Sunday, August 01, 2010

An affirmative action disaster

There was no way Christine Nixon was the most qualified for the top police job. And it eventually showed. When there was a desperate need for a firm co-ordinating hand she didn't have a clue. Had she been a real leader she could have pulled all the other slack b*stards into gear. But there was basically no-one minding the shop -- so people died, many probably needlessly. When it comes to jobs, people should be judged on their competence -- not what they've got between their legs

FORMER police commissioner Christine Nixon apologised unreservedly yesterday for her bungled performance on Black Saturday after the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission lambasted her "hands-off approach".

The commission's final report delivered a damning appraisal of Ms Nixon's willingness to claim responsibility as chief commissioner and co-ordinator of the State Emergency Response Plan on February 7 last year. It described her leadership as "inadequate".

The report was highly critical of Ms Nixon's decision to leave the Emergency Co-ordination Centre at 6pm, return home and go out to dinner with friends rather than stay and lead an offensive against the fiercest fires to strike the state.

"It is not satisfactory that at this time - when she was aware of the potential for disaster and, in fact, while the magnitude of the disaster was becoming apparent with confirmation of fatalities - Ms Nixon was absent," it said. "On a day when conditions were predicted, and then proved, to be worse than Ash Wednesday, something more was required."

The report said Ms Nixon's approach to emergency co-ordination and the manner in which she acted "left much to be desired". It also expressed "dismay" at her approach in giving evidence before the royal commission, describing parts of her testimony as "inaccurate and incomplete", but found that she "did not intentionally mislead it".

Ms Nixon yesterday accepted the findings and was sorry and sympathetic to fire victims still trying to piece their lives back together. "The commission says on that day I should have stayed and I agree," she said. "They say that I should have been more active on that day and I agree."

Ms Nixon said she felt responsibility for what happened on the day. "I think back, was there something I could have done differently that may have saved people and I don't think there was but I've certainly learnt a lot from it," she said.

Asked if she would act differently if she had her time over she said: "I think all of us would do everything differently."

Ms Nixon was not the only leader to receive scathing criticism from the report. It found former CFA chief Russell Rees and DSE chief fire officer Ewan Waller relegated responsibility and did not do enough to warn communities about the firestorm heading their way.

The report said Mr Rees and Mr Waller were not fully across details of the deadly fires, did not personally map or monitor them and failed to seize responsibility.

Alarmingly, the report revealed Mr Rees did not speak to the incident controller of any of the major fires. "He therefore remained operationally removed from the fires and, as a result, was not in a position to appreciate the deficiencies in the staffing and expertise of some incident management teams," it said.

"Mr Rees did not review the warnings being issued for the Kilmore East fire despite the fire's obviously disastrous potential. "He did not review any predictive maps for any of the fires and would therefore not have been in a position - even had he reviewed the warnings being issued - to assess whether it was appropriate to warn the communities in the predicted fire path."

The report found "a disturbing tendency among senior fire agency personnel - including the chief officers - to consistently allocate responsibility further down the chain of command".

"Although the chief officer of the CFA and the chief fire officer of the DSE were undoubtedly in command of the resources in their respective agencies, neither was directly controlling the response to any of the fires," it said.

The report concluded that Mr Rees and Mr Waller should have done more to issue warnings, support incident management teams and institute statewide planning. "To the extent that they relied on their subordinates to perform these tasks, this reliance was ineffective," it said.

CFA chief Mick Bourke refused to comment directly about the criticism levelled at Mr Rees or reveal where he was yesterday, but said the report would be a "catalyst for change".

The commission found Police Minister Bob Cameron "acted properly" before and during the fires, but said he should have raised the option of declaring a state of disaster with Premier John Brumby.

Though she admitted to a lack of leadership on Black Saturday, Ms Nixon hoped her poor performance on that day would not overshadow her previous eights years as chief commissioner. "I hope that the community, when they do get a chance to read this in more detail, takes note of what the commission has had to say," she said.

"They certainly suggest that I should have done things differently and that's certainly part of it, but I think you have to judge a person's behaviour in the context of all of the things they have ever done as a leader."


Secular attempt to dictate religion

Creationism is a historic Christian doctrine so Christian parents have every right to have their kids taught about it. If they don't want to have their kids taught about it, nobody is telling them that they have to. It's not "hijacking" anything to teach the doctrines of your faith.

Kids have all the rest of their school time to hear the evolutionist side of the story so what is so bad about a different view being given at least some exposure? Where is the "tolerance" and respect for "diversity" among those who oppose it?

I am an atheist but I sent my son to a Catholic school precisely because I wanted him to hear the other side of the story. He seems to have emerged unharmed from the experience and in fact enjoyed his religion lessons at the time. So it is possible to practice tolerance as well as preach it -- JR

Primary school students are being taught that man and dinosaurs walked the Earth together and that there's fossil evidence to prove it.

Fundamentalist Christians are hijacking religious instruction classes despite education experts saying Creationism and attempts to convert children to Christianity have no place in state schools.

Students have been told Noah collected dinosaur eggs to bring on the Ark, and Adam and Eve were not eaten by dinosaurs because they were under a protective spell.

Critics are calling for the RI program to be scrapped after claims emerged Christian lay people are feeding children misinformation.

About 80 per cent of children at state primary schools attend one half-hour instruction a week, open to any interested lay person to conduct. Many of the instructors are from Pentecostal churches.

