Friday, December 21, 2012
Qld. police still trying to justify themselves in Stafford case
As the Appeal court found, the evidence was weak and interpretable as in part a police fabrication. The case hung on a single maggot found in Stafford's car but who knows how the maggot got there? The Lucas inquiry found way back that fabrication of evidence was pervasive in the Qld. police but zip, nothing, nada was ever done about that as far as we can tell
GRAHAM Stafford could again be tried for the murder of schoolgirl Leanne Holland after the Attorney-General ordered an independent review of the evidence against him.
The dramatic announcement late yesterday came two days after the Director of Public Prosecutions said he would not bring Mr Stafford back to court - despite new evidence uncovered in a review by senior detectives.
Mr Stafford spent more than 14 years in jail after a jury found him guilty of the torture murder of the 13-year-old in 1991. But he was released after the Court of Appeal overturned his conviction.
On Tuesday, Police Commissioner Ian Stewart announced a review of the investigation had uncovered enough new evidence to send Mr Stafford back to jail.
But the Director of Public Prosecutions decided it was not in the public interest to order a new trial.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has the power to retry Mr Stafford over Leanne Holland's murder in an ex-officio indictment - even after the DPP has decided to drop the case.
Yesterday, he said he had secured a former Supreme Court judge and solicitor-general to review the evidence and recommend whether it was in the public interest to try Mr Stafford again. Kenneth Mackenzie, QC, is expected to make his recommendation early next year.
"As I have the power to order the re-trial of Graham Stafford independent of the DPP, I have decided to seek independent advice on the strength of the evidence," Mr Bleijie said.
"Presenting an ex-officio indictment is an important power that has been preserved by legislation."
"Mr Mackenzie will consider whether there are reasonable prospects of obtaining a conviction should the matter proceed to retrial and if a retrial is in the public interest."
On Tuesday, Mr Stafford said he would welcome a new trial as an opportunity to clear his name.
"Because it's taken so long, in a way I've just put it out of my head and gotten on with my life - started a new job, I've made new friends, got a new relationship and (I'm) just really content with my life," Mr Stafford said.
"But obviously at the back of your mind is this and it keeps coming back and it's still not resolved."
The last time an Attorney-General initiated an ex-officio indictment was when the DPP ruled there was not enough evidence to proceed against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley over the 2004 in-custody death of Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island.
Surplus fudge abandoned
It was obviously a fudge from the beginning. One wonders why the ALP ever made such a promise. Very short-term thinking, apparently
THROW out the bad news before Christmas. Hope that nobody notices. Who cares about a surplus anyway? The economists have been saying it doesn't matter, indeed that we would have been better off if the government had not locked itself into it. But Wayne Swan's ditching of the promise that the government first made in 2010 - in the budget when Kevin Rudd was still prime minister and the government expected to reap lots of loot from a robust mining tax - is a difficult and humiliating backflip.
It is a broken promise of the first order. True, in its October budget update and ever since, the government has put some qualification around its pledge. The $1.1 billion surplus was so thin there was always the risk it could not be produced.
A recent survey of economists found hardly any thought it would be delivered and of the rest, the expectation was for a deficit of $5 billion to $20 billion - still a hefty turnaround from last financial year's deficit of nearly $44 billion.
Despite some recent softening-up for a possible change, the surplus promise is so long-standing and so often reiterated over the years that the impact of having to walk away from it is politically huge.
The opposition can crow. It has said all along that the government would never deliver a surplus and, if Labor loses the election, that (probably) will be true.
Swan cracked hardy. ''If the worst thing that people say is we got the economics right again but fell short on the politics, well I just say, so be it'', he said. He knows things don't work like that. This is not an economic problem for the government - it is a political one. It goes to trust and credibility. Trust, or lack of it, is Gillard's underlying vulnerability - notably, when it comes to policy, since she broke her word on the carbon tax.
