Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You've got to have "panic or distress" in your voice for police emergency operators to take you seriously???

Amazing behaviour

A TOOWOOMBA man says his wife and son may still be alive if their initial triple-0 call during the flood crisis was handled by a different operator.

John Tyson, whose wife, Donna Rice, and 13-year-old son, Jordan, were swept away in the January 10 flash flood, disputed claims his wife sounded calm during the call.

Mr Tyson and son Blake, 10, sat in the public gallery as the Queensland floods inquiry heard distressing recordings of two triple-0 calls, one from Donna Rice and a later one from Jordan. The police officer who responded to the first triple-0 call repeatedly castigated Ms Rice for driving through a flooded intersection minutes before their deaths. The first, in which Ms Rice phoned to report she was stranded in a car at an intersection, went unanswered for a long time. She then reported that water was up to the door of her car and she was stuck.

"Why did you drive through the flooded water?" the police officer, Senior Constable Jason Wheeler, asked. After taking down her details, Senior Constable Wheeler said emergency services had been receiving a huge number of calls.

Before the call ended, he said: "You shouldn't have driven through it in the first place, OK."

In the second phone call, several minutes later, Jordan Rice spoke to a Queensland Fire and Rescue Service operator. He initially had trouble describing where they were stuck and was asked to calm down: "No, we're scared. "We're nearly drowning, hurry up please."

Before the call cut out, there was a discussion about getting on to the roof of the car.

Senior Constable Wheeler, who took Mrs Rice's call at 1.49pm, said he had no appreciation she was in major danger. "There was no panic or distress in her voice," he said.

He said minor flooding had occurred at the same intersection in the past, and her request to him to call a tow truck did not suggest a sense of urgency.

Senior Constable Wheeler said he had told her to call a tow truck herself because the police service could not be seen to give preferential treatment to a particular towing company.

He reported himself to a welfare officer a day or two after the call, expressing concern he did not keep his frustration in check.

Mr Tyson spoke to the inquiry, saying his wife was "a guardian angel" and saying Jordan loved his family unconditionally.


Arrogant' RTA to get humbling overhaul

A rare admission about a government instrumentality

THE Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) will be a "very different" organisation in 12 weeks time, New South Wales Roads Minister Duncan Gay said as he pledged sweeping reforms to curb a culture of "arrogance".

"The people sitting in the cars today, they're our customers, and we have to make that customer service is right," Mr Gay said today.

"What we're doing is in the first stage moving people from the back rooms into customer delivery, into the frontline of development."

Mr Gay said a sense of "arrogance" had seen the RTA and its 7000-odd workers stray from its core responsibilities, but praised staff for identifying some of these underlying problems.

"RTA should be providing roads, planning for roads and providing those services that they do on licences and registration, and doing it better," Mr Gay told Macquarie Radio.

"The good thing I've found in the RTA is that they've identified that there's a persona of arrogance and they're starting to work on it.

"We have got to be careful - there are some great people in all these organisations - that we maintain the good bits and the good people as we go through the changes."

Mr Gay said the Coalition's new single integrated transport authority included sweeping changes to the RTA structure to boost frontline staff and customer services.

"The RTA will still be an important sector," Mr Gay said on ABC Radio. "But as I said yesterday, the RTA will be very different. We envisage a different organisation."

He said the Government had given itself 12 weeks to introduce the changes.


Another failure of a government computer project

When will they learn to buy "off the shelf">

A NEW Victoria Police crime database has been put on hold for at least two years amid a $100 million cost blow out.

But even as the police tried to suggest the LINK project was still the best option, Mr Ryan suggested the system may still never get off the ground, taking a hard line on the expensive project.

After already spending $45 million of a $56 million budgeted for the project, consultants have found the scale and cost of the project were “underestimated” in the initial business case.

“This fiasco has been going on since 2005. Unlike the former Labor Government, we are not going to have more money poured into this project, which is akin to tipping water down a well,” Mr Ryan said.

“We are not going to put another cent into this, not another red cent, until such time that we know where the money that has been spent already has in fact gone, let alone where any future money is to be directed.''

