Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tough new penalties wanted for racial spite

People get abused for all sorts of reasons.  You need to get used to it.  It is part of life.  I was accused at school of being a homosexual because I had no interest in sport.  It was like water off a duck's back to me.  I just went on my way reading books.  Why should racial abuse get treated differently?  If you agree with Alan Jones, why should you be prevented from saying so?  The behaviour of Lebanese Muslims is notorious

The broadcaster Alan Jones could have been jailed for up to three years for labelling Lebanese Muslims "vermin" and "mongrels" who "rape and pillage", under a proposed overhaul of NSW racial vilification laws.

The criminal prosecution of a woman who racially abused the ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez on a Sydney bus in February might also have been possible under changes being suggested by prominent community groups.

The Jewish Board of Deputies and the NSW Community Relations Commission are pushing for a radical overhaul of the laws in submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into whether it should be easier to criminally prosecute cases of serious racial vilification.

The inquiry was ordered by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, who was concerned there has not been a prosecution since the laws began in 1989. The inquiry has been attacked by opponents who say changes risk trampling on free speech.

The NSW Anti-Discrimination Act applies penalties of up to $5500 and six months' jail for inciting hatred, contempt or ridicule against a person or group based on their race.

But it must be proved that the person threatened physical harm against the person or group, or their property, or incited others to do so.

The community groups argue the reference to physical harm should be scrapped.

The Jewish Board of Deputies argues there is "a serious gap" in the law and suggests a new offence of "conduct intended to harass on grounds of race". The change would mean criminal prosecutions could be pursued over racial harassment that involves threats, intimidation or "serious racial abuse", whether or not a physical threat is involved.

The submission argues the maximum penalties should be a fine of $27,500 or two years' imprisonment for individuals and fines of up to $137,500 for corporations. It also says the offence should be included in the Crimes Act, be subject to a jury trial and include online abuse.

The Community Relations Commission argues for similar changes and proposes a maximum penalty of three years in jail.

The commission's chairman, Stepan Kerkyasharian, who is also president of the Anti-Discrimination Board, argues in the submission that the laws "ensure that both incitement of hatred and harassment can be prosecuted".

He also says the laws should be extended to cover cases where a person is assumed to be part of a racial group even if they are not and clarified to capture vilification online and on social media.

"If the ferocity of the verbal attack is significant enough, that in itself should be enough to be a breach of the act," Mr Kerkyasharian said.

But the secretary of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks, said the proposals "go too far".

Mr Blanks said criminal prosecutions could be made easier by removing the requirement to prove the intention to incite physical violence. This would "preserve the right to free speech but attack speech with consequence".

In January Jones was ordered by the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal to apologise on air for describing Lebanese Muslims as "vermin" and "mongrels" who "simply rape, pillage and plunder a nation that's taken them in".

In February, Mr Fernandez tweeted that while on a bus a woman had said he was a "black c---" and told him to "go back to my country" during a 15-minute tirade of racial abuse.


Homework haters

Learning to study and work by yourself is an essential skill.  You will learn that way for most of your life so you need to learn how.  And you probably learn best by studying at your own pace

HOMEWORK hijacks family life, is stopping children from exercising and should be reviewed, a leading child psychologist has warned.

As debate continues over the effectiveness of homework, The Sunday Mail can reveal Education Queensland has abolished its homework time guidelines, including that Prep students "generally" should not be set any.

Students aged 4-5 are now often being sent home with "readers".

Early Childhood Teachers Association president Kim Walters said they were against that idea, with Prep students better off reading practical texts such as recipes and catalogues at home, or having stories read to them by parents.

Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, who has been voicing concerns about homework for years, said while he was not opposed to it, he was opposed to how it was being delivered.

"The reason I want a change is because the evidence base is there that says there is no academic benefit from homework in primary school, it hijacks family life, they (children) are not doing enough exercise and it causes fights," he said.

He said homework should be reviewed nationally and either abolished in primary school or include practical activities such as housework, shopping, sport and board games.

Associate Professor Mike Horsley of Central Queensland University said homework should be reformed.

Prof Horsley, who co-wrote the book Reforming Homework, said while research showed homework had no effect on achievement in children aged under eight, and little benefit in Years 4 to 6, it did have benefits for younger students by teaching them to "self-regulate" if it was of high quality.

"Research done in Germany shows that often kids who spend a long time doing homework actually achieve less than kids who spend a very small time doing homework," he said.

"It has to involve new learning - not drill and practice ... and they (children) have to have a fair degree of say in how and when and what they do in their homework."

He said homework did make a difference to achievement in Years 10 to 12 and was a contentious issue.

An investigation by The Sunday Mail has found many Queensland Year 11 and 12 students are being set about three hours of homework a night, including assignments.

