Sunday, June 24, 2012

Appalling:  At least two years in jail on a police theory

There is NO evidence that Gerard Baden-Clay murdered his wife but police say he had a motive to do so.  And for that he is going to stay in jail for two years or more until the court system gets around to putting him on trial.

So he had mistresses?  So do most men at some time in their lives.  Even TV evangelists do.  Yet 99.9% of men who have affairs do NOT murder their wives.  So his affairs prove nothing.

And he was in debt but said he was going to be with one of his girlfriends shortly.  That could simply mean he was either going to clear out or declare bankruptcy.  Lots of men get into debt without murdering their wives.

The essence of the case is simply non-existent. It is just a weak theory, not proof of anything.  The various  "incriminating" internet searches he did also prove nothing.  A man in his position had every reason to check a lot of things out.  There is no way the case against him can reach the criminal criterion of "beyond reasonable doubt"

HE allegedly called himself Bruce Overland and promised he would come to her a free man by July 1.

But Toni McHugh knew him as Gerard Baden-Clay - her long-time colleague and lover who wanted to free himself from his wife and his life so they could be together.

What she did not know, until police told her, was that Baden-Clay was also allegedly having affairs with two other women, police have claimed in documents tendered in opposition to his bail application yesterday.

According to those same court documents, Baden-Clay had severe financial problems and the string of mistresses.

Peter Davis, SC, for Baden-Clay, described the Crown case as "weak", saying there had been no cause of death ascertained from the post-mortem examination, no evidence as to where she was killed, what date or time she was killed and no evidence to show he had left his home on the night she disappeared.

Justice David Boddice rejected that, saying the circumstantial case had factors that "if accepted by a jury" would make a strong argument.

He denied Baden-Clay's application for bail, saying the Brookfield father of three remained a flight risk.


How valuable are journalists?

A penny for their thoughts?

Deutsche Bank this week issued a valuation for Fairfax that included a nil valuation for its metropolitan print business. It is easy to point the finger at the Fairfax management and board for this outcome, but that is far too parochial an explanation. Newspapers around the world are facing similar issues.

It remains to be seen whether print media can be transformed into new and profitable business models based on paid subscriber content. However, any such transformation faces a significant constraint that was disguised by the old model: few people are prepared to pay very much for what journalists write. It is a reality journalists are understandably reluctant to accept.

Journalists cloak themselves in themselves in the mantle of democracy, but while a free media is essential to democracy, the traditional role of journalists as intermediaries and interpreters of information has been greatly diminished by the same forces that have undermined the old media business models.

For every Woodward and Bernstein, there are many more journalists who have been captured or compromised by their relationships with politicians and other institutions they are meant to scrutinise. The old media business models in many cases helped sustain these cosy relationships.

Far from being friends of free speech and media competition, many journalists have a long-standing record of support for increased regulation by government. They would prefer to answer to government regulators than to proprietors and shareholders because a competitive marketplace for speech and ownership and control of equity capital exposes them to greater competition and accountability.

Now that barriers to entry have collapsed, journalists are facing the same competitive pressures as their traditional proprietors. They will increasingly have to sell their product directly into a much more competitive marketplace for ideas and information. In the long run, this should make journalists better friends of free speech and more effective in scrutinising politicians, business and other institutions.


Mutual obligation as human rights abuse

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has written to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights drawing attention to what it believes is a serious breach of international human rights laws right here in Australia.

Has the civilian population come under bombardment from government-backed militia, like it is in Syria? Has the opposition leader been arrested and tortured, as in Ukraine? Has a woman had her 7-month-old foetus forcibly aborted in a state hospital after refusing to pay a fine for breaching the one-child policy, as it happened this week in China?

Not quite. ACOSS is outraged that single parents with children older than 8 and have been claiming Parenting Payment for many years are now being told to look for work. If they fail to find a job, they will have their fingernails pulled out with pliers and ... er, sorry, no, they will be switched to a different welfare payment, Newstart Allowance, which is less generous than Parenting Payment. This, according to the ACOSS letter, constitutes ‘a violation of human rights, as defined by the core United Nations treaties.’

