labor history, discovering that, as one pundit observed, he sits atop a pillar, not the Giza-sized pyramid that supported John Howard or Keating when they were in political dire straits. Rudd's leaning Tower of Pisa totters in the poll winds. He has no credits he can call on for favours done or loyalty given.

Power, not Labor, courses through Rudd's veins. He wrenched control from the caucus when he became Prime Minister and, while a grateful ALP acceded, Rudd's power trip did not end there.

Rudd's "community cabinet" meetings must surely grate with the Canberra cabinet. Maxine McKew politely described them as the Prime Minister's pursuit of direct democracy. Pull the other one, Maxine. Rudd doesn't even consult his real cabinet let alone community shindigs conceived for Rudd worship.

What on earth must Greg Combet, Bill Shorten and Stephen Smith make of Rudd's trashing of Labor's culture and brand in so short a time? Is Rudd the sort of leader you go down with on a sinking ship? Here's a clue. They may have privately jumped ship along with former Hawke ministers Peter Walsh, Graham Richardson and former Queensland treasurer Keith De Lacy. Not to mention Labor mates such as Rod Eddington, John Singleton and Lindsay Fox.

Many more are also asking how it is that Australia, with its reputation for sensible economic reform, now has sovereign risk attached to its name? Why isn't it being fixed quickly? "The obstacle is Rudd," said Walsh. When Simon Crean dumped on Rudd a few days later, it became clear that traditional Labor is flexing its muscle, trying to restore the natural order of things and regain the soul of the party from a drop-in leader who hasn't risen to the occasion.

When he was a new MP in Canberra, Rudd's colleagues wondered where did he fit? The answer is he doesn't. He's not old working-class Labor. He's not new Labor class. He's not really Labor at all.

Rudd is a bureaucrat who could just as easily prosecute any side of an argument using overblown rhetoric to hide his cold detachment.

How precarious is Rudd's position? So precarious that he now needs a public explanation of his failure to attend a funeral more than two years ago. That single intervention suggests that internal Labor conversations about Rudd go something like this. They might mention the PM's pushy nature, his imperious manner, his snubbing of cabinet, his phony colloquialisms, his bureaucratic logorrhoea, his backdowns, botched policies and broken promises.

And then it ends: "And the bastard didn't even attend Button's funeral." Naturally, replace "bastard" with any four-letter Labor expletive of choice.

Real political passions burn long and hard. Losses leave scars. Hayden, Hawke, Keating, Howard, Costello. In their own way, all will have felt profoundly injured when they left politics. Rudd? Whether he loses at the coming election or is evicted from the Lodge by Labor before or afterwards, you get the sense that the lonely Labor locum will just move on to the next gig. It's just a job after all. Like mopping the floors at Canterbury hospital.


Private school fees soaring in Australia too

As discipline in government schools continues to deteriorate, the demand for private schools rises

CASH-strapped parents are paying $7 billion more for school fees and education costs than five years ago, putting unprecedented pressure on the household budget.

Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph yesterday showed parents paid a staggering $22 billion in education expenses in the past 12 months as private school fees surged to unseen levels due to increased demand for schooling.

That total spend is almost a 50 per cent increase on what parents were paying in school fees in 2005, while inflation over the same period has only risen by a moderate 9 per cent.

The biggest increase was in higher education, where fees and costs surged from $1.9 billion to $2.8 billion, mostly in the last 12 months.

Commsec economist Savanth Sebastian said the massive hikes were a direct result of rising populations in a nation that is simply not building enough schools.

Where healthcare services and childcare providers - sectors also feeling the strain of population growth - maintained only minimal growth in fees and costs, schools have been found guilty of blatantly gouging parents.

Given the growing importance parents are placing on education, according to Mr Sebastian, elite private schools and universities know their classrooms will be full whatever price they demand.

"The fact population is growing at the fastest rate in 40 years is adding to the strain on the education system, which warrants the increase in fees because it is a supply and demand issue," he said.

"We have had rising wealth over the past five years, given the commodity boom and improvement in sharemarkets that may have propelled more parents into private eduction.

"But the growth in education fees seems excessive."

Despite a backlash from parents and a Federal Government which was injecting $28 billion into education, elite schools pushed ahead with a 6 per cent increase in fees at the start of the 2010 school year.

The largest fee hike this year was posted by Brisbane Girls' Grammar and East Brisbane's Anglican Church Grammar School which locked in rises of more than 8 per cent.

Australia's most expensive school, Geelong Grammar, lifted its fees 5.5 per cent to $27,700 per student, a step ahead of Sydney's Kings School which increased fees by the same amount to $24,730.


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