Monday, December 06, 2010

Greenie-inspired Desalination Plant to be mothballed

ANYTHING was better than building dams and global warming was going to bring drought so a gullible State government spent a fortune on this thing. But the prophecies were wrong (funnily enough!) and Australia is now having widespread floods -- so there was no need for it anyway

THE troubled Tugan Desalination Plant is now a $1.2 billion white elephant, with the Bligh Government also forced to mothball hundreds of millions of dollars worth of other plants in a desperate bid to cut water bills.

The Sunday Mail can reveal the Government has also decided to take an axe to the bloated water bureaucracy and sack highly paid water executives under a new stategy to reduce hikes to household bills by $5 next year.

The desal plant on the Gold Coast, which has been plagued by rusting and cracking problems since it opened last year, will be shut down early next year, along with half the $380 million Bundamba treatment plant and the new $313 million plant at Gibson Island.

However, the futures of staff working the plant contractor Veola are unclear.

Treasurer Andrew Fraser yesterday confirmed the plans, saying the shutdowns would be revisited if dam storage levels hit 60 per cent. Challenging councils to halt their planned price hikes, Mr Fraser said prices were to rise by $59 on average in 2011-12, but would now only increase by $54 after the $18 million in savings.

"It's small, but every little bit counts," he said. "This means the Government has taken steps to reduce price increases, but the council-owned water entities are on the public record supporting $200 and $300 increases."

The desal plant will run on "hot standby" with only one shift a week to keep the machinery turning over, but the facility can be switched on within 72 hours.

SEQWater will be merged with WaterSecure in July , with senior contracted managers to be sacked and no EBA staff sacked.

Mr Robertson said the water reforms would provide relief to householders dealing with the rising cost of living. ``For a typical household, next year's bulk water charge will be around $5 less than previously announced - $54 down from $59," he said. ``Additional savings will continue for every year and will grow to more than $30 per household by 2017."

One of Bundamba's two treatment plants will be placed on standby, Mr Robertson said. The treatment facility at Luggage Point will remain at 100 per cent while the Gibson Island plant will be closed.

All plants would be brought back on line if dam capacity trended under the 40 per cent trigger point to add purified recycled water into Wivenhoe Dam, Mr Robertson said.

The government will also revise down its 10-year price-path for bulk water sales to the council-owned retail water entities following savings from the scrapped Traveston Dam project, he said.

Mr Robertson said the state government had consulted unions about the merger of southeast Queensland's two bulk water authorities - Seqwater and WaterSecure. ``We will continue to protect workers' entitlements throughout the process," he said. ``There will be no forced redundancies of staff employed under awards or enterprise bargaining agreements."

Mr Robertson called on local councils profiting from water retail businesses to pass on savings to struggling householders.


Bosses fearing parental leave burden not hiring women

Entirely foreseen but ignored by the Left

WOMEN of child-bearing age are in the firing line as struggling small businesses baulk at the cost of implementing the Gillard Government's paid parental leave scheme. Dozens of cases of pregnant women being bullied and unfairly sacked have already been lodged with authorities, fuelling fears of widespread discrimination once paid parental leave starts on January 1.

Business groups warn that the onerous cost of administering payments will force some employers to think again about hiring women. Queensland's Chamber of Commerce and Industry boss David Goodwin said small businesses - already hurting from the financial downturn - could not absorb the costs of filling out "welfare papers" and changing payroll systems. Some small businesses "probably" won't hire women of child-bearing age.

"If you've got three staff and one goes on maternity leave, that's 30 per cent of your workforce," he said.

Eligible women will be paid $570 a week for up to 18 weeks and, after July 1, businesses will receive money from the Government to administer the scheme for workers. Businesses will have to withhold tax under PAYG, provide pay slips and keep records for staff and the government.

In the past 16 months, the Fair Work Ombudsman has received 95 complaints from pregnant women, including many in Queensland. The Ombudsman said allegations included:

* Working hours reduced or work status changed to casual because an employer said the woman was unreliable because of her morning sickness;

* Receiving a written warning about inappropriate dress due to pregnancy;

* Being bullied and harassed because they were pregnant.

Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said she did not believe paid leave would spark more discrimination but added: "Where there is a propensity for confusion there is a propensity for discrimination. "It is a right and not a privilege for women to work during pregnancy. Pregnancy is seen as a total inconvenience for some businesses."

She said businesses should be the paymasters of the scheme because it enabled worker and employer to maintain contact.