It’s important to be clear what the government is exactly proposing. In 2006, new rules were introduced requiring recipients of Parenting Payment to look for employment once their youngest child turned 8 (before that, single parents had the right to stay on welfare until their youngest child reached school-leaving age, by which time most parents had lost any skills and motivation they may once have had and become almost unemployable). The new rule only applied to fresh applicants, however. Those who were already claiming Parenting Payment were exempt. It is this exemption that the government now wishes to withdraw and save taxpayers about $685 million over the next four years.

In other words, we are talking about people whose children are at least 8 years old and who have been living on welfare benefits without a break for at least the last six years. ACOSS believes there could be as many as 100,000 of them. The government thinks it would sensible to require these people to look for work, just like all other parents do. But ACOSS thinks this breaches some inviolable human right for single parents to stay on parenting welfare payments until their child turns 16 as they would have been able to do if the government had not acted.

This ACOSS letter is ill-advised for so many reasons:

* It is probably wrong as a matter of law (if ACOSS seriously doubts this, let them try running it past the judges at the Human Rights Court in The Hague);

* It debases the language of human rights and is insulting to people around the world who are suffering from real ‘human rights abuses’;

* It tries to subvert the democratic process by getting judges to overrule a decision taken by an elected government rather than campaigning politically to win over public opinion;

* It ignores the ‘rights’ of taxpayers to have their hard-earned money redirected only to people who really need it;

* It shows no regard for the long-term interests of welfare parents themselves, who will live more worthwhile lives (and will bequeath their children a better future) if they are encouraged to support themselves rather than relying on benefits for years;

* It offers no good rationale for why people who started claiming Parenting Payment before 2006 should continue to be treated differently to more recent claimants; and

* It is insufferably pompous.

The ACOSS letter is signed by 15 welfare and human rights activists and organisations with a long track record of opposing almost any welfare reform with the most breathtaking hyperbole. They include:

* the feminist academic, Elspeth McInnes, who thinks asking single parents with school-age children to look for part-time work leads to ‘homelessness and starvation for infants and mothers and more beggars in the street';

* the executive director of Catholic Social Services, whose predecessor (Joe Caddy) said that requiring single parents of school-age children to look for part-time work is ‘staggering in its harshness’;

* John Falzon of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, who thinks welfare-to-work schemes force people to ‘participate in the very structures that produce their poverty.’

ACOSS is Australia's leading social policy pressure group. It should not allow itself to be used in this way.


Big stink brewing over dumpanomics

Carbon tax to dump your rubbish?

The final battle against the carbon pricing scheme before its July 1 introduction will be amid the lumpy terrain and unpleasant pong of suburban garbage dumps. Local government will be fighting to the end the application of the $23-a-tonne penalty for carbon emissions which will be attracted by this usually unattractive community facility.

The circling ibis portend a tipping point in the carbon tax debate… sorry, that was pretty bad.The circling ibis portend a tipping point in the carbon tax debate… sorry, that was pretty bad.

Meanwhile, the Government will be insisting the same territory, the local landfill site, will become a boon for municipal councils as it will lead to money making prospects for them.

Rubbish tips are an ideal political battleground because while most suburban types don’t own an aluminium refinery or a coal mine, they do cart their clippings and other waste to the tip regularly.

And while the landfill sites of just 33 rubbish dumps out of 565 councils nationally will be caught up in the carbon pricing scheme, they are a frontline community resource.

Miners are allowing cries of dread about carbon pricing, but just yesterday giant Rio Tinto announced a big expansion in iron ore projects, and steel town Whyalla, one of the places said to be wiped from the economic map by the carbon scheme, is lobbying for an expansion of its airport.

While the question of electricity prices is not as clear-cut as the Opposition might insist, the matter of charges at the tip is as obvious as cash-short councils can and will make them, on rates notices or billboards at the dump.

While the scheme will affect only landfill sites which emit more than 25,00 tonnes of methane a year - the big ones - it indicates the reach and intrusion of the carbon scheme into basic community assets.

The Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate late last month said his council would not pay the carbon price when the bill arrives in July next year.

