Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Punters cancel bookings, abuse jockey club staff over homosexual race day

Why the favoritism? Why not just have a PEOPLE'S day, as was always done in the past?

AN Australian Jockey Club has faced a backlash over its decision to run a gay and lesbian raceday. The South Australian club is catering for a crowd of 5000 at Adelaide's Morphettville this Saturday, for its inaugural Pink Diamond Day.

But several regular racegoers will boycott the event, run in conjunction with the gay and lesbian Feast Festival.

SAJC chief executive Brenton Wilkinson told The Advertiser yesterday trackside diners had rung to cancel bookings, specifically stating they did not approve of the event. SAJC staff have also received abusive phone calls and "outraged" emails from members.

"We're disappointed some people have taken offence that we have got involved with a large festival that has been here successfully for 13 years, " Mr Wilkinson said. "One guy rang up and abused the girls in sales and said we shouldn't be supporting 'poofters' and things like this - that it's not proper. "It's hard to know what to say to people, but attendance is not compulsory and people can make their own choices."

An email to the club, seen by The Advertiser, suggests former champion sprinter Apache Cat should be promoted as the main attraction for the day and not "a bunch of ***pushers and others dressed in pink". The writer adds "you've lost this homophobic for the day" and argues "Adelaide is not like Sydney in the gay stakes".

Feast Festival general manager David Waylen said: "We don't go out of our way to make defamatory comments when they hold straight racedays, so I don't understand this attitude. "The SAJC is arguably the most conservative sporting group in SA and we thought it was a huge coup for us to establish a partnership," he said.

Mr Waylen said that despite the reaction of some, Adelaide was becoming more "gay-friendly" than 10 years ago and sees the arrangement with the SAJC as "win-win". "We're looking to be more mainstream and engage with the wider community, and the Jockey Club gets to diversify its target audience," he said.

"Queer people's money is as good as everybody else's and we, as a community, are no different to others. "These kinds of events allow us to get out of the closets, the back alleys and the basements of Adelaide." [Rubbish. South Australia had a popular homosexual Premier -- Dunstan -- for many years. His homsexuality was not publically acknowledged but it was widely known and obvious in a variety of ways. The Premier's residence is a long way from back alleys]


Another triumph of government medicine

Tumour victim threatens to drill into his head if health system can't get him surgery

A GOLD Coast man says he will take a drill to his head in a desperate attempt to get brain surgery through the public health system. Mark Black, of Merrimac, was diagnosed two acoustic neuroma tumours situated on either side of his head six months ago. But the 52-year-old had already waited two years to get the MRI scan that finally confirmed what was wrong with him.

Mr Black is now slowly losing his hearing and developing facial paralysis because the tumours are touching his nerves.

Still with no answer on a surgery date and the grim possibility he might go deaf waiting, Mr Black plans to stand outside the Gold Coast Hospital on December 7 and drill into his head to receive emergency care if he does not get the response he is after the day before.

Mr Black has a follow-up appointment with an ear, nose and throat surgeon on December 6 but believes he is being shifted through a system that will put him back to where he started. The father of three and grandfather of one said he had been back and forth seeking help over the years but without any answers.

"I'm not blaming the doctors in this, I'm blaming the bureaucrats who don't fund the hospital enough to do the surgery that's needed," he said. "My main concern now is to have this first lot of surgery because the end result is I'll end up totally deaf and have facial paralysis. The longer I let it go the worse the outcome."

Mr Black said he woke every day feeling off balance, had ringing in the ears, facial spasms and dizziness. The former inventor and coffee shop owner said he could not work any more because of his condition. "There's no light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "They're (the hospital) using delaying tactics so they don't have to do it and in the meantime I'm sitting here suffering. "I don't want to push in front of someone else. I just want to be put on the list and dealt with fairly."


Queensland Health payroll debacle still not fully resolved after six months

Another vovid example of how governments and computers don't go well together. It's almost British in scale

SIX months after the Queensland Health payroll crisis first unfolded it is estimated about 50 staff will not be paid this Thursday. Another 11,500 pay corrections are yet to be processed despite the huge resources thrown by the department into fixing the problem.

Health Minister Paul Lucas claimed significant progress had been made, however nurses said the reality was painfully different. Tens of thousands of health workers have been robbed of their correct pay since the department launched its $40 million SAP/Workbrain system in March.

Millions more in taxpayer money has been spent trying to fix the system but, despite that, the complex system continued to falter.

Mr Lucas said he had been told by departmental experts that payroll accuracy had "improved significantly". But nurses such as midwife Diana Wing said they had to live with the reality of not knowing what would be in their bank accounts when they checked them each fortnight. "Yes, it does seem like the problems have decreased, but they are still there and the stress doesn't go away," Ms Wing said. "It has caused distress to my family and I haven't had the guts to get my tax done because I know it isn't correct."

Queensland Nurses Union state secretary Gay Hawksworth said the union heard from nurses every day who hadn't received correct pays – some for six months. "It ranges from termination pays, weekly pays, leave – there are problems everywhere," Ms Hawksworth said. "We are holding our breath, waiting for the independent report into the software because we still don't know if it is a lemon. There is still an awful long way to go."

Ms Hawksworth said that the human element of the crisis was impossible to measure.

The most recent three pay cycles have marked significant improvements on the debacle, with 68 people unpaid last week while in the previous two pay cycles 97 and 130 employees, respectively, did not receive their pays. Six months ago more than 1000 workers were going without pay. Ms Hawksworth claimed the number of incorrect pays was much higher.

