Friday, November 18, 2011

Diet fraudster still in trouble with the wallopers

This gave me a good laugh. Foster has been selling fraudulent weight-loss products for decades. He never seems to give up. He has been to prison several times so I assumed he would have eventually seen the error of his ways -- but not so, it appears.

He seems a rather "Ned Kelly" figure to me. Australians tend to have some admiration for determined outlaws. And I can't muster up much sympathy for his victims. There is only one way to lose weight: Eat less. People who think there is a shortcut rather deserve to lose their money, it seems to me

CONMAN Peter Foster is back behind bars after being arrested on the Gold Coast.

Foster, 49, was arrested by Australian Federal Police officers and Australian Competition and Consumer Commission officials while visiting his sick mother at a private Gold Coast hospital this morning.

He is believed to have been chased through the hospital, with his mother screaming at officers.

The charges are believed to relate to embattled diet spray company SensaSlim Australia which is facing Australian Competition and Consumer Commission charges of misleading and deceptive conduct.


Slow progress in nailing crooked lawyers

It was more than three years ago that the Sydney Morning Herald broke a series of stories about clients being overcharged by the personal injuries law firm Keddies. The allegations were cringe-inducing and people were suitably aghast.

The articles flushed out more complaints from people who claimed to have been ripped off by the firm. Up to 100 clients may have been affected by overcharging on an industrial scale, but there has been no mad rush to redress the problem.

After a couple of interlocutory skirmishes, the one and only disciplinary case against a former partner of the firm, Russell Keddie, and a hapless employed solicitor, Phillip Scroope, gets under way in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal on April 30. That's more than 2½ years after the action started in the tribunal.

About the time Keddies was acquired for $35 million last year by a bigger personal injuries firm, Slater & Gordon, Keddie made some admissions, saying he alone was responsible for the overcharging in the matter that is the subject of the complaint.

The Legal Services Commissioner, who is the legal profession's disciplinary authority in NSW, then withdrew the complaints against another two former partners, Tony Barakat and Scott Roulstone.

The disciplinary proceedings concern the case of Shuang Ying Meng, who was left a paraplegic after a bus crash in South Australia nearly 10 years ago. Her case was not complicated because liability was not an issue and the matter was settled.

Mrs Meng told Herald reporter Kate McClymont that she did not receive a bill from Keddies and it was not until she went to the commission with a complaint that it emerged she had been charged $800,000 in legal fees and other charges out of a total settlement of $3.5 million. Cost experts have said this is about 10 times the amount that would be fair.

The reason that only one disciplinary case remains is largely because Keddies's partners have been rushing around stuffing money in the pockets of various former clients in exchange for getting them to withdraw their complaints to the Legal Services Commissioner.

A glimpse at the dimension of Keddies' overcharging emerged last week in a civil action against the one-time partners brought by a former client, Eileen Liu. Ms Liu had also withdrawn her disciplinary complaint after coming to an "agreement" to accept $15,000 from Keddies.

Still, she pressed on with a breach-of-contract action, claiming that she was billed for work that was not performed or not done at the agreed rate. Hers was a relatively small case that was settled for $140,000, from which the client received less than $50,000.

Judge Jim Curtis thoughtfully spelled out more than a dozen instances of overcharging. The fee ledger comprised 383 items of "attendance" or work, and this was for a motor vehicle accident case in which liability had been admitted and the insurance company was wanting to settle.

For instance, three-line letters that would take a few seconds to read were billed for 12 minutes of time at a senior litigation lawyer rate of $435 an hour (a charge of $87). Another five-line letter was billed at $184 for "perusal" - that is a time charge of 24 minutes. There was a charge of 18 minutes at the rate of $460 an hour for sending a four-sentence email to the Motor Accident Authority. Back came the reply from the case manager at the authority. It simply said "Rcvd". A Keddies solicitor entered a charge in the ledger of $130.50 for reading the abbreviation "Rcvd".

Secretaries in the firm were being billed out at partners' rates of $460 an hour charging for "perusing and considering" two-line letters.

On and on it went. Most of the responses and form-filling is of a pro forma nature. It involves typing a name in a computerised template, but the work is billed as through the documents were created from scratch.

Ms Liu's case is only one of about 100 against Keddies in the District Court at the moment.

The former chief justice James Spigelman spoke frequently about the perils of time-based billing and the legal profession killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

At this year's opening of law term dinner, the president of the NSW Law Society, Stuart Westgarth, defended time-based billing. Criticism of it was "unpersuasive", he said.

We asked the Law Society for its response to Judge Curtis' findings in the Liu case. We haven't heard back.


Higher English hurdles for foreign teachers

This should apply at the university level too. There was a case a few years ago where the University of Qld. hired a law lecturer from China that the students could not understand. The usual stupid "affirmative action", I guess

FOREIGN teachers will have to be better speakers and listeners before being allowed into Victorian classrooms under a registration overhaul.

The State Government has ordered higher English language hurdles for overseas teachers from next year - with the biggest crackdown on verbal communication.

