Friday, October 15, 2010


Media Release, Peter Pyke: 13 October 2010. (Peter Pyke was a Labor member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1992 to 1995, representing the district of Mount Ommaney. Prior to entering politics he served with the Queensland Police Service for 15 years, rising to the rank of Police Sergeant)

In 1994 I told then-Queensland Premier Wayne Goss that ‘politicians thought they were pretty powerful but - in our system – it was the police who had all the power’. Goss, a former-lawyer, looked blankly at me. He just didn’t understand what I was on about. As a first-time MP I had just told him that I was about to be charged by police with a number of criminal charges which I have always maintained were false, and the jury who acquitted me later seemed to agree. But I was a mere backbencher in his government and he had a huge majority so why should he care? It seemed to me he didn’t.

When Goss lost office in the next election by just one electorate – the ALP now understands that was my seat of Mount Ommaney which I had lost by a handful of votes after the coppers had smeared me beautifully in the media for fifteen months as only they can do – he may have better understood what I had told him.

The Queensland police – whose campaign slogan is the ironical ‘with honour we serve’ – changed the outcome of the 1995 Queensland election in favour of a Borbidge-led government which – happily for some – let convicted and disgraced police commissioner and junior Rat Pack member Terry Lewis out of gaol four years early. But who’s counting?

This week we have seen more of the handiwork of the Queensland coppers with the release of heavily censored CCTV footage of the bashing of handcuffed prisoners in the custody of that outstanding example of one of Queensland’s ‘finest’, former-senior constable Benjamin Thomas Price, who is shown bashing a tourist and a barmaid at the Airlie Beach police station in the state’s north.

The ex-policeman, 34, was sentenced to 27 months' jail on 11 October 2010 after pleading guilty to four counts of assault. Steele, a plasterer from NSW, suffered a broken nose, black eyes, a head wound, hearing problems, memory loss and lack of sensation in his arms and hands after his arrest in the popular Whitsundays tourist town. He told the court he was trying to break-up a fight between two mates when he was capsicum sprayed by police. It is alleged Price led the handcuffed Steele to a police car before saying "watch your head" and smashing his face into the vehicle, knocking him unconscious.

Price allegedly dragged Steele from the car outside Airlie Beach watch-house, repeatedly punched him and "kicked him with his boots" in the face, breaking his nose.

CCTV video footage from the police station shows a dazed, heavily bleeding Steele being dragged into an alley beside the watch-house. It shows the handcuffed man being punched in the head before having a fire hose jammed into his mouth, where it was held for up to 90 seconds as another officer watches.

Steele screams and groans in agony and blood can be seen sheeting down the concrete path as the policeman stands on the handcuffs, pressing his hand into the back of the man's neck, forcing his head into his lap in a brutal spine lock.

"I felt like I was going to drown," Steele told the court. "He jammed the hose into my mouth. I couldn't breathe. I was coughing and spluttering blood. It was pretty scary. It went on for a long time. I called him a pussy. He knocked me about. I was pretty dazed, I'd had a boot to my face, my nose was broken. I was choking on my own blood, I felt like I was drowning."

The vision shows other police officers standing by as Price stuffs a fire hose into his victim's mouth, nearly drowning him. The CCTV footage also shows Price hitting slightly-built barmaid Renee Tom, 21, slamming her to the floor inside the watch-house in January 2008 and pulling her to her feet by her hair.

As a former police officer who saw service as an operational trainer and academy law lecturer, I know full well that any one of the other police who observed Price’s actions could have stopped Price and even arrested him on the spot for each of his savage bashings. So what happened? Only one of the police shown in the censored footage with their faces blurred did something; it was left to courageous female trainee constable Bree Sonter to do the right thing and to complain about the incidents.

Queensland police deputy commissioner Ian Stewart told reporters on 11 October 2010 that five other officers had resigned and three more were facing potential disciplinary actions over the incidents. All of the other officers who did nothing were complicit in the offences in my opinion.

It was my honour to be sworn in under Commissioner Ray Whitrod in 1976 - Whitrod was a real police commissioner. I immediately saw service in North Queensland and soon discovered that police bashings of Aboriginal and homosexual citizens were everyday sport for far too many Queensland police. It’s easy to say, but individual police have the power to control the behaviour of their peers by stepping in and stopping offences like those committed by Price. I know, I was bashed several times in the Townsville watch-house and once out on the street by my police colleagues for intervening to stop other officers from assaulting prisoners.

