Saturday, August 20, 2011

Another job for the "Santiago" squad

In NSW they used to call it the Middle Eastern Crime squad but they too have probably now changed that name. For the unitiated it is about Lebanese Muslims. St. James must wonder how he got involved. Santiago is Spanish for St. James

Police in Melbourne believe a man who has turned up at hospital with a gunshot wound, could hold the key to a murder investigation.

A businessman and a convicted criminal, believed to have been related, were gunned down in a smash repair shop.

The homicide squad and Santiago taskforce, which investigates shootings predominantly involving Middle Eastern crime clans, were probing the deadly confrontation at CBD Smash Repairs in Florence St, Brunswick, about 2.30pm.

No weapons were found at the scene, a small semi-industrial side-street that runs next to a train line.

Police were last night unable to rule out whether they were hunting a gunman still on the loose.

One of the men died at the scene while another died on the way to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The third man presented himself at Royal Melbourne's emergency ward with a bullet wound. He is considered a key to the investigation.

Last night he was under police guard and detectives will seek to question him about how the double shooting unfolded in a quiet Melbourne street.

The Herald Sun believes he has denied being part of the shooting despite his wound and arriving at the hospital shortly after shots rang out in the garage. It is not clear if he drove himself to the hospital or was driven.

Dozens of police surrounded the panel shop in the one-way backstreet, which is just around the corner from the Edinburgh Castle Hotel. Police will use ballistics analysis to discover the type of weapons used in the shooting.

Acting Supt Stephen Mutton said the shooting was a "serious concern to police". With investigations continuing, he could not say if anyone else had been involved beyond the two dead at the small panel shop.


Melbourne's multicultural experience again

Hospital Emergency department a gang battleground

GANGS carrying guns, samurai swords and knives are terrorising doctors and nurses at a suburban hospital. Conflicts between the heavily armed migrant gangs are spilling from the streets into the emergency ward at Sunshine Hospital. A whistleblower said staff feared for their lives and were demanding 24-hour security in the casualty ward.

Warring Asian, Sudanese, Somali and Pacific islander gangs had taken their battles into the emergency department.

The whistleblower said incidents included:

ASIAN gangs threatening to throw chairs at each other when two groups arrived at emergency seeking treatment for separate stab victims.

A GUNSHOT victim forcing the evacuation of the hospital's emergency department after a security guard took him inside, despite fears he had a gun.

POLICE being regularly called to disperse gangs who were milling out the front of the hospital waiting for one of their members to be treated.

AT least one gang member a month presenting at the hospital with stab wounds.

Insiders estimated that about 70 "code grey" security alerts, where staff and patient safety is put at risk, occurred at the hospital each week.

The whistleblower, who is related to a hospital worker, said more needed to be done to protect staff. He feared that sooner or later, a staff member would be seriously injured or even killed at work.

"People come into the emergency department with samurai swords, gangs turn up with bullet wounds, and nurses and doctors go to work and put up with those things because they are dedicated," the whistleblower said. "You would think the hospital would be prepared to provide a security guard to give them some sense of safety."

A Western Health spokeswoman said the security of staff in the emergency department was taken "extremely seriously". "From time to time, there are incidents that can be very frightening for staff," she said. "But this is a constant challenge for emergency departments across Australia and the world. "We are examining security and working with staff on additional safety measures."


Another computer folly

Queensland's OneSchool computer system causing similar problems to Qld Health payroll

It COULD be the next health payroll debacle - but this time it involves Queensland state schools. Problems with the OneSchool computer system have left hundreds of schools complaining of mix-ups with contractors' pay and other bills, leaving their budgets in disarray and "dangerous workloads".

One school was threatened with having its electricity disconnected after a bill was wrongly recorded as paid. Some schools have not paid contractors in time.

Staff have been working weekends to fix the problems, with some allegedly on the verge of nervous breakdowns.

Alex Scott, secretary of Together (formerly known as the Queensland Public Sector Union), said the problems mirrored the health payroll disaster because the department appeared to be in denial about how bad the problems were. "The department must delay the expansion of the rollout of the system until they get it right," he said. "Queensland schools can't afford a health payroll-style disaster."

But late yesterday Education Queensland director-general Julie Grantham said they had decided to delay the final rollout to all state schools, to allow time to fix glitches and support administrators. It followed an order from Education Minister Cameron Dick for more staff training and support.

The OneSchool system is used universally by state schools to produce academic reports, create curriculum and record student details. But it has been the third phase - the rollout of a financial module which was implemented in 635 schools during the last school holidays - which has sparked the most concern.

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus said their biggest concern had been the delays in getting help for problems, which included bills and accounts payable, invoices and bank reconciliations.

But she said QASSP was satisfied the department was doing everything it could to deal with the problems and the system would be better in the long run, once these were sorted out.

Mr Scott said the union had received "hundreds of reports of excessive and dangerous workloads being created by this system". "We've had reports of electricity and maintenance bills not being paid by schools, despite the system showing otherwise," Mr Scott said. "Schools staff are being pushed to the limit to make sure schools can do business."

Problems identified by The Courier-Mail include:

* Supplier details either uploaded incorrectly or not at all, resulting in wrong suppliers being sent invoices. Suppliers that should have been paid within certain time frames were not.

* One school was sent an electricity disconnection notice despite their system telling them the bill had been paid.

* Daily problems with the way bank information was uploaded.

* A budget tool not working, leaving principals with no idea whether they were on, ahead or behind on their budget.

* Staff losing almost-completed work data because OneSchool was timing out with no visible warning.

* Departmental IT support staff taking longer than a week to get back to schools on OneSchool problems.

