Sunday, January 02, 2011

"Green" police cars are too small

QUEENSLAND Police have been left red-faced over its choice of new "green" patrol cars. The service boasts it is going green, taking delivery of 100 hybrid Toyota Camrys. Shame no one checked the boot size. Frontline officers say the boots of the new patrol cars are too small to carry all their essential equipment, including flak jackets and emergency equipment.

They can't put it on the back seats - that's where the criminals go - leaving them little option but to ditch it, or keep it under their feet in the front.

And the front seats are already a tight squeeze for officers wearing accoutrement belts and cargo pants.

The police union said the decision showed how far removed top brass were from the frontline that they could approve cars that aren't big enough to be useful.

The Queensland Police Service (QPS) boasts about its green car choice in this year's annual report, saying its "smarter vehicle purchases" meant it had "the most operationally suitable vehicles". It goes on to say "green technology continues to be introduced" with "noteworthy development" the Toyota Camry Hybrid being used as a general duties patrol vehicle.

"As part of the Government's policy, the QPS is also required to reduce its production of carbon dioxide by 10 per cent by 2010, 25 per cent by 2012, and 50 per cent by 2017. "Fleet Management Branch is actively pursuing this through smarter vehicle purchases and the QPS has already achieved the 2010 target," the report said.

In June, the police fleet numbered 2316 vehicles, including 97 motorcycles.

The green car debacle comes after a January audit ordered by senior officers and obtained by The Sunday Mail found 294 police vehicles were doing less than 50km a day. Vehicles uncovered in the audit included a Holden Commodore sedan on general duties that had done only 7833km in two years, a Ford Falcon sedan with just 18,663km since 2006, and a Mitsubishi Lancer averaging 17km a day.


Soorley's 'jihad' on town planners

FORMER Brisbane lord mayor Jim Soorley has stunned a meeting of town planners by declaring a "jihad" on their profession for causing delays to development projects.

Mr Soorley, chairman of the Sunshine Coast-Moreton Bay water utility Unitywater and lobbyist for several major developers, made the controversial speech at the state branch of the Planning Institute of Australia's conference at Coolum in November.

The institute's state president Greg Tupicoff said the "jihad" comment caused "a fair bit of anxiety, indignation and despondency" but he believed that Mr Soorley had a point to make. "He was sort of saying we had put too many roadblocks in the way (of development)," Mr Tupicoff said.

The controversy comes as the Queensland branch of the Urban Development Institute of Australia charges up its own attack on red tape.

It partly blames this for blowing out the delivery timeframe for major development projects in Queensland, such as large housing estates, from two years to more than six years in a decade. "That is the surest possible sign there are profound problems in what should be a relatively straightforward process," UDIA state chief executive Brian Stewart said.

"That extended production lifecycle means that there is so much more uncertainty about whether projects will be built and how much more they cost, particularly because of fees and charges.

"Mr Soorley's comments are very clearly evidence of the level of frustration in a number of expert consultants around the area that things are too complicated, therefore they won't happen and the whole community really suffers."

The UDIA has blamed a combination of government indecisiveness, complex planning schemes and questionable development fees for creating delays.

Mr Stewart claimed some councils were charging unlawful developer application fees, citing a State Government alert to councils last month that councils should not be charging fees for some types of applications.

But the Local Government Association of Queensland's own legal advice is at odds with the State Government, finding councils may fix a cost-recovery fee. LGAQ executive director Greg Hallam denied there had been a time blowout in approvals, saying State Government figures showed development application processing times had improved.


Victoria's appalling VCAT again

Violent crime is OK but if he had mocked Islam there would have been no mercy for him. Ask Danny Nalliah about that

A CONVICTED criminal who was so drunk he cannot remember king-hitting a barman and putting him in hospital will be allowed to work with children despite a government department's opposition. Even the tribunal that overturned the department's ban was shocked by the violence and described it as "grave".

The man, a country Victorian football volunteer coach who deals with juniors at the club and who works with apprentices, was jailed for eight months, with six months suspended.

