Thursday, January 06, 2011

Slack police work leads to man's death

A manifestly inadequate police response to a serious complaint left the complainants with the feeling that they had to seek justice themselves

A grandmnother allegedly orchestrated the murder of her friend and neighbour because she believed he had molested her grandchildren. Police will allege that 10 days after Adrian Trevett was cleared of indecently assaulting two children, aged one and two, his 46-year-old friend Karen Dawson conspired to murder him.

Officers found Mr Trevett's body at Sandy Hill in the Girard State Forest on Saturday, two months after he was reported missing.
The 62-year-old avid cyclist, who was believed to have been strangled, was covered with sticks and bushes.

New England detectives flew to Brisbane last week to arrest Dawson. She was charged with murder and made a brief appearance at the Armidale Local Court, where bail was refused.

Police arrested five other people, including Dawson's son and father of the grandchildren, Matthew Aquilina, yesterday morning after raids at Casino and Grafton. Three men and two women were being interviewed by investigators last night.

Deborah Grant, 32, made a brief appearance at Lismore Bail Court yesterday charged with being an accessory after the fact and concealing a serious indictable offence. Aquilina, 25, was charged with murder and will appear today.

Police will allege that Dawson, who had befriended Mr Trevett, drove to Rangers Hut on the Gwydir Highway at Glen Innes to pick him up on October 29 about 8.30am. The day before, Mr Trevett had completed an 80km bike ride from Glen Innes to the top of the Gibraltar Range in northern NSW.

Mr Trevett was allegedly driven to bushland, 30km from Tenterfield, where he was killed.

On October 19, police received a complaint alleging Trevett, described as a loner, had molested Dawson's two infant grandchildren. Police will allege Dawson, her son and his 29-year-old friend believed Mr Trevett was a pedophile despite being told by police he had been cleared of indecently assaulting the children.

Mr Trevett was never interviewed by police about the alleged indecent assaults.

His brother Valentine described Mr Trevett as a "quiet man". The brothers grew up in Glen Innes and regularly spoke. "He never had a wife or any kids. He always kept to himself," he said. "He was a simple man. He loved his cycling and the seasonal work he did with his travelling fruit truck."


NSW Labor party coverup finally implodes

A great tribute to the determination of Rev. Fred Nile

NSW Premier Kristina Keneally last night bowed to political pressure surrounding the $5.3 billion sale of the state's electricity assets.

She has agreed to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into the rushed sale.

After declaring for the past fortnight that the upper house inquiry was unconstitutional, Ms Keneally issued a statement saying she and Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, who oversaw the sale, and key members of the electricity bid project team would answer the inquiry's questions.

"I have taken this decision based on my commitment to transparency and openness," the statement said.

In a bid to escape scrutiny over the sale, Ms Keneally prorogued - or closed - parliament on December 22. She defended the move as standard procedure before an election, but it was considered about two months earlier than necessary for the March 26 poll.

Ms Keneally has spent the past two weeks defending that decision, relying on advice provided by the NSW Crown Solicitor in 1994 that a parliamentary committee cannot sit if that parliament no longer exists.

Crown Solicitor Ian Knight, who updated his advice this week, said the inquiry would not hold the special powers usually available to parliamentary committees, including compelling witnesses to appear and conferring privilege over their evidence.

Ms Keneally was previously accused of banning public servants from appearing to give answers, but her position on this issue also shifted, and public servants will now be able to appear if they wish. However, she said their evidence could leave them open to being sued.

Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said last night's decision was "the ultimate act of hypocrisy".

"Kristina Keneally has banned public servants from attending, intimidated witnesses and tried to stop this inquiry at every turn," he said.

Ms Keneally has been under pressure from within her party as well as publicly over the government's handling of the sale, which Mr Roozendaal rushed through just before midnight on December 14 before leaving for New York on an official trip.

He was forced to appoint members of his own sales team to the boards of the state-owned power companies after eight of the 13 directors of Delta Electricity and Eraring Energy quit over the deal, claiming it undervalued the assets.


A "conservative" 2011?

Futurists are predicting a "new conservatism" will sweep the nation this year as households rein in spending in the face of escalating living costs. Rising interest rates, soaring utility bills and the lingering spectre of the global financial crisis will ring in a simpler, more frugal lifestyle for most Aussies.

At the same time, the blistering march of technology will evoke a sense of longing for the past in many people.

Pearls and twin set chic, patriotism, home cooking and quiet nights at home are hot. But paying full price, worrying about water, expensive restaurants and spending too much time on Facebook are not hot.

