Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bob Carr calls for end to Victorian Charter of Human Rights

FORMER NSW Labor Premier Bob Carr has warned that retaining the Victorian Charter of Human Rights could liken the state to the UK, where public servants are too scared to enforce the law in fear of being taken to court.

Speaking at a meeting calling for the repeal of the charter yesterday, Mr Carr said British public servants were so afraid of breaching the European charter of human rights, they were scared into inaction.

"I'm very worried, as my friends at British Labour Party are, that the term human rights is becoming a bad term, because of the way the European charter is invoked. It's become a term of abuse," he said.

Mr Carr said older people in working class electorates in the UK feared criminal behaviour was not dealt with by police because the culprits would claim their human rights had been infringed.

"They say the police won't do anything about it because it'll be against their human rights," Mr Carr said.

"The cases they refer to are the gypsies, or the travellers as we should call them, who go on to private property and camp there and when the police are asked to remove them, threaten to take action in the courts under the human rights charter. "So the police do nothing."

Mr Carr said having a charter of human rights affected and shaped the behaviour of public servants.

"Public service employees will opt for the easiest course," he said. "They don't want to be smacked over the knuckles by an auditor general or an ombudsman or a parliamentary public accounts committee, but they certainly don't want to be dragged into court, even more they don't want to be dragged into court and embarrassed by action invoked under a rights charter."

Mr Carr said the resources put into enforcing Victoria's human rights charter could be better spent on child protection.

But President of the Law Institute of Victoria Caroline Counsel said Mr Carr's argument was "misinformed and illogical".

"The charter should be self perpetuating, if we all do the right thing by our citizens, lawyers won't need to be involved, courts won't need to be involved, it will just happen that we all act in accordance with what is appropriate in terms or implementation of human rights," she said. [Wow! Just who is it who is being "misinformed and illogical"?]


Call for charter schools in Australia

A NSW Liberal MP has contradicted government policy by calling for the creation of fully publicly funded independent "charter" schools in NSW.

Matt Kean, the Member for Hornsby, said some "radical options" needed to be considered in the federal government's review of schools funding.

A Sydney businessman, David Gonski, who is heading the review, will release tomorrow the findings of four research studies his committee has commissioned.

Mr Kean said NSW should follow the lead of the new Coalition government in Western Australia which oversees more than 100 independent public schools.

He told NSW Parliament that as a Liberal, he did not believe "the radical reforms we need in our education system can come from a centralised system run out of Sydney or Canberra". "Personally, I would like to see a debate about charter schools occur in NSW," he said.

"Charter schools are state-funded community schools, accessible to all for no additional compulsory contribution and run by local boards, while meeting minimum standards set down by the state. In other words, while the state continues the funding, the governance and running of the school remains in community hands."

Mr Kean's proposal echoes that of the chief executive officer of Christian Schools Australia, Stephen O'Doherty, who has also called on the NSW government and the Gonski inquiry to consider adopting the charter school model. The Herald understands the model is being considered by the federal review.

Mr Kean said the school principal and not the Department of Education should choose new teachers to avoid "arbitrary quotas or requirements set by head office".

The Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, ruled out the proposal yesterday, saying the state government "is not going down the route of charter schools".

A newly released NSW Department of Education paper called "Raising achievement for all: complex challenges", refers to a Stanford University study of 2403 charter schools which found 37 per cent performed significantly worse than public schools in improving maths performance. It also found 46 per cent of charter schools performed no better or worse than public schools.

Christian Schools Australia and the Anglican School Corporation are lobbying for a fairer share of funding for their schools which receive relatively less funding than many similar Catholic schools.

Catholic schools have asked the Gonski inquiry to increase recurrent funding to help them close the gap between the average income level of Catholic schools and government schools "to ensure Catholic schools remain affordable and accessible to families in all regions and all socio-economic circumstances".


Literary festivals and prizes champion politics over quality

Premiers come and premiers go. But premiers' literary prizes, like state government-funded writers' festivals, do not change much at all.

Last week it was announced that David Hicks's Guantanamo: My Journey (William Heinemann, 2010) has been shortlisted for the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards. The aim of these gongs is to "nurture Australia's greatest talent" and "support outstanding Australian writers". Hicks's book has been nominated in the non-fiction category, which carries a $15,000 prize.

Since his return from Guantanamo Bay, after pleading guilty to providing material support for terrorism, Hicks has become something of a hero for the left intelligentsia. He received an enthusiastic standing ovation when he addressed the Sydney Writers' Festival in May. John Howard also spoke at this year's festival, fulfilling the traditional role, at such occasions, of the token conservative. There was no standing ovation for Howard but two protesters were allowed to attend his session holding a large sign declaring him to be a war criminal.

It is reasonable to assume that those who supported the Howard government's policies on Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the national anti-terrorist security legislation, would be critical of Hicks's book. So let's look at the assessments of three commentators who were not obvious supporters of Howard and who have some expertise on the matters published in Guantanamo: My Journey. Namely, journalists Leigh Sales and Sally Neighbour along with academic Waleed Aly.

