Tuesday, January 01, 2013

This is not New  York. It's Sydney

But it got results

POLICE were last night forced to charge almost double the number of people arrested during New Year's Eve celebrations compared to last year.

A total of 97 people were charged during Operation Paramount, the police deployment which saw 3000 officers hit the streets across the CBD, Sydney Harbour, beachside locations, major Metropolitan centres and the public transport network.

Most charges related to drug supply and possession, assault, affray, assaulting police, breach of bail, offensive behaviour and malicious damage.

More than 440 people were treated by St John’s Ambulance volunteers and 370 people requested assistance from ambulance paramedics with a range of injuries, including heat stroke, intoxication, sprains and broken bones.

This year, a number of specialist police commands provided critical assistance across Sydney, including the new Police Transport Command which ensured the safety of thousands of people who travelled to and from events on the public transport network.

Marine Area Command provided a safe and secure environment for more than 3000 vessels watching the fireworks on the water.

Operation Paramount commander Assistant Commissioner Alan Clarke said despite the arrests, most people celebrated responsibly.

"Around 1.6 million people celebrated New Year’s Eve in public areas across Sydney tonight and the overwhelming majority enjoyed the festivities without incident," he said.

"Unfortunately, there are a small group whose behaviour gained police attention and led to criminal charges. It’s not the best way to start 2013."

Significant incidents last night included two 22-year-old men being arrested at Woolloomooloo by Kings Cross Police after allegedly pointing a laser light at PolAir. They were later charged with threatening the safety of an aircraft and using a prohibited weapon. Both men were granted strict conditional bail and are due to appear at Downing Centre Local Court on Monday 21 January 2013.

About 30 people were arrested during a drug-dog operation at Bondi Junction Railway Station.

A number of commands also seized illegal fireworks from back yard parties.

Assistant Commissioner Clarke thanked crowds for their continued good behaviour as they left the CBD and harbour areas.

"While there have been a few idiots trying to spoil the end of the evening for others, it is good to see most revellers celebrated within their limits, looked out for their mates and are heading home in good spirits," he said.

"Once again, Sydney has set the standard for the rest of the world, not just with our impressive fireworks display, also our ability to celebrate safely."


ABC sets lower standards bar

DRAWING comparisons to pedophiles to attack your opponents is acceptable under the ABC complaints process - held up as the ideal model by media inquiry head Ray Finkelstein - but has been ruled out of order by the newspapers' existing regulatory body.

Mr Finkelstein recommended in his government-commissioned review of the media industry earlier this year that the self-regulatory Australian Press Council should be overhauled in line with the ABC model.

But two decisions this week reveal the APC is tougher on commentators who compare opponents with pedophiles.

On Tuesday, The Australian reported that the ABC had dismissed a complaint by its former chairman, Maurice Newman, against science broadcaster Robyn Williams, who made a comparison between climate change deniers and pedophiles last month. An ABC spokeswoman said the complaint was dismissed because the editorial context of the segment was reasonable, meaning "harm and offence" was justified.

Today, The Australian publishes an adjudication by the APC about an opinion article in the newspaper by the libertarian conservative commentator James Delingpole about the Australian wind-farm industry.

The article quoted an unnamed sheep farmer who said that the "wind-farm business is bloody well near a pedophile ring. They're f . . king our families and knowingly doing so."

The APC upheld the complaint, concluding that because pedophilia was a "very serious and odious crime" the comments were "highly offensive".

"The council's principles relate, of course, to whether something is acceptable journalistic practice, not whether it is unlawful," the adjudication says.

"They are breached where, as in this case, the level of offensiveness is so high that it outweighs the very strong public interest in freedom of speech. It was fully justifiable in the public interest to convey the intensity of feeling by some opponents of wind farms but that goal did not require quoting the reference to pedophilia."

Two other complaints about the Delingpole piece published on May 3 were also upheld by the APC, however several others were denied on the basis they were "not of a kind on which the council could make a decision".

Mr Finkelstein declined to comment on how the regulatory body he decided needed to be overhauled had been harder on such a similar issue than the ABC's own complaints process.

Newman had complained to ABC boss Mark Scott that Williams had failed the broadcaster's "public interest" test.

During a November 24 broadcast of The Science Show, Williams said: "What if I told you that pedophilia is good for children, or that smoking crack is a normal part and a healthy one of teenage life, to be encouraged? You'd rightly find it outrageous. But there have been similar statements coming out of inexpert mouths again and again in recent times, distorting the science."

An ABC spokeswoman again defended its decision when asked if the APC adjudication meant the ABC might review it. "The ABC acknowledges there are climate scientists who question the core thinking about climate science. The ABC gives them . . . air time. The weight of our coverage, however, rests with the weight of the broad consensus, focusing on the extent of the impact of climate change and the speed and nature of human interventions required in response."


South Australia private school fees take a hike

But still booming

PARENTS will pay an extra $355 to send their child to a private school next year as fees rise by an average 5.5 per cent.

Across the state, fees at independent schools will rise by between 3 and 10.5 per cent, while more schools are charging over $20,000 - or more than $500 a week - for Year 12.

Schools say the fee increases are a result of the rising cost of providing education, driven by changes to federal and state education policies and programs, utilities and teacher salaries.

Association of Independent Schools of SA chief executive Garry Le Duff said the fee increases were consistent with past years and rising costs common to all schools.

He said a survey of member schools showed the significant cost drivers were teacher salaries and training, increasing water and electricity charges, the introduction of a new curriculum, compliance requirements and the replacement of outdated technology.

"Thoughtful and considered increases in fees ensure continuous improvement in education to meet parents' expectations and attract and retain the best available teaching talent," he said.

Mr Le Duff said the survey also showed the majority of independent schools expected to increase or maintain their enrolments next year and in the long-term. Many schools, he said, were at their enrolment capacity.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that over the 12 months to the September quarter 2012, inflation in the education sector rose 6.1 per cent. The main contributor to the rise was secondary education, up 7.7 per cent.

A spokeswoman for St Peter's College said the school was focused on reducing costs where possible - but the cost of education was continuing to rise faster than general inflation due to changes in federal and state education policies.

Catholic Education SA director Paul Sharkey said fee increases at Catholic schools had been kept to a minimum but would be similar to those at independent schools.

"People are conscious of the need to be quite careful to keep any increases to the absolute minimum at the moment," he said. "I haven't heard of any others freezing fees like Rostrevor."


Australia ready to take up new UN seat

Australia takes up its two-year term on the United Nations Security Council from today, after it was elected as a non-permanent member in October.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr says Australia will now have a direct hand in dealing with global security challenges such as the ongoing conflict in Syria.

He says Australia's unique experience with humanitarian crises in the Pacific region will be invaluable.

"Our involvement in conflicts in Timor-Leste, Bougainville, Afghanistan, all give us experience that will be valuable on the Security Council," he said.

"To look at the conflicts in Africa and as well, to look at the really big challenges like that of the North Korean rocket launch of December 12, or the continuing bloodshed in Syria."

Senator Carr says the Government will not abandon its aid commitments to cover the cost of asylum seekers.

A total of $375 million from the foreign aid budget will be diverted or delayed over a two-year period so the money can be used to feed and house asylums seekers.

But Senator Carr says nothing will be sacrificed.


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