Sunday, December 26, 2010

More secrecy from a Leftist government

The facts are poison to Leftism

THE Baillieu government says it has found proof the former Labor government politicised and interfered with the Freedom of Information process.

Adviser notes and briefings found in desk drawers in the premier's office reveal that John Brumby blocked the appointment of an FOI officer because he was advised "she has consistently interpreted requests and made decisions to our detriment". The notes are the second instalment of damaging material apparently overlooked and left behind in desks by former advisers to Mr Brumby.

The first, revealed last week, was an adviser's black notebook that detailed dirt unit activities and referred to the emails of then shadow frontbencher David Davis. The Sunday Age understands more damaging material has been found and will eventually be released.

In a 2008 memo to the premier, an adviser named Alison recommended to Mr Brumby that he block two officers from receiving special powers to process FOI requests to his private office. One of Mr Brumby's key advisers was Alison Crosweller, but it is not certain the memo is from this Alison. The two new officers, from the legal branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, were suggested to the premier for his approval.

But in the memo to the premier, Alison says: "I am very nervous about delegating authority to one of the suggested officers. She has consistently interpreted requests and made decisions to our detriment. Rather than approve one and not the other, suggest DO NOT APPROVE on the basis the [premier's private office] does not receive many requests and we'd prefer to work with current authorised officers."

Alison then recommends a form of words for Mr Brumby to reject the request for approval. Mr Brumby writes almost an exact copy of these words on the bottom of the brief requesting his approval.

The brief, seen by The Sunday Age, was written by the director of his legal department.

The former opposition and media have long suspected FOI was heavily monitored and influenced by the former government, but this appears to be the first proof of this interference.

The Baillieu government told The Sunday Age the former premier's actions showed he was prepared to disadvantage two public servants because one of them had performed her duties in compliance with the act.

The Minister for Corrections and Crime Prevention, Andrew McIntosh, says the Baillieu government will establish an FOI commissioner, who will be independent from government and political interference.

The commissioner will review FOI requests, develop and enforce professional standards and be an independent officer of the Parliament in the same way as the Ombudsman and Auditor-General, he said. Mr McIntosh said the commissioner would monitor all FOI requests, receive and investigate complaints and could inquire into the decision-making of all government FOI officers.

Opposition spokeswoman EmmaTyner declined to answer specific questions about the 2008 blocking of FOI officers by Mr Brumby. But she said: "Quite clearly, Ted Baillieu thinks it's more useful to spend his time searching through drawers for old documents rather than getting on with the job of fixing the problems, which he promised to do."

The first instalment of revealing information left behind by the former government was a black notebook belonging to Mr Brumby's strategic adviser, Simon Hammersley. It appeared to refer to emails "to and from" Mr Davis and could be the subject of an Ombudsman's inquiry.

The Baillieu government has written to Ombudsman George Brouwer asking him to investigate whether the former government inappropriately accessed the then opposition's emails.


Bullying and incompetence in a Left-run government railway system

Bureaucrats very commonly use bullying of employees to cover up their bungles. Now they are spending big to silence their outside critics as well

A website created by a disgruntled retired train conductor contains lurid allegations of extramarital affairs, sexual harassment, cronyism, safety breaches and workplace bullying - all aimed at the management of NSW's rural passenger train network.

CountryLink and RailCorp have spent close to $1 million in a seven-month effort to shut it down.

Since it appeared in May, the "CountryStink" website has become a lightning rod for disaffected and frustrated current and former staff wanting to vent their anger at top brass. It has had more than 500,000 hits.

The RailCorp Investigation Unit has questioned dozens of staff and seized computers from CountryLink depots in an effort to shut the site down. It also sent investigators overseas to track down the website's server. RailCorp has stopped its employees having access to the site.

The CountryStink creator, "Max", told The Sun-Herald he wanted to stop management's "rampant use of power". Max said people's careers had been ruined, families torn apart and passengers' safety compromised by managers who bullied and threatened workers. He said people who complained were transferred or forced to resign.