While this might cost his council more in legal fees to fight the Commonwealth in court than any savings from refusing to pay the carbon invoice, Ald Tate has become a local government hero.

The economics of rubbish dumps are not as simple as the old equation of garbage-in, gas-out might indicate.

Yesterday the Australian Landfill Owners’ Association wrote to parliamentary secretary for climate change Mark Dreyfus to lay out some of its research on how the scheme could warp competition.

It reported that in the Adelaide area there are two large sites clearly over the 25,000 tonne threshold, three smaller sites that are just below the threshold, and a further two small country sites.

“Under the current arrangements the two larger sites cannot pass through their CPM carbon costs without risking a significant loss of business to the smaller sites,” said the ALOA letter.

A second example was Hobart, where there is a relatively new regional landfill site and two smaller council-owned tips.

“Notwithstanding its intention to install a gas collection system shortly the regional landfill expects to have emissions above the threshold whilst the two smaller sites are below the threshold,” said the letter.

“This situation is preventing the larger regional site from passing carbon pass-through costs to its clients.”

And same for a third example in regional Victoria, where between Bendigo and Echuca landfill services are provided by a privately owned regional landfill and a number of smaller country landfills.

“The regional site estimates it will exceed the threshold in 2018 and as a consequence needs to initiate a partial carbon cost recovery from 1 July 2012. The operation of the smaller neighbouring sites is frustrating the regional sites ability to recover its carbon liability costs,” said the ALOA.

“These three examples demonstrate the need for the prescribed distance rule to be re-instated in the legislation and as a result ALOA calls on the Government to bring forward the review of the prescribed distance so that unfair competition between covered and uncovered sites can be avoided.”

But it’s the council sites where the issue will be felt most.

Mark Dreyfus is attempting to convince councillors they have a lucrative opportunity under the scheme to make some money by harnessing the methane and selling the carbon credits on the open market.

They could capture the gas and turn it into electricity to earn Renewable Energy Certificates which also have financial rewards attached.

“Good examples of councils taking a lead in these areas are Tweed Heads which has reduced its gas pollution so significantly, it will not have to pay any carbon price, and Newcastle City Council which generates enough electricity from its captured gas to power 3000 homes,” said Mr Dreyfus in a statement.

Ultimately the Government returns to its household assistance payments which it says will compensate for increased tip charges.

“Rate rises associated with landfill, if any, are estimated to be between 13 cents and 40 cents per household, which is covered by the federal governments average household assistance of $10.10 per household per week, delivered through pension increases, family payments and tax cuts,” said Mr Dreyfus.

Councillors are not dills. They see the opportunity. But they need time to invest in the the capital works to take advantage of those opportunities for decades to come.

Until they get that they will turn their rubbish dumps into carbon pricing martyrs.


Health boards to have power over Queensland's hospitals under new legislations

Back to the old days before bureaucratic chaos took hold

LOCAL health boards will soon be handed power over the state's hospitals under new legislation passed by Parliament.

The 17 boards will take over the management of resources and staff as part of a widespread decentralisation of the Queensland health system.

The Health and Hospitals Network legislation will take effect from July 1, with boards becoming responsible for their own finances.

The Newman Government also claims a series of ancillary boards will ensure a greater level of community involvement at the regional level.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg stressed that the ancillary boards will not add an extra layer of administration and will be directed to "act in a consultative way" to assist the "decision-making process" of health boards.

Board membership is currently being finalized and chairs have been appointed.

"I expect people who are appointed to boards will be highly-regarded," Mr Springborg said.

"(They will be) skilled, experienced and motivated members of the community."

Mr Springborg told Parliament that approval would need to be sought from the Treasurer and Health Minister to buy or sell land, with the legislation providing for "competent" boards to be allowed to manage hospital land and buildings, should the need arise.

"This is a reserve power - it may not be exercised and it may be exercised in exceptional circumstances," he said. "There will have to be a business plan and we will have to be very, very comfortable that they are capable of doing this."

Parliament also passed legislation that allows those working in fields such as diagnostic radiography and radiation therapy to enter a national registration scheme.


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