Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crackdown on unions in Qld.

THE Newman Government's war with unions has hit workers' desks with a proposal to ban the display of political messages during election periods.

New laws will also give the Director-General of Justice and Attorney-General the power to investigate unions with maximum penalties for "dishonesty" lifted from $22,000 to $340,000.

The legislation will restrict union access to government offices, force union officials to ballot members on any political expenditure above $1000 and make unions declare political affiliations in any advertising.

Salaries paid to a union's top 10 officials will have to be made public along with details of any gifts or hospitality provided.

A ban on political posters or stickers on public servants' desks is also being considered, with offenders to face disciplinary action.

Together Queensland union state secretary Alex Scott said it highlighted the "paranoia of the LNP" about what happens in an election campaign.

But Premier Campbell Newman made no apology for the union crackdown saying officials should have to meet the same standards as others in public office.

"I think it's fair to say, it's very similar to public money when you're receiving contributions from your members (and) you should have to comply with standards of openness and accountability," Mr Newman said.

He cited allegations against Federal MP Craig Thomson, a former Labor member accused of misusing union funds, as justification for tougher laws.

Mr Thomson has repeatedly denied the claims.

Mr Scott said he also wanted to improve union transparency but most of the legislative changes appeared to be more about reducing public servants' access to industrial representation, and providing "financial obstacles" at a time they were protesting privatisation plans.

"It would be very inappropriate for department officers such as the Attorney-General's Director-General to interfere with (union) activities," Mr Scott said.

Together was planning to escalate its public service pay rise campaign by targeting the "one person who can give it to them", Premier Newman.

"That is why we will campaign in public sector workplaces and the electorate of Ashgrove to force the Premier to stand by his word and deliver a pay increase for public servants," Mr Scott said.

Last month the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission found it did not have the authority to grant an interim pay rise of 2.35 per cent for the state's 60,000 core public servants. Together is appealing.


A win for individual responsibility

A court decision to award a morbidly obese man more than $350,000 from his doctor because the GP failed to refer him to a weight-loss clinic or send him for lap-band surgery has been overturned on appeal.

Emmanuel Varipatis, a Manly GP, said he was relieved the Supreme Court ruling had been overturned.

The medical fraternity had been concerned that holding doctors legally responsible for their patients' failure to shed weight would become an "intolerable burden".

The case involved Luis Almario, a Colombian-born revolutionary who once stood for state parliament.

He was in the care of Dr Varipatis from 1997 to 2011. The court found in February that Dr Varipatis had been negligent in not sending Mr Almario, 68, to an obesity clinic or arranging for a surgeon to assess his suitability for gastric-band surgery. Mr Almario weighed 140 kilograms and was 154 centimetres tall. Justice Stephen Campbell found Mr Almario had terminal liver cancer as a result of liver disease linked to his obesity and awarded him $364,000.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal has dismissed the judgment. It found the evidence of GPs did not suggest a doctor was obliged to do more than "take reasonable care" of a patient by advising weight loss - which Dr Varipatis had done. "The duty of care stopped short of requiring an exercise in futility."

Medical insurer Avant, which led the appeal, said the original decision had caused significant concern in the industry because it might have forced GPs to "practise defensively".

Dr Varipatis told GP industry journal Medical Observer he felt exonerated but was sorry for Mr Almario's state of health: "I realise that he and his family will be very disappointed and upset right now."

Mr Almario, of North Parramatta, has been given less than a year to live and is being cared for at home by his wife. His solicitor did not return calls.


A Coalition government would look to change national history curriculum

THE FIRST education priority of a Coalition government would be to rip up the current national history curriculum and restore Anzac Day to its "rightful" place of respect.

Shadow Education spokesman Christopher Pyne said if Tony Abbott wins the September 14 election, rewriting aspects of the curriculum that present "a black armband view of Australia's history" would immediately commence.

"The coalition is committed to revising the national curriculum, its appropriateness and its implementation," Mr Pyne told News Limited.

"History is what it is. We should know the truth about it and we shouldn't allow it to colour our present and our future."

A national curriculum was introduced in 2011 for English, Science, Maths and History, with the remainder of the syllabus currently being reviewed by the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority under Federal Government plans to implement all subjects in 2016.

Critics say a trend towards political correctness sees history classes place undue emphasis on indigenous culture, Asia and sustainability, with Anzac Day mentioned in the context of other national days such as Ramadan and Buddha Day.

"This would be a priority for us. The coalition doesn't have a black armband view of Australia's history," Mr Pyne said.

"Having a robust curriculum is a priority of the coalition, alongside principal autonomy parental engagement and quality teaching."

Dr Kevin Donnelly from the Education Standards Institute says the current curriculum downplays the impact Anzac Day and the Gallipoli legend have had on forming an Australian identity.

"Australia and our character is ignored in the history document, because it's all about diversity and difference and multiculturalism and different perspectives," he said.

"It's a very one sided, politically correct view of Australian history and I would argue we need to get back to a stronger sense of what has made Australia a unique nation."

Mr Donnelly said it was ironic Anzac Day was underplayed in classrooms at a time when increasing numbers of young people were travelling to historic battlefields in Turkey and France to commemorate the event and more children than ever were taking part in dawn services.

"Young people are wanting to affirm that sense of us being uniquely Australian and celebrating the heroic ethos, yet it is being all but ignored in schools," he said.

A spokesperson for ACARA denied Anzac Day was underplayed in the curriculum.

"History students have opportunities to learn about Anzac Day and Australia's experiences in wartime at the following year levels: 3,6, 9 and 10 and in the senior secondary subject Modern History," ACARA said in a statement.


NSW urged to follow Qld's lead in building up gas industry

A FAILURE to embrace coal seam gas has prompted the Federal Opposition to accuse the New South Wales Government of destroying its major economic hope.

Speaking to an energy conference in Sydney on Thursday, Opposition spokesman for resources Ian Macfarlane said the state had to follow Queensland's lead in building up the industry.

Mr Macfarlane also criticised NSW for imposing too many restrictions on the gas sector.

He reportedly told the conference how NSW had dithered while Queensland had thrived.

"Instead of drilling 1000 wells each year, (NSW) built just one well in two years," he said.

Mr Macfarlane said the NSW government needed to spruik the industry and warn the public of potential job losses.

NSW has imposed stringent restrictions on the emerging CSG sector in the state after fierce opposition, particularly along its northern coastline.

CSG opponents claimed victory after two major gas companies Metgasco and Dart Energy stalled plans to develop in the region.


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