Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Roman Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane makes a mark

WHO knew that when the church, the state and the fourth estate gathered in a room lit by the setting sun so much frivolity, sobriety, wisdom and gossip would ensue?

The new Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, His Grace, The Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, was the star of the show: witty, cultured, with a kind of over-arching intelligence that saw him politely put his oar into a range of subjects that, by rights, he should know nothing about.

"Well, I'm no expert on economics," he said, before giving a pretty expert opinion.

Yes, people in Queensland are doing it hard according to the Archbishop but we should remember that, by world standards, we're rolling in clover. His Grace was as eager as the other new boys (and girl) to exchange cards, invitations to lunch and anecdotes about mutual acquaintances.

The new Racing Queensland champion, Kevin Dixon, revealed to the new Opera Queensland artistic director, Lindy Hume, that "in another life" he'd known actor and former artistic director of the Queensland Theatre Company Robyn Nevin pretty well.

Entering the News Queensland offices at Bowen Hills, the Archbishop - who appears not to have a pompous bone in his body - introduced himself to security as "Mark".

When Ms Hume arrived, they soon started chatting and before long His Grace was belting out  in a beautiful voice  the last lines of Bach's St Matthew Passion, part of Ms Hume's 2013 season.

"It's years of practice," he said as The Courier-Mail editor, Michael Crutcher, led everyone inside. In the first-floor Ayr Room, Premier Campbell Newman, accompanied by media minder Lee Anderson walked the walk, introducing himself to everyone, making sure he shook everyone's hand.

As the sun set and proceedings began, it was clear from the deference of every leader representing organisations dependent on State Government patronage or funding who was The Big Kahuna. The Premier might be half the size of the QCI's giant ex-Wallaby CEO Damien Frawley but he has twice the muscle.

What all the leaders shared was a sense of vocation. Mr Frawley, supposedly the dry, pragmatic head of a government-owned corporation, spoke poetically of the job he was "put on this earth to do".

Ms Hume spoke of the "sense of vision" that artistic directors need, and Mr Newman mentioned the "overwhelming" responsibility he feels about his job, which he doesn't think will ever wear off.

His Grace, as might be expected, talked of the central importance in life of the artistic and the spiritual.

He was the only one who seemed impervious to the Premier's clout.

"I'm not Superman and nor are you," he said at one point, nodding at the Premier. Later he gently highlighted the Premier's political problems: "You were always going to have trouble controlling your backbench, given how big it is!"

Everyone agreed that the Queensland of 2012 is a friendly, creative, exciting place to be.

Everyone also agreed that leading big, complicated structures with unpalatable problems - most notably the Catholic Church with its Truth, Justice and Healing Council aimed at dealing with systemic sexual abuse and the Queensland Government with its job cuts and reform agenda  was not easy.

The new Police Commissioner, Ian Stewart, spoke about trying to "find a better way of us (doing) our job on behalf of the community".

There was no doubting anyone's sincerity. There was no doubting either that there will be some long, convivial lunches ahead at the Archbishop's official residence in his historic New Farm house, Wynberg.. Perhaps he might even sing a line or two.


Lovers of complusion attack freedom from Green mandates

People can still install all the rainwater tanks they like.  The only difference is that it is now voluntary

KATTER'S Australian Party leader Ray Hopper said scrapping mandatory water tanks was short-sighted and showed the government had no plan for the future.

Mr Hopper, who defected from the Liberal National Party government a few weeks ago, said drought, rather than flood, was Queensland's natural state.

Laws needed to reflect that reality, he said.  "At a time when water storages in Queensland remain full, we should be looking at ways to protect our scarce resources so that they last into the future," he said.  "This government should be saving for the rainy day. Instead, it is flushing water security down the drain."

Earlier today, a sustainable housing lobby group attacked the Queensland government for scrapping green measures for new homes.

The government last week announced it would dump laws requiring all new homes to have rainwater tanks and gas, solar or heat pump hot water systems.

Housing Minister Tim Mander says the cost of building a new home could be reduced by more than $5000, and the initiatives are an unnecessary drag on the construction industry.

