Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Queenslanders no closer to truth of dams management during 2011 flood

The truth is plain.  The dam was mismanaged by using the flood compartment for water storage.  There would have been no flood otherwise.  Everything else is buckpassing

QUEENSLANDERS are still no closer to learning whether the southeast's dams were managed properly during the 2011 flood after the $15 million flood inquiry's final firework turned out to be a damp squib.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission yesterday said a flaw in the dams' operations manual in use at the time could easily have explained apparent inconsistencies in flood engineers' evidence to the floods inquiry.

The CMC said it would be "oppressive" to mount a prosecution of three engineers whom the commission referred to it in March after allegations in the inquiry's final report that they concocted their official accounts of the event.

CMC chairman Ross Martin, SC, told The Courier-Mail the crime-fighting body had not been asked to look at the "critical issue" of the engineers making huge releases on January 11, "which was the event that triggered the actual flooding".

"The flood inquiry had its own terms of reference and it was the flood inquiry's task to pursue that and I make no criticism of that," Mr Martin said.  "We were given a much more narrow and specific focus and we've done our job."

Mr Martin said the CMC had pointed out the problem to Seqwater, who said the flaw over the definition of the "W2" strategy had been fixed.  "The revision 9 of the Wivenhoe Manual was reviewed ahead of the 2011-12 wet season and has improvements in terms of clarity and explanation of the different strategies (ie. W1, W2, W3 and W4) and the transition and decision making process between them," a spokesman said.

Seqwater said it remained "acutely aware of the impact of the floods and the devastation caused which is ongoing for so many in our community" but it was "important not to lose sight of the magnitude and rarity of the January event".

The Courier-Mail first revealed problems with the manual of operations for Somerset and Wivenhoe dams in May 2011.

The newspaper reported dam expert Max Winders in January as saying the manual was still flawed despite revisions following the flood inquiry's interim report the previous August.  Yesterday Mr Winders said the manual the engineers had used was "pathetic . . . but it wasn't those poor buggers' fault".  "The new manual is just as bad because it's not optimising flood mitigation," he said.

Mr Winders said there was a governance problem in the management of water infrastructure.

With Premier Campbell Newman ruling out any further royal commissions into the floods, victims and taxpayers now face only the uncertain prospect that civil litigation will test whether the State Government managed the dams properly.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn has registered interest from 4000 people in a suit against the government, with 2000 "committed".

IMF, which is funding the action, said it was pressing ahead and the CMC decision had no effect.  IMF's John Walker said reports from US experts had been held up by State Government delays but their findings, mapping who would not have been flooded if the dams had been managed differently, were now expected by the end of next month and would be made public.

The engineers, John Tibaldi and Terry Malone of Seqwater, and Robert Ayre, previously of SunWater, all declined to comment. Friends and colleagues said the men were deeply relieved after a stressful period.

John Ruffini, a flood engineer who gave evidence at the inquiry but was not referred to the CMC, told The Courier-Mail yesterday that he felt for his colleagues.

"I've spoken to the guys and they're all very relieved," he said. "I've known them for a long time. They're very honest."

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the engineers had been made "scapegoats" by the previous government.  He said he remained troubled that former Bligh government ministers "got off scot-free" in the aftermath of the devastating flood.  [Correct.  It was the Bligh government at fault for ordering the wrong use of the flood compartment]


Man jailed over Facebook page that rated women's sexual performance

Victoria has some very oppressive laws about speech.  This is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.  Crimes of actual violence sometimes earn no jail time.  One hopes this verdict is overturned on appeal.

PARENTS are being warned to tell their kids they could face criminal convictions for online trolling after a Victorian man was sentenced to jail for making an offensive Facebook page.

David McRory, 22, pleaded guilty in Bendigo Magistrates' Court yesterday to using a carriage service to offend and publishing objectionable material online.

The court heard McRory and a friend, Joshua Turner, 22, started a Facebook page that rated the sexual performance of women from Central Victoria.