There are so many quotes to throw back at the government. On December 7 Gillard said: ''Our last economic update had us at trend growth and that's why the last economic update had us with a surplus. We are still determined to deliver the surplus.''
Leader of the House Anthony Albanese is looking particularly red-faced. On Sky on Sunday he was asked: ''If you had to walk through a door and your life depended on it, is the government going to deliver a surplus or is it going to fall into a small deficit in May?'' He was unequivocal: ''Well, the government's going to deliver a surplus. That's our policy. That's what we've been working towards.''
The broken promise on a surplus is rather different in nature from the ''no carbon tax'' one - circumstances have changed - but they can easily be bundled together.
Tony Abbott was quick to link them: ''You just can't trust this government to manage the economy. You just can't trust this government to tell the truth.''
At his news conference, Swan was awkwardly reminded that in 2008 he had talked about a ''temporary'' deficit, and there had been a deficit ever since. For good reasons, certainly, but words and pledges come back to haunt politicians.
Swan insists the government is doing fine in managing the economy. He says spending restraint will continue. It's just that it would be counterproductive, threatening jobs, to try to fill what has become - on the latest figures released on Thursday - an even larger gaping revenue hole. ''In just four months, we've already seen the full hit to revenue that we were expecting for the whole year,'' Swan said.
It is interesting the government decided to cut its losses now, rather than wait for more figures in the new year. Stephen Koukoulas, of Market Economics, a former economic adviser to Gillard, looking at the latest numbers before Swan's announcement, judged that it remained ''a close-run thing whether the budget will be in small surplus or small deficit for 2012-13''. (Swan's phrasing was equivocal - he said it was ''unlikely'' there will be a surplus.)
If the government had decided to hang on and hope, it would have had to work like fury over Christmas to make savage cuts. It was running out of time to achieve results quickly enough. The nightmare scenario would have been for it to announce a round of unpopular savings, only to later find it had to admit it still couldn't achieve a surplus.
One problem Swan will have is containing expectations that the way is now open for more spending. Without the discipline of the surplus target, all sorts of groups will be making demands. There will be pressure from the welfare lobby to give those on the dole a better deal, from the foreign aid lobby to restore the money diverted this week to spending on asylum seekers. Swan is adamant the government remains tough on the expenditure side.
But, of course, there will be big spending promises in the May budget, coming not long before the election. The government has said it will give firm commitments to the billions of dollars needed for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski school funding. Swan insists these will be financed by changing priorities - in other words, there will be savings.
Every promise broken makes people more suspicious of future promises. When the government outlines the funding for the NDIS and Gonski, critics will question whether these promises will be delivered.
Both sides of politics know the debate over who will be the more responsible economic manager is vital, and this was reinforced by this week's Age-Nielsen poll. Asked to choose the issue most important in how they would vote, 35 per cent selected the economy. There was quite a partisan difference; the economy was chosen by 27 per cent of Labor voters and 51 per cent of Coalition supporters. But in an election where the Labor government would survive only if it won seats in net terms, it must try to attract Coalition voters on their core issue.
Whistleblower 'vindicated' by airport Customs raid
A WHISTELBLOWER convicted of leaking reports about Customs operations at Sydney airport is questioning why it has taken years to act on security flaws.
Allan Kessing, who in 2007 was convicted of leaking reports about security at Sydney Airport to the Australian newspaper, told reporters on Friday that it was widely known the airport had problems with security.
"It is not possible, it is simply not credible to say that nobody knew there was this extent of corruption," he said. "Anybody who has the slightest experience of this area knew there were problems. "The fact that they haven't been acted on until now begs the question, why?"
Mr Kessing - a former Australian Customs officer - wrote two damning reports on Sydney airport security in 2003.
He was convicted four years later of having leaked the reports to media. He had faced a maximum two years jail but was instead handed a nine-month suspended sentence.
