Sunday, May 01, 2011

Alarm on plan to put gun-carrying Protective Services Officers in hospitals

This is a bandaid solution to the anger caused by the long waits imposed on people in need of attention

DOCTORS and nurses are alarmed by a secret State Government proposal to put gun-carrying Protective Services Officers in emergency departments.

A plan to place 120 armed officers in the already highly volatile setting could actually increase the danger for medical staff and patients, they have warned.

The Coalition listed the $21 million plan in its pre-election costings, but never publicly announced the plan before the election, or since.

Police minister Peter Ryan this morning confirmed the proposal and said it had been intended to address ongoing violence in hospital emergency departments.

Although hospital security needs to be addressed, Nurses Federation Victorian secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said adding armed officers who could easily be mistaken for police could create a powder keg in the emergency departments.

"We do not support having armed security people in those areas. We think that would make a volatile situation escalate, making it worse and unsafe," she said. "It would be very detrimental and we don't want to see it happen."

The Australian Medical Association also said that rather easing security concerns, having armed officers near patients in stressful and possibly psychotic conditions could inflame the situation.

"While hospitals and emergency departments require prompt access to specially trained security personnel, care must be taken to ensure they complement care and safety for patients and staff, rather than intimidate them," AMA Victoria Vice President and emergency physician, Dr Stephen Parnis said.

"This cannot be the only solution for emergency department safety. Other solutions like improved building design and reducing hospital overcrowding are necessities.

"During the last election the Labor Party supported the AMA's policy of increasing penalties for those who assault health care workers no response was received from the Coalition."

Mr Ryan said the proposal was now going to be reviewed by the Parliamentary Drugs and Crime Prevention Committee after concerns were raised by medical sources.

He said the $21 million package would be directed to easing emergency room violence, however it was not guaranteed that the Public Service Officers would still form a part of the final plan.

"The recommendation as contained in the document for the 120 PSOs, well see where that sits within the context of what we hear from the committee after its had its deliberations in conjunction with the health industry in particular.


Struggling families delay paying electricity bills inflated by Greenie charges

MORE than 1.1 million Australians were late paying their utility bills in the past three months as soaring electricity prices put pressure on household budgets. The figures come from a survey by credit information agency Veda Advantage and show the number of customers who missed a payment in any given quarter has risen by 40 per cent in the past 12 months.

Average arrears on utility bills have hit a record $500, said credit and collections agency Dun & Bradstreet.

The figures have been described as bordering on a national crisis, and are likely to get worse. Pricing regulator IPART has already said that NSW customers will be slugged with an 18 per cent price rise from July 1.

"It's a really worrying situation because there is clearly a growing group of people having difficulty with utility bills as the costs continue to rise and it doesn't look as though things are going to get any easier," said Chris Gration of Veda.

Ausgrid chairman John Conde offered no comfort to customers hoping his company would take action to ease bills, saying the company had introduced payment plans for struggling householders.

Clare Petre, the Energy and Water Ombudsman, said there was an ever-increasing number of complaints. "The 'usage' element of the bill is the smallest, with the bulk taken up by the fixed network charges, so it doesn't matter what the customer does to limit their usage, their bills are still unaffordable -- this is my biggest concern," she said.

Katherine Lane of the Consumer Credit Legal Centre said the State Government must legislate so households that cannot afford their bills are not unjustly cut off.


More black on black violence in Melbourne

High levels of violence are endemic among Africans

A SUDANESE teenager was assaulted by a group of men during an early morning attack in a popular night strip. Police said a glass bottle may have been used in the attack in Chapel St, Windsor, about 2.30am.

It’s believed a group of African men were responsible for the assault and fled. The assault is the fourth violent clash involving members of the Sudanese community in a week. A police spokeswoman said the victim, aged 18 or 19, was being uncooperative.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman Ray Rowe said the teen suffered a small cut to the head. He was taken to the Alfred Hospital in a stable condition.

Police are investigating a series of violent clashes in the days after last Saturday’s Miss South Sudan Australia beauty pageant in Clayton.

A man was stabbed and other injured during a wild brawl at a pageant afterparty on Sunday which saw police pelted with bottles.
Two policemen were also injured in a brawl at Braybrook on Monday.

Deyon Machok, 20, of St Albans, and James Makur, 21, of Keilor Downs, accused of instigating the vicious riot have been charged.

And three people were injured after a clash in the car park of Daisey's Hotel, Ringwood, on Tuesday night.


Case as shallow as a birdbath but NSW prosecutors pursue it TWICE

OVER the past four years, Philip Leung has wept many times for his dead lover, Mario Guzzetti. But on Thursday, after he was acquitted for a second time of his partner's killing, he wept for himself.