Payroll staff still have to make 11,500 adjustments, down from 35,000 at the height of the crisis.

Mr Lucas said he expected to receive independent reports on the matter from KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers within the next few months. He told Parliament this week he "wouldn't rest" until the issue was resolved. [Whatever that means. Sleepless nights? Probably not]


New Federal Police powers trouble civil libertarians

NOT that long ago, Queensland police regularly invoked the "Ways and Means Act". If they couldn't legally demand to inspect a car boot believed to be holding stolen property? No problem. Under the then Traffic Act, police could ask to see a spare tyre. The boot is popped open and there are the stolen goods. A baldy tyre among the bounty and it was a bonus.

It was a way and a means of legally getting the bad guy. And it was a way and means of getting around the system, a system many police argue is stacked in favour of offenders – a view disputed by civil libertarians.

During the past decade, police and legislators have tried to even the score. The long arm of the law for state and federal agencies keeps getting longer in a bid to keep up with technology changes, organised crime and terrorism.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has the power to access SMS and emails under the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act. The Queensland Police Service can issue on-the-spot fines for matters that were once heard by magistrates.

Soon, the Australian Federal Police will be allowed to a enter a premises without a warrant if there is an emergency terrorism threat.

Amendments passed in Federal Parliament this week also expand the "urging violence" offence so it applies to individuals and groups who incite violence on the basis of race, religion, nationality or political opinion.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland last week defended his amendments. "The power of entry without a warrant isn't for the purpose of arresting a person," Mr McClelland told ABC Radio. "The purpose of entry without a warrant is for the purpose of rendering a dangerous substance, that is a serious threat to life or physical safety of citizens, including potentially the occupants of the building, to render it safe."

Presenter Jon Faine fired back "there are no safeguards any more. There's no one to whom, for instance, a judge or anyone else, to whom the police officer has to go to first to say, 'I have a reasonable suspicion here'". "They just do what they like and afterwards they say, 'Oh, we were either right or wrong'," Mr Faine said.

Mr McClelland said he was wrong. "They've got a very limited and very specific power to enter that property for the purpose of rendering that thing safe," he said. "They have no other power. They have no power to gather evidence, or to apprehend . . . a person. "The purpose for the entry is to render that thing safe for the purpose of saving lives."

But Council for Civil Liberties secretary Cameron Murphy says it is only a matter of time before police misused the powers. "The problem is that the legislation is just so extreme," Mr Murphy said. "We told (politicians) that this sort of legislation will be gravely misused in the future and people just couldn't be convinced."

He says it already is easy for police to get a warrant to enter a premises. "They just need to ring a judge. This is more extreme than the Patriot Act (in the US) . . . (because) they have a charter of rights that protects people."

He says police will inevitably enter a premise on the pretence of a serious terrorism offence. "Police will always use powers that they are not intended for," he said.

Alarm bells are also ringing for the Australian Greens, who have sent out an SOS for the nation's civil liberties. But the new powerhouse of Australian politics was sidelined this week when the Government and Opposition joined forces to pass the amendments.

Greens legal affairs spokesman Scott Ludlam argues the terrorism laws, a hangover from the Howard government, are unworkable. "In one or two respects there were mild improvements but in other respects the law is now worse," Senator Ludlam said. "It has deepened and broadened aspects of the laws on material assistance, sedition, vilification, proscription, arbitrary detention, AFP search warrants and presumption against bail."

However, a spokesman for Mr McClelland says the bill has the balance right. "The powers available to police when they are on the premises (entered without a warrant) will be limited to searching for and seizing the particular item," he said. "The police officer would need to apply for a search warrant over the premises in order to deal with anything else they reasonably suspect could be relevant to an offence. "There are a range of safeguards in place to prevent misuse of this new power."

He says people can also complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman if they believe police have overstepped the mark.

The Government will also establish a new Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement that will enhance overseeing the AFP. Additional powers will be given to the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security to inquire into law enforcement agencies such as the AFP.

Terrorism expert Carl Ungerer says the new bill reins in some of the powers pushed through by the Howard government when it controlled the House of Representatives and the Senate. "There was a real sense it (terrorism laws) went too far in the Howard years," Dr Ungerer said. However, he argues police in emergency situations should have the power to enter a premises without a warrant. "It's a consequence of the speed that they have to act."

He says police would probably rarely draw upon the powers and would be thoroughly scrutinised when they were applied. "Civil libertarians always play to the fears of the individual," Dr Ungerer said.

Dave Walsh, a recently retired Queensland traffic cop who spent almost 40 years in the service, says the more power for police the better. "As a copper, you can never get enough tools. These days, they (police) are struggling against too much," he said. "You can't chase someone doing over 60km an hour but you can fine a mother doing 10km over the speed limit who is rushing to get her kids to school. "Police these days just stand back and do nothing."



Paul said...

Back alleys? Bad choice of words indeed. Its the much maligned back alley that seems to be the cause of all this angst about marriage, and now horses. What a long political week its been

Anyhow, QH's 90 million dollar payroll program that still doesn't work (still) will have a few more mil. thrown at it shortly. Not holding breath.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fan of ALL of your blogs! I showed my American husband you're socialised medicine blog. I wish you would continue posting there. All I can say is, I saw first hand my father basically having his life ended....without his consent even if he was terminally ill...I am getting the run around even though this happened in 2009.

Nobody can tell me why my father died, even though it was evident, we witnessed it....

Thanks for the great blogs and thought provoking articles.

jonjayray said...

My "Eye on Britain" blog continues much of the work of my socialized medicine blog