The website alleges that drivers of high-speed XPT trains were threatened with the sack if they slowed trains down on potentially unsafe parts of the track.

It alleges young female workers have been sexually harassed and that women have complained about having to sleep with bosses to get a promotion. The site alleges that managers were having extramarital affairs with more junior staff.

Max alleges that senior management has been ordering drivers to keep to the posted speed limits on tracks even though the ballast and soil under the rails had been undermined by heavy rain or flooding. Slowing down would affect on-time running statistics, Max said. "[They] put the safety of passengers at risk," Max said. "As a result some drivers were victimised to such an extent that some resigned, went back to CityRail or took stress leave."

Max also details a management crackdown on train hospitality staff toasting leftover bread from the buffet cars for their own consumption, managers promoting mates into senior positions and a cutback in the number of staff on night services, putting employees at risk of drunken assaults.

Max estimated that CountryLink had spent close to $1 million in trying to shut his website down. RailCorp would not confirm how much it had spent on hunting down Max.

RailCorp said it was investigating the matter and that under no circumstances was harassment of any kind acceptable at the organisation.


Hormone-treated beef off the shelves at Coles supermarkets in 2011

This will undoubtedly segment the market -- with food freaks buying their meat at Coles and others buying cheaper meat elsewhere. Are there enough food freaks to make it worthwhile for Coles? We will see, I guess. Richard Goyder is a very smart man, however, so he has probably guessed right

BEEF pumped with growth hormones will be banned by supermarket giant Coles from New Year's Day in an Australian first, sending shock waves through the meat industry. Industry experts predict higher beef prices as more customers demand hormone-free meat, which makes up about half of all beef sold in Australia.

Farmers have used hormone growth promotants (HGPs) to speed up muscle growth in cattle for more than 30 years, backed by rigorous safety approval from health authorities.

But in a survey of 1000 people by Meat and Livestock Australia, leaked to the Sunday Herald Sun, almost half said they would consume less meat if it had added hormones, while 16 per cent would "never touch it again" and 15 per cent would "actively warn others".

Industry experts now fear a "knock-on effect" from the Coles ban if other retailers were forced to fall into line.

Coles has vowed to continue spending tens of millions of dollars a year absorbing the extra costs incurred by farmers so that consumers would not pay more. HGPs for cattle have been approved in Australia since 1979, but were banned by the European Union in 1988.

Without the HGPs, industry experts said another two million head of cattle would be needed to make up a shortfall in meat, creating environmental problems. "This has the potential to be very damaging to the beef industry and its reputation," Sydney University Prof Ian Lean said.

But Coles ambassador Curtis Stone said the industry needed to listen to consumer concerns. "The goal of the food industry should be to produce food as Mother Nature intended with as little additives as possible," Stone said. "As consumers, we have the power to make sure this happen."

Australian Cattle Council chief David Inall accused Coles of needlessly frightening customers. And CSIRO livestock industry chief Alan Bell said HGPs were "very safe and backed by science". "The problem is that the word 'hormone' is an emotive one," Prof Bell said.


A Labor party bully

This is just normal form for Schwarto. He is actually rather comical in his aggressiveness but those he attacks would be unlikely to see it that way

BLIGH Government bad boy Robert Schwarten is in strife again after publicly humiliating a top bureaucrat in an expletive-laden tirade at Premier Anna Bligh's Christmas drinks.

The Sunday Mail understands the Information Technology Minister verbally abused Community Safety director-general Jim McGowan because of the public servant's widely-known concerns that his department was next to receive Mr Schwarten's bungled payroll system.

The altercation at the Premier's annual Cabinet Christmas reception earlier this month came as Mr Schwarten's department was negotiating with Mr McGowan's agency about rolling out the payroll system for thousands of staff in corrective and emergency services in the next few years.

