Saturday, September 24, 2011

Another useless emergency-call operator

If it doesn't fit in precisely to a category on their computer screen they ignore the call. Nothing has been learned since the death of David Iredale 5 years ago, apparently

TWO frantic 000 calls by a woman who was murdered minutes later went unheeded after an emergency operator was unable to obtain precise information and did not pass the request for attendance to police.

James John Potter, 24, was committed yesterday to stand trial for the murder of Penelope "Penny" Pratt, 27, who was shot three times after an argument over a $160 drug debt on November 28 last year.

"I'm in the vicinity of being heard, do you understand what that means ... trust me, you want to get to this address," Ms Pratt was recorded saying during one of the 000 calls at 11.28pm, replayed in Melbourne Magistrates' Court.

"You're going to get me bashed," she said moments later in frustration at not being able to give her exact location other than a street, suburb and nearby hospital. "I'm hiding in a bush answering your questions," an agitated Ms Pratt said, adding there were "three violent offenders" after her.

"If I can't hear you, how am I to help you?" the operator said at one point. Ms Pratt is heard to say she is hiding and in fear, then giving her name and mobile phone number to the 000 operator.


Australian entrepreneur launches action in Supreme Court to force Google to release ID details behind abusive website

A libel is just grounds for legal pursuit in anyone's book but it would be a pity if this action closed down anonymity altogether. People sometimes have good and proper reasons for anonymity. A compromise arrangement whereby webhosts readily release ID info behind apparently libellous statements -- and only such libellous statements -- would probably be ideal

A LEGAL showdown between Google and a Gold Coast entrepreneur could set a precedent that helps lift the veil from anonymous online commentators.

Self-help guru and motivational speaker Jamie McIntyre has launched action in the Supreme Court to force the internet giant to release details of those behind a website labelling him a "thieving scumbag", the Courier-Mail reported.

Mr McIntyre believes Google Australia is the only Australian company that knows who's behind because of its paid advertising relationship with the website, the application says.

The allegedly defamatory website is one of the first listings on a Google search for Mr McIntyre and countless efforts to find the owners, including hiring a private investigator, have been unsuccessful.

Mr McIntyre's company, 21st Century Education, offers self-help seminars in "wealth creation" and promises to be better than school or university.

He will next month host a speaking event in Melbourne featuring Richard Branson, Channel 9 businessman Eddie McGuire and famed self-help author Tim Ferriss.

Leading communications law academic Professor Michael Fraser of the University of Technology, Sydney, said it would be an important test case on anonymous online commentators. "The internet is a mainstream channel of communication now so it can't just be like the wild west outside of the rule of law," said Prof Fraser. "People can't ... be allowed to hide behind a cloak of anonymity. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

"Google says it will always comply with the laws in a jurisdiction they operate in and so if the court requires them to provide the information, I expect that they will."

Prof Fraser said a successful case could open the floodgates of legal action against online entities. "I think there will be more and more litigation as people exercise their rights online so that we get a regulated legal framework there as we do in the bricks-and-mortar world.

"Hopefully it will change people's behavior too. The more people who are brought to account, the more people will know that they can't hide behind anonymity."


Tony Abbott's firm stance on boats a winner

The peripatetic Peter van Onselen is a rather populist writer but there is some logic in his piece below

TONY Abbott has been copping it from all sides for his decision not to accede to the government's demands to support legislation to enable the Malaysia Solution to go ahead.

The Left has dismissed any suggestion he is protecting the rights of asylum-seekers and conservative commentators are concerned that by blocking the government's plan he risks opening the door to Labor in opposition doing the same on Nauru.

I think Abbott's belligerence on this issue is correct on all counts: political, humanitarian, ultimate outcomes and procedurally. Some of those consequences are intentional, chief among them the political advantage he secures.

But the unintended consequences are also positive if observers take the view, as I do, that Australia should take responsibility for people heading this way who are seeking asylum.

Onshore processing isn't something to be feared. Not at the numbers arriving during the Howard years. Not at the numbers who have come here since. Not even if the number of people coming here by boat quadrupled.

A senior member of the opposition told me that, in his view, colleagues of mine who have condemned Abbott for blocking the amendments to the Immigration Minister's powers are wrong because "the longer the public debate is dominated by asylum-seeker issues the better off we are". Indeed.

Some readers will weep at such crass political calculations, but they are likely to be accurate.

Because of the perception that John Howard stopped the boats by using Nauru and temporary protection visas (never mind the proven mental anguish they cause), and boats started coming again when both methods were removed by Labor, Abbott is well placed to stand by Nauru as his solution of choice now, whether it would work again or not.

Given the present polling, we are likely to find out: if Labor blocks the decommissioning by a Coalition government of the carbon tax legislation, Abbott would call a double-dissolution election, no doubt wrapping up amendments to allow Nauru to go ahead if necessary.

Anyone who has refined their powers of logic knows that just because Nauru worked once, it doesn't mean it would work again. But it matters not: politically, ongoing asylum-seeker discussions are a win for Abbott.

While Labor likes to claim Abbott is opposed to the Malaysia Solution only because he believes it might work, I am not sure that is altogether true.

Again, thinking politically, he likes the wedge of opposing Malaysia so he can highlight the divisions between Left and Right within the ALP.

And while Abbott is forgoing the opportunity to let Malaysia unravel of its own accord - if people are mistreated there or the 800 figure is reached - the opposition knows that the Left will keep on highlighting the distasteful elements of the plan for some time to come.

Politically it helps Abbott to add a humanitarian string to his asylum bow by blocking Malaysia, even if both sides should hang their heads in shame on this issue.

