Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Lawyers claim dam operators caused flooding in Brisbane suburbs
Classic bureaucratic negligence. They showed no sense that they held lives in their hands. The Wivenhoe was built for flood mitigation but it is not proof against bone-headed management
DAM operators should have been on an emergency footing, making significant dam releases in December 2010, but instead negligently flooded entire suburbs in a panic the following month, lawyers claim. [Blind Freddy knows that to be true]
The law firm taking on the State Government yesterday said Chelmer, Rosalie, Auchenflower, Bulimba and the entire CBD of Ipswich were among areas that should not have flooded at all in January 2011.
The firm plans to file a complaint by April, although it has not yet established in which court.
Maurice Blackburn principal solicitor Damian Scattini said his firm and the company financing the action, IMF, were convinced there had been significant negligence before and during the floods.
Mr Scattini said the dam operators had held back too much water for too long in what appeared to have been "a misguided attempt" to keep upstream bridges open.
"When they realised what they'd done they panicked and released too much at once, so we had a much larger peak than there needed to be," he said. "Their priorities were skew-whiff."
Mr Scattini said that under dam operator Seqwater's own rules, there was a flood emergency throughout December 2010 and the first week of January 2011. But a flood event was not declared until January 6.
"Their own rules say if the dam is at 67m and there is more rain expected then they should declare a flood emergency," he said. "There was not a single day in December that those conditions did not apply. "On the second of January they said the flood was over. Then they come back on the sixth of January and keep the gates closed."
Mr Scattini said US hydrologists hired as expert witnesses had found the operators were negligent deliberately in ignoring weather forecasts.
They had also "observed" that the current version of the manual used to operate the dams "had been written to cover up what they did in 2011", he said.
But he refused to name the experts and would not reveal any of their findings in detail.
Flood victims and other Brisbane residents were yesterday poring over a map released by Maurice Blackburn that shows in green areas that it claims should not have flooded.
Areas that would have received at least 150mm (6 inches) of water regardless of how the dam was managed are marked in orange.
Some complained online that locations that did not flood were nevertheless marked green. Mr Scattini blamed state government flood maps, used to delineate the flooded areas, for the errors.
"We thought, they can hardly complain if we use their basis for the map," he said.
He said more accurate maps would be used in court.
John Walker, of litigation funding firm IMF, which is risking up to $10 million in the expectation of a big government payout, said lawyers were on track to file a complaint by April.
Mr Walker said the claim, which would be the largest class action in Australia, could potentially exceed $1 billion.
He said he hoped to get insurance companies to join the action, describing them as also having been "victims" of the dam operator's negligence.
Maurice Blackburn and IMF will spend the next two months sending leaflets throughout the suburbs, identified as having been avoidably flooded in the hope of garnering further support for their action.
Public meetings will be held in these areas in the next few weeks.
A spokesman for Seqwater said the company was "acutely aware of the impact of the floods" but rejected claims of negligence.
"We've always been confident that Wivenhoe Dam was managed as it was supposed to be managed, and the dam performed as it was designed to perform during the range of flood events from October 2010 into January 2011," the spokesman said.
Private schools reap secondary student numbers at state's expense
Private schooling mainly at High School level is the Australian norm but the pattern may be acceletating
On the figures above, 42% of Australian teenagers go to non-government high schools, which IS edging up
STUDENTS are flocking to government primary schools but the number sticking with the system for their secondary education is in free-fall.
Education Department figures, compiled for the Herald Sun, show the Catholic and independent sectors are snaring more students.Government secondary schools are expected to have 4700 fewer students than three years ago, a 2.1 per cent decline.
Deakin University Prof Jill Blackmore said parents appeared happy to trust state primary schools, but many were willing to invest to give their child the best chance at university and making lifelong contacts.
"They know that government schools actually do a good job at preparing them in the critical areas of literacy and numeracy," Prof Blackmore said. "But they know the social capital factor is the thing that is critical in secondary."
Enrolment figures, which include estimates for this year, show government primary schools are on track to record three-year growth of 5.4 per cent. The figure is on par with other sectors.
But while state secondary enrolments are going backwards, those at Catholic secondary schools are up 3.8 per cent and independent schools 1.6 per cent.
Catholic Education Office executive director Stephen Elder said growth was strong across Melbourne, particularly in new suburbs.
Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said many established private schools were at or near capacity.
An Education Department spokesman said a baby boom, which began in 2006, was driving government primary enrolments and would flow to secondary schools.
VCAT backs former drugs offender to work with children
VCAT are notorious Leftist lamebrains. They will go you for criticizing Muslims but nothing else seem to bother them
A MAN who racked up 25 drug offences across four states in 17 years has won an appeal to work with children.
The decision was made after Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal deputy president Heather Lambrick said she believed the man's "prolonged history of offending is now behind him".
The appeal was heard on December 18, two weeks before Victoria's new working-with-children check laws, which changed legal tests for applicants with serious criminal convictions, applied.
It heard the man, referred to as JFC and who now wants to coach cricket and study welfare, was released from jail in 2010. He had been sentenced to a minimum of 6 1/2 years in jail after being found to be a "major co-ordinator" in a drug ring that distributed at least 900kg of cannabis worth more than $5 million.
Ms Lambrick said JFC had also been charged with four weapons-related offences between 1985 and 2004, and been a drug addict.
