Teacher sued for insult to dad
A choofer is a type of camping stove known to be rather smoky and noisy -- so the word is used as a derogatory term for a marijuana user. It seems unlikely that the teacher made the allegation without knowing it to be true so the case should only hinge on whether truth is a defence. It seems likely however that Victoria's anti-discrimination laws will be dragged into it
A TEACHER who allegedly told a student his father couldn't get a job because he was a "choofer" who smoked drugs is being sued in possibly a Victorian legal first.
An Aboriginal father and son have hired top lawyers to sue the teacher and the State Government for defamation, seeking tens of thousands of dollars.
Legal sources said it was probably the first action of its kind and could set a precedent that could affect any teacher who ridiculed a student in public.
The father and son from Swan Hill are not only seeking damages, but also "aggravated" damages because as Aborigines they suffered extra humiliation.
Queen's Counsel Jeremy Ruskin is appearing on behalf of the boy, with barrister and Williamstown Football Club president Trevor Monti. In a writ lodged in the Supreme Court, the teenager claimed the teacher ridiculed him in front of others in class on June 29, saying the boy's father was "a choofer".
"Does (the boy's) dad have a job? He won't get a job if he keeps doing what he does," the Swan Hill College teacher allegedly said. "(His) dad smokes weed (and) goes into (the boy's) room and gives him weed."
The writ said the teacher's comments could be understood to mean the boy's father was a drug user who could not work because of his addiction and who gave drugs to his son.
It claimed the comments were spoken with a "reckless indifference to the truth", knowing they would cause significant humiliation to the plaintiffs because they were Aboriginal.
Lesbian foster couple put six year old boy in girl's clothes and post photos on Facebook
How did such messed-up people get given a boy to look after? Political correctness has got a lot to answer for
A SIX-year-old boy placed in the care of a lesbian foster couple was dressed in girl's clothes and the humiliating pictures were posted on the couple's Facebook page. One of the women was preparing for a sex change to become a man at the time, while her girlfriend was undergoing fertility treatment.
The boy and his 12-year-old sister have since been moved but former Children's Court magistrate Barbara Holborow yesterday called for a full inquiry into the decision to put them there. "Oh my God, what are we doing?" Ms Holborow, who has fostered eight children, said.
Families Minister Pru Goward has demanded a full explanation from child welfare service Barnardos, which had recruited the couple. "I am seeking advice from Barnardos to confirm that care arrangements were appropriate and the wellbeing of the children was paramount," Ms Goward said yesterday.
The children's story, described as one of the saddest in the state, has been revealed in a Supreme Court judgment posted last month in Children's Law news compiled by the NSW Children's Court.
Their mother had tried but failed in the Supreme Court to win back custody of her son, given the pseudonym Campbell by the court. His current foster parents want to adopt him.
Campbell was taken into care in November 2006 at the age of 18 months along with his four stepbrothers and two stepsisters after complaints of physical and mental abuse at the hands of the parents.
Campbell and his sister Abby, then 12, were placed with the lesbian couple in early 2009. The placement did not work out for Abby and after she was moved, Campbell was dressed in girl's clothes and his photograph placed on the couple's Facebook page.
Amazing: Welfare benefits paid to fugitives
THOUSANDS of South Australian fugitives are funding their lifestyles on the run with Centrelink benefits.
The bizarre situation has prompted a call for Centrelink to share its client information with police to help track down those people with outstanding arrest warrants who are receiving regular welfare payments deposited into their bank accounts.
A Centrelink spokesman said that while legislation prevented payments to people in jail, "it does not specifically prevent payments being made to people who have outstanding arrest warrants". Several convicted criminals have told the Sunday Mail restricting or even cutting off payments would severely affect the ability of fugitives to evade police.
One offender who evaded police for more than a year after breaching his parole conditions, said his Centrelink payments were instrumental in his freedom.
"I can tell you they were the only thing that kept me going," said the man. "If I did not have the cash going into my account during that period I probably would have surrendered within a month. "It is actually quite bizarre. You have one government department actually assisting you to stay on the run from another government department".
Centrelink benefits can range from the basic Newstart allowance of $474.90 a fortnight for a single person with no children, through to higher payments for supporting parents.
SA Police launched Operation Trace a fortnight ago in a concerted bid to apprehend 8710 people, who between them, have 10,852 outstanding arrest warrants.
While police have no data on how many of the 8700-plus fugitives they are hunting are receiving Centrelink benefits, legal sources said the figure would be "at least half" of those being sought for outstanding warrants.
"The majority of the villains police are looking for in this operation do not hold down 9 to 5 jobs," a senior lawyer said. "I would anticipate a considerable percentage of them would be unemployed."
