Friday, September 03, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is unimpressed by the constant drip of scandal and corruption coming from the NSW government

In Centrelink hell

One woman's experience of claiming a government welfare payment from a vast bureaucracy

I’ve landed in Centrelink hell. I’ve been told of this place. It’s full of bureaucratic bungling, time wasting, money wasting, red tape and double ups. It has lived up to its reputation. Here’s my ten steps to Centrelink hell.

1) Hours after Amelie’s birth we were provided with a new parent kit that included forms for Family Assistance. I stupidly took the time to fill out the form and take it to the Family Assistance office – which when you have a newborn and a toddler is not an easy thing to do.

2) About two weeks later I received a letter saying we needed to provide more information. But there was no indication of what that information may be. So I called the Family Assistance office and they told me I had to fill out the form online for the 2009/2010 financial year because Amelie was born on 29 June.

3) Two hours later after filling in the exact same answers online as I had provided on the paper form the computer told me that I needed to show Family Assistance copies of the kids’ birth certificates.

4) So back to the Family Assistance office I go, the same woman takes the certificates and photocopies them and I think – why didn’t you tell me that I needed these when I came in to hand in the form in the first place? And why doesn’t the form itself say that you need to provide birth certificates?

5) Another week later another letter arrives. It says we need to complete our tax returns before our claim can be assessed. Again, why not tell me this when I am doing the claim in the first place?

6) I call Family Assistance and they tell me not to worry, our claim for the baby bonus is complete and should be processed soon. They just need our tax return for the Family Tax benefit. But we don’t even qualify for the FTB, and that should be obvious from the answers on our form.

7) Another week later I call to find out the status of our claim. The man tells me that there is no problem with our claim, they don’t need any more information and it should have been processed, but he will ask the processing team to call me to explain why there has been a delay.

8) The processing team call 24 hours later. She tells me that she has our paper form, but not an online claim. She says we need to go back online and complete the claim for the financial year 2010/2011 – all the same information a third time. The staff member who told me to tick the last financial year was wrong and she is very sorry. She tells me that the original paper form handed out in hospitals is irrelevant because “we are moving away from the paper form to online services”. What about people who don’t have access to a computer? Why waste so much of taxpayers money printing forms and delivering them to hospitals? Why waste my time filling it out?

9) So I log back on to online services and I am completing the same information for a third time – passport number, exact dates for any trip I have taken overseas in the last three years, income, address, bank account details. They have all this information sitting in their computer and yet I have to fill it all in again.

10) I’m still waiting to see any money and wondering if the cash is worth the headache.

It’s lucky that I don’t desperately need the money – is a wonderful employer who provides some paid maternity leave. I can’t imagine how some couples can survive if they were relying on these payments. It’s late, it’s ridiculously difficult to claim due to red tape and incompetence and it’s taking up far too much of my time dealing with Family Assistance when I should be enjoying time with my wonderful children.

The people who need to deal with Centrelink and Family Assistance are not the kind of people who have a lot of time or patience. They are new parents, carers, grieving widows, the sick and the disabled. These people don’t need the kind of stress that Centrelink brings. I’m sure it is just as stressful for the people who work within the system as for those that need to use it.

Here’s a tip for the politicians trying to broker a deal so someone can form government – push them to reform not just parliament, but the bureaucratic monster that those pollies have managed to create. Do an audit not just of the promises, but of the system that is already in place and use the savings to go towards better health and education services.


Online public broadcaster walks only on left side of the street

ANYONE trying to make sense of the recent election campaign would be advised to stay well clear of the articles on the ABC's opinion websites, The Drum and Unleashed.

With these sites established as an addition to the ABC's online news service late last year, the campaign was the first big test to see whether online opinion at the national broadcaster could, as ABC chairman Maurice Newman once dared hope, "walk both sides of the street".

But while Tony Abbott's 2010 campaign will be remembered as the most successful by a first-term opposition in 79 years - and, conversely, Julia Gillard's the least successful by a government - all of this seems to have eluded the chosen opinion holders at the ABC. I monitored both sites throughout the campaign. Here's the tally. Negative comments: Gillard, 327; Abbott, 353. Positive comments: Gillard, 197; Abbott, 65. In short, while Gillard and Abbott received roughly the same amount of criticism, Gillard was praised three times more often.

From the first week, articles published at these websites informed us that "Changing leaders has done no damage to Labor's chances at all because Tony Abbott is unelectable and his party is a rabble"; that cabinet meetings involving Abbott would be a "freak show" and the leader a "shameless political operator".

Marieke Hardy told us it was likely he would be "stupid enough to go strolling about the streets wearing nothing but his swimmers and a vaguely predatory leer". Bob Ellis chimed in to say Abbott should be asked about causing the premature death of asbestos-related diseases campaigner Bernie Banton.

