Thursday, February 24, 2011

Federal government coverup of union corruption

THE federal government has blocked Fair Work Australia from answering questions about an investigation it is conducting into allegations of financial irregularities involving the Labor backbencher Craig Thomson.

Appearing before a Senate estimates hearing, Fair Work Australia's director of tribunal services and organisations, Terry Nassios, said he had interviewed 12 people about the finances of the Health Services Union.

But when the opposition senator Michael Ronaldson asked if Mr Thomson was one of those interviewed, the government's Senate leader, Chris Evans, intervened to stop the official from answering.

Mr Thomson, the MP for the central coast electorate of Dobell, was federal secretary of the HSU for five years before he was elected to Parliament in 2007.

The Herald reported allegations in 2009 that Mr Thomson's HSU credit card had been used to make cash withdrawals totalling more than $100,000 between 2002 and 2007 and to make payments to Sydney escort agencies.

Mr Thomson strenuously denies the allegations and is suing Fairfax Media for defamation.

Fair Work Australia has been conducting an investigation into the union's national office for about a year. It is examining if there have been any breaches of the rules on the union's financial management, including when Mr Thomson was federal secretary.

SOURCE






Muslims lose one

No cash to fund privacy curtains for female-only pool classes. How come nobody is asking the local mosque to fund this? Why should it be a bite on the taxpayer? Do we fund everything Muslims want?

THE State Government has refused a council's bid to help fund $45,000 curtains at a public pool so Muslim women can have privacy during female-only exercise classes. There were calls yesterday for the City of Monash to dump the controversial plan amid claims it promoted segregation and was a waste of ratepayers' money.

Monash Council confirmed the Victorian Multicultural Commission had knocked back a grant application to fund half the curtains' cost. Two weeks ago, the Herald Sun revealed that VCAT had given the green light for Monash to bypass equality laws and run the fortnightly women-only sessions.

Monash Mayor Greg Male said yesterday that the council still wanted to introduce the program, but it would have to pass the budget review process.

But Ratepayers Victoria president Jack Davis called on the council to scrap the plan, given the VMC's decision to reject the grant application. "They have made a wise decision - it only leads to segregation and we don't need that in Australia," Mr Davis said.

A spokeswoman for Multicultural Affairs Minister Nick Kotsiras said Monash had received a $1 million grant for a separate program and the VMC encouraged the council to re-apply for the privacy screen grant next time.

SOURCE




Poseurs in uproar over David Williamson's play "Don Parties On"

The "superior" people despise anything that is popular. The fact that Williamson is as Leftist as they are doesn't save him. Being popular is the unforgiveable sin to their envious minds.

That any theatre company would knock back the opportunity to stage a new Williamson play is almost inconceivable, particularly a sequel to his most famous play. It shows how deep their hate and envy is.

Although he is a Leftist, Williamson is a brilliant and accurate observer of Australians, so when he puts our follies in front of us, that makes us laugh.




Miranda Devine

At the opening night last week of David Williamson's latest play, Don Parties On, the Sydney audience was laughing so much at times the actors had to repeat their lines. Bruised from a bashing by Melbourne's black turtleneck theaterati, Williamson - Australia's most successful playwright - laughed along and looked utterly delighted at the reaction to his sequel to the iconic 1971 Don's Party.

During the curtain call and extended applause, Garry McDonald, who plays Don, gestured at Williamson from the stage. The applause ratcheted up so much that Williamson got to his feet and waved at the cheering crowd. Bob Hawke - one of a dozen politicians in the audience - even stood to applaud the maligned playwright.

The reaction was hardly what one snide reviewer the next day described as a few cheap chuckles. And what a difference it was to the thin-lipped, crossed-armed reaction on Melbourne's opening night.

But disparaging Williamson has become a badge of belonging in the arts world, despite the fact his plays have kept Australian theatre solvent for more than 30 years. His work is slammed as too bourgeois, too commercial, too accessible to mainstream audiences.

One particularly bilious online critique described Williamson as an "ageing irrelevance" whose writing was "fat, lazy and stupid". Williamson was so wounded he wrote hundreds of words in blog comments in reply, his graciousness being a credit to him.

It is an indictment of our taxpayer-subsidised theatre industry that Don Parties On, which, despite the critics, ended up a smash hit at the Melbourne Theatre Company, was rejected by the Sydney Theatre Company, whose artistic directors are Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton.

Instead, Williamson had to hunt around for an independent commercial producer to take it on. Enter Rachel Healy, who had just left her post as Opera House performing arts director. She found a private investor and put a chunk of her own money into the production in Sydney for 21 performances.

"The critics and the arts community have a response to Williamson you would never see elsewhere," she says. "He brings thousands of people out from their couch to (be) incredibly entertained. But it's bizarre that being entertaining is something to be ashamed of (when) the prime motivator for people to go to the theatre is entertainment."

But of course, if you are an insecure philistine posing as a sophisticated arts appreciator, you won't trust art that is entertaining, beautifully constructed, and coherent. Poseurs like to consume obscure niche art -- no matter how bad -- because it marks them as superior.

SOURCE






NSW hospital emergency waiting times fall further behind benchmark

THE performance of emergency departments in NSW hospitals has deteriorated, falling further behind the official target for how long people with potentially life-threatening conditions should wait for treatment.

Only 71 per cent of such patients began treatment within the recommended 30 minutes in the December quarter, figures from the NSW Bureau of Health Information reveal, compared to 73 per cent in the same quarter of 2009.

The benchmark for the measure - the most politically sensitive of a suite of emergency department standards - is 75 per cent within 30 minutes.

At 10 hospitals, most of them major facilities, 60 per cent or fewer people in this urgency category were seen within 30 minutes. It was six hospitals in the same period last year.

And the performance of the two specialist children's hospitals declined dramatically during the year. The Children's Hospital at Westmead and Sydney Children's Hospital both fell below the benchmark, which they had met in the 2009 quarter.

At Sydney Children's in Randwick the proportion of triage category-three patients treated on time plummeted from 91 per cent to 70 per cent. It experienced a 5 per cent rise in emergency attendances across all triage categories between the two reporting periods.

A hospital spokeswoman said there had been "an increase in the complexity and number of [emergency] patients," and teething problems in a new computer system for recording attendances had also contributed to the lower performance.

Royal Prince Alfred Hospital experienced the biggest fall in its on-time treatment of triage-three emergency patients - from 73 per cent to 60 per cent - despite a rise in attendances of only 1 per cent.

A spokesman for Sydney Local Health Network, which administers Royal Prince Alfred, said the quarter had been its busiest on record. The emergency department would be refurbished and expanded, he said, and transfer times from ambulance trolley to emergency would be reviewed.

A spokeswoman for the Health Minister, Carmel Tebbutt, said "attendances at NSW emergency departments reached a two-year high, exceeding the peak of the swine flu pandemic in 2009."

The government had budgeted for 80,000 more emergency patients this financial year, she said, and it was adding urgent care centres in some hospitals to take the pressure off emergency departments and medical assessment units to fast track patient admissions.

SOURCE

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