But the Association of Building Sustainability Assessors (ABSA) said the government had put the state in reverse with its "bizarre" decision.

Chief executive Rodger Hills said home sustainability measures were about keeping living costs down in the long term.

"They are consumer protection measures which stop people being locked into pain ... with homes that are not efficient, future-proof, and don't cater to cyclic drought conditions or energy price hikes," he said in a statement on Monday.

He said the policy to drop the sustainability measures guaranteed the average Queensland homeowner would be worse off.

"If the Newman government wants to see the voters who got them into office paying more for power and water in new homes, then scrapping these sustainability measures is the way to do it."


Queensland to pull workers out of union-friendly Federal system

THE Newman Government has taken the first step towards seizing back industrial power from Canberra by proposing to return 300,000 small business workers to state jurisdiction.

As unions quickly condemned the move warning it would leave workers "worse off", Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said operators had raised concerns about the Federal Fair Work Act and there was "a push to refer power back to the state".

"In November 2009, the former Labor Government passed legislation to refer small business industrial relations matters to the Commonwealth," Mr Bleijie said.

"Small business operators have told us they are finding the current arrangements difficult.

"The Fair Work Act Review has also revealed concerns in the business community about the legislation's impact, particularly on workplace flexibility and productivity."

Mr Bleijie has released an issues paper giving business an opportunity to have a say with the deadline for submissions February 22, 2013.

"The Newman Government listens to business and we want to ensure the state is offering them the most effective industrial relations system," he said.

But the ACTU's President Ged Kearney warned the move would leave workers worse off.

Ms Kearney said the Newman Government had already shown its contempt for workers by moving to sack 14,000 public servants in its first year in office.

"Shifting hundreds of thousands of workers back into the Queensland IR system will leave them vulnerable to losing pay and conditions such as penalty rates," Ms Kearney said.

"The National Retail Association is already calling for the Queensland Government to reduce penalty rates and casual loadings as part of this change.

"The Newman Government could then rip apart the state award system to suit employers. When it comes to workers' penalty rates, Queenslanders should not trust the Liberal National Party."

She said Mr Bleijie had raised the plan three months ago, but it was dismissed by Premier Campbell Newman.

"It now appears this has been his government's plan all along."

The Queensland Council of Unions also warned the move would put penalty rates at risk and said the Newman Government could not be trusted.

"Shifting hundreds of thousands of workers back into the Queensland IR system will leave them vulnerable to losing pay and conditions such as penalty rates," said QCU president John Battams.

For example, if penalty rates were abolished a casual or permanent employee working a six-hour shift on Saturday or Sunday in a restaurant would receive $25 less for the Saturday work and $50 less for the Sunday, he said.

"Research shows most social, family interaction and recreational activity happens on weekend so people need some compensation for giving up these," Mr Battams said.


Family to sue W.A. governhment hospital over girl's brain damage at birth

A PERTH family has won a year-long legal battle for the right to sue the West Australian government and medical staff at the city's largest maternity hospital over a birth that left their girl with severe brain damage.

The family of eight-year-old Tahlia Burns lodged a civil lawsuit in October last year, claiming damages against the state government, two midwives and a doctor at King Edward Memorial Hospital for negligence and breach of contract and statutory duty.

The writ claimed the management of Tahlia's birth in April 2004, as well as post-natal care and advice led to her suffering brain damage, visual impairment, cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

District Court commissioner Michael Gething had ruled that the claim for damages had taken too long to be lodged and therefore should not go ahead.

But the family appealed against that decision and WA's Supreme Court has ruled they do have the right to sue to the then-health minister, midwives Tracy Bingham and Rosemary Dale and Dr Steven Harding, who were involved in her birth.

After a complex legal ruling, Chief Justice Wayne Martin today ruled that the time for Tahlia's father David Burns to file the claim had not run out and it could now proceed.

``The commissioner erred by dismissing the appellant's application without considering the merits of the application,'' Justice Martin wrote.

``Leave to appeal should be granted, the appeal should be upheld and the commissioner's order should be set aside.''


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