But raising fresh concerns, Opposition small business spokesman Bruce Billson said business groups had warned that having further administration burdens could have unintended consequences. "Small business recruit the best person for the job, but if it's a line-ball decision (between a man and a woman), I hate to think that the new paid parental leave pay clerk burden the Government is imposing on employers would discourage the employment of a woman," he said.

Mr Billson introduced a private member's Bill to keep the scheme's administrative responsibility with a government agency. It will be voted on in February.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert McClelland said "recent events have highlighted that sexual harassment continues to be a widespread problem in the workplace" but the Government had strengthened workers' rights and protection in amended legislation.

Families Minister Jenny Macklin said the scheme would help employers retain skilled and valuable staff. [So the government knows better than the businessman what is best for business??]


Julian Assange treated like non-citizen by Australian government, says lawyer

THE lawyer representing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has attacked the Australian government for failing to offer help to his client. And Mr Assange’s London-based lawyer, Mark Stephens, has said sex charges against Mr Assange amounted to a "show trial".

As the fallout from the release of diplomatic cables spreads to Australia, Mr Stephens questioned the worth of an Australian passport. "He has had no assistance or offers of assistance ... by the Australian authorities in Sweden, or London or America," Mr Stephens told ABC radio. "One has to question what the value of an Australian passport is, whether you agree with what he has done or not."

"One would think that having an Australian passport you would get some assistance but thus far, I have to say, the high commissions and embassies have been shutting their doors to Julian Assange."

Asked if his client had broken any laws by releasing thousands of confidential diplomatic cables, Mr Stephens said "not that I can see”.

He dismissed suggestions that his client was a terrorist. "Julian Assange is giving out useful information, journalists, investigative journalists, have been doing that for years," he said. "What he got, unasked for, he didn’t hack for it, was the electronic equivalent of a brown envelope. Quality investigative journalists have been working with brown envelopes and material given to them to hold our governments to account, to ascertain whether what they are doing is what we want them to be doing.

"If Julian Assange is a criminal than every national newspaper that has published exactly the same stories is also a criminal. Are we going to lock up editors from all over the planet? I don’t think so."

On the charges his client was facing in Sweden, Mr Stephens said the original allegation of rape brought against his client had been dropped and that he had now been charged with "sex by surprise".

"Originally the allegation was one of rape and many will remember that but of course what has not been reported is that the Swedish court of appeal dismissed the case of rape and said the facts don’t support it," he said. "They are now investigating something called sex by surprise."

"It is the very first time Sweden has actually sought extradition for this charge … it is a fairly minor charge and usually carries something like a 5000 Krone penalty."

Yesterday, Mr Stephens, had expressed concern that the pursuit of Mr Assange had "political motivations", in comments to the BBC.

Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny, who is handling the rape allegations in Sweden, said: "I can very clearly say no, there is nothing at all of that nature." "This investigation has proceeded perfectly normally without any political pressure of any kind," Ms Ny said. "It is completely independent," she added. [She would say that, of course]

Mr Assange is in hiding somewhere in the world, believed to be Europe. Interpol has issued a "red notice" against him alerting all police forces that he is a wanted person in Sweden, which wants to question him "in connection with a number of sexual offences". [Interpol issues a notice over something that is a crime in Sweden only?? Patently improper]


Another huge failure of government "child protection"

The bureaucrats responsible should be held to account

A FATHER has been ordered to pay his eight-year-old young daughter $32,250 in compensation for horrific injuries he inflicted upon her within weeks of her birth in early 2002.

Brisbane District Court Nick Samios, in a judgment just published ordered the father-of-three, now aged 42, to pay his youngest child criminal compensation for injuries caused within six weeks of her birth in late January 2002.

In August 2004, Judge Helen O'Sullivan condemned child-protection agencies for placing the newborn girl in her father's care just eight months after he received a suspended jail term for abusing his seven-week-old son.

The Courier-Mail at the time also revealed the father, then aged 36, allowed his wife to spend almost a year in jail after she agreed to take the blame for his almost-fatal attack on their son in September 2000.

Prosecutors said the attack was only revealed after his wife gave birth to their daughter in prison in January 2002, and he inflicted horrific injuries on the baby when authorities placed her in his care.

A routine community health check of the six-week-old girl found multiple fractures to her ribs and skull.

The dad later confessed to police that not only had he inflicted the injuries on his daughter, he also admitted bashing his son and letting his wife take the blame for the attack.

