Thursday, June 13, 2013

University and watchdog in bed together over corruption scandal

In the original scandal, Deputy university boss Keniger admitted the stepdaughter of boss Greenfield into the medical school even though she was not qualified.  Greenfield did nothing to reverse or disown that, relying instead on it being covered up.  But Procopis blew the whistle and ended up being fired for doing so.  So on top of all that corruption, the CMC is now involved with corruption and secrecy of its own in the matter.  No wonder all the principal figures have now resigned

THE state's independent anti-corruption body helped the University of Queensland manage the fallout from its nepotism scandal at the same time it was investigating the educational facility.

Documents show the Crime and Misconduct Commission and the state's leading university co-ordinated their media responses even as the CMC was probing UQ's actions, including its public statements about the scandal that forced out its two most senior members of staff.

Queenslanders are still waiting for the CMC report more than 18 months after vice-chancellor Paul Greenfield and his deputy, Michael Keniger, left UQ over an "irregularity" in the enrolment into the medical faculty of a relative of Mr Greenfield.

The CMC last night said its actions were normal protocol. It said its internal rules obliged it to disclose inquiries relating to UQ internal investigations to the public bodies involved and any "heads-up" alerts were also a courtesy.

But emails obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws show the CMC last year gave the university advance warning of questions about Phil Procopis, the senior UQ staffer who brought the nepotism scandal to light and was later made redundant.

Mr Procopis, who was never the subject of an investigation, also had a part-time job as head of the CMC's audit committee.

In an email forwarded to then-vice-chancellor Debbie Terry on July 3, heavily redacted by UQ to remove references to Mr Procopis, Ms King wrote: "Hi all, just to keep you in the loop, Siobhan Barry of the CMC has just rung to advise she spoke to Mark Solomons yesterday about (redacted) ... She was unable to provide us with a written copy of the statement as it related to (redacted) CMC role but provided this verbal summary instead."

And in an April 2012 email, UQ communications manager Jan King wrote to Ms Terry and executive director (operations) Maurie McNarn: "Shelley Thomas of the CMC has given us a heads-up that she has taken a call from Leisa Scott of The Courier-Mail in relation to a complaint about the offer of a place in the dentistry program and a staff appointment in the School of Psychology ... So we may receive a call."

UQ in turn routinely copied in the CMC on its responses to inquiries from media outlets.

Mr McNarn, when asked to comment on a proposed statement to The Courier-Mail about Mr Procopis, wrote to Prof Terry on July 1: "Looks good to me. CMC media were the only ones that spring to mind, however if the article is unfair or inaccurate we might wish to send it to key government ministers media (both levels, but emphasis on state) with a covering note stating that this is what we provided and what is inaccurate to pre-empt their questions."

Earlier, the university had considered using the crime-fighting body's involvement as an excuse not to answer questions.

In a December 2011 email exchange, Kelly Robinson, executive general manager of Rowland, the company hired by UQ to give advice on public relations crisis management, wrote to UQ bosses: "Given the CMC is quoted as saying they have requested further information (as per The Courier-Mail story on Saturday), we could simply say `given the CMC has requested further information on this matter, it would be inappropriate to comment further'."

UQ, which promised greater transparency and accountability in the wake of the 2011 scandal, initially refused to deal with The Courier-Mail's Right To Information request in February on the grounds it would be "a substantial and unreasonable diversion of university resources". Many of the documents eventually provided are entirely blanked out, including in some cases the identity of the senders and recipients.

The CMC is struggling for survival after a damning review this year.

Its misconduct arm, which has been probing UQ since 2011, has come under fire for the slow pace of investigations and misplaced priorities.

CMC chairman Ross Martin stepped down in April for health reasons and acting chair Warren Strange quit in May.

The Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said last night it was "critical that the state continues to have an independent statutory body to oversee crime and misconduct".

"We want to ensure this body is able to operate efficiently and with the highest level of integrity, by being open and accountable itself," he said.


Doctors, police warn Prime Minister Julia Gillard of asylum time bomb

 ASYLUM seekers languishing in suburbia are a ticking time bomb, doctors and police warn in a letter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

They say they can't deal with problems caused by a lack of welfare and mental health support.