Abbott started slowly in campaigning, but it seemed unlikely the tenor of the negative comments - running against him by about five to one at ABC online - could be easily justified.

Week two was the week of the leaks. Abbott performed well in the debate and by the weekend some polls put him in a winning position. This, you might think, would be reflected at the online opinion sites of our national broadcaster. In fact, in the week when it was revealed Gillard might not have been entirely truthful about her support for parental leave, her positive mentions doubled. Amazingly, the ABC published an item praising Gillard's announcement of a citizens assembly on climate change, somehow uncovering the only person other than Gillard known to think that "Boganhagen" would be a good idea.

Positive comment for Abbott came in otherwise negative stories: "It should be clear by now that the trend is towards the Coalition. That's despite anything they've done." But for every grudging bit of praise, Abbott was attacked many times over: "To be fair to Tony, he is a genuinely strange-looking man" and "Personally I'm of the firm belief that [Abbott's] personality is born of the loins of Satan, but it's still a personality regardless."

With the entry of Mark Latham and the advent of "Real Julia", Labor's campaign rapidly turned to farce, but we were told Gillard was "shrewd, tough and intelligent and with a modest manner". One writer followed her on the campaign trail, saying there was a "real buzz around her". Whether there was a buzz around Abbott we are yet to find out; none of them followed him on the hustings. Another concluded that the insulation scheme, which led to four deaths and wasted billions of dollars, "actually achieved some very successful outcomes in terms of retro-fitting Australian homes".

In the week of the Rooty Hill debate the ABC appeared to abandon any pretence of providing balanced opinion on its websites. Gillard and her campaign were praised 93 times - more than Abbott during the entire campaign, while he was showered with criticism. There was not a single online opinion article where a conservative substantially criticised Gillard or praised Abbott that week and at least 17 articles on the other side of the ledger.

Interestingly, the ineptitude of Labor's campaign seemed to have an inverse relationship to the rapturous reception at ABC's online opinion.

During this period, as an experiment, I submitted some comments: "To be fair to Julia, she is a genuinely strange-looking woman" and "She took a married man from his children and is likely to treat her country no better." These comments, created by substituting Gillard's name for Abbott and making small alterations to sentences that contributors had already published, were rejected by the moderators.

Unsurprisingly, an analysis of ABC online's election campaign coverage shows an enormous bias to the Left with an over-representation of policies held by the Greens.

I like to think that the work of the commentariat - or, as Kim Beazley Sr famously put it, the dregs of the middle class - contributed to Gillard's disastrous campaign, seducing her into believing that Abbott was unelectable. These assumptions came crashing down at Rooty Hill where, away from ABC land, the Prime Minister finally came face to face with people whose opinions really mattered.


Corrupt Muslim academic still on staff in Western Australian university

It's amazing what you can get away with if you are a Muslim. We read below that "The university has just become aware of the situation" and "The University acted very quickly to protect the victims and has taken a number of steps towards improving its systems for the detection, reporting and management of misconduct”. Which is it?

Amateurish last-minute spin in response to unexpected publicity is what it says to me, with the truth be damned. Excerpts only below. The full article has even more self-contradictions. Honesty seems to be the first victim of dealing with Muslims

A CURTIN University academic whom the Corruption and Crime Commission found to be pressuring students for sexual favours in return for higher marks is still working at Murdoch University.

PerthNow this morning found that Dr Nasrul Ali, the academic named in a Corruption and Crime Commission report tabled in Parliament today, is a finance lecturer at Murdoch's business school.

The report says that while he was employed at Curtin last year, Dr Ali pressured three young, female overseas students for sexual favours in exchange for higher marks.

A Murdoch staffer this morning confirmed that Dr Ali was working at the school, but said that the accusations were merely the opinion of the CCC, which had accepted the allegations of the women, but had not called for further action.

But the official position of Murdoch was released to PerthNow in a statement by senior deputy vice-chancellor Gary Martin who later said: "The university has just become aware of the situation. "The member of staff concerned is currently on leave while we consider the outcomes of the Commission's investigation."

The events happened last year while Dr Ali was employed as a sessional academic in the Curtin Business School where he worked as a tutor, lecturer and unit coordinator. Three of the students were from China and one from Malaysia.

The report found that while there was no sexual contact between Dr Ali and the students, he targeted young, vulnerable, full fee-paying overseas female students. The students were being financially supported by their families, needed to pass their units or risk of losing their student visas.

The report said Dr Ali asked three of the female students, aged 24, 22 and 20, to think of something to convince him to change their marks. Evidence supported the students’ belief that he was asking them for sex, the CCC concluded.

Dr Ali refused to increase the mark of the fourth female student from a fail of 45 to a pass of 50 because he was angry she did not contact him when she was in Malaysia at the same time as he was there. He also marked down a paper from a group of three students that included the fourth female student from 73 out of 100 to 50 because he was annoyed with her.