Commissioner For Victim's Rights Michael O'Connell said he believed police and Centrelink "should collaborate to ensure justice is done", and that the public would be surprised to learn that in many serious cases, police were constrained in obtaining the information they needed to apprehend a suspect.
"When victims report crime, one of the main expectations is that police will investigate that crime and apprehend the offender," Mr O'Connell said.
"While we should respect the privacy of our citizens, there are occasions when it is necessary to intrude. I would say when a person is suspected of a serious offence, that is one of those occasions".
Attorney-General John Rau said a recent meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General had asked for greater data-sharing between agencies to help track down known fine defaulters. He could see no reason to not expand it "for this sort of purpose which is in the public interest".
"If SAPOL were to formally ask for us to give some consideration to some form of data-sharing with the Commonwealth for this purpose, I would certainly have a good look at it," he said.
"If we are to get data-sharing for the purposes of fine defaulters, and I emphasise if, then it would seem odd if we could use it only for that purpose and not for these other purposes."
Mr Rau said he stopped short at suggesting benefits should be cut to those on the run. "As to the actual termination of benefits, that is beyond our control," he said. "It is possible in some instances that might be counter productive because a person who is on the run and suddenly cut short of money will find something else to rectify the problem."
Under existing arrangements with Centrelink, police can obtain only information on people wanted for certain categories of offences and cases.
These include missing-persons cases and those instances when a person being sought is a danger to the community, such as a manhunt for a murder or armed robbery suspect.
Fugitives wanted under Operation Trace have outstanding arrest warrants, the majority issued by Magistrates Courts for offences ranging from murder, rape and assault through to fraud, property and breach of bail offending.
Many fugitives have multiple warrants outstanding.
New Victorian government to crack down on union thugs
STATE-HIRED workplace investigators will use special powers to target Victoria's notorious construction industry on building sites for the first time as part of the Baillieu government's promised crackdown on union rorts.
The government will use the $5.3 billion regional rail link project in Melbourne's western suburbs as a test case to contain costs on major state-run developments the government argues have blown out by billions due to a lack of control over the unions.
The government is conducting a review of the industrial relations principles that form part of the code of practice for the Victorian building and construction industry.
Finance Minister Robert Clark has argued the existing principles are too general and do too little to curb costs and that unions have capitalised on the lack of scrutiny.
He said state-employed workplace inspectors - effectively, union police - would be free to roam around worksites on government-run projects, such as the Regional Rail Link under construction in Melbourne's west.
Victoria, considered the home of militant unionism, intends to use the new monitoring provisions in tandem with
the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner, a federal body created in 2005 to police the construction industry.
Under the Victorian model, parties winning a tender to work on state government construction projects will have to agree to provide access for the new investigators.
The action on the rail link is seen as a pre-emptive strike by the Baillieu government before it outlines its full policy to crack down on unions in coming months. It promised to strike at the unions after a series of major project blowouts, including the $5.7 billion Wonthaggi desalination plant east of Melbourne.
Mr Clark said previous tender evaluation processes had not been robust enough and too little regard was given to industrial relations management by tenderers. He said that because the existing compliance monitoring was based on a complaint-triggered system, there was too little scrutiny, leading to "unacceptable and unlawful behaviour" that was entrenched in the industry.
Procurement of the multi-billion-dollar rail link is already under way, meaning the government has had to amend the tender processes for key sections of the rail project.
This means the tenderers and their related parties will have to comply with the new Victorian code and to enable government access to sites and documents to ensure scrutiny of the workplace, briefing notes provided to The Australian show.
The notes also stress successful tenderers will have to have a demonstrated track record of productive work practices.
This clause will put construction companies on notice, given that there is a widely held view that major building firms have failed to take on unions over massive pay deals and restrictive work practices that date back decades.
Mr Clark said the government would not tolerate unlawful behaviour and misconduct on worksites.
"The previous Labor government's construction industry code had no effective enforcement regime," he said.
"Labor continually failed to take action against inappropriate conduct on building and construction sites, sending millions of Victorian taxpayers' dollars down the drain.
"These changes to the tender conditions for the Regional Rail Link will enable the government to identify which tenderer provides the lowest risk to the Victorian taxpayer at tender evaluation stage and over the life of the project."
The crackdown comes amid growing pressure for the Liberal Party federally to overhaul Labor's industrial relations laws.
The Weekend Australian reported how Qantas chairman Leigh Clifford had taken aim at Labor, claiming it had been "hoodwinked" by unions.
Mr Clifford's call for an overhaul of the Fair Work Act was embraced by the audience of more than 300 senior Liberals at a party function in Melbourne last Friday.