Social researcher David Chalke said the rising cost of living would be a key issue. "People will be more prudent due to a combination of uncertainty about the future and certainty that prices - particularly utilities, government charges and so forth - are going up," he said. "Even though we're comfortably off and unemployment will probably slow down, we're going to save our cash."

Futurist Tim Longhurst said that people wanted to get back to basics. "The key word here is nostalgia, although it's nostalgia for a time that may or may not have existed," he said. "We don't really want to go and live in a cabin - the truth is we like our plugged-in, hi-tech way of life but we want to temper it a bit."

People would incorporate old fashioned things into their busy modern existences rather than opting for a complete life overhaul. "We're not about to quit our jobs to do this," he said. "We like the idea of the vegetable patch in the back yard, so we're starting to see people creating businesses around coming in and looking after it for us."


Unionism fading

In 1990 just over 40 per cent of employees were members of a trade union. That number now is less than 20 per cent. For a Prime Minister who was elected president of the Australian Union of Students and was a partner at labour law firm Slater and Gordon, Julia Gillard must feel as though her base is slipping.

Labor and the trade unions are generations removed from the ethos and numbers of the maritime and shearers' strikes of 1890. They are generations removed from the first meeting of the Australian Labor Party, held under the Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine, and the NSW Trades and Labor Council sponsored Labor Electoral League in Balmain in 1891. These are proud traditions, but about as relevant to today's politics as the Queen's speech.

And there is more bad news to come on the union front. The bastion of trade unionism for some decades has been the public sector. The sale of public assets and the outsourcing of various service and IT functions means the prospects for organising in the public sector are declining.

In 1990, an astonishingly high 67 per cent of public sector workers were members of a trade union. That figure today is less than 45 per cent. In the same period, little more than 30 per cent of private sector workers were members of a trade union. Now, the proportion is less than 14 per cent.

Indeed, the proportion of public sector workers among trade union members has declined somewhat. In 1990, the proportion of public sector trade unionists to all trade unionists was 45 per cent. Now, the proportion of public sector trade unionists to all trade unionists is 43 per cent. This change in the proportion of trade unionists is driven by the relative decline in the size of the public sector workforce.

In 1990, the public sector workforce was 27 per cent of the total workforce. Now, the public sector workforce is less than 18 per cent of the workforce.

The sale of public assets by Labor and Coalition governments, the big one being the sale of Queensland Rail by a Labor government, will drive public sector union numbers down further.

Union numbers will not be enhanced by the recent announcement by Prime Minister Gillard of her desire to see principal teacher selection in state schools. Although not as radical as the headlines suggest, it has the potential to change the culture of unionism in the state schools' sector to reflect that of the independent sector.

In 1990, for example, fewer than 60 per cent of "educational professionals" were trade unionists. Now, fewer than 50 per cent are trade unionists. It is highly likely that this decline in trade unionism among educational professionals is driven by the rise of private schools.

In the Queensland state school system, 96 per cent of all eligible teachers are members of the union (only the police and the fire brigade can boast similar numbers). The numbers drop away in the independent schools sector. Beginning with the Catholic schools, fewer than 65 per cent of teachers are unionised, but in the independent non-Catholic schools, particularly the more fundamental Christian schools, fewer than 20 per cent of teachers are unionised. Incidentally, non-Catholic independent schools are the fastest-growing sector of independent schools.

More recently, and setting aside the merits of the complaint by large retailers, competition from internet sales is likely to slow growth in store based retail sales and employment.

The consequence is to drive union numbers down even further. Union penetration among sales workers in 1990 was a little less than 25 per cent. Union penetration now is not quite 15 per cent. There were 150,000 union members among the sales workforce in 1990, but now there are just over 100,000.

The implication for one of the larger, and in my mind most respected, unions, the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employee's Union is dire. A greater surprise is that in a growing workforce the number of sales workers has been relatively stagnant for the past 20 years.

State Labor governments rely heavily on the votes of public sector unionists. This generally holds true for federal Labor governments. Intriguing then that the Prime Minister is toying with the idea of principal selection of schoolteachers.

The concept may not stretch so far as to have the principal and the local parents act as employer - state education departments will probably remain the employer - but nevertheless, teacher unions may find the shift to local selection a more difficult environment in which to recruit members.

Implications for Labor in the long term could be severe. It may be left with emergency workers - police and fireys - at the heart of the trade union movement.


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