As I said at the outset, each individual police officer has the power to arrest anyone, the premier, the prime minister, or another officer. With such power comes enormous responsibility.

That’s the job and that is what is required. Don’t like it? Coppers who aren’t up to it should get out of the kitchen.

Prisoners were being bashed in the custody of Queensland police in the 1970s and we now have incontrovertible evidence they are still being bashed, even under the watchful eye of CCTV. Too many police thugs are protected by their peers and deaths in police custody will continue to occur while other officers fail to serve with real honour.

Is it all bad? As someone who will bleed a little bit blue until the day I die, I like to listen to the police radio on the scanner when I am writing, or driving around. While the Queensland police are badly led by their most senior officers whom I wouldn’t feed, I can report that many of the uniformed officers who undertake first-response operational duties do an excellent job. It is with pride that I can report hearing more often than not in the voices of police on the scanner their obvious humanity and concern for children, young people, battered women, the homeless and the elderly, and I commonly hear police going to great lengths to ensure that everything possible is done for people who need police assistance.

No, it’s not all bad.

If there is a hero in this sad story it is Constable Bree Sonter who did serve Queenslanders with honour.

I call on the Queensland Government to appropriately honour this young woman with the highest police award.

Author: Peter Pyke, 0427 388 598,

Saving energy will tie us in green tape

Henry Ergas

SCHEMES to cut power consumption should not cost more than the benefits they bring

IN public policy, bad ideas never die: they go to second editions. The recently released report of the Prime Minister's Task Group on Energy Efficiency is a striking case in point.

Credit where credit is due. The report is well-written, logically presented and thoroughly referenced, virtues no longer common in government documents. But its mistaken premises lead to recommendations that would reduce productivity, cut incomes and tie us up in unending green tape.

Start with the basics. A policy is effective if it does what it sets out to do. It is economically efficient if what it sets out to do is worth doing. The report's premise is that we should reduce our energy consumption; what it fails to show is that reducing energy consumption would make Australians better off.

This is not to deny that there may be climate change benefits to reduced energy use. Some greenhouse gas abatement could be worthwhile. But even were that accepted, it would only be sensible to reduce energy use if that cut emissions at a cost less than the implied or actual price on carbon. And at least for the next few years, that price is likely to be low.

A frontal assault on Australian energy consumption, as envisaged in this report, therefore cannot be justified on climate change grounds. Rather, the report's premise is that consuming energy is a bad thing, with the vice compounded by Australia's relatively high energy consumption per unit of output.

The implication is that our levels of energy use are inefficient. But for this proposition, there is no evidence whatsoever. After all, Australia is endowed with abundant energy resources, such as coking coal, some of which are costly to transport internationally. We are also amply endowed with other resources, including land, whose exploitation involves high energy use. Comparative advantage would therefore result in our energy intensity being well above average for developed economies.

Nor is there any reason for the rate of change in energy intensity to be the same internationally. Rather, it is our factor endowments, one aspect of which is our land use patterns, which should shape our future energy intensity. Indeed, were energy demand to fall, the price of resources such as brown coal would fall with it, causing an off-setting further shift to highly energy-using industries. This could make the disparity between our energy intensity and that of other developed economies even more pronounced over time.

So could the fact that increasing productivity is expensive: it needs concentrated management attention and entails up-front costs. Efficiency requires focusing that effort where it yields the highest return. For a country with our resources, that is unlikely to be in reducing energy intensity.

None of this cuts any mustard with the report. Rather, with energy intensity treated as a problem, the search is on for solutions. The report therefore proposes ramping up many existing measures, from mandatory energy use reporting by larger firms to subsidised energy inspections for small firms and households.

The report claims these measures are effective. But the studies it cites are largely before-after comparisons of energy use, rather than properly comparing unit costs at sites that received the benefit and those that did not. As a result, they do not even establish the spending is effective, much less efficient.

This is all the more troubling given the report's failure to confront the lessons of experience. Like the mad uncle in the attic, pink batts and green loans are never mentioned.

Yet they surely prove that recipients have little incentive to monitor the quality of claimed energy-saving giveaways, while snake-oil merchants on the supply side have every incentive to exploit taxpayer funding for all it is worth.

That said, the report does recognise the problems associated with the proliferation of energy-saving programs, not least the scope for greatly differing "bang for the buck" across initiatives. It therefore canvasses two options. The first, tucked away in an annexe, is simply a tax on energy, disguised, in somewhat Orwellian double speak, as a "public benefits charge".