The man was drunk when he entered a hotel and had an argument with his wife, including some pushing and shoving, but the barman who intervened was the one who took the worst blow in the 2009 assault.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, raised both fists then clubbed the barman on both sides of his head, according to a recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal judgment. The man, known as TGN, punched him in the face, knocking him to the floor, then struck him a further three times, tribunal deputy president Bernadette Steele said. The victim who was at least 14 years younger than the then 34-year-old had surgery to insert two titanium plates permanently in his broken jaw, Ms Steele said.

"I was inclined to consider the offence was so violent and unprovoked that (they) could not be a suitable person to work with children."

But Ms Steele said witnesses had testified TGN was good with children and he regarded himself as a role model at the football club. "He said he considered that nothing could justify his actions that night, that he had let down his community," she said. "He wanted to continue with his work with the club as a way of repaying the community. "(The father of two is) a mature and hard-working person anxious to provide leadership in his community."

Ms Steele ordered the Department of Justice to overturn its refusal to grant TGN a certificate to work with children.


Queensland scientist closes in on world breakthrough to beat killer disease

This is very hopeful news. Dengue is like a very severe flu

A QUEENSLAND scientist is on the brink of eliminating the deadly global disease threat of dengue fever after more than 15 years of painstaking research. The University of Queensland's Professor Scott O'Neill will start his world-first field trials to wipe out the mosquito-borne disease in far north Queensland this week.

The project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Health Program, hopes to control dengue by introducing a bacteria to mosquitoes that stops them passing on the virus to humans. The bacteria, known as Wolbachia, has a powerful ability to invade natural populations of insects and alter their reproduction and lifespan.

"I was always interested in science but I wanted to do science with a practical outcome," Prof O'Neill, 48, said. "This is very exciting for me and my team - we can provide a real solution to the global burden of disease."

Dengue is a significant disease that has no effective controls or vaccine - it affects billions world-wide and costs millions of dollars to treat. It is carried by an urban-dwelling mosquito that, once established in cities, is almost impossible to eradicate.

Dengue hot spot Brazil spends $US800 million a year on pesticides to control mosquitoes and still has one of the highest cases of infections in the world.

"The scary thing is dengue is getting worse, with a broadening geographic distribution and outbreaks becoming more severe," Prof O'Neill said. "We can see that in our own experience in Australia." There were more than 1000 cases of dengue in Queensland in 2009 - the worst outbreak in 50 years.

But discovering the effect Wolbachia has on the dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito did not happen in a "lightbulb moment" - it has taken decades.

"When you are doing scientific work more experiments fail than succeed, so you keep chipping away to find ways around the problem," Prof O'Neill said. "I think it's a sickness that a lot of scientists have - they are very obsessive people and that's what makes them so tenacious about their projects."

One member of the Eliminate Dengue team was once required to manually inject 10,000 mosquito embryos with the bacteria to test their survival.

Prof O'Neill was first alerted to Wolbachia by former UQ professor Hugh Patterson when he was Patterson's student in the 1980s. Scientists had been thinking about the bacteria as a way of controlling insect populations but Prof O'Neill wanted to test its ability to prevent disease transmission.

Leaving Brisbane for the US, he kept up his investigations as a junior professor at Yale University for 10 years. Returning to UQ as head of the School of Biological Sciences, his team was the first to apply molecular biology to the bacteria sequencing the Wolbachia genome.

"Dengue is spread by old mosquitoes (12 days old)," he said. "I thought if we could shorten their lifespan we could stop transmission of the disease. "It not only shortened their lifespan but it interfered with the virus's ability to grow in the insect. "That was quite an amazing discovery and it means this approach can be much more effective."

This week Prof O'Neill's team will begin releasing Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes into the wild population.

The CSIRO has done a nine-month risk analysis on releasing Wolbachia mosquitoes into the general population to breed. Prof O'Neill said this type of science was heavily regulated in Australia and they were being extremely careful because they did not want to create another biological problem like the cane toad.

"The cane toad was a foreign organism introduced into a new environment but Wolbachia already occurs naturally in up to 60 per cent of the insect population," he said.

In September the Australia Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority gave the project approval to proceed to field trials at Yorkeys Knob and Gordonvale near Cairns.

Over the past 15 years, the international collaboration has involved more than 14 institutions and 50 scientists from Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, the US and Brazil.


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