Thursday, December 06, 2012

Tasmanian magistrate is a criminal's best friend

Why can't they fire these galoots?

THE Supreme Court has upheld a sixth appeal in 12 months against the rulings of a Launceston magistrate, describing his decision to let a repeat driving offender walk free as "manifestly inadequate".

According to the published decisions of the Supreme Court, Magistrate Reg Marron has this year been the subject of more successful police appeals than all of the state's other magistrates combined.

In contrast to the six appeals upheld against Mr Marron, the 13 other magistrates have been the subject of just four successful Supreme Court appeals between them.

The published rulings against the magistrate feature criticisms of overly lenient sentences, of critical prosecution evidence being overlooked and failures to provide adequate reasons for decisions.

In the Supreme Court's latest decision, Chief Justice Ewan Crawford overturned Magistrate Marron's decision to sentence Stacey Amanda Bessell to a suspended jail term and 63 hours' community service for two counts of driving while disqualified and failing to hand in her licence after being disqualified.

Bessell, 32, has a criminal record of 242 offences including driving matters, offences of violence and dishonesty and her latest crimes breached the conditions of a three-month suspended jail sentence.

Justice Crawford described the sentence imposed by Magistrate Marron as manifestly inadequate and his reasons for not activating the suspended sentence as vague.

Justice Crawford sentenced Bessell to four months' jail and ordered the three-month suspended sentence be served at the same time.

In October, the Supreme Court overturned a sentence Magistrate Marron imposed on hoon driver Sean Gregory Richardson, 21, of Newnham.

Earlier that month, the court rejected Mr Marron's decision to dismiss an assault conviction against Legana man John Abraham Mokomoko despite the evidence of two witnesses.

The Supreme Court overturned Mr Marron's sentence in another driving case in March, when he fined a man $200 and disqualified him from driving for two months for his fourth, fifth and sixth charges of driving without a licence.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman would not comment on the case.


Gabriel Garcia Marquez's book Love In The Time of Cholera not fit for school reading list, teacher says

A NOVEL put on the reading list for high school students has been branded "pornographic" amid calls for it to be banned from the classroom.

The famous book, Love in the Time of Cholera, depicts the story of a 78-year-old man who has an incestuous sexual relationship with a 14-year-old who later commits suicide.

But despite the content the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority has placed it on next year's text list for VCE literature students.

Trinity Grammar School senior literature teacher Christopher Bantick today hit out at the decision, branding the book inappropriate for teenagers.

"It beggars belief that people would actually select the text for the course," Mr Bantick told radio 3AW's Neil Mitchell program.  "It beggars belief that someone thinks that this is an appropriate text.

"And it raises serious questions over who on earth selected it and their competence let alone their own maturity.

"I would be prepared to say this is a pornographic text.  "I don't think that's in any shape or form appropriate for 16-year-old girls or boys."

Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez's lack of accountability for the girl's suicide in his work was a particular concern and gave a "distorted view" of how society regarded young people.

"There is no way I would teach this text," Mr Bantick told 3AW.   "Absolutely no way.  "If this book was on the list I had to teach I would simply decline it."

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority has been contacted for comment.

Marquez, a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, released the bestselling novel in 1985 to many rave reviews.


NSW hospitals still failing to meet emergency deadlines

THE state's hospitals have failed to meet their targets for emergency departments for the third quarter in a row, meaning NSW will lose out on millions of dollars in federal funding.

In the July to September quarter, only 59 per cent of patients were treated, transferred or discharged from emergency departments within four hours, data released by the Bureau of Health Information shows.

Under a national health reform agreement implemented in January, NSW was set a benchmark of treating or referring 69 per cent of patients from emergency departments within four hours to qualify for $15.9 million in federal funding.

The office of the state Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, confirmed that even if everybody admitted for the rest of the year completed their stay within the recommended time frame, the target could still not be met.

The loss of reward funding comes after the state government announced in September that local health districts would be forced to cut $775 million from the health budget over four years.

The bureau data showed doctors treated an extra 21,000 emergency patients in the last quarter, with the greatest increase seen in patients with imminently life threatening conditions. But the number of patients requiring less urgent medical attention was 63,602, a drop of 14 per cent from the same time last year.

The vice-president of the Australian Medical Association in NSW, Saxon Smith, said it showed people were seeking out the appropriate type of care when they were sick or injured.

''This signals to me that the public are playing their part in improving waiting times by accessing the appropriate service, such as their GPs, when situations are not life-threatening'' Dr Smith said. ''But people are waiting too long in emergency departments and we are struggling to meet demand.''

The bureau also reported on the number on the elective surgery waiting list, with Mrs Skinner praising hospitals for meeting recommended times across all surgeries for the first time.

But the NSW president for the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Sally McCarthy, said it was no good pointing out positives in elective surgery times when the state was failing to meet emergency targets.

''We are focusing on one area at the expense of the other,'' Dr McCarthy said.


Compulsory superannuation is a rort

It puts your savings into the hands of government-controlled bunglers and risks confiscation via inflation

Speaking at this week’s annual Association of Superannuation Funds conference, Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson noted that ‘the fiscal sustainability of all policies, including superannuation, will demand greater public scrutiny.’ In the lead-up to this year’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, there was also speculation that superannuation tax concessions would be curtailed.

This points to a major tension in the approach of Australian governments to retirement incomes policy. On the one hand, government wants to promote superannuation as a tax-advantaged saving vehicle to reduce future demands on the budget from an ageing population. On the other hand, governments are increasingly reluctant to forgo revenue today through superannuation tax concessions. How the government resolves this tension will be an important determinant of whether compulsory superannuation achieves its objectives.

Much of the tinkering with the taxation of superannuation – for example, the 1988 changes – has been motivated by a desire to bring forward revenue to meet recurrent expenditure and improve the budget balance at lower political cost relative to raising other taxes. It illustrates the vulnerability of what is a captive tax base to even greater depredations on the part of future governments. As the pool of superannuation assets grows, the temptation for politicians to increase taxes on earnings will also increase.

Superannuation could also become a vehicle for financial repression by spendthrift governments – for example, by forcing super funds to hold government bonds. Until 1981, Australian superannuation funds were forced to hold at least 30% of their assets as government bonds, so there is ample historical precedent for such directed lending to government. The taxation of super to meet demands for recurrent expenditure has been working at cross-purposes with the objectives of retirement incomes policy. Rather than reducing future demands on the federal budget, compulsory super may end up feeding current demands for government expenditure in the absence of reforms to make the taxation of super more transparent.


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