The second, favoured in the main report, is a vast new trading scheme, in which credits would be given to firms that cut energy use, with corresponding implied penalties for those that did not. The effects of this trading scheme, though not discussed at any length in the report, are at best uncertain. It is conceivable that the credits could make some industries more profitable, encouraging an expansion in their scale of activity and potentially increasing energy use. But it is also possible for output to fall, as the easiest way to reduce energy consumption can be to cut production.

The report speaks, in vague terms, of using administrative measures to prevent output reductions from occurring. But how could that be done? If yesterday I used 100 units of energy to produce 12 large nails, and tomorrow I produce 13 small nails using only 50, what commissar will have any rational basis for deciding whether my decision was or was not efficient and adjusting my energy credits accordingly?

What is certain is that both proposed schemes would be profoundly distorting with the loss magnified by the fact that they tax an intermediate input, energy, used throughout the economy. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't have beneficiaries. They would: the new industry of energy efficiency spruikers, who would earn a comfortable living selling energy reduction projects to businesses, trading in the resulting certificates, and clipping the tax dollar as it is shuffled around. And winners too would be the middle-class families who indulge in conspicuous consumption of energy-saving gadgets at poorer taxpayers' expense.

These are the new rent-seekers. Their rhetoric is not that of national development, as was that of the old protectionists. Rather, it comes clad in lofty claims about sustainability. But it is no less self-interested, nor is it any less specious: for in itself, reducing energy use is no more desirable than reducing consumption of toilet paper or pavlovas.

Eating people is wrong; using energy is not. Until that is understood, public policy in this area will remain a hopeless muddle.


Green mania to cripple us

Andrew Bolt

ENOUGH. It's one thing that this green madness is driving your power and water bills through the roof. But now it threatens to destroy not just your household budget, but entire towns in our richest farming land. Mildura, Robinvale, Coleambally, Leeton, Deniliquin and Moree - all now face devastation.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has been warned in a survey it commissioned of big lenders to rural business that these specific towns and more will struggle to survive the cut in irrigation water the authority now demands to "save" the Murray and the rivers that feed it.

Yet the MDBA is pushing on, proposing a cut in farmers' water entitlements of between 27 and 37 per cent - on top of the deep cuts it's already made for "the environment".

In some areas, farmers will lose as much as half their irrigation water and will have to close their gates.

Wait and see what that does to the price of your fruit, vegetables and rice. Heavens, even the green faithful will scream at the price of tofu, made of soy beans grown in the same irrigated fields now being robbed of water.

If only we could trust the MDBA'S claim that this huge sacrifice would at least fix a true environmental catastrophe.

But there are five reasons to suspect that this is a largely pointless political gesture, and the small good it would do will be outweighed by huge social pain.

* First, almost everyone along the rivers has noticed that claims of their imminent doom seem grossly exaggerated. For a start, the drought has broken, and the Murray is flowing so strongly that its mouth has burst open again - something it rarely did even before irrigation farmers moved in.

* Second, more care seems to have been lavished by the MDBA on considering the "needs" of the rivers than on the needs of the people depending on them. It's telling that MDBA chairman Mike Taylor has already conceded that the proposals he released just days ago would cost vastly more jobs than the mere 800 his report ludicrously claimed. Try 23,000, says the furious NSW Irrigators Council.

* Third, the people of the Murray-Darling Basin have seen similar green scares before, and learned to consider them as dodgy as Greenpeace.

Take the great salinity scare we were told a decade ago would wipe out the same area and "kill" these same rivers. In 1993 the MDBA predicted dryland salinity would increase by 10-15 per cent a year. Urging it on was the CSIRO, which had a Rising Groundwater Theory and computer models to "prove" that farming land twice the size of Tasmania would become too salty for crops.

Great models they were, too, showing salinity levels soaring in the Murray, when the measuring station at Mannum showed them actually falling over 20 years.

What fear there was then. The National Farmers Federation was screaming for $65 billion to fight the salt and then ... well, hello. The money was not spent and the salinity catastrophe never materialised. As the chairman of Murray Irrigation said four years ago: "It just seems that somewhere the science got it seriously wrong." But were the scaremongers held to account?

* Which brings us to the fourth reason to be sceptical of these new claims of environmental doom if irrigators aren't squeezed dry. You see, this frenzy to "save" the rivers, the fish and the red gums is driven in part by the global warming scare and, more particularly, by the evangelist CSIRO, back with a new theory and new models, this time claiming global warming is drying out the Murray-Darling system, already suffering from an over-allocation of water rights.