Speaking alongside Mr Kessing, Independent senator Nick Xenophon urged the federal government to release Mr Kessing's suppressed reports. "The two reports prepared by Mr Kessing 10 years ago, nine years ago, need to be released as a matter of urgency," Senator Xenophon said. "It's important that Justice James Woods is given access to those reports."
Mr Kessing said the reports advocated a range of measures to boost security, including stricter background checks for airport staff and more scrutiny of customs officers by their superiors.
It emerged on Thursday that two customs officers and five members of the public have been charged following a joint investigation by law enforcement agencies into corruption and drug smuggling at Sydney airport.
The investigation on Thursday prompted the establishment of a reform board, headed by Justice James Wood, to ensure customs is clean.
'Perfect storm' of mishaps in NSW government hospital behind death
Careless government doctor didn't give a sh*t about his patient
A MUCH-LOVED mother died because of a "perfect storm" of medical oversights, lost opportunities and gaps in the system, a coroner has found.
Marie Haywood, 43, was on the liver transplant waiting list when she was admitted to Campbelltown Hospital on December 21, 2008 to have fluid drained from her abdomen. She was discharged on Boxing Day, vomiting, crying and suffering from an oozing wound before dying three days later, the inquest into her death has been told.
NSW Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon on Friday found Mrs Haywood died of multi-organ failure. The medical cause, he told Glebe Coroner's Court, was hepatorenal syndrome and sepsis.
Mr Dillon said the cause of death could be more simply described as "a perfect storm".
The senior doctor who signed off Mrs Haywood's discharge on December 26, Dr Ian Turner, did not see her or compare her pathology results with those taken on Christmas Day, the coroner found. "Such a comparison would have made Mrs Haywood's deteriorating trend starkly obvious," Mr Dillon said, adding, "Another opportunity was therefore lost."
Mr Dillon said the only doctor who saw her on the day she left the hospital was a "relatively inexperienced intern" who did not know her case and who, reasonably, assumed a member of her treating team had already reviewed her case.
The coroner recommended that patients admitted to hospitals for paracentesis should not be discharged without being reviewed by a senior member of the treating team.
All available pathology results should also be reviewed before the discharge of any such patients, he said, and where results were not immediately available, patients should be asked not to leave the hospital until they were.
Mr Dillon also found that inadequate attention had been paid to Mrs Haywood's fluid levels, recommending that South Western Sydney Local Health District consider maintaining full fluid balance charts for all patients undergoing paracentesis.
Mrs Haywood herself did not think she would cope at home and was barely able to walk when she left the hospital, Mr Dillon said.
Her sister, Diane McDermott, received a call from Mrs Haywood on Boxing Day morning during which her sister started crying and said she was worried about being discharged.
Ultimately, Mrs Haywood's condition worsened and she returned to hospital on December 27, before dying there on December 29.
The coroner was unable to answer what he said must be "the burning question" for her grieving husband John Haywood - whether she would have survived if her deterioration had been detected before she was discharged. "Grim as her prospects were, it is not possible to be certain of the outcome," he said.
Mr Dillon found that an early working diagnosis of pneumonia was ruled out as early as December 24, yet pneumonia continued to be blamed for the chest pain experienced by Mrs Haywood. This pain was almost certainly caused by pleural effusions, he said.
"Correctly diagnosed, it may have ... drawn attention to the need to keep a wary eye on her pathology results," he said. "Much of the clinical focus was directed towards a condition from which, it is now clear, she did not suffer."
Outside the court, Mr Haywood - who described Marie as his "soulmate" - said the coroner had recognised mistakes were made at Campbelltown Hospital in the last days of his wife's life.
"We can only hope that they do change and that things do get better for other people," he said.
He cried as he told reporters how Marie's death had hit her teenage son, who was not present in court on Friday.
His sister-in-law Ms McDermott said she would spend Christmas remembering Marie, the beloved baby of the family. "Christmas for Marie was the best time of the year, with family. That's the hardest part," she said.