Thursday, November 24, 2011

Professor expresses outrage at University of Queensland enrolment scandal

That corrupt university boss Greenfield refuses to stand down is a disgrace to him personally, to his Jewish community and to my alma mater. It's hardly unknown for such a highly paid man to be so amoral but it is certainly reprehensible. The university is undoubtedly not getting value for money

A LEADING doctor and University of Queensland academic said there was "great anger" within the institution over the enrolment scandal engulfing vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield.

Associate Professor David Colquhoun yesterday urged Prof Greenfield to step down immediately because the controversy involving one of the vice-chancellor's close family members was "eating away at the integrity and morale of the university".

He said some specialist doctors teaching at the university were openly talking about boycotting the university while the cover-up continued. "We are angry. If the vice-chancellor was ethical he would ... step down now immediately," said Dr Colquhoun, a cardiologist who has taught at the university since 1984. "There is anger, great anger. Quote me as saying that. "One doctor told me he will never teach anyone at the university again. "Students, doctors and academics are all talking about it freely."

Prof Greenfield and his deputy Prof Michael Keniger offered to stand down after an integrity probe found "irregularities" in the enrolment process. Later, it was admitted the student at the centre of the row was a "close family member" of Prof Greenfield's.

Prof Greenfield, who was paid $1,069,999 last year, claimed the incident arose as the result of a "misunderstanding" but failed to elaborate.

The university Senate, the governing body, has decided Prof Greenfield will stay until June next year after his 65th birthday while Prof Keniger will leave in December.

There was community disquiet when the university tried to cover up the scandal. The details of the case still remain a closely guarded secret, with the university Senate declining to release the report.

The cover-up was continuing yesterday, with the university refusing to answer questions or release any information about the enrolment process. No students were disadvantaged, the university claims. Academic staff have been warned not to speak to the media.

Dr Colquhoun said the situation was "objectionable" and unworthy of one of the country's leading universities. "They are public servants and as such have a duty to stand down while an investigation happens," he said. "Public servants and politicians stand down while they are being investigated. That is the proper course of action.

"The vice-chancellor is the chief administrator of the rules and ethics." He said Prof Greenfield's decision to stay was an "embarrassment" and a blow to the integrity of the institution. "It's time he left so the university can begin to restore its reputation," Dr Colquhoun said.


'Slippery Pete'

Security in Parliament House is a rapid response operation. An extra guard was rustled up this morning to loiter calmly at Peter Slipper's door.

Whether trouble was expected from overly inquisitive journalists, or from Slipper's irate colleagues in the Liberal Party, was difficult to say.

The man known universally as Slippery Pete was set to occupy the Speaker's chair in the House of Representatives.

Such treachery and diabolical double dealing had not been seen in Canberra . . . well, since the last time, when Labor's Mal Colston enraged the progressive fraternity with a similarly fleet footed move in the Senate; thereby entering the pantheon of the parliamentary pariahs.

The guard at Slipper's door became two as the morning wore on.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, of course, is not amused.
Peter Slipper's move to the speaker's chair will rob the opposition of a crucial vote

Peter Slipper's move to the speaker's chair will rob the opposition of a crucial vote Photo: Glen McCurtayne GPM

Given the shock defection means an extra number for the Gillard government in the lower house, Slipper's colleagues are also far from amused.

So who is the Gillard government's new dancing partner? Slipper is a Queensland Liberal, who defected from the National Party. He holds the Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher, entering parliament as a National in 1984. He was defeated in 1987, then re-entered in 1993.

Despite harbouring considerable ambition, he languished during the Howard years. Voters outside Queensland would struggle to recognise him.

In recent times Slipper has grabbed headlines largely due to controversies surrounding travel entitlements. So far he's repaid more than $20,000 worth of incorrect claims. A lawyer, his reputation is as bon vivant.

Slipper's colourful parliamentary lifestyle has provided the Canberra beltway with plenty of anecdotal fodder over the years, has titillated the tabloids, and fuelled animosity with colleagues. His decision to accept a deputy speakers' post when it was offered by Gillard's minority government seriously rankled.

Most likely with the morning's events in the back of his mind, (or the risk of Slipper defecting permanently to the crossbench), Abbott has been trying to calm events in Queensland, where Slipper faces an acrimonious preselection challenge from former Howard government minister Mal Brough.

But momentum, once gathered, is hard to undo. Slipper enraged his colleagues last week by bringing the Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to his electorate when John Howard was just down the road, launching the campaign of state MP John Connolly.

The estrangement from his colleagues was complete this morning, when Abbott indicated Slipper would have to quit the Liberal Party if he wanted to indulge his latest theatrics — the frolic with the speakership.

Slipper occupied the speaker's chair almost immediately after Labor's Harry Jenkins departed this morning.

As the parliamentary thunderbolts and outrage ensued, Slipper showed no signs of listening.


O'Chee influence claims sent to News lawsuit

That O'Chee is a slippery character who tries to evade his debts should be mentioned. One wonders who paid him this time

ALLEGATIONS that News Ltd offered a senator a "special relationship" if he crossed the floor on a vote of financial interest to the company have been included in a US lawsuit being run by News shareholders against the company's New York parent organisation.

Yesterday it was revealed federal police are investigating claims the News Ltd executive Malcolm Colless told then Queensland senator Bill O'Chee, during a 1998 lunch in Brisbane, he would be "taken care of" if he voted in accordance with News's interests. The allegations of Mr O'Chee were contained in a nine-page police statement made by Mr O'Chee, and seen by the Herald.