She said there was no evidence JFC had sold drugs directly to children but "there is every probability that at least some of the cannabis he distributed made its way into the hands of vulnerable children". Despite this, she said the man appeared to be reformed and had not used drugs for a decade.
The Secretary to the Department of Justice, who refused the man's application for a working-with-children check, had pointed to internal correction documents "which implicated JFC in drug use and drug dealing whilst in prison". The man had also spent time in "separated management" after cannabis seeds were found in his unit.
But Ms Lambrick said JFC had denied he dealt or used drugs in jail and had not been charged there.
"The time has come to enable him to re-engage fully with the community and that extends to his being able to work with children," she ruled. "It can never be said that a person poses no risk to children. However I consider any risk posed by JFC to be extremely low."
A spokesman for Attorney-General Robert Clark, James Copsey, said he was not able to comment on JFC's case. But he said the Coalition had bolstered laws applying to applicants "with previous serious convictions".
Free speech denied to Geert Wilders
The obvious question is, what are they afraid of? Is it fear of violence, or vandalism, or simply fear of association?
Debbie Robinson, a small business operator who describes herself as an ordinary citizen, wants to bring to Australia a Dutch political leader who is a supporter of democracy, freedom of religion, feminism and gay rights. But when she started making arrangements all she encountered was fear.
"In Sydney, venues that were initially available were cancelled or would not take the booking when they realised who the speaker was," she told me. She provided a list of rejections: the Hilton Hotel, North Sydney Leagues Club, Sydney Masonic Centre, Wesley Convention Centre, Luna Park Function Centre, the Concourse at Chatswood and the Sir John Clancy Auditorium at the University of NSW.
"I offered a church-based venue in Sydney a donation and their reply was, 'You could offer $4 million and we would not accept your booking'."
Finding venues was not her only problem. "Earlier in the year I approached APN Outdoor to arrange a four-week run of bus ads in Sydney. The artwork was forwarded to them and I was quoted a price for the job . . . Then I was advised they would not be able to run the ad as it was too political and would result in the buses being damaged and defaced. They would not say who would do the damage."
The same happened in Perth, where Robinson lives, when venues declined to take her booking, including the Burswood Casino. When she tried to organise a payments system for the tour, she was rejected by Westpac. The bank, which has been courting the Chinese Communist government for years, wanted nothing to do with this Dutch democrat.
"I was organising an e-way payment system with Westpac to link to the website of the Q Society [the sponsor of the tour]. I received a call from a manager who said the Westpac Risk Management Team had decided the material for sale was offensive and inappropriate and therefore they would not proceed with the e-way system. I asked to speak to the manager responsible and was told he was on leave."
The Dutch MP causing so much concern is Geert Wilders, the leader of the Party of Freedom (PVV), the king-maker in Dutch politics over the past two years. When Wilders withdrew his support for the government last year, it collapsed and a national election was called.
A month after that election, in which the PVV polled a million votes and won 16 seats, Wilders was scheduled to be in Australia. The trip was cancelled after it was sabotaged by the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen.
The minister then had the gall to write an opinion piece, published in The Australian on October 2 last year, in which he claimed, "I have decided not to intervene to deny [Wilders] a visa because I believe that our democracy is strong enough, our multiculturalism robust enough and our commitment to freedom of speech entrenched enough that our society can withstand the visit of a fringe commentator."
Reality check: Bowen's department sat on Wilders' visa application for almost two months, then acted only after the minister received public criticism and Wilders was cancelling his trip.
No such long delay hindered the visit of Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, an apologist for jihad, when he made a speaking tour in Australia last September while Wilders was being frozen out. When questioned in Parliament, Bowen replied: "Hizb ut-Tahrir has not been proscribed in Australia . . . This entry permit was issued in accordance with the normal procedures for British nationals."
Apparently, the anti-Western Hizb ut-Tahrir is not "fringe", nor worthy of an excoriating opinion piece, but the leader of a party that won 24 seats, 1.4 million votes, and 15 per cent of the vote in the Dutch 2010 election represents an extremist fringe.
People are entitled to loathe Wilders, or shun him. They are also entitled to support him, or hear him. The problems encountered with his visit illustrate the double-speak, double-standards and fear that exists when it comes to the subject for which Wilders is notorious - confronting Muslim extremism.
Neither Wilders nor the PVV have ever been involved in violent conduct, yet he has lived under 24-hour police protection for the past nine years, since two Muslim fundamentalists were arrested after a siege in 2004 and charged with planning to assassinate him.
When Wilders comes to Australia next month for speaking engagements in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, he will be accompanied by five Dutch security officers. The venues will not be revealed until 48 hours before each speech.
Wilders believes Islam is a political ideology, not just a religion, and should be compared with totalitarian belief systems. He has compared the Koran to Fascism and Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. He advocates ending immigration by Muslims because the Netherlands was losing its demographic and social stability. For this he was taken to court for hate speech. He won, but the case occupied three years.
Wilders is opposed to what he calls the Islamification of Europe by a combination of demography, immigration and accommodations by multiculturalism that are not reciprocated by Muslims. Two other Dutch political activists who were similarly critical of Islam were subject to numerous assassination attempts. One was murdered, the other fled to America.
Debbie Robinson believes the fear she has encountered in Australia merely confirms her reasons for arranging Wilders' visit: "With every refusal I asked why, and was almost always informed that management had concerns about the repercussions. The audience was never the issue. The issue was offending Muslims. Looking at the number of cancellations and refusals it is apparent the Islamic community are not getting their message across about being the religion of peace."