Monday, January 30, 2012

Compensation bill tipped to hit $2 billion if dam operators found to be negligent during Brisbane floods

This is what the coverup was designed to avoid

THE State Government faces a $2 billion compensation bill if dam operators are found to have been negligent during the 2011 floods, one of the state's leading valuers says.

Iain Herriot, managing partner of WBP Herriots Queensland, said there were as many as 4500 "virtually unsaleable" properties in flood-hit suburbs of Ipswich and Brisbane.

At an average figure of $400,000 to compensate for loss of value and other damages, he estimated the total potential bill for the Government was more than $1.8 billion. That calculation did not take into account properties less badly affected.

"It's unfair that you should personally bear the cost and the loss that you may have occurred as a direct result of what may have been a result of operator error at Wivenhoe Dam," Mr Herriot said.

"If that is what the commission report finally reveals, the adversely affected owner has a classic case against the operator of the dam for compensation.

"If I had a flood-affected house ... the first nasty letter I would be writing would be to the dam operator and the Queensland Government saying 'give me the money - compensate me for your error'."

Cr Pisasale said there was scope to better manage flood events but it was "for the inquiry" to determine whether there had been negligence or even political interference in 2011. "These are the questions that should have been asked the first time round," he said.

A spokesman for Treasurer Andrew Fraser said the state "does not believe it will be, nor is it in possession of advice to suggest that it will be held liable" to compensate homeowners.

In any event, the Queensland Government Insurance Fund was "in place to meet all liabilities", the spokesman said.

LNP deputy leader Tim Nicholls said Queenslanders "may well look to the Government for recompense and that would be of great worry to Queenslanders given the debt and deficit situation we have at the moment".


Australians should not lose sleep over Europe's nightmares

The economic news from Europe in recent days has not been good. And it could get worse as the year progresses. Those guys have big problems. But let's not spook ourselves by imagining it to be any worse than it is.

Unfortunately, there has been a tendency in parts of the media to convey an exaggerated impression of how bad things are and of the extent to which Europe's problems translate into problems for us.

Take last week's downwardly revised forecast for the world economy this year from the International Monetary Fund. We heard a lot about the fund's dire warnings of what could happen if the Europeans did not get their act together, but what was not made clear was that the fund's actual forecast was for global recession to be avoided.

Though the growth forecast in the world economy this year was cut significantly from the forecast in September, at 3.3 per cent it is below the long-run average of about 4 per cent, but still comfortably above the 2 per cent level generally regarded as representing a world recession.

On the day, no one thought it necessary to tell us - even though the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, reminded journalists of it at his press conference - that, from our perspective, the fund's revisions were old news. They were surprisingly similar to the revised forecasts the government adopted in its midyear budget review last November.

The fund has the United States growing by 1.8 per cent this year; Treasury had it at 2 per cent. The fund has the euro area contracting by 0.5 per cent; Treasury had it contracting by 0.25 per cent. For China, the fund has growth of 8.2 per cent, whereas Treasury had 8.25 per cent. For India, it is the fund's 7 per cent versus Treasury's 6.5 per cent. Bottom line? The fund has the world growing by 3.3 per cent, while Treasury had it at 3.5 per cent.....

When Treasury did this sum in the midyear review, growth in the world economy of 3.5 per cent translated to growth in our main trading partners of 4.25 per cent. All this despite Europe's recession.

Fran Kelly of Radio National Breakfast did go to the trouble of asking the lead author of the fund's World Economic Outlook, Jorg Decressin, what the revised forecasts meant for us. His reply deflated most of the hype we have been subjected to.

"Australia will be affected by these downgrades only to a limited extent," he said. Oh. "At this stage, growth in output for Australia is still reasonably strong.

"Growth in Australia is importantly driven by major investment projects that are in the pipeline and these are funded by strong multinationals that don't have problems assessing funding." Oh.

"There is no advanced economy - or maybe there are one or two - that is as well placed as Australia in order to combat a deeper slowdown, were such a slowdown to materialise, and that's because, well, you still have room to cut interest rates if that was necessary and you also have a very strong fiscal [budgetary] position."


Your regulators will protect you -- NOT

THREE times as many Australian women have had PIP breast implants rupture than first thought, the medicines watchdog has said, warning the number of those affected by the faulty device will rise.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration initially received 37 unconfirmed reports that implants made by the French company Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) had leaked. It has now revised the figure to 102 confirmed cases and 14 unconfirmed.

But the Public Health Association of Australia predicted the rupture rate would rise dramatically. Its chief executive, Michael Moore, said given the standard breast implant rupture rate was one in 10 over 10 years, the estimated number of women affected by leaking PIP implants would climb to more than 1200. "We can confidently say there will be more," Mr Moore said yesterday.

The TGA has told surgeons supplied with PIP implants to contact each patient for a check-up. It also expected the number of patients reporting their breast implants to have ruptured to increase.

"At this stage there is insufficient evidence of a problem with the Australian supplied implants to warrant routine removal of the implants that have not ruptured," a TGA spokeswoman, Kay McNiece, said yesterday.

The federal Minister for Health, Tanya Plibersek, was yesterday unwilling to upgrade her advice. When contacted by The Sun-Herald, a spokesman for Ms Plibersek said: "The minister continues to receive regular updates from the Chief Medical Officer and the TGA who are constantly evaluating information from around the world."

He also advised women who have concerns to contact the Breast Implant Information Line. There have been more than 2000 calls to the line, set up in response to the issue.

The TGA recalled PIP implants in April 2010 after French authorities found they had abnormally high rupture rates. PIP was shut down after concerns it was using industrial silicone, not medical-grade silicone, for implants. The TGA estimates 12,300 PIP implants were sold in Australia between 1998 and 2010.

Ms McNiece said health authorities were working with experts locally and overseas "to obtain more comprehensive information that will help further inform the risk assessment of this situation."

The TGA's updated figures for ruptured PIP implants are more in line with those collated by the Medical Error Action Group.

Three weeks ago the group had received more than 100 reports of ruptured implants. The PIP scandal has exposed the inadequacy of the data the TGA holds on breast implant recipients.

The Sun-Herald recently revealed that the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons is preparing to record the details of every breast implant patient, their surgeon and the type of operation on a national register of breast implants, which will act as an early warning system in the event of faulty devices.

The Society of Plastic Surgeons wants the federal government to fund the estimated $2 million it will cost to run the register every year.

A spokesman for the parliamentary secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King, revealed yesterday that the "establishment of medical registers for certain medical devices is under consideration".


Home insulation safety inspectors cost us $3.4 million

Another expensive legacy of "green" thinking

FLYING squads of safety inspectors charged with cleaning up the Federal Government's home insulation scheme have jetted around the country, lodging bills of up to $3000 to inspect a single home.

That's almost twice the original value of insulation installed under the scheme, which offered householders free insulation up to the value of $1600 as an economic stimulus measure.

The frequent-flying inspectors have travelled thousands of kilometres to check dodgy installations, even jetting from the Gold Coast to Melbourne, Perth to Adelaide and Brisbane to Perth.

Despite an edict from the Climate Change Department that "inspectors would not travel to an area where accredited inspectors were already present", new figures reveal more than 15,000 inspections involved travel - at a cost of $3.4 million.

But that is a fraction of the $500 million cost of safety checks for the scheme, axed after it was linked with the deaths of young installers and raised safety fears.


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