Thursday, July 05, 2012

Whistleblower who brought University of Queensland nepotism scandal to light made redundant

This stinks to high heaven.  Is the new administration just as corrupt  as  the old?

THE University of Queensland has made redundant the whistleblower who brought to light the nepotism scandal that cost the Vice-Chancellor Paul Greenfield and his deputy their jobs last year.

Phil Procopis, the institution's top misconduct and fraud investigator, left the university this week after 18 years' service.

The Courier-Mail can reveal that it was Mr Procopis who first brought the affair to the attention of senior officials including the Chancellor, John Story.  The newspaper understands that Mr Procopis went to the Chancellor in early September after stumbling across the irregular admission of a close relative of Mr Greenfield to the university's medical faculty while investigating an unrelated matter.

Mr Story then launched an investigation, the results of which have never been made public.

UQ confirmed Mr Procopis had had "an initial role in passing the complaint to the Chancellor" on September 9.  Mr Procopis declined to comment.

Friends and colleagues said he was a man of integrity who fiercely guarded his department's independence.  "He's a truth-speaker," one said.

Mr Procopis's redundancy and the disbanding of his department comes despite Mr Greenfield's replacement, Professor Deborah Terry, announcing on May 17 that Mr Procopis would have a central role in misconduct matters under a package of governance reforms.

Prof Terry told The Courier-Mail this week that, at the time of her May announcement, "the proposed reorganisation of ARMS had not been finalised".  She said the restructuring was the result of a "routine, cyclical" review initiated before the admissions scandal and had been done with the blessing of the CMC.

Mr Procopis's post is the only one to have been cut.  But, Prof Terry said, "it would be inaccurate and wrong" to link the role of Mr Procopis in unearthing the scandal to his redundancy.

"Our code of conduct encourages staff to report matters like this to the appropriate university or external authorities, and as a senior person responsible for assurance and risk management, it would have been a problem had he not communicated it," she said.

The CMC is due to table in Parliament a report into the UQ admissions scandal in the coming weeks.


Newman cuts again

2000 Queensland Rail workers facing the axe.  Queensland Rail has been a sheltered workshop for decades

MORE than 2000 staff face the chop at Queensland Rail, with the State Government planning a 30 per cent reduction in the workforce.

Those under pressure include a "bloated corporate office" which includes 12 senior executives who each earn an average of $377,500 a year.

The Courier-Mail also understands 500 jobs are set to go from the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, which employs more than 4000 people.

The Department of Transport and Main Roads is also facing a reduction in staff.

The cuts follow the loss of thousands of workers whose contracts expired last week.

After confusion last Friday about the number of job losses, Premier Campbell Newman said yesterday "the union figure of 3000 was probably in the ballpark".

The Cabinet Budget Review Committee has discussed the need to "rip the guts" out of Queensland Rail and slash job numbers from 7200 to 5000.

Transport Minister Scott Emerson yesterday confirmed Queensland Rail was facing a major upheaval following a review of the Government-owned corporation's "bloated executive".

"There is $4.53 million being paid to 12 senior executives, each paid above the CEO level for Government departments," Mr Emerson said.

"Over the past two years, staffing has increased by 68 per cent in the communication, stakeholder and marketing area, 122 per cent increase in (the) finance area, and 66 per cent in strategy and corporate services.  "Labor oversaw a bloated corporate office that the Queensland taxpayer can no longer afford."

The news follows Translink staff being told 20 per cent of positions have to go from the agency which co-ordinates train, bus and ferry timetables and administers the go card.

The news was delivered on Tuesday, 100 days since the LNP took office.

About 400 people are employed by Translink, which has 353 full-time equivalent roles.

The number of job cuts being considered by the Government has shocked Queensland Rail staff who were issued with an order on Monday to "focus on efficiency and eliminate waste".

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said Mr Newman's repeated claims about not knowing specific numbers of job losses were "completely false".  ""Can Mr Newman now guarantee no slackening of service and safety standards throughout our rail system?" Ms Palaszczuk said.


Industry fumes as refrigerant costs soar

Apparently caused by a combination of direct and indirect hits from the carbon tax

Farmers, retailers and other sectors of industry are concerned about a huge jump in the price of refrigerants.

The price rises - some as steep as 400 per cent - kicked in at the same time the carbon tax came into effect.

But the Federal Government has questioned the carbon tax's impact on refrigerant prices.

The scale of the refrigerant price increase has fishmongers and farmers fuming.

According to one industry price list, the cost of popular commercial refrigerant R404A jumped $285 per kilo, an increase of more than 300 per cent in just a fortnight.

But a carbon price calculator provided by the Department of Environment shows the increase from the carbon price on R404A should be $75.

John Brent, chairman of farmer lobby group AUSVEG, says he does not know why the price has increased by so much.

"One small recent example that we've had where the cost now is around $4,500 to re-gas, we are now looking at close to $20,000 for that same refrigerant to go into that same system should there be a problem," he said.

"Some of these things are very difficult to determine. But I don't know of any particular product in the market today where you have multiples of a price rise for any type of product at all.

"And obviously being the product it is, it's in everyday usage, in every industry across Australia."

"The purpose of the levy is to reduce emissions of fluorocarbon refrigerants," he said.  "Refrigerants have the same impact on global warming as carbon dioxide, they just have it at a very severe rate and level."

But Mr Edwards questioned the size of the increase in the cost of some refrigerants, and said the industry was struggling to understand the magnitude of the price hike.

"It seems an odd thing to do for the suppliers of refrigerants," he said.

Refrigerants Australia, the industry group which represents suppliers and users, says prices will increase by between 300 and 600 per cent.

On its website it says there are other costs, such as financing, insurance and compliance, which all contribute to the rise, which estimates will cost the industry $270 million.

Climate Change Minister Greg Combet was unavailable for an interview.

However, a spokesman told AM that some price rises seem to be larger than what would be expected under the carbon tax.


Legal action against corrupt temperature records

In New Zealand there is an ongoing legal action against the government producer of the New Zealand temperature record, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research Limited [NIWA].

Researchers found the temperature record produced by NIWA had a warming bias which basically created a warming trend of 1ÂșC per century when the raw data showed no increase at all. After being stonewalled by NIWA the researchers issued a Statement of Claim seeking a Judicial Review of the temperature record.

The Defence issued by NIWA was novel in that it claimed there was no official New Zealand temperature record [clauses 6 & 7].

An Amended Statement of Claim was issued and the case is now at the Affidavit stage.

Could a similar case be brought in Australia challenging the validity of the Australian temperature record which is prepared by the Bureau of Meteorology [BOM]?

There are similarities between BOM and NIWA: both have adjusted their temperature record and both have created a warming trend through the adjustments.

The BOM’s temperature has adjusted their temperature by approximately 40%. This appears not to be consistent with criteria laid down by Torok and Nicholls and Della-Marta et al.

However a complication with BOM is that they have replaced the former High quality network [HQ] with the new improved ACORN adjusted temperature network. In ACORN supposedly the problems with the HQ network which involved the creation of a warming trend have been corrected. However the temperature trend in ACORN is greater than in the HQ network!

Clearly the ACORN temperature network has not corrected the problem. But is it possible to litigate the ACORN temperature record and, as in New Zealand, seek a Judicial Review that the ACORN record is flawed and misleading?

More HERE (The article goes on to argue that a legal challenge is possible but expensive)

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