Queensland Secondary Principals' Association president Norm Fuller said in state schools about 15 hours a week was the general guideline for homework in Year 12, but ambitious students often studied more.

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said "the happy medium is to make sure kids can still be kids".

Education Queensland assistant director-general Marg Pethiyagoda said state schools developed homework policy in consultation with their school community.

"Teachers are best placed to decide the extent and type of homework that suits the individual learning needs of their students in all year levels, including Prep," she said.


Taxpayers fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars for lawsuits over blunders at Queensland public hospitals

If it wasn't for the fact that most people get better anyway, they'd be in real trouble

TAXPAYERS have been forced to fork out hundreds of thousands of dollars after blunders at Queensland public hospitals left a baby severely brain damaged, a woman unaware she was dying of breast cancer, and a patient without an unnecessarily amputated leg, new reports show.

More than 500 lawsuits were lodged against Queensland Health between July 1, 2010, and December 31, 2012, but fewer than a third were finalised and just nine reached settlements, according to documents obtained by The Sunday Mail under Right to Information laws. The failure to detect a woman's breast cancer resulted in the largest payout, of $610,000.

Lawyers specialising in personal compensation say they receive an average of two calls a day relating to medical negligence, but very few result in legal action, not because it can't be proven, but because it's not cost-effective.

Bennett and Philp Lawyers director Mark O'Connor said the system was geared against the disadvantaged - namely the aged, people on disability pensions, and stay-at-home mothers who were unlikely to return to the workforce.

"If someone has a damages claim worth less than $63,991 after July 1 last year, they can recover their legal costs, but less than that, no matter how valid the claim is, the most you can get back is $3210 - that's if your claim is worth more than $38,391. Below that you don't recover any legal costs at all," Mr O'Connor said.

"If you have a pensioner who suffers an injury in a public hospital that gives them a few months of grief, no matter how legitimate the claim is, the action almost certainly won't be pursued because you won't get the opportunity to recover any of the legal costs. Any legal costs come out of the damages and it's just not worthwhile."

Mr O'Connor said the difficulty with health litigation was exacerbated by the fact doctors were loath to give evidence against each other.

"Health applications are extremely difficult for a lot of reasons because lawyers who investigate claims are captive to expert opinion from other doctors and that's often difficult to get," he said.

"If I have a claim against an orthopaedic surgeon from Queensland I would have to source that opinion from NSW or Victoria because it's such a collegiate profession."

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the cases of improper treatment were a small portion of Queensland public hospitals' annual caseload.

"The Government regrets these incidents and believes the small number of people who are harmed are entitled to have their claims addressed through QGIF (Queensland Government Insurance Fund) and the legal process," he said.

"Unfortunately, false claims are made from time to time and for this and other reasons, careful consideration of each case is necessary."


Crims 'let off lightly'

POLICE have blasted what they say are light penalties given to offenders they spend time and resources hunting down.

Police union boss George Tilbury says he and many police officers across WA are "extremely frustrated, particularly when they put in significant efforts to investigate crimes, only to see the offenders let off ".

"Victims (of crime) tell us they feel let down because offenders are getting off lightly," he said.  "At the end of the day, all our officers want is justice to be served."

Several officers vented their frustration to The Sunday Times this week.  "There are too many second chances being handed out and the community has a right and an expectation to feel protected knowing that these people are locked up," one said.

Mr Tilbury also complained that court cases took too long. "We are seeing in a lot of cases now, lawyers are encouraging their clients to draw out the process so that they can examine all the evidence only to plead guilty on the day of the trial," he said.

"It takes a significant amount of police resources to prepare a case for trial."

But Criminal Lawyers Association of WA president Linda Black said police were often to blame for long court delays.

"The reality is that a significant reason for the delays in matters being brought to a conclusion is because of the failure of police to disclose in a timely way the evidence and the materials relevant to the charge," she said.

She said WA also had one of the highest incarceration rates in Australia.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Doctors are indeed loath to give evidence against other doctors, but its not as conspiratorial as it is usually made to sound. One main reason they don't is that they find it very hard to presume what the other doctor was faced with and then say what they should have done, and this is because of the uniqueness of every medical situation. This happened during the Patel case. Most of them will say that unless you were there you can't say what should or shouldn't have happened because you don't know how the doctor-on-the-spot was forced to come to the decisions taken. True negligence (objectively provable as a pattern) will get them happily testifying, but it has to be objectively demonstrated over time before most doctors I know would involve themselves. The sad part is that patients will suffer (and do) before the profession steps up. Commonly in QH its the whistle blower who get the most grief so the average doctor needs a lot of convincing. Nurses are much more self protective of their profession, and outing the bad apples is sort of easier because the stakes usually aren't as high.