Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The most crooked and inept "child protection" outfit in the country again: DOCS of NSW

Death covered up and attempt made to silence a whistleblower. The entire management team should be fired, if not prosecuted

A DOCS case worker says the department "covered up" information relating to a dead baby at the centre of a murder investigation. Whistleblower Wayne Lewis accused DOCS over the case of a baby boy found dead next to a motel on the Pacific Highway at Belmont, near Newcastle, on December 4, 2007. "They covered up the death of that child because of the publicity ... to avoid scrutiny of the death," said Mr Lewis, 54, who still works for the Department of Community Services.

After raising his concerns and threatening to make a submission to a special commission of inquiry, Mr Lewis was suspended for 12 months.

He said DOCS workers had a chance in August 2007 to save the then unborn boy but failed to act.

DOCS has admitted files from its KIDS database were never passed on to police. A murder investigation into the newborn's death collapsed, and the mother was later convicted of concealing a birth.

A DOCS spokeswoman said staff co-operated with police but officers had never asked for the file. However, Opposition community services spokeswoman Pru Goward also claimed there had been a cover-up.

"It [DOCS] is engaged in secrecy, cover-up and possibly deflection of a murder inquiry," she said.

Mr Lewis, a case worker with more than a decade's experience, took a call from the baby's mother on the DOCS helpline and found her children had previously been neglected and there were domestic violence issues.

She had called for motel accommodation but Mr Lewis told colleagues to see her for a risk assessment within 24 hours, but they dismissed a home visit and closed the case after a phone call.

Had they been to see her they would have seen she was heavily pregnant and, based on the family's history, they would have intervened, Mr Lewis said.

Between the mother's call and the baby's death he had raised with managers the systematic issue of parents known to DOCS simply being given hotel accommodation instead of a field visit.

"The issue that really gets me personally is I know they were covering up the involvement," he said. "The death review team was interviewing all the crisis response team regarding high-profile murders, I was making noise about this one saying, 'We knew this family'."

But he was never interviewed by the team or police after he was suspended in 2008, with DOCS managers saying Mr Lewis had acted inappropriately with information in 2002. He denied the claim and was later reinstated and given a promotion. A DOCS spokeswoman denied Mr Lewis was sidelined to silence him.


Support for nuclear power coming from the Australian Left

They are freaked by what the voters might do about the higher electricity bills that green power will necessitate. Electricity bills have already risen a lot and they know that cannot go on forever

FEDERAL Labor MPs are calling for Australia to embrace nuclear power, leaving Julia Gillard facing another damaging split in her Government. Ms Gillard is under pressure to put the divisive issue on next year's ALP national conference agenda - with MPs claiming voters care more about power bills than gay marriage.

Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson last night said those advocating nuclear power had as much right to have the issue debated at the showcase event as those backing changes to gay marriage laws.

Defying Labor's official ban on nuclear power, a number of MPs have gone public in their support for the low-carbon energy source. "My view is that all forms of energy supply should be under active consideration," former frontbencher Mark Bishop said. Senator Bishop said the "Government should give more active consideration to putting nuclear into the equation of all forms of energy supply, particularly those that are subsidised".

NSW Senator Steve Hutchins also wants nuclear power debated after Ms Gillard this week argued that a price on carbon would be a high priority for her Government. "In my opinion it should be part of the [energy] debate if we want to have a clean future," he said. "I cannot see us returning to living in the cave and burning fallen timber to keep us warm."

Privately a number of ministers support nuclear power being considered along with coal, solar and other energy sources as part of Australia's future energy mix.

The nuclear push will receive a boost today when Mr Ferguson releases a report by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. The study finds nuclear power will be cheaper than traditional coal-fired power stations and renewables such as solar - once Australia introduces a carbon tax.

Labor MP Chris Hayes said Australia would soon become the biggest exporter of uranium as he called for nuclear to be included in the energy debate. "Why would we simply reject it out of hand?" Mr Hayes said.

