Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dangerous police secrecy in Sydney (1)

They no doubt fear public outrage if the true extent of lawlessness became known

ATTEMPTED assaults on three women in one day and less than 1km from where a woman was abducted and raped have been kept secret by police. The incidents happened within hours of each other close to Queens Park, in the Eastern Suburbs, the scene of a horrific April 29 attack by two men that only became public after the victim spoke to The Daily Telegraph. Despite three similar incidents in one day - July 6 - police did not make them public.

Suzanne, one of the women chased by a man in one of the latest incidents, said people had a right to know. "Just because I or one of the other girls was not raped doesn't make our story any less significant," she said. "The police investigating my report have been fantastic but I think it's important things like this are made public.

"While I was in the police station giving my statement police told me other women had reported the same thing, all between 6pm and 10pm. "In one case police said a man tried to get a woman into a car."

Police confirmed three women made statements saying that on July 6 they were watched or followed by men near York and Birrell Sts, adjacent to Centennial Park.

"Detectives have canvassed the area, sourcing CCTV footage locally; unfortunately none shows the men described," a police spokeswoman said. "The descriptions of the men vary. Police regularly issue warnings regarding personal safety however at this time, the intentions of the men are unknown and there's no evidence that any of the incidents are linked."

Suzanne said the fact the descriptions were different was even more frightening as it could mean the men were working in pairs. Soon after her ordeal Suzanne letter-dropped the area warning locals. "People need to be informed. It is dark around that area with poor footpaths and hardly any lighting," she said.

In her police statement, Suzanne detailed how the man appeared to be feigning talking on the phone when she saw him about 6pm. "When I was near York Place I saw a male standing on the other side of the corner on the footpath in the dark and I think he might have been on the phone," she said.

When she again looked back at the man, he was running towards her. "I started to run and headed towards the middle of the road where the cars were. I was running into my unit block and I looked behind and he was still running at me." On April 29 , young mother "Caitlan" was abducted and raped in nearby Queens Park.

A Daily Telegraph investigation showed police were keeping serious crimes hidden for days or weeks if they were releasing them at all. In one week in March, 11,508 of the 31,536 reports were listed as "check bona fides or concern for welfare" - terms which cover anything from murder to kids hanging on a street corner.


Dangerous police secrecy in Sydney (2)

WAVING a sawn-off shotgun and a 20cm knife, two men threaten the lives of drinkers and staff at a Sydney pub - the third time in 17 days.

Sick of being a victim, one patron fights back and, despite having his arm broken with a chair, his head split open by a wine bottle and being stabbed in the stomach, he unmasks a robber.

And it was his bravery that could provide the key to solving the crime, as the robber's face was caught on CCTV.

Yet, despite the obvious benefit, the images of Tuesday's robbery at the Stella Inn in Tempe were not publicly released by the NSW Police's multi-million-dollar media unit yesterday.

Instead it was the Stella Inn's manager who gave the footage to The Daily Telegraph.

"People should know there are bad guys out there running around with guns and see how frightening it is," said the manager, who did not wished to be named. "One bloke who saw the last robbery fought back and while I would tell people not to do it, his bravery and toughness means we can see the face of one of these guys.

"This is a real locals' pub and until the last three weeks we have always felt safe here. We are now increasing security patrols, cameras and time delayed safes.

"We have to make the customers feel safe again. The best way of doing that is to have these guys caught."

The Stella Inn was robbed on July 10, 21 and 27.

"Police don't think they are done by the same guys - and I agree - but something is going on," the manager said. "We were robbed last Wednesday. Just 20 minutes earlier the same guys robbed the Bankstown Hotel and a shot was fired."

The manager did not want to be critical of front-line officers, instead criticising the force's policy makers.

"They [police officers] have a really tough job but there seems to be a policy of keeping things quiet when in fact it should be made public," he said.

"If you look at the video it's obvious these guys know what they are doing."


Transport Workers Union fined $35,000 for unlawful baggage handler strike

Good to see that there is still some restraint on union coercion

THE Transport Workers Union has been fined $35,000 after it was found to have organised unlawful industrial action by Qantas baggage handlers.

The fine, handed down by the Federal Court in Adelaide last week, was given in the first case initiated against a union by the Fair Work Ombudsman since the tribunal came into effect.

Up to 19 domestic flights in Melbourne and Adelaide were delayed in the December 2007 strike. Around 130 baggage handlers walked off the job at Adelaide Airport over fears jobs would be outsourced as a result of a planned review of services.

Fair Work argued the strike was illegal because it occurred before a 2008 enterprise bargaining agreement with the baggage handlers expired.

Justice Anthony Besanko called the breaches "serious and deliberate". "The Adelaide strike resulted from encouragement by a high-ranking official of (the TWU)," he said. "In those circumstances, a substantial penalty is called for."

The result comes days after the New South Wales workplace relations tribunal forced plane refuellers from the Australian Fuel Association, which is part-owned by Qantas, to return to work after banning striking for the next month. The refuellers are striking over a pay dispute for casual workers.


Australian parents not consulted over refugee pupil plan

This is treating them as if they have already been accepted as permanent residents. Will the schools have to hire Afghan interpreters?

UP to 60 asylum-seeker children will be enrolled in Darwin schools in a move that has angered some parents who claim they weren't consulted.

The Immigration Department yesterday confirmed it was in discussions with Northern Territory education officials about getting the children, most of them Afghans, a proper education. A spokesman said it was important for their development that the children attend school.