Education Queensland is aware that Creationism is being taught by some religious instructors, but said parents could opt out.

Australian Secular Lobby president Hugh Wilson said children were ostracised and discriminated against if they were pulled out of the class. In many cases, the RI lay people were not supervised by teachers. {So...?]

Kings Christian Church youth worker Dustin Bell said he taught "about creation" in Sunshine Coast schools. Set Free Christian Church's Tim McKenzie said when students questioned him why dinosaur fossils carbon dated as earlier than man, he replied that the great flood must have skewed the data.

Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan said teachers were sometimes compelled to supervise the instructors "because of all the fire and brimstone stuff". Mr Ryan said Education Queensland had deemed RI a must-have, though teachers would prefer to spend the time on curriculum.

Buddhist Council of Queensland president Jim Ferguson said he was so disturbed that Creationism was being aired in state school classrooms that he would bring it up at the next meeting of the Religious Education Advisory Committee, part of Education Queensland. He said RI was supposed to be a forum for multi-faith discussion. [Since when?]

Education Queensland assistant director-general Patrea Walton said Creationism was part of some faiths, and therefore was part of some teaching.

New research shows three in 10 Australians believe dinosaurs and man did exist at the same time. The survey, by the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies, shows a "worrying" lack of basic scientific principles.

"The results underscore the need for students to be exposed to science and mathematics through a well resourced education system, rather than learning about science through Jurassic Park," FASTS president Dr Cathy Foley said.

PhD researcher Cathy Byrne found in a NSW-based survey that scripture teachers tended to discourage questioning, emphasised submission to authority and excluded different beliefs. She said 70 per cent of scripture teachers thought children should be taught the Bible as historical fact.

A parent of a Year 5 student on the Sunshine Coast said his daughter was ostracised to the library after arguing with her scripture teacher about DNA.

"The scripture teacher told the class that all people were descended from Adam and Eve," he said. "'My daughter rightly pointed out, as I had been teaching her about DNA and science, that 'wouldn't they all be inbred'? "But the teacher replied that DNA wasn't invented then."

After the parent complained, the girl spent the rest of the year's classes in the library. [That is punishment?? I didn't realize that books are such a bad thing]


Arrogant education bureaucrats upsetting parents in Victoria

PARENTS are losing patience with the failure of some principals and education bureaucrats to resolve festering disputes with schools.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said poor communication from some principals was traumatising mums and dads. "Schools are very quick to slap a trespass order on someone rather than actually deal with the problem, and that's not helpful," she said.

Ms McHardy said that though dispute resolution had vastly improved in the past few years, an independent commissioner was needed to resolve lingering complaints.

"It could be just a personality clash, but then that festers and gets bigger than Ben Hur. And it didn't need be," she said. "Often it's the result of the initial situation not being managed correctly and schools not getting appropriate support, like more welfare officers."

Cases reported to the Herald Sun include that of a Bendigo student who almost died in a car crash and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was expelled for truancy and, despite intervention by the department, the school will not take him back.

Another mother complained to the ombudsman that an outer western suburbs school, and the department, had failed to properly address bullying of her daughter.

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Brian Burgess said intervention orders against parents were a last resort. "In the main, complaints are handled well. But in a small number of cases we need to make sure that the communication is better and the response timely," he said.

Opposition spokesman Martin Dixon said parents' legitimate complaints were being smothered. Education Minister Bronwyn Pike said parents were given new advice last year on lodging complaints.


A "Green" government that is dangerously reluctant to do backburning

The NSW government is under fire for its "appalling" record on hazard reduction. The opposition said NSW must learn the lessons of the the 900-page Teague report on Victoria's Black Saturday disaster and massively increase backburning efforts in the state.

Opposition spokeswoman for emergency services Melinda Pavey accused the Keneally government of tying up the process of hazard reduction in "green tape". "If we can believe the government's own statistics, on average only around 115,000 hectares of hazard reduction has taken place in each of the past four years, representing a mere 0.4 per cent of fire-prone land in the state annually," Ms Pavey said. Royal commission chairman Bernard Teague said backburning in Victoria must be nearly tripled to bring the total area of public land backburnt to 5 per cent.

Ms Pavey called on the NSW government to increase funds to ensure backburning in NSW could be similarly expanded. "The $17 million the Keneally Labor government spends on hazard reduction each year represents only about 8 per cent of the Rural Fire Service expenses of $220.2 million, which is clearly not enough," she said. "With the smell of an election in the air the state Labor government has been desperately playing catch up during autumn and winter, however wet conditions have delayed this process."

Ms Pavey said there were now significant fuel loads in many areas including the Blue Mountains, central coast, south coast and the Monaro.

Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan said NSW would carefully review the final recommendations of the Teague report, saying the state had already developed strong fire prevention and management practices. "It is important that we now take stock of the events in Victoria and look at opportunities for further improvement as we continue to build on our experience and expertise in bush fire management."

Mr Whan said since Black Saturday NSW had introduced the nationally agreed system of fire danger ratings, which provide clearer information and trigger points for the public before a fire starts. [Big deal!]


1 comment:

Paul said...

"Though she admitted to a lack of leadership on Black Saturday, Ms Nixon hoped her poor performance on that day would not overshadow her previous eights years as chief commissioner."

Not at all Ms. Nixon. One led inexorably to the other.