Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bullied to death in a NSW school

Indiscipline bears fruit. Guess why 39% of High School students are in private schools?

THE family of teenager Alex Wildman, who took his own life after being beaten and bullied at school, is to receive a six-figure payout from the New South Wales Education department.

The 14-year-old died by suicide on July 25, 2008 at his family's home at Goonellabah, near Lismore, after being bullied by other pupils at Kadina High School.

Alex, described as a "highly intelligent and sensitive young man", endured attacks and threats at Ingleburn High School in Sydney in 2007 and the bullying started again when he moved to Kadina.

A coroner found bullying had contributed to his suicide and made various recommendations, including that the department ensure students at large high schools have access to full-time school counsellors.

The family began a civil case against the department, claiming it breached its duty of care owed to Alex.

But on Friday - the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence - a District Court judge was told the case had been settled in favour of the family.

The figure, believed to be close to $1 million, will be held in trust until the youngest of Alex's three siblings turns 18.

A departmental statement later said the death of Alex was a tragedy.

"The NSW Department of Education and Communities offers its condolences to Alex's family and friends," it said. "The recommendations from the coronial inquiry into Alex Wildman's death are being implemented by the department.

"The terms of settlement in this matter make further comment inappropriate."


Flood inquiry's final report paves way for estimated $2 billion in legal payouts to flood victims

Arrogant bureaucrats killed people

QUEENSLANDERS are set to pay for a multibillion-dollar compensation claim as thousands of flood victims look likely to receive large, fuss-free legal payouts for losses in the January 2011 floods.

With Australia's largest class action now looming, the potential payout bill for the state is conservatively estimated at beyond $2 billion.

The expected lawsuit follows the flood inquiry's final report which has proven an explosive and potentially expensive revelation for the State Government just one week before the state poll.

While public officials have been left largely unscathed, three engineers - Terry Malone, John Tibaldi and Robert Ayre - now face a grilling from the crime watchdog on whether they created a fraudulent report and perjured themselves before the inquiry.

The crucial finding by Commissioner Cate Holmes that the engineers breached the dam manual on January 8-9 fuels a move by lawyers Maurice Blackburn to sue Seqwater.

Premier Anna Bligh, in a possible attempt to head off the class action, revealed yesterday Seqwater would now act as a "model litigant" if individuals approached for compensation claims.

"What that means is that you are required to fairly assess the claims, and that you are required to mediate the claims wherever possible rather than drag people through the courts," she said.

Ms Bligh said Seqwater had commercial insurance to protect against disasters which would help cover the claims. All Queenslanders will foot the bill through increased insurance premiums.

It is believed many flood-affected residents will opt to pursue the class action rather than settle out of court in the hope of much larger payouts, costing taxpayers even more.

Rod Hodgson, principal of law firm Maurice Blackburn, said a class action was "more likely than not".

It was now "crystal clear the report laid blame at the feet of Seqwater" for mismanagement of Wivenhoe Dam, he said.

The firm expected the number of victims to sign up to the "no win, no fee" action, currently involving about 1500 people, would now "grow dramatically".

The scale and prospects of the action hinge on the value of independent flood modelling data, to be commissioned by the law firm and not expected to be available for some months.

This investigation, to be bankrolled by litigation funder IMF and triggering a global search for independent expert hydrologists, would be "complex, time-consuming and expensive", Mr Hodgson said.

Litigants will have to disprove the inquiry's finding the dam engineers achieved close to the best possible outcome in the handling of the dam.

The three dam engineers who controlled Wivenhoe during the floods are believed to be shocked by their referral to the CMC.

The inquiry heard allegations earlier this year the engineers did not follow the dam manual on water releases.


Frivolous Greenie claims halt big mining venture

RIO Tinto's $4 billion plan to almost double shipping of bauxite through the inner Great Barrier Reef in two years has been thrown into disarray, threatening 3000 jobs in Gladstone.

Environment Minister Tony Burke said new evidence had come to light about the proposed shipping by the mining giant from its bauxite operation near Weipa to Gladstone, in a ruling likely to delay the project for a year.

Rio Tinto Alcan president Pat Fiore yesterday warned the 11th-hour decision to expand the environmental review was a threat to the entire resource sector.

Rio has demanded an urgent meeting with Mr Burke ahead of a joint state and federal strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and the findings of a UNESCO delegation.

"Rio Tinto is deeply concerned that the Federal Government has taken such a profound decision based on unsustained claims in a two-page submission by the Wilderness Society," Mr Fiore said.

He said they had been shipping bauxite on that inner reef route for 40 years without damage.

The South of Embley project will produce up to 50 million tonnes of bauxite a year by 2015 in a $1.4 billion expansion of existing site reserves between Weipa and Aurukun on western Cape York.

The plan is for it to feed the $2.5 billion Yarwun refinery at Gladstone due to be commissioned by the end of this year.

Rio last year loaded 176 ships with bauxite in Weipa headed for Gladstone with that number forecast to rise to 270 ships in the next two years alone.

Green groups claim the total shipping numbers transiting through the reef are likely to increase five-fold under the state's mining boom.


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