Judge O'Sullivan, who has since retired, said it was hard to believe authorities had not acted earlier to remove both children from the couple's care. "How on earth did this terrible situation arise . . . (that) these children were put within a bull's roar of these people?" the judge said. "These children . . . were not cared for properly by anyone; not you, not your wife, her mother, family services or the police. They suffered terrible injuries."

The man, who cannot be named because the children are in care, was jailed on August 17, 2004, for 10 years after he pleaded guilty to four counts of assault causing bodily harm, and one each of grievous bodily harm and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

In July 2001, Judge Brian Boulton sentenced the man to an 18-month wholly suspended jail term when he pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to provide the necessities of life to his son. Judge Boulton also jailed his wife, then aged 36, for six years when she pleaded guilty to grievous bodily harm.

The court was told the son had 11 fractured ribs, eye damage, two skull fractures, permanent brain damage, broken legs, a fractured elbow and extensive bruising in two attacks.

The woman had her conviction quashed after her husband confessed to police and was freed after serving 11 months.

Judge Nick Samios, in a five-page criminal compensation decision published on Friday, said the man's daughter, now aged eight, should be compensated for the injuries and mental or nervous shock. "I order the (father) pay (his daughter) the sum of $32,250," Judge Samios said. "I regard that the (child) did nothing directly or indirectly to contribute to her injuries."


New "softer" jail policies a disaster

Leftists never learn. The same old do-gooder policies have been tried many times -- e.g. at Barlinnie Jail in Glasgow -- and they never work

CHANGES to discipline in state prisons have sparked an outbreak of crime at one of Queensland's highest-security jails. The Courier-Mail can reveal a spate of incidents at Maryborough Correctional Centre since controversial changes to the disciplinary process were implemented across Queensland four months ago.

In one incident at the medium-to-high-security facility – which houses 479 male inmates – a female prison nurse was allegedly assaulted by one of Queensland's most violent criminals. The nurse suffered facial injuries, including two black eyes, when a prisoner serving an indefinite sentence for attempted murder allegedly attacked the nurse with a bottle on August 26.

A prison officer, who did not want to be named for fear of losing their job, said prison management had broken protocol because the inmate was not transferred to another jail. "That nurse is still medicating that prisoner," the officer told The Courier-Mail. Police did not receive a formal complaint until September 17 – three weeks after it happened.

Corrective Services Minister Neil Roberts refused to comment on the assault, but said the nurse had continued to work in the same area as the offender "under staff supervision". Corrective Services was considering transferring the inmate to another facility, he said.

In another alarming incident at Maryborough, prison sources say management waited two days before acting on reports from prison officers that two inmates had been seen on CCTV "shooting up" (injecting drugs intravenously) in a prison laundry on September 11. The delayed search failed to find evidence of the crime. Two inmates were also seen injecting drugs in a prison yard on June 5, the minister confirmed.

The Queensland Public Sector Union and prison staff blame the rise in incidents on a new Breach of Discipline process which they say has stripped staff of authority. QPSU organiser David McInnes said the change in philosophy "came out of nowhere".

Mr McInnes said that until recently "mini-hearings" for inmates who committed offences were conducted by correctional supervisors at any time of the day or night, but now they were heard by a manager during office hours. "At the end of the day (management) is generally perceived as being softer in terms of consequences," he said.

"Management at Woodford are all over it and coping well, but at Wacol they've got big problems with breaches (of discipline) lapsing. Management is running around asking them to not (discipline) prisoners."

A prison officer said inmates had "gained the upper hand" since the power shift. "(Management) are in an admin block and spend hardly any time face to face with prisoners. We're there dealing with them daily," the officer said. "(Prisoners) are pushing the boundaries with their verbal abuse and we've got to be nice to them and treat them with respect. "The prisoners' behaviour, knowing that their punishment is going to be minor, just seems to be getting worse.

Director of the Office of the Commissioner for Corrections, Ross McSwain, gave conflicting responses, denying there was a new disciplinary policy, but admitting there had been changes in procedure. Mr McSwain admitted a review late last year had led to managers replacing correctional supervisors in the disciplinary process.

He said elevating the breach hearings to a manager was designed to ensure greater impartiality and separate the roles of prison officers from managers when investigating incidents. "Maintaining an appropriate level of consistency of penalties has been part of the changes."

Opposition prisons spokesman Vaughan Johnson said jails were not being run in accordance with government policy. "There have been other incidents that have left staff scratching their heads as to who's running the prison," he said.


1 comment:

Paul said...

.....that he had now been charged with "sex by surprise".

Someone didn't see it coming I suppose.