Mr Leung, 50, is the first person in NSW legal history to be tried twice over the same homicide investigation. The case was only possible because of the state's controversial double jeopardy laws, introduced in 2006. Now he wants the legislation reversed to prevent anyone else being tried for the same death twice; what he calls the "ultimate injustice".

"My life will never be the same," he told The Sun-Herald. "Not only did I lose the man I love, I was accused of killing him. Before I knew it, I was locked up in jail. Nobody cared that I missed Mario's funeral, or that I had as many questions as anyone."

Mr Leung, a jeweller, began dating Mr Guzzetti in 2001. The pair shared common interests, including opera, and by 2004 they were living together. "We loved each other unconditionally. Like everyone, we argued occasionally and always over silly things."

On the morning of April 7, Easter Saturday, in 2007, a row erupted over a tiler's bag of cement that was obstructing access at their home in Alexandria. About the same time, neighbours heard a loud noise, like a shelf falling. After several minutes' silence, Mr Leung was heard wailing hysterically.

The first witnesses at the scene found him at the foot of the stairs, rocking back and forth while cradling his blood-stained partner, who had sustained head injuries. Mr Guzzetti , 72, had stopped breathing by the time ambulance officers arrived.

Later that morning Mr Leung was charged with murder, accused of killing Mr Guzzetti with a juicer the couple owned.

He spent more than five months in jail before being released on bail. At his trial, in May 2009, prosecutors alleged that Mr Leung had inflicted the injuries. Medical and scientific evidence was inconclusive, stating that the injuries were consistent with both a physical attack and a fall downstairs, followed by unskilled attempts at resuscitation.

Before Mr Leung could give evidence, Justice Stephen Rothman delivered a directed not-guilty verdict, ruling that the Crown had failed to properly establish how Mr Guzzetti had died.

However, prosecutors leaned on the controversial double jeopardy laws, which allow for appeals and retrials in homicide cases that are settled by a judge's directed verdict to the jury. As a result, Mr Leung was charged again, this time with manslaughter.

"I can't describe how that felt," he recalled. "I was so relieved to be walking out of court for the final time [after the murder verdict]. "They had 28 days to appeal and on the last day I received word that I would have to fight all over again."

On Thursday, after Justice Michael Adams directed a second jury to return a not-guilty verdict, four years of emotion spilled from Mr Leung. He had just become the first person in Australian legal history to be found not guilty twice by a judge's directed verdict.

"I felt him [Mario] alongside me always," Mr Leung said. "I still miss him. Only now can I finally begin to grieve the most beautiful, loving person I ever met."

Mr Leung said he intended to sue the police for compensation.


That evil "rote learning" is needed in primary schools

There is no other way to learn your times tables and they in turn are a major source of numeracy

Jennifer Buckingham

In around two weeks, each school student in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 across Australia will sit the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests. The four tests over three days begin with language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation) and writing, followed by reading and numeracy.

My eldest child, who is in Year 3, will take the tests for the first time this year. My daughter’s school takes these tests very seriously. They have been preparing students for a good proportion of the first term.

Although my own area of interest is reading, I am more familiar with the numeracy test, simply because numeracy is where my daughter is weaker. To my mind, the tests are a fair representation of my daughter’s mathematical prowess at this time. Just by doing practice tests together, I have been able to see the gaps in her skills and knowledge.

Two things have become apparent. First, my daughter’s performance in the test will be impeded because she does not know the times tables well. I share responsibility for this because I was already aware of it. We made a few half-hearted attempts to work on this at home, but it was tedious for both of us and I did not persevere.

However, it has become glaringly obvious that knowing single digit multiples is critical. And I mean really knowing them, not just knowing the concept of multiplication and that if you spend enough time drawing circles with dots in them, you can eventually work out the answer.

I cannot say whether this is true for many schools, but I have seen little evidence of memorisation in my daughter’s maths instruction, and there is no other way to permanently instil this knowledge and provide automatic recall. Language and social studies are not the only areas of schooling that have been adversely affected by constructivism.

Second, the numeracy is a test of mathematical literacy, not mathematical aptitude. All the questions are problem-based. This example from the 2010 Year 3 numeracy test paper shows that it is almost impossible to do well if you are not competent in reading and comprehending written language.

These biscuits are sold in packets of 10. Shelley wants to give one biscuit to each of her 27 classmates. What is the least number of packets that Shelley needs? (©ACARA 2010)

Fortunately, my daughter is literate and able to understand this question, so the test will assess her ability to solve the problem using mathematics. Other children will not be in the same situation.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 29 April. Enquiries to Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

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