Monday, October 03, 2011

Labor Party old mates act brought to an end in NSW to stop bonus salaries being collected from taxpayers

THE state government has introduced new powers to end the old mates act on the state's boards, which are packed with unionists, ex-Labor staffers, ministers and MPs collecting bonus salaries from taxpayers.

After 16 years of Labor, ex-ALP allies pack the boards of state corporations. NSW has 15 state-owned corporations in five industries, including energy, water and ports.

While The Sunday Telegraph is not suggesting the appointments are unmerited, the O'Farrell government wants to ensure the process is fair and open. The changes won't affect bureaucratic appointments such as Michael Coutts-Trotter and Jennifer Mason.

Liberals fear those aligned to the former government and the unions could run damaging interference campaigns against their plans.

A Sunday Telegraph investigation has found more than 30 board members with strong links to the former government, unions or the ALP.

They include a former director-general of Premier and Cabinet, Colin Gellatly, paid $103,000 for his roles as chairman of superannuation company Pillar, and as a director of State Water.

State Super has six board members with links to either Labor or the unions. They include Ron Davis of the Public Service Association, who collects $154,780 as an employee representative.

On the same board sits former adviser to Paul Keating Anne De Salis, who gets $38,700 for representing employer interests. Another former Keating adviser, Barbara Ward, takes home $106,900 as the chair of Essential Energy.

Nine more power company board directors have strong union or Labor links.

These include Neville Betts, assistant secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, who collects $60,600 at TransGrid with former MP John Price. ALP state president Michael Lee collects $60,600 as a director of Essential Energy, while ETU legal officer Rebecca Mifsud gets $60,600 at Ausgrid.

Nick Whitlam, son of former Labor PM Gough, takes home $169,834 from the taxpayer. He chairs the Lifetime Care and Support Authority and Port Kembla Port Corporation and is deputy chairman of the Workers Compensation Insurance Fund Investment Board and WorkCover.

Until he stood down from the Health Services Union, former Labor vice-president Michael Williamson collected $111,000 at First State Super and the State Water Board. He denies any wrongdoing.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon is also a WorkCover director on $31,815. Ex-MP Ron Dyer gets $20,785 as a Motor Accidents Authority director.

Even Landcom, which sells land for housing, has a Labor appointment: Morris Iemma's ex-chief of staff Kim Cull collects $64,000 as a director. Former minister Rodney Cavalier chairs the SCG Trust and Mr Iemma is a trustee

Treasurer Mike Baird said a new transparent committee would ensure only those with proper skills and experience would be selected in future.

A Labor Opposition spokesman said: "The Opposition looks forward to these procedures applying to decisions already made by the Premier, including appointments of Liberal Party heavyweights Gary Sturgess, Nick Greiner and Max Moore-Wilton."


Surge in numbers of Iranian boat arrivals in Australia

Sending ANYBODY back to the Iranian madhouse really would be cruel

IRANIANS have overtaken Afghans to become the largest group of asylum seekers arriving by boat to Australia, and have been labelled "troublemakers" by immigration officials who are unhappy that they are unable to send home those who fail refugee status.

Iranian boat arrivals leapt eightfold, from 197 in 2009-10, to 1549 last year. At the same time, visa success rates have plummeted, from 100 per cent in 2008, to 27 per cent last year.

Unlike Afghans fleeing villages, the Iranian asylum seekers are middle-class, well-educated, secular or Christian, with good English. It is exactly these vocal, motivated, urban Iranians who have been forced to flee an Islamic regime that views even teachers as "political" if they raise human rights objections, community leaders say.

But immigration officials take a different view, accusing recently arrived Iranians who had received initial rejections for refugee status of being agitators in the Christmas Island and Villawood riots. "Contumacious behaviour, wilful disobedience," Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe told a parliamentary inquiry.

The federal government says there is a large number of Iranians now on "negative pathways" but who cannot be sent back to Iran, and it is considering its options.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has said Iran will not accept the return of failed asylum seekers "despite many attempts by Australia" to strike an agreement. No country in the world is returning Iranians involuntarily.

Siamak Ghahreman, chairman of the Iranian Community Association, says any Iranian sent back to Tehran after applying for refugee status in a foreign country would "simply be killed".

Iranian refugee and women's rights activist Nicky Danesh says more than 12 members of her family have been shot, executed or are missing. She would prefer not to live in exile, and says many tertiary-educated Iranian refugees in Australia have to drive taxis or clean, so they don't come here for economic benefit.