Curtin's Vice-Chancellor Professor Jeanette Hacket today said the university was committed to implementing the recommendations of the CCC report. Professor Hacket said she had been deeply shocked by the allegations.

“I am extremely disappointed that the educational experience of these students has been so negatively impacted,” she said. “Our integrity has been called into question, and I acknowledge that the trust placed in us by our students and the broader community has been breached by this staff member.

“As Vice-Chancellor, I am determined to address the recommendations made by the Commission, so we can be confident our students are receiving the highest standards of professional and pastoral care.”

Professor Hacket said misconduct was contrary to the University’s Code of Conduct, Guiding Ethical Principles and values, and would not be tolerated. “The University has already done significant work to improve internal policies and processes in relation to the assessment of students since learning of these incidents,” she said.

"I hope people will remember that the University employs over 4000 staff, including many award winning scholars and researchers, who genuinely believe in the transformational power of education and dedicate their professional lives to helping others,” she said.

Commissioner Len Roberts-Smith QC said: “The University acted very quickly to protect the victims and has taken a number of steps towards improving its systems for the detection, reporting and management of misconduct” . The Commission was initially notified of the allegation by Curtin University and Dr Ali was the only staff member about whom an opinion of misconduct was made.


Stupidity in the Federal health bureaucracy goes on

But publicity seems to have forced a backdown at last

A NEW Zealand woman has been told she cannot register as a nurse in Australia until she can prove she is competent in English. Joanne Hening, 50, moved from New Zealand five years ago and this year fulfilled her lifelong dream to become a qualified nurse.

However, despite completing her diploma in nursing at King's International College on the Gold Coast in June, she has been unable to work as an enrolled nurse until she is able to show she can meet English requirements.

"It's very stressful and very frustrating," Mrs Hening said. "As a brand new nurse I'm unable to do my nursing because of this registration problem. I just want to work to do the role that I studied to do."

She is one of dozens of nurses in Queensland caught up in a bureaucratic bungle that has swamped the newly created Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Despite Mrs Hening speaking English her entire life, AHPRA have told her she must pass an English language test because she did not complete both her high school education and nursing training in Australia.

Mrs Hening spent $350 enrolling in an English language test which she is due to sit this month. She is working at a Cairns day surgery as an assistant nurse until she receives her registration that will enable her to perform her full duties.

An AHPRA spokeswoman last week said consistent criteria would be finalised for overseas applicants. The AHPRA website last posted information about international applicants on August 18.

Nursing and Midwifery Board spokeswoman Nicole Newton has defended the handling of registrations. "Processing applications is a priority but the Board's role is to protect the public," Ms Newton said.

She said an international applicant who had completed their high school education overseas at a school where English was the first language, would not have to sit the exam. Ms Newton said it was still yet to be determined whether nurses who had gone ahead and paid to sit an English exam would be able to get a refund. She said AHPRA is making contact with each international applicant to reassess their registration.


The NSW Ambulance Service again

Coroner slams Ambulance Service over killer paramedic

A mentally ill paramedic who killed his mother before killing himself had been "a bomb waiting to explode", said a coroner who has criticised the NSW Ambulance Service for ignoring warnings about his mental state. Trent Speering, 40, had been facing dismissal from the service when he shot dead his mother, Monica Speering, 72, and himself at her Baulkham Hills home in June 2008.

From 2000, colleagues began to make complaints against Mr Speering about his temper, irrationality, harassment and bullying. Several suggested he be psychiatrically assessed. But the ambulance service dealt with Mr Speering's case as a disciplinary issue.

In handing down her findings at the Coroner's Court in Glebe today, the State Coroner, Mary Jerram, said Ambulance Service management had ignored the opinions of its own staff that Mr Speering needed help. "Unfortunately help was not forthcoming," Ms Jerram said. "It may not have been successful, but it surely should have been attempted."

"Trent Speering was a bomb waiting to explode, and while the Ambulance Service management did not light the fuse, they did little to stamp out the flame."

The court heard Mr Speering sent "horrifying" and abusive letters to colleagues, family and the media, some of which outlined his intention to kill his mother. "There were moments when it seemed amazing that the court was not dealing with an even worse situation, such as a mass killing of ambulance personnel by Trent Speering," Ms Jerram said. "He obviously thought about it, threatened it and had the capacity to do it."

She recommended the service introduce training to their management personnel on their powers to refer staff for psychiatric assessment. She also recommended the service introduce clear policies to ensure reports by staff about the mental health of other employees be properly documented and acted upon.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Health practitioners with mental health issues are increasingly common, reflecting one of the darker trends in the wider community. Unfortunately when one comes across these situations they are particularly hard to deal with because the mentally ill person's "rights" and "privacy" seem to come first, and everyone else's safety second.

So much bleeding heartism surrounds Mental Health these days.