All teachers from non-English-speaking countries, including South Africa, will have to prove their skills with higher scores under the International English Language Testing System.

The new standards will apply only to new applicants and build on previous minimum standards.

Australian-born teachers are exempt from the IELT test, along with their counterparts from the US, UK, New Zealand, Ireland and Canada.

Minister for the Teaching Profession Peter Hall said the higher standards for verbal communication, to be introduced in April, would also be applied nationwide.

Teachers with overseas qualifications made up 13 per cent of the 6000 people registered since June.


Nurses defy the Labor party's toothless new watchdog

Putting nurses in jail would kill the watchdog. If the Victorian government fired half of the useless health bureaucracy that it inherited from Labor, it could afford to spend more on nurses

Fair Work Australia today made a second order telling Victorian nurses to stop their industrial action.

Fair Work Australia earlier suspended the nurses' work bans for 90 days on Wednesday, but the Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association gave evidence that beds remained closed and elective surgeries were still being cancelled.

The industrial umpire issued a fresh order that nurses stop their industrial action and reopen beds by 7.30pm today, and that all nurses be notified by 4.30pm.

Penalties for unprotected industrial action under section 675 of the Fair Work Act include 12 months' imprisonment and fines of $6600.ANF state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said yesterday all industrial action would continue until members met on Monday.

Melbourne Commissioner Suzie Jones said her order would remain in place until 9am on December 12. She said she was satisfied that nurses had been taking unprotected industrial action since the tribunal ordered the 90-day suspension of work bans on Wednesday. "I'm satisfied that unprotected industrial action ... is happening,'' she said. "Consequently I must therefore order that industrial action stop.''

Executive director of hospital performance at the Department of Health, Frances Diver, had earlier told the tribunal that nursing directors at hospitals across the state reported beds remained closed and more than 150 operations cancelled since the bans were deemed illegal on Wednesday.

John Snaden, for VHIA, also read from a newspaper article that quoted Australian Nursing Federation secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick saying nurses would openly defy the tribunal's decision. Mr Snaden said there was "overwhelming'' evidence the action was continuing and that it was now illegal.

Mr Snaden said the action must be stopped immediately given it was endangering patient lives and asked for news of the decision to be distributed by social media to take effect within one and a half hours.

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu has left open the possibility of the government taking the nurses' union to the Federal Court if it continues unprotected industrial bans. He noted the previous Labor government took court action against the ANF during the 2007 enterprise negotiation bargaining period.

Mr Baillieu urged nurses to respect the decision of the industrial umpire. "They should accept the decision of Fair Work Australia and lift those industrial bans,'' he said.

Nurses vow to ignore ban order

The Australian Nursing Federation ignored an initial ban yesterday, keeping 458 beds closed despite the independent umpire ordering a suspension of industrial action for three months.

When asked if the union had been building a war chest to pay the fines, Ms Fitzpatrick said: "The federation is very financially viable."

Health Minister David Davis said he was disappointed that nurses had refused to reopen beds, but praised some nurses who had chosen to ignore the union's directive. He said the Government would not "telegraph" whether it would seek to penalise nurses.


1 comment:

Paul said...

This is going to be a bit of an Op-Ed but I know a bit about Nurses and Unions. Unions are often in bed with elements of the Labor Party, to the detriment of their members and the ANF is certainly no exception. In Victoria in 1985 there was a major industrial event which the (then) RANF settled with a very poor result followed quickly by the departure of the leadership (to spend more time with their cats I think). When Nurses, naive as we were, woke up they realized that their union and the Government (John Cain) had done a sweetheart to shut them up, so they elected a firebrand Leftist who was allied to the Victorian Trades Hall under John Halfpenny. The dispute flared again in 1986 resulting in a crippling 10 week strike/industrial action combination with the outcome being a decent pay and career structure for the first time ever. Labor in Victoria, then dominated by the Right, wasn't going to forgive or forget (nor was the ACTU who hated Trades Hall) and suddenly in 1988-89 a slick, well funded and presented campaign for a fully fledged "Team" complete with severe spiky hair, earnest looks at the camera and vaguely Lesbotic overtones in the presentation appeared with a slogan of returning "respect" to the Nursing profession. They were swept in by (still naive) Nurses who are actually quite a middle-class conservative lot by nature. Once in place, and with the political future taken care of, this group kept Nurses under control with just some token anger for the Kennett government but almost complete silence through the following years under Labor. In the process Nurses' wages fell further and further behind the other States, even Queensland. All of a sudden, with a change of State Government we see a sudden bout of concern for Nurses' wages and conditions that was conspicuous by its absence during the State Labor years. I'm reminded of the QNU who, during the arguably biggest financial misadventure of any Queensland government, took the attitude of speaking firmly and making cross faces rather than supporting any real action to demand accountability (Lucas got promoted? How did THAT work?). naturally I'm not in the Union because I don't want to effectively join the Labor Party.
Nurses for the most pat remain too stupid to see it all, as usual.

Sorry to exhaust you today with my hyperactive keyboard.