"We are victims of Islamic fundamentalism. Even middle-class women have absolutely no rights and girls can be married at the age of nine, which is sexual abuse," she says.

Mr Ghahreman says: "It is especially the more educated people - that don't practise religion the way the government wants them to - that are persecuted."

Of the 384 Iranians who came to Australia by plane and sought asylum last year, 96 per cent were successful, far higher than the boat success rate.

Mr Ghahreman said people are risking drowning - and hundreds go missing before they get to Australia - because "by boat it is easier and a bit cheaper than getting a false passport to come to Australia by plane". Many more have fled to Canada, the United States and Turkey.

He spoke to Villawood detainees during the riots and encouraged them to stop protesting. "What they did was not right - but I understand why they did it. They were under so much pressure before they got to Australia, and then to be detained, they couldn't take it any more," he said.

Nima Neyshaboury, a minister at St Paul's Church in Carlingford, New South Wales, visits Villawood to hold weekly bible studies classes for Iranian detainees. He sees a "sad situation" where Iranian Christians who left behind family have fallen into depression after being detained for 15, 20 months, and in one case two years.


Silencing dissent won't resolve indigenous issues

THE Bolt case reveals that Leftists prefer symbolic victories to dealing with disadvantage

THE judicial finding against Andrew Bolt has drastic implications for free speech but it also demonstrates that in almost two decades since the landmark Mabo decision, Australia's left-liberal political class has learned little about the important priorities in indigenous issues.

The loudest voices and most powerful advocates on indigenous issues still seem to be pre-occupied with political and symbolic victories rather than practical solutions. So while we learn of indigenous families in remote South Australian communities relying on food parcels from the Red Cross, the national debate focuses on how to silence a debate over cultural identity.

Rather than address the serious issues that were raised in the now banned columns - questions of racial preference for jobs, grants and prizes and how to ensure they support the most deserving - the obsession has been with wreaking vengeance and silencing Bolt.

On the matter of free speech it is worth noting that, at least, Judge Mordecai Bromberg conceded the issues raised by Bolt were matters of public interest. But Bromberg said some of Bolt's words meant more than their literal meaning and that while he accepted the literal meaning of some of Bolt's mitigating phrases, he found Bolt did not believe them.

So now when airing opinions on matters of public interest, Australians are subject to sanction by a court according to a judge ascribing extra meaning to the words we use, or denying our sincerity in the use of other words.

If that is not frighteningly Orwellian, nothing is. And, may it please the court, that is exactly what I meant to write. No more, no less.

Many left-liberals in the love media have welcomed the decision as revenge against Bolt, rather than railing against it as an illiberal blow against free speech. Much has been made of the findings about errors of fact. Errors are always unfortunate and sometimes egregious but in this case they are hardly the central point. Some of what Bromberg cites as factual error is more a matter of emphasis. It is a canard to suggest the case was about disputed facts: it was about apparent offence caused by Bolt's controversial and strongly worded opinion.

It is not surprising that many people genuinely and passionately disagree with Bolt's views. While intellectually cogent, they were stridently put. That is his way. Cultural identity must be an issue for free debate in a multicultural society that makes distinctions and decisions according to identity.

It has been surprising to see many, such as David Marr and Julian Burnside, who would consider themselves enlightened liberals welcome the decision and revel in the schadenfreude of Bolt's misery.

This is an unusual position, it seems to me, for two men who were prominent in the censorship outcry over Bill Henson's nude photo portraits of children. At that time, in a debate hosted by Marr, Burnside said, approvingly, that "political censorship is not so popular these days".

That now seems contestable. I think Burnside and Marr ought to at least admit it is Bolt's opinions and the way they were expressed that are at the heart of this case, not his facts. The modus operandi of the morally vain liberal Left has always been to trumpetits tolerance by denouncing others. Still, that is the point; we must be allowed to offend each other.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor yesterday missed the irony when he defended Bolt's censure for causing offence, then almost in the same breath, suggested Tony Abbott must accept offensive comments about him, and the offence caused by his own views, as part of the democratic compact. Indeed.

Ideological sparring is not to be spurned; it is the very essence of a robust democracy. We shouldn't wish away freedoms to silence our opponents. Defamation laws provide sufficient protection.

Sadly, the issue of the nation's shameful indigenous disadvantage remains at the eye of an ideological storm. And in the Bolt case the complainants by their action, the judge by his activism, and the commentators by their analysis have shown that maturity in the debate is a long way off.