It can now be revealed that a statutory declaration making the same claims has been provided to lawyers running a class action against News Corporation's New York leadership, on behalf of shareholders who say mismanagement has damaged the company financially.

After being revealed by the Herald, the story of the federal police investigation was picked up by hundreds of newspapers and media outlets in Britain, the US and elsewhere.

The outgoing News Ltd chairman, John Hartigan, yesterday denied the allegations of improper conduct by any executive.

"The executive referred to in today's report, Malcolm Colless, has confirmed that no improper conversation took place during the 1998 lunch with former Nationals senator O'Chee."

Mr Hartigan noted that neither of the other two people at the table at Pier 9 restaurant in Brisbane in June of that year recalled any improper offer.

He also said neither News Ltd nor Mr Colless have been contacted by federal police, who have been investigating the matter since November 4.

Mr Colless worked with News Ltd for almost 50 years, as a journalist and then as an executive. He was director of corporate development when he met Mr O'Chee in 1998, and he retired in 2007 and runs a consulting company.


Criminal bungle at government hospital in Melbourne

A HEALTHY 32-week-old fetus was accidentally terminated in a botched procedure at the Royal Women's Hospital.

A Victorian mother, pregnant with twin boys she had already named, had made the agonising decision to abort one of the babies on doctors' advice, the Herald Sun reported. She had been told that one twin had a congenital heart defect that would require years of operations, if he survived at all.

An ultrasound clinician had checked the healthy baby, who was in a separate sac to the sick baby, before the termination.

But just after 2.30pm on Tuesday the wrong baby was injected, terminating the healthy pregnancy.

The mother then had an emergency caesarean section and the sick child was terminated in a three-hour operation.

A Royal Women's Hospital spokeswoman last night apologised for the "distressing clinical accident" and said the hospital was launching a full investigation.

A friend of the woman said the family was struggling to cope with the fatal mistake.

"She went to the hospital with two babies and now she has none. And she had the heartache of giving birth to her sick baby. She's traumatised," she said. "The hospital said it had followed correct procedure, but how could this happen? "The ultrasound clinician said she checked three times before the termination because she didn't want to make a mistake."

The woman's husband, a nurse, a doctor and the ultrasound clinician, who was reportedly inconsolable as a result of the error, were in the room at the time of the procedure.

The Herald Sun believes the family are considering legal action.

The ultrasound clinician performed the procedure because "she looks at ultrasounds all day", hospital sources said.

The late-term termination went ahead only after a review by the Royal Women's Hospital.

A hospital spokeswoman said: "The Royal Women's Hospital can confirm a distressing clinical accident occurred (on Tuesday). "This is a terrible tragedy and the hospital is deeply sorry for the loss suffered by the patient and her family."

Health Services Commissioner Beth Wilson, who resolves complaints against Victoria's hospitals, said she was shocked. "I have never dealt with a case like this before," she said.

Health Minister David Davis said: "This is an absolute tragedy for all concerned and my sympathies are with the family."


Labor's $100 million deal with the Greens over mining tax revealed after 12 hours of secrecy

THE Federal Government today revealed details of an extraordinary multi-million dollar pact with the Greens that secured Parliamentary support for a new law.

The deal means the Government will defer concessions for foreign banks to get $20 million a year in revenue the Greens want spent on public facilities.

Today’s announcement ended 12 hours of secrecy in which the Greens and Labor kept from Parliament and voters details of the deal to get the Mineral Resource Rental Tax (MRRT) through the House of Representatives early this morning.

Greens leader Bob Brown said today his party wanted the deal made public last night.

The tax on mining super profits will raise about $11 billion over four years.

Treasurer Wayne Swan was to have announced the details on the release of the Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) report expected next week. But it was brought forward to today following a barrage of criticism aimed at the secrecy pact enforced by the Government and Greens Leader Bob Brown.

Prime Minister Gillard defended the decision to allow the MRRT debate to proceed in Parliament without MPs being fully informed on related matters.

Ms Gillard said the Government wanted to release the details today “in accordance with normal, prudent Government measures and approaches”. “We wanted to alert stakeholders to the fact that we were acting that savings measure and we've been through that process this morning,” she told reporters.

The Prime Minister rejected a suggestion the vote should have been delayed until after the banks were told, and MPs could also have been informed.

She said the “one year pause” in the tax concession for foreign banks was a modest savings measure which had already been under consideration.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Parliament, the Labor Caucus, cross-benchers and the Australian people had been “kept in the dark”. “The only person that the Prime Minister (Julia Gillard) appears to consult with on key issues is Bob Brown,” Mr Abbott said. “It’s not good enough. It’s no way to run a Government and it’s no way to run the country.”

The House of Representatives passed the MRRT early this morning after a night of negotiations between the Government and the Greens. The legislation is now expected to pass through the Senate.

But the Government, with Senator Brown's agreement, kept the details of the deal secret.

“There seems to be a pact between the Labor Party and the Greens that the rest of Australia is not part of,” Opposition resources spokesman Ian Macfarlane said.

The Greens demanded fresh negotiations on the tax after the Government this week increased the tax threshold - the point when the levy starts - to win the support of Independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

The complaint was that this reduced the revenue and could affect funding of schools and hospitals.


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