Sales, who wrote the well received book on the Hicks case titled Detainee 002, challenged many of the claims in Guantanamo: My Journey and said, "it is best read sceptically". Neighbour depicted the book as "a disappointing and deceptive version of the truth" and declared some of the author's claims "beyond belief". Aly wrote that Hicks's memoirs were "self-serving" and "weakest on the points of greatest political scrutiny".

During his time in Guantanamo, Hicks's family released many of his letters to the media. Some were quoted in the sympathetic documentary The President Versus David Hicks. In these letters, Hicks condemned "Western-Jewish domination", praised the Taliban, endorsed Islamist beheadings, boasted of his meeting with Osama bin Laden and related how he had fired live ammunition into the Indian side of the Kashmir Line of Control.

Yet, in his book, Hicks asserts that he "never hurt or injured anyone" and that "no one requires an apology" from him. He also claims never to have met Bin Laden and to only have "participated in the symbolic exchange of fire" when at the Kashmir Line of Control - whatever that might mean.

Neither Hicks nor his publisher has responded to any of the criticisms. Yet Hicks has been judged an outstanding talent and placed on the shortlist for the literary gongs, which will be announced at next week's Brisbane Writers Festival.

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser is another current favourite of the left intelligentsia - like Hicks, he is admired for his hostility to Howard. In Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs (The Miegunyah Press, 2010), which Fraser co-wrote with Margaret Simons, it is reported that he is "applauded" at literary festivals "by the same kinds of people who had once reviled him for his role in the dismissal" of the Whitlam Labor government.

Last May, Fraser and Simons won $50,000 in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards for their book. The judges specifically praised Fraser's "moral leadership" on several political causes favoured by the left intelligentsia.

Yet Fraser's repetitive memoirs are absolutely littered with factual errors, and numerous key moments in his political life are omitted or glossed over. For example, Fraser claims he has won four elections, retained Gough Whitlam's Medibank universal health insurance scheme and always supported immigration. All claims are inaccurate, perhaps due to Fraser's acknowledgement that he has a "notoriously fallible" memory.

I wrote up a list of the errors in the Fraser/Simons book for the July 2010 The Sydney Institute Quarterly. Neither the authors nor the publisher has challenged this critique. Reviewing Malcolm Fraser: The Political Memoirs, Michael Sexton said, "there is too much rose-coloured light in this account". Yet the co-authors walked away with $50,000 of taxpayers' money, along with much praise from the left.

The Melbourne Writers Festival is now under way. There are many leftist and left-of-centre types on the program but barely a conservative writer or commentator. For example, the session on essay writing will hear the views of only Richard Flanagan, Marieke Hardy and Robert Manne.

In Victoria, the Coalition replaced Labor in office in November last year. However, the political complexion of taxpayer-funded literary festivals never seems to change.


Nurses gagged, afraid of management

NURSES at Victorian hospitals are gagged from speaking out against violence perpetrated against them at work and fear management, an inquiry has heard.

Dandenong Hospital emergency department nurse Leslie Graham said she suffers either physical or verbal abuse at work about every second day.

Ms Graham told a parliamentary inquiry into security at the state's hospitals that, in addition to verbal aggression, she and her colleagues get bitten, punched and slapped and have objects thrown at them.

"We have people ... pull their IVs out and throw blood-stained cannulas, sharps, any kind of weapon they can get their hands on, chairs, at the nursing staff," she said yesterday.

"You just press your duress (alarm) and run away."

Ms Graham said despite frequently being subjected to violence she had never reported it to police because she thought it would cause issues with management.

"If I had a serious issue against myself I would report that to the police, but I know that a lot of people are afraid of the management of different hospitals," she said.

"(A nurse who) got strangled never reported it to the police, and we weren't allowed to make any of the public aware of the violence that we ... come up against because then we could end up in court."

Ms Graham said the design of the new $25 million emergency ward at the hospital, which is run by Southern Health, also contributed to violence against staff. There were instances where staff were backed into corners and unmonitored corridors, she said. "We have just had a brand-new emergency department that has been designed and built not by anyone who has ever worked in an emergency department," Ms Graham said.

The inquiry, held by state parliament's drugs and crime prevention committee, was ordered by Police Minister Peter Ryan after criticism of the coalition's pre-election promise to station armed guards at emergency wards.

Ms Graham said armed guards would not help the situation at her hospital and there needed to be more unarmed security staff instead of just one guard working between 6pm and 3am.

Royal Children's Hospital emergency department nurse Peter Sloman said although the hospital's new facility was more secure, there were still design problems.

The hospital's director of emergency services Simon Young said he did not support the introduction of armed guards.

Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) Victorian branch assistant secretary Paul Gilbert said the $21 million the government had pledged for 120 armed guards could fund an extra 235 full-time nurses in emergency departments.

ANF Victoria occupational health and safety coordinator Kathy Chrisfield said introducing armed guards into emergency departments would simply create another hazard.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"ANF Victoria occupational health and safety coordinator Kathy Chrisfield said introducing armed guards into emergency departments would simply create another hazard."

Batons and the power to restrain, and a level of indemnity for the results of restraint (depending on circumstances of course) would be a good start. Somewhere, somehow though, there'll always be a safety Lesbian saying NO.