Ms Grantham said the problems had been a mixture of glitches - which they were fixing as they came up - and human error, which was natural as staff got used to the system. She said schools which took on the system in the June/July holidays had all applied to do so, and said they were ready.

While the State Opposition has compared OneSchool problems to the payroll disaster, Ms Grantham has vehemently denied it. She said OneSchool had nothing to do with the staff payroll. "The system itself as a whole is a very good system, but yes, there have been some processing functions that haven't gone as smoothly as they could."

Mr Dick said OneSchool was a good program that was well supported. "School staff want more support and training and that is what I have directed the director-general to do to."


Julia between a rock and a hard place

When almost every NSW Labor backbencher crowded into a Canberra committee room on Wednesday, their message to Julia Gillard's chief of staff and a senior minister was blunt. There is an issue out there hurting them even more than the carbon tax.

When almost every Queensland MP filed in to the next meeting, the message was exactly the same.

During the winter break Clubs NSW held scores of "Save our Clubs" rallies as part of a campaign targeting the electorates of 25 Labor MPs, 15 of them in NSW.
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Long-term local members found themselves being booed and jeered by hundreds of club patrons who believe the government's plan to stop problem gambling by introducing mandatory pre-commitment for bets of more than $1 a time on poker machines will destroy the clubs where they go for a cheap meal and a flutter.

The crowds, sometimes numbering in the thousands, were egged on by a video message from the broadcaster Alan Jones, in which he says their message to Julia Gillard should be "go away, get out of our lives, we've heard you, we don't like you".

At least two of the MPs - backbencher Craig Thomson, who is under pressure over allegations of using a union credit card to pay for prostitutes, and Daryl Melham, who is president of the Revesby Workers Club - were so flustered by the angry attacks they responded in kind and were later forced to apologise.

The mood among backbenchers at Wednesday's meeting - attended by the Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, who is responsible for implementing the deal, and Gillard's chief of staff, Ben Hubbard - was "truly desperate", said one MP. "This is toxic. It is hurting us more than the carbon tax and the asylum issue," he said.

The NSW right led the attack, but the concerns are just as deep in the left. The NSW marginal seats which the clubs are targeting most intensively are the western Sydney seats of Lindsay and Greenway, the Central Coast seats of Dobell and Roberston and the regional seats of Eden Monaro and Page.

Several MPs told the Herald that while they might eventually be able to "sell" the carbon tax, they were never going to be able to sell this one.

The only catch is that "this one" - passing legislation by May next year to combat problem gambling by forcing gamblers to pre-commit how much they want to wager before they begin betting - was a written promise made to the Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie in the deal in which he agreed to back Labor to form government.

And he says if it is not legislated by the time of next May's budget - even if it fails because the government is not able to persuade enough of his fellow cross benchers to support it - he will walk out of the chamber, get that deal and tear it up.

The logic of what would happen then is a little elusive - Wilkie has said he might support a Coalition government led by Malcolm Turnbull although it is unclear whether sufficient Liberals would. He also says that although Liberals are firmly against mandatory pre-commitment, discussion of the issue is "not closed" at his meetings with the Coalition leader, Tony Abbott, each sitting week.

Wilkie says the logic is that Labor "only became the government because they agreed to do this" and they will be held to such a difficult promise only "if their very existence depends on it". And if that means he ends up with a Coalition government that is even more hostile to his gambling reforms? "So be it," he says. He really seems to mean it.

Tony Windsor told the Herald it was "highly unlikely" he would vote for the reform. Other independents have not declared a final position, but Wilkie says he is sure he has enough votes among the cross benches to pass the law if Labor holds firm. Both government and coalition sources insist he has not.

Jenny Macklin says the deal will be done.

The desperate backbenchers are hoping that, once the carbon tax and the mining tax are passed with Wilkie's support, and a draft bill on mandatory pre-commitment is prepared, Wilkie may be persuaded to engage in a negotiation to soften his demands.

Meanwhile, the assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, has been meeting club managers, listening to their concerns and what reforms they would be prepared to accept.

And in their electorates some backbenchers are quietly trying to distance themselves from the changes or suggest they may not, in the end, be implemented in full.

Janelle Saffin, who represents the northern NSW seat of Page, has told her local radio she prefers voluntary, rather than mandatory pre-commitment for betters, a scheme that would be supported by the clubs industry. She reportedly told an 800-strong rally in her electorate that time was on their side, because the proposal was not yet legislation.

The parliamentary secretary Mike Kelly, who holds the southern NSW seat of Eden Monaro, and who has raised the issue many times in the Labor caucus, also favours voluntary pre-commitment. He says he would be "open to persuasion" that mandatory pre-commitment should be implemented if there had been a trial of different schemes to see what works and what impact they had on the revenue of clubs.

Others, including the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, and the parliamentary secretary David Bradbury, have also supported calls for a trial of the idea.

But Wilkie has said he would only countenance the technology to implement mandatory pre-commitment, not a trial that could lead to any variation in the policy itself, nor in the start date of 2014 promised by the Prime Minister.

Some backbenchers are sure Wilkie is bluffing. "He's got to be playing hard ball. What sense would it make to bring down a government and lose his own seat and not achieve any of the reform he is seeking?" one said.

But those in Labor who have spent the most time talking with the Tasmanian independent fear he is deadly serious.

For a bloke staking his parliamentary career, and the existence of a government, on anti-gambling reforms, Wilkie is playing a mean game of poker.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Queensland Health's last pay run was the worst for errors since the new system started well over a year ago. Luckily we were spared this time around.