My experience of this harks back to the secret women's business saga of Hindmarsh Island. When Aboriginal affairs minister Robert Tickner banned a bridge development in 1994 on the say so, as it turns out, of one witness's secret and fabricated evidence, it represented the high point of the left-liberal agenda for delivering symbolic victories to Aboriginal Australians. As a young journalist I investigated the facts and revealed the fabrication claims. All hell broke loose. In my naivety I presumed it would be a simple matter of the truth winning out.

Instead, the resources of the federal government, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, environmental groups, the ABC and even some churches turned it into a cultural battle between black and white. By the way, in that debate, the indigenous "credentials" of the dissidents were often questioned. A royal commission eventually confirmed the fabrication, and after losing the government, Labor dropped the cause. (Although the proponents later claimed some solace from a federal court case.)

Those caught up in that storm believed the trauma and vitriol of the experience might be worthwhile to help prevent such cultural shenanigans in the future. As Beryl Kropinyeri, one of the Ngarrindjeri dissidents who blew the whistle on the misadventure, said at the time; "Reconciliation starts with the truth."

Yet time and again since, we have seen leading Aboriginal activists and the political class focus on symbolic indigenous victories over perceived white and-or conservative antipathy. Instead of considering how best to educate indigenous children in remote communities, we have admonished ourselves over the wrongs of the stolen generation and the need for a formal apology. When shocking abuse of indigenous children was revealed, triggering the Northern Territory intervention, the debate was not about repairing communities and providing hope for children, but about indigenous rights and discriminatory paternalism.

In the Kimberley now, indigenous locals are insulted as "coconuts" because they dare to choose an economically self-sustaining future over a triumph in environmental and cultural politics. There are promising initiatives, such as Generation One's push for indigenous jobs. But it would be better to debate the tough issues Bolt raises, rather than leave the sorry saga of indigenous disadvantage to business as usual.


Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital tells some foreigners - go back where you came from

QUEENSLAND'S biggest public hospital has secretly banned some treatments for non-Australians in a bid to save money.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital recently began rejecting overseas students and visitors from certain countries, telling them to find a private hospital or go back to their own country.

The so-called "ineligible patients" are those from countries not listed among the nine nations with which Australia has reciprocal healthcare agreements allowing costs to be recovered.

Those exposed to the ban include all Asian, American and African nations and many across Europe.

Queensland Health yesterday refused to say whether other hospitals were implementing the edict but defended the decision as a measure to ensure taxpayers were given priority.

The ban only applies to non-emergency maternity and gynaecological procedures but would have applied to 116 ineligible patients in the previous six months.

But the Opposition said rejecting patients based on country was a "slippery slope" even if it did not amount to racism.

In a leaked August 12 memo, RBWH Women's and Newborn Services executive director Ian Cooke said the budget was 6 per cent over last financial year and this year had to be on-budget.

"On average only 50 per cent of costs incurred are recovered and this recovery itself often costs time and money to achieve," Prof Cooke wrote.

"In the current climate this cannot continue. Their options for maternity care if they are living in our catchment area are to either seek private obstetric care, or return to their own country for care."

The revelations further highlight the budget strains on Queensland Health exposed in recent weeks as department chiefs look for ways to save.

Opposition health spokesman Mark McArdle yesterday said it was not a good look as a "compassionate" country to be choosing patients by origin.

"I wouldn't say it's racism but it is a slippery slope when public health starts choosing patients on the basis of their home country instead of the type of operation required," Mr McArdle said.

But Metro North Health Service District chief Keith McNeill said overseas visitors did not have automatic entitlement to care in public hospitals under the Medicare scheme. "This isn't about cutting costs," he said. "Our first priority must be to provide health services to Australians. "However, RBWH will not deny anybody, regardless of their nationality or residency status, access to urgent or emergency medical care."

Countries not affected because of their agreement with Australia are the UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Slovenia, Malta and Italy.

After weeks of revelations about hospital cuts across the state, it emerged yesterday that health staff were being told to find savings to fund their own wage rises and sick children were waiting days for beds at the Royal Children's Hospital.


1 comment:

Paul said...

We used to have issues years ago with Asian families bringing Mum or Dad or all the cousins out for a "holiday" then sticking them straight into hospital with a shopping list of ailments, and an automatic expectation because everything in Australia is free right? Of course there was never any money to actually pay when they got the bill. Never is in cash economy.