Senator Michael Forshaw said key regional players were rapidly embracing nuclear power. "I am not one who says we should never, ever contemplate the possibility of nuclear. It should be part of a broad debate about cleaner energy," he said.

Senator Hutchins wants the issue on the agenda for the ALP national conference. "It is more important for the country's future than gay marriage and it affects a lot more people," he said.

Mr Ferguson said he believed those advocating change should have the chance to state their case at Labor's showcase event. "They have as much right to discuss nuclear at the 2011 conference as other people have to debate the issue of gay and lesbian marriage," he said.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific lashed out at the ALP over the issue last night. Spokesman Stephen Campbell said nuclear power and its waste were a threat to people and the environment and "not a solution to climate change".

"It's also too expensive and too unsafe. If the ALP went down that road, they would be costing the taxpayers billions of dollars to establish the technology, while renewable energy is safer, cheaper and much easier to build," he said.


Australia dropping solar subsidy too

But it won't be remotely the disaster it was in Spain

THE Gillard government has moved to ease pressure on rising power prices by phasing out support for household rooftop solar panels from July next year, one year earlier than previously planned.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet announced the changes to the the government’s solar credits scheme today. "The cost to install solar panels has reduced substantially since the solar credits mechanism was first announced in December 2008, driven by a strong economy, a high dollar and falling technology costs," Mr Combet said.

"In this time, demand for solar installations has also increased rapidly, as the out-of-pocket cost to households has dropped and generous State and Territory feed-in tariffs have provided additional support to households."

The change would allow electricity retailers to reduce the proportion of renewable energy certificates they are required to purchase from small-scale systems including solar panels. Under the renewable energy target (RET), energy retailers are obliged to buy renewable energy certificates or RECS. The changes announced today mean that retailers will now be obliged to purchase fewer of the certificates and the flow on costs to consumers will not be as great.

Mr Combet said the measure was expected to save the average household $12 in electricity prices in 2011. But he stressed that systems installed before July 1, 2011 would "not be impacted by the changes, allowing industry and households time to adjust".

The program had previously been attacked as a middle class welfare measure because the subsidies tended to favour the well-off and had minimal impact in reducing Australia’s emissions.

Mr Combet said the government had always emphasised the importance of households carrying some of the costs of installing solar systems.


IQ test for politicians!

Long overdue

PROSPECTIVE Liberal National candidates are being forced to sit new-age intelligence tests to ensure they are smart enough to be politicians.

The Courier-Mail can reveal LNP candidates are being put through so-called "psychometric tests" in a bid to weed out the unworthy.

The tests used by the LNP hierarchy specifically measure a person's aptitude rather than concentrate on an individual's personality traits.

Only people seeking preselection in marginal seats have undergone the tests so far, but existing MPs may face the same probe into their intellects.

LNP state secretary Michael O'Dwyer said the testing was part of a new strict vetting process to ensure candidates were up to the rigours of being an MP.

"What we are trying to do is get a very stringent process in place so the best candidates are coming through," he said.

Mr O'Dwyer said he was unaware if such tests were used elsewhere in Australian politics, but they were introduced by the Conservatives in the UK. "It is certainly a process that is way more thorough than what we have had," he said. "It is good at identifying those people who are good to go to pre-selection and will be good representatives of their local communities."

He refused to reveal how many people seeking pre-selection had failed. However, Mr O'Dwyer insisted delays resolving some pre-selections had been caused by huge interest in representing the party. "We have been overwhelmed with the response we have had to nominations," he said.

The LNP had been seeking to pre-select candidates in 34 seats held by Labor or Independents but are now only likely to complete about 25 before the end of the year.

Psychometric tests have become popular among big businesses seeking the right candidates for positions.

According to the Institute of Psychometric Coaching, aptitude tests had only one correct answer to each question and people were timed on how quickly they responded.

The tests measure a person's "fluid and crystalised intelligence". Fluid intelligence refers to a person's ability to think quickly or use their "street smarts", while crystalised intelligence means their ability to employ their knowledge from past experiences.


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