The letter, sent by South Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local and seen by the Herald Sun, says gang violence, street brawls and drug and alcohol problems are taking hold in Melbourne's southeast and Ms Gillard must urgently direct health resources to the area.

One mentally troubled man even set himself on fire.

Confronted by up to 200 arrivals a month, South Eastern Melbourne Medicare Local says it can't meet the health needs of marginalised young men who, banned from working, are becoming more and more isolated.

SEMML chairman Dr Nicholas Demediuk said many had experienced trauma and had worsening health and little support.

"We request the opportunity to provide further details on this community priority area and discuss strategies that we believe will address this simmering time bomb in our community," his May 31 letter said.

"It has been widely reported to local services that people from Afghan backgrounds are experiencing racial stigma in Melbourne's southeast, and there are specific neighbourhoods where tension has escalated to violence.

"This situation can contribute to risk issues by compounding mental health issues."

"At board level a major current concern relates to increasing violence and crime in our catchment, including gang-related brawls and increasing drug and alcohol issues."

The area now houses 2496 Afghans aged 10 to 24.

The Gillard Government remains under intense pressure to solve the boats crisis, with 716 boats arriving under Labor - and 15 vessels carrying 1184 people arriving this month alone.

The City of Casey and City of Dandenong have seen the greatest influx under recent humanitarian settlements.

The medical network warns it needs greater resources to cope with the young people arriving on bridging visas.

In comments quoted in the letter, Senior Constable James Waterson of the police Southern Metropolitan Multicultural Liaison Unit said young Afghan men were turning to crime including property damage, sexual assaults, and violence.

Sen-Constable Waterson said police were being called to incidents where men awaiting residency were threatening self-harm, including a case where a man set himself alight.

"The common theme across these incidents is that the offender/person involved has recently arrived in Australia, is suffering severe depression and anxiety and has turned either a criminal offender or to self-harm," Sen-Constable Waterson wrote.

"Further discussions with these males has revealed many of the causal factors are around lack of employment options, which has an effect on their ability to repay loans and/or send money back to Afghanistan for help.

"This, coupled with the prospect of not being granted residency in Australia, is influencing these people to either commit crimes for financial gain or as an outlet."

Asylum seekers in the community are provided with six weeks' accommodation support, but are not allowed to work and must survive on 89 per cent of the Newstart allowance.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said Labor's failure to stop the boats was creating a mounting human cost, as well as a budget blowout.

"Labor's no care, no responsibility bridging visa policy is dumping the consequences of their border failure out into communities with no regard for the impacts such as on health, state budgets or the resources of charities and other non-government organisations," he said.

Paul Perry, spokesman for Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, said the Federal Government provided a range of health services to refugees.

The State Government will lobby at Friday's meeting of health ministers for Canberra to increase health funding for released asylum seekers and refugees.


Naughty menu

A full-figured Ms. Gillard

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has described a menu distributed at an opposition party fundraiser that made crude and derogatory comments about her body as "grossly sexist".

The menu was presented at a dinner for former minister and Liberal National Party election candidate Mal Brough.

It offered up "Julia Gillard Kentucky Fried Quail - Small Breasts, Huge Thighs and a Big Red Box".

Opposition leader Tony Abbott condemned the incident, calling the menu "tacky".  "I condemn it, as Mal Brough has. We should all be bigger and better than that," he said. "We should be appealing to every Australian's best self as we go into this election."

The fundraising dinner, in late March, was attended by about 20 people, with shadow treasurer Joe Hockey as the guest of honour.

The menu card in question also mocked former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and two other Labor party lawmakers, as well as the Greens.

Both Mr Hockey and Mr Brough have told local media they do not recall having seen the menu.

Mr Brough - who has apologised - said the text was drawn up by a non-party member who was "deeply apologetic", the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.


Risky humor again

Muslim woman wears full-face burqa in Brisbane court

A MAGISTRATE has questioned whether a Saudi woman appearing in court should have been allowed to wear "a full burqa" or face covering, telling her "this is an Australian court".

Brisbane Magistrate John Costello was sentencing a woman who pleaded guilty to leaving her baby, four and half months, unattended in a car in direct sun for