Mr Ryan has refused to guarantee the future on the LINK database until it could be convinced by a compelling business plan.

“We will consider it on its merits. I can tell you though … we are not going to spend another cracker on the development of this project unless and until we have a business case, which reflects the needs of police.”

Mr Ryan said the government's response follows an approach “a few weeks ago” by police about the cost over-run.

“The development of the LINK project has stopped,” Mr Ryan said.

The LINK system was supposed to have replaced the outdated LEAP system, but today police command said they had been forced to delay the project for "at least two years".

The 18-year-old LEAP system has come under criticism for flaws, leaks and inappropriate use.


'Dodgy' rental car practices exposed in Choice study

This is a real problem, with lots of ripoffs. Europcar is not mentioned below but seems to have been the biggest cause of complaints that I have seen. I advise people to use Hertz, as they seem like a well-conducted business in my experience

THE "ludicrous" fees and policies of some of the nation's car hire companies have come under the spotlight in a new report.

Consumer watchdog Choice claims to have exposed a variety of “unfair” practices in its report, which analysed the contracts of car rental firms Avis, Bayswater, Budget, East Coast Car Rentals, Europcar, Hertz, Redspot and Thrifty.

Excess reduction policies, fees for not-at-fault accidents and “premium location” surcharges were among the fees and policies singled out as being "unfair".

One of the main offenders, East Coast Car Rentals, has come under fire for allegedly including a clause that essentially means they can rent out a car that doesn't work.

"With an insurance policy riddled with exceptions, a huge administrative surcharge and what seems like an illegal attempt at eroding consumers’ legal rights, East Coast Car Rentals has some of the nastiest fine print out there," the Choice report said.

Choice said it has reported the offending clause to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Meanwhile, Bayswater was criticised for its policy of charging travellers for not-at-fault accidents, even when the other driver has been located. "Their rates are some of the lowest, but we are unimpressed with their policy of charging consumers for not-at-fault accidents,” the report said. "Where the other driver is located, any costs would already be covered by their insurance, so it’s double-dipping."

The review comes at a time when customers are being driven mad by hire car rip-offs. A recent survey of 2500 Australians by consumer ratings agency Canstar Blue found that excessive fees and poor service are a major cause of frustration. The Choice study has added weight to these consumer complaints, finding that while car hire may seem cheap at first, hidden costs can add up quickly.

Excess reduction fees were singled out as one of the most expensive “optional” extras. The report said travellers seeking to avoid being hit with a hefty fee in the event of an accident are placed in a no-win situation. Standard excesses were said to be “unduly high”, however, the excess reduction policies themselves can add up to $40 a day to a car renter’s bill.

“Consumers should be aware of insurance exclusions. We found a number of companies charging up to $2200 on top of existing excesses for single vehicle accidents,” Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just said. “Other companies only conditionally cover collisions with animals or those incurred whilst reversing.”

Other “unfair” practices in the report included customers being charged extra to pick up a car from a “premium location” such as an airport and fees for e-tag hire, which can result in consumers being forced to spend a lot more than expected. “Paying an extra 22 per cent on the total cost per rental simply because you pick up your car at an airport is ludicrous as is being charged for an e-tag even if you don’t use it on a toll road,” Ms Just said.

One car rental company was even busted charging a 9.95 per cent administration fee on the total cost of the rental.

Bayswater and East Coast Car Rentals have been contacted for comment.

Choice’s tips to avoid being stung by a dodgy car rental contract:

• Read contract terms and conditions carefully before signing

• Photograph your car rental vehicle at the beginning and end of hire

• Return your car during opening hours and insisting on an immediate inspection

• Familiarise yourself with hidden fees and charges by doing a run through the company’s online booking system

• Fill up the vehicle as close as possible to the drop off point and keep the receipt to avoid a refuelling fee

• Take out domestic travel insurance that covers rental car excess instead of paying car hire companies to reduce your liability

• If driving in the Eastern states, look into your e-tag options in advance – in many cases it is cheaper to buy a visitor’s pass or pay as you go than to rent an e-tag with your car

• Avoid one way fees, which are charged by most companies, by hiring from and returning to the same location


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