And the MDBA has bought it again. "Basin-wide changes of 10 per cent less water (are) predicted" from "climate change effects", it claims in its report, demanding more water to make the Murray "healthy". Yet a 2008 National Technical University of Athens study into the track record of the kind of regional climate models used by the CSIRO to predict a fall in rainfall concluded they "perform poorly" and their "local model projections cannot be credible".

But did we in Melbourne need to be told that? We need only remember the excuse Melbourne Water gave on behalf of its Labor masters for not building a huge dam on the fast-flowing Mitchell River for just $1.3 billion. "Unfortunately, we cannot rely on this kind of rainfall like we used to," it claimed last year.

Global warming, you know: "While the Mitchell has flooded recently, investing billions of dollars in another rainfall-dependent water source in the face of rapidly changing climate patterns is very risky."

Well, look now. Three years ago the Mitchell flooded twice. This year there's so much rain falling again that it may take years before we need the desalination plant Premier John Brumby built instead of a dam- and not for $1.3 billion but for $5.7 billion, plus huge power costs, to deliver just a third of the water.

Queenslanders got stung in precisely the same way. Premier Peter Beattie in 2007 said he'd also build a desalination plant because he, too, had been told global warming was drying up the rain. Three years on, and Queensland is on flood alert. The state's dams are full to overflowing, holding so much water that Queenslanders could survive on it until 2018 even if no drop of rain fell again.

Such madness. Look again at your water bills, never higher. See how much extra you're paying for that desal plant we were stampeded into buying? Or look at your fast-rising power bills. See how much more you're paying now that governments have forced generators to use more "green power"?

See how much more you must pay as generators factor in the taxes the Gillard Government plans to impose to "save" us from a global warming the planet seems not to notice?

Wonder how much more again they'll go up if the Brumby Government goes through with its mad promise to fight this warming by closing a quarter of the giant Hazelwood power station?

You notice the bills, all right. But have you figured what's causing them to rise, and thousands of farmers to fear being sold up? It's green politics.

*And here we come to the fifth reason to be sceptical that science alone is behind the Gillard Government's drive to tip irrigation water back into the rivers. Last January, Frank Sartor, the NSW Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, went up the Murray-Darling Basin to persuade locals they were threatened by yet another green catastrophe that demanded sacrifices.

This time it was river red gums that were "dying" and had to be "saved", by proclaiming a national park on the Murray River flood plain that would put hundreds of timber workers out of a job. Workers in Deniliquin told Sartor to his face that the red gums were actually fine, so what was his game?

About 30 of those workers have since told the ABC that Sartor's reply went like this: "I'm going to give you people a lesson in politics. The Greens hold 15 per cent of the votes, we need those votes to stay in power. They also want or need a national park and they want it in red gum." (Sartor denies this.)

So you wonder why people up the Murray are now sceptical when politicians come calling again, with fresh claims of doom, fancy computer models and demands of sacrifices that seem out of all proportion? Time you grew sceptical, too, at last, because what these zealots are doing to farmers they're already doing to you, too. Difference is, at least the farmers will no longer cop it. Shown green, they now see red, and a counter-revolution has begun.


Patriotic monarchists in Victoria

VICTORIANS all let us rejoice, for our patriotism is growing. A snapshot has shown that Victorians see themselves as artistic, sophisticated and tolerant of others, with an interest in world affairs and a rising connection to the Australian flag.

It also reveals 70 per cent of Victorians are proud of their country, compared with just 55 per cent of other Australians. Two-thirds of Victorians don't want a republic, they largely embrace multiculturalism, and 50 per cent think they are ethical.

Australia SCAN 2010 data, compiled for the State Government, shows 75 per cent of Victorians want to keep the existing flag, up from 57 per cent in 2001. In comparison, only 66 per cent of other Australians believe we should retain the flag. But only 53 per cent want to keep the Queen as the head of state, compared with 48 per cent of other Aussies.

The findings were released to coincide with the launch of Victoria's Australia Day 2011 ambassadors by Deputy Premier Rob Hulls at a reception last night. The list includes ex footballer Glenn Archer, Dr "Feelgood" Sally Cockburn, Denise Drysdale and former premier John Cain.

Australia Day Victoria committee chair Bruce Hartnett said it was interesting Victorians saw themselves as more community-minded and ethical than other Australians. "It reflects my view of Victorians," he said. "I think Victoria has always had a strong church background, a historical influence of the church."


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