The defence counsel said in court that McRory - the Facebook page creator - did not mean to cause long-term harm.  But he was still given a four-month jail term, which the magistrate said would send a strong message to the public about what was acceptable behaviour online.

Law Institute of Victoria spokesman Robert Stary said the rare ruling was becoming more common and warned parents to educate their kids now.  "The law has always been behind the rapid change in social media," Mr Stary said.  "But we are in a new era when the law slowly catches up with reality.

"Any parent would see as a result of this case that they have a responsibility to intervene and monitor what is being said online by their child."

Mr Stary said the number of cyber cases being prosecuted would continue to rise and said parents needed to act now.  He also called for better education in Victorian schools to drive home the risks to teens.

McRory's lawyers said they would appeal against the sentence.

Turner faced court in July and was given a wholly suspended six-month prison sentence and was also banned from using Facebook for two years.  His case is currently under appeal.


Police expected to smash CSG blockade

RESIDENTS in a Hunter settlement who have been blockading a coal seam gas (CSG) drilling site expect police to evict them on Wednesday.

More than 30 people gathered at Fullerton Cove, north of Newcastle, early on Monday morning to protest against Dart Energy's proposal to drill two CSG pilot wells. The group blockaded the site through Monday and Tuesday.

Dart has said the protesters were trespassing and preventing trucks from entering the site near Stockton Beach.

Lindsay Clout, a spokesman for the Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group, said Dart had asked police to intervene.

"NSW Police have informed Fullerton Cove residents that they will be moving in to evict them from their peaceful blockade of a coal seam gas drilling site on Wednesday," Mr Clout, a 20-year resident of the area, said in a statement.

"The residents have indicated their intention to maintain the community blockade until a proper Environment Impact Statement has been developed for the proposed gas drilling.

"We are incredibly disappointed at the heavy-handed approach they have taken to this issue by sending in the police against concerned residents."

Dart has argued that the project had been subject to a comprehensive environmental assessment from both the state and federal governments and was sustainable.


Christians in Australia have been warned to expect more intense opposition from some same-sex marriage activists following  U.S.  Chick-fil-A  episode

Mr Cathy last week stated in a radio interview that he supported the biblical definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman.  “We are a family-owned business. We want to do anything we possibly can to strengthen families,” Mr Cathy said.

Government officials from three U.S. cities responded by stating they would ban Chick-fil-A from opening restaurants in their municipalities, despite the fact that the company issued a statement saying it strives to “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect – regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender.”

Chairman of Liberty Counsel Mat Staver said it was “the height of stupidity and ignorance” for public officials to threaten denial of a right to do business because the president of a private company supported natural marriage.

“Each generation faces different issues and challenges, but our standard must always be measured by God’s word. I appreciate the Cathy family’s public support for God’s definition of marriage,” veteran evangelist Dr Billy Graham said.

In Australia, some same-sex marriage activists made loud calls in June for a boycott of coffee chain Gloria Jeans following news that the company gave $30,000 to the Australian Christian Lobby.

NSW Council of Churches President, the Revd Dr Ross Clifford, said it was regrettable that globally some public officials and others felt obliged to take extreme measures to support same-sex marriage and stifle public debate.

“We support freedom of speech. We want a reasoned, civil debate about marriage without the threat of punitive action by those who happen to disagree with us,” Dr Clifford said.

“We sense the need to warn churches and businesses led by Christians of the likely intensification of opposition to Christian values as same-sex marriage activists see their public support slipping away.”

“Extreme statements and actions by advocates of same-sex marriage, along with a growing awareness of the dangers of their radical social experiment, only serve to weaken their case and turn public opinion against them.”

“Australian church leaders have been unjustly accused of homophobia, bigotry. Virtually every week the ABC program QandA features one or more questions on gay marriage, even when the theme has nothing to do with marriage, as we saw last Monday when the program focused on sport and the Olympics,” Dr Clifford said.


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