The most ridiculous thing about the present asylum debate is the way both sides try to claim the high ground on humanitarian grounds by variously arguing that stopping boats is humane because it prevents deaths at sea. The use of those sickening images of people drowning off the coast of Christmas Island has made doing so easier in the superficial world of the asylum-seekers debate.

If you believe stopping boats coming to Australia will not stop asylum-seekers making their way to other destinations instead, boats will continue to sink, people will continue to die. The only difference is that it will be happening farther from our shores, so we don't have to feel as bad about it, right? Wrong.

And even if people in crowded camps don't make the dangerous journey elsewhere, they will remain in those camps, suffering from the various reported problems: rape, disease, persecution, malnourishment and so forth.

But getting back to Abbott's right to reject law changes that would give Chris Bowen god-like powers as Immigration Minister, people should not forget the government was trying to publicly pressure the opposition for support before it had even seen the legislation.

Labor's argument that Abbott is being obstructionist is hollow. No executive government can simply ignore the role of parliament, opposition scrutiny and the checks of the Senate and assume that an opposition will automatically support legislation of this kind.

Finally, there is the notion Julia Gillard keeps referring to that the law changes she wants will also give Abbott the ambit he will need to shift policy to Nauru, were he elected prime minister. Without the changes, Labor claims, Nauru will be as dead as the Malaysia Solution is because of the High Court decision.

That is the advice of the Solicitor-General, from the same advisers who said Malaysia would be good to go in the first place and that plain packaging legislation on cigarette packages was A-OK.

Not that we are being allowed to see such advice, of course. The light shining in on the new parliamentary paradigm isn't as bright as the independents intended it to be. Meanwhile former solicitor-general David Bennett QC thinks that Nauru may well still be an allowable form of offshore processing in the eyes of the High Court.

Abbott is no saint when it comes to asylum-seeker policies. Far from it.

But his opposition to Malaysia is politically good for him; prevents a poor policy being enacted; ends offshore processing, at least for a while; and doesn't necessarily kill off Nauru.


Top doctor says 'boat people' get better treatment than Queensland public hospital patients

THE extent of the crisis in Queensland public hospitals has been laid bare by a senior doctor, who says asylum seekers are getting better treatment than local patients.

In a draft letter obtained by The Courier-Mail, Princess Alexandra Hospital emergency medicine director Phillip Kay said that the lives of Queenslanders were being put at risk by government financial pressures.

The letter is scathing of a plan by the hospital to close beds, as part of a budget crackdown, saying it "will definitely lead to morbidity and probably mortality", if it goes ahead.

"We are told, as we are on the verge of meltdown, that more beds are going to be closed, and even more dangerously, that some of the beds are special care beds," he wrote. "Boat people are getting better medical care and access than our patients. We greet them with life jackets and somewhere to sleep that night. Our patients are stuck on trolleys or on ambulance stretchers. This is unethical."

Details of public hospital budget pressures were detailed in The Courier-Mail yesterday.

The draft letter was sent to more than 15 specialists for feedback before it was to be forwarded to Metro South Health District chief executive David Theile.

In the letter, Dr Kay outlined the massive pressures the Princess Alexandra Emergency Department is under because of dire hospital bed shortages. "The PA ED has been in overload and on bypass multiple times per week, with up to 20 ambulances stockpiled on our ramp while the ED is completely choked off with inpatients waiting for beds that are not there."

The letter was written after a meeting at the Princess Alexandra Hospital on Wednesday morning was told of plans to close 16 medical beds, 16 surgical beds and five intensive-care beds. "This places us in a terrible and impossible ethical position regarding the level of care we provide on arrival . . . when we know there is nowhere to place them if they survive," Dr Kay wrote in the letter. "Where are they to go? It has already been clearly established that transferring sick and ventilated patients around a city at night in ambulances is potentially lethal.

"Why are these cuts being made right at the clinical face of the most-sick patients in a major base hospital, and at a time when you have already been told by all senior experts that it is in trouble?"

Acting Queensland Health director-general Tony O'Connell vehemently denied any plans for service cuts to rein in hospital budgets.

When Dr Kay was contacted by The Courier-Mail last night, he made it clear it was a draft to be finalised and sent to Dr Theile next week after feedback from multiple specialists. "I didn't leak it and I'm not sure how you got a copy," he said. "Everyone knows the pressure on emergency departments and I'll make no further comment.


Queensland State Government admits electricity grid failing to cope with solar power systems

Greenie fantasies run into engineering practicalites

THE solar power revolution is in danger of stalling, with the State Government admitting the electricity grid is failing to cope with its green vision.

Energy Minister Stephen Robertson confirmed new applications for rooftop solar systems were being rejected in areas where Queensland's high uptake threatened the safety and reliability of its network.

Thousands of homeowners hoping for promised power savings of up to $540 via a 1.5kW system are in limbo, with those wanting larger systems even being asked to pay more than $20,000 to help cover local upgrades.

Energex said the state's electricity network since the 1950s had been designed to deliver power from the station to the home and the voltage now heading "the other way" was causing a huge dilemma.

Following advice from engineering experts, no more systems will be automatically approved when the penetration of solar photovoltaic systems hits 30 per cent in neighbourhoods.

The penetration refers to the maximum capacity of the transformer supplying the local zone, which can include 50 homes.

In a bid to cut power bills, more than 107,000 Queensland households have jumped at the Solar Bonus Scheme, launched in 2008, exporting 72.5 million kW hours back to the grid.

However, unless significant, costly upgrades are completed, many who might want to add solar panels in the future may not be able to.


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