It is believed Mr Schwarten physically pulled Mr McGowan aside at the drinks and swore in full view of some of the hundreds of guests while the public servant remained silent.

Government sources say Mr McGowan has been adamant he will not impose the new payroll software on his 10,000 staff unless it is working properly, after thousands of Queensland Health staff went unpaid this year.

Asked on Friday whether there was physical contact with Mr McGowan at the Queensland Art Gallery event, Mr Schwarten refused interviews. In a statement he did not rule out touching the public servant but insisted there was "no physical aggression whatsoever".

"Jim McGowan and I have been mates for over 30 years," Mr Schwarten said. "We have had many robust exchanges during that time." He also claimed his comments to Mr McGowan did not relate to the payroll issue – but a witness said that was "absolute rubbish" and described Mr Schwarten's behaviour as "appalling".

Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek demanded Mr Schwarten be brought to account for his actions. "There is no excuse for physical contact," he said. "The Premier should be getting her minister to explain in full what happened."

Mr McGowan declined to comment. Department of Premier and Cabinet director-general Ken Smith said no formal complaint had been made.

The incident is not the first time Mr Schwarten has embarrassed the Government with his bad behaviour, with the Opposition recently dubbing him "The Aussie Joe Bugner" of State Parliament. In 2000, he was involved in a punch-up at a Labor Day barbecue with the husband of a federal MP.


Christmas message from Julia Gillard

Quite a good speech below. It could have been made by a conservative

In the Gillard family, Christmas is a time for tradition. Everyone has the same job on Christmas Day. I always get to peel the potatoes and carrots. We eat the same food in the same order. Dad tells the same jokes!

We get a little older each year, and the presents for my niece and nephew have changed as the years go by, but not too much else does.

I hope this Christmas you are able to share your own special traditions with people who you love and who love you in return. Whether that’s time in church, or with your family, or at the cricket or on the beach, or helping others, I hope this Christmas is a special one.

Christmas is also a time when we reflect on what’s been. After lunch on Christmas Day, I think many of us have that quiet moment where we look around and think, "all in all, we’re lucky to have each other". Certainly, that’s how I feel about our country this Christmas.

We are all Australians, all people of this place, and as a people, as a nation, we have got so much to be grateful for. Through it all, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. We are still lucky.

For some I know Christmas this year is a sad time. We lost a lot of brave Australians this year: from the 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment, from the 2nd Commando Regiment, from the Special Air Service Regiment, from 6 RAR.

They died for us and I know every Australian has a special thought for their partners and children, their families, and their mates, this Christmas. We don’t forget.

Just as Christmas reminds us of the good things we have, it can be a tough time for some among us. So if your Christmas is a sadder one this year because of family problems, or illness, or the loss of a loved one, I hope you know that you’re never alone.

2010 has been an eventful year in our country’s life, but above all else, we shouldn’t forget the most wonderful thing that happened this year. The drought broke in the eastern states at last.

Of course, it’s never easy on the land, and I know that now it’s flooding which is making life hard in many places even today, but we’re grateful for some of the rain at least. We think of the farmers still in drought. We wish some of the rain would come your way now too.

I want to say something to Australians who have to work at Christmas to serve and protect us - our police and fire fighters, our ambulance officers and nurses, emergency personnel and of course our troops abroad. So many people sacrifice their Christmas Day to make life better for others. It’s hard to think of a more generous Christmas present than that. Thank you.

Finally, whether you’re going around the corner or across the country please drive safely. Don’t make next Christmas a sad anniversary.

For all Australians, my wish is that this Christmas, wherever you are in our country or overseas, you have the chance to do those special things that mean Christmas for you, with people who are special to you. I wish you the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of New Years.


1 comment:

Paul said...

The Q Health payroll failure is still ongoing. Some changes have been made, most of which involves re-instituting processes abandoned with the introduction of the new system. In a non-corrupt government foul-mouthed bunglers like Schwarten would have been forced out long ago.