But some parents have reacted angrily to the move, saying they were not consulted and that school resources were diverted to make way for the influx. One parent told ABC radio he only heard about the plan after receiving an email addressed to the Anula school council.

"We found out through the back door," he said. "We were told nothing. The school council organised a meeting the previous Monday. The department never came to us to explain anything. No one's consulted anyone."

While the Immigration spokesman said it was too early to say which schools would be involved, NT Education Union's Adam Lampe said he was advised last week that Anula Primary School and Sanderson Middle School had been selected to receive the children.

Anula principal Karen Modoo declined to discuss the proposal and directed calls to NT Education where the executive director of school education, Alan Green, said there would be community consultation and that only schools with room and dedicated English programs would be considered. "There's no question of us cramping kids into Anula or any other school," Mr Green said. "They'll only go there if they fit."

Mr Lampe said educating the asylum-seeker children was a "great initiative". "These kids need to be taken care of," Mr Lampe said. "It's being federally funded so there are no negatives here."

But while both Anula and Sanderson have an intensive English unit that each caters to about 100 students, Mr Lampe said more teachers would have to be recruited from interstate.

A spokeswoman for NT Education Minister Chris Burns rejected suggestions the move would put Territory schools under strain.

Asylum-seeker children have previously received schooling on Christmas Island and in the remote West Australian town of Leonora, where officials say they have settled in well.


Julia Gillard's old car trade-in plan ripe for corruption

Worth $2,000?

THE biggest question to ask about Julia Gillard's plan to give people $2000 for trading in their old bombs for newer, more fuel-efficient cars is: Who will be the first to rort it and how will they do it?

A second is whether this expensive vow will serve any useful purpose except appealing to voters with crummy cars?

But first, just how rortable [corruptible] is this scheme going to be? Just think, a bucket of nearly $400 million of Government money placed in the vicinity of people trading in used cars.

Even without resorting to stereotyping, that sounds risky, especially given the Labor Government's recent, breathtakingly botched home-insulation scheme.

This time will be different, insists Gillard. "The scheme will be ... protected by rigorous anti-fraud and compliance provisions," the Labor Party says in its new policy. But then it would say that, wouldn't it?

Read on and you discover the Government appears not to have allowed even one cent for administering this program, let alone policing it. It wants 200,000 cars taken off the road at a bonus of $2000 a car. That's $400 million, even more than the officially declared cost estimate for the scheme of $394 million.

That means, in turn, if this Australian-badged version of the US "cash-for-clunkers" program ever gets off the ground, it could cost us far more than currently forecast.

Cost aside, if overseas experience is a guide, the opportunities for crooks to scam such a scheme are many.

In the US, identity theft fraudsters began launching bogus, official-looking websites inviting consumers to "pre-register" for the program even before President Barack Obama signed it into law a year ago.

The problem was bad enough for the Federal Trade Commission to issue a public warning.

In England, which launched its own scheme last year, traders and consumers were warned about crooks stealing log books and using them to trade in stolen vehicles cloned to match log details.

And, in Germany - where drivers were paid $2500 ($3600) to scrap their old cars for new ones - an estimated 50,000 clunkers were illegally sold again, mainly in Africa and Eastern Europe. That won't happen here, insists the Government.

Here in Australia the plan is to scrap all traded-in vehicles. But first a new Gillard Government will need to "prescribe the scrapping requirements following consultation with industry to ensure they are consistent with the environmental objectives of the program".

Although it is hard to know exactly what this might mean, once again, no cost is assigned to this process of consultation, scrapping, monitoring, inspections and so on.

In the car-making economies of Europe and the US, the local versions of these schemes were sold first and foremost as economic stimulation plans for struggling local car industries. And, to the extent sales soared, they were successful.

The US "cash-for-clunkers" scheme was shut down last August after barely two months, following much higher-than-expected public interest. More than 690,000 trade-in vouchers were issued, which translated into one of the largest two-month spikes in car sales on record.

The economic benefit of such temporary sales boosts is harder to calculate and depends on assumptions about what level might have occurred without the stimulus, and how much the blip cannibalises future sales.

The best Obama's Council of Economic Advisers could come up with was that: "The program can be expected to have produced a noticeable impact on GDP growth."

But here in Australia, the scheme is being sold as an environmental initiative that will, theoretically at least, reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 1 million tonnes by getting older, less-efficient vehicles off the road.

It is an expensive way to cut emissions. The scheme prices carbon at $394 a tonne - even before making assumptions about administration and policing costs - which compares to something under $30 a tonne if you plant trees. But, of course, trees do not vote.

Perhaps Gillard should have come clean and just told us this expensive new program really was nothing more than a re-badged industry support scheme designed to bolster Australia's domestic carmakers (and win support of car-owning voters looking to trade up.)

But, even in this role, this is hugely inefficient. The international experience has been that most of the dollars spent on new vehicles head straight overseas to the Japanese and Korean carmakers with the smallest and most fuel-efficient cars, although, granted, some must go to local manufacturers.

But back to the scammers. Last August a suspected hit-and-run driver in Arizona allegedly tried to use the "cash-for-clunkers" program to offload his bloodstained BMW 325i by claiming the blood and dents were caused by a pig he hit in the desert. No one believed his story. Gillard is clearly hoping voters will believe hers.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"Cash for clunkers" was a stimulus idea in countries whose economic situation was worse than ours (due to the usual Government negligence). Given that Labor's stimulus packages apparently saved us all from certain doom, then why does this program even need to be discussed now? They can all buy their own bloody cars, I'm sick of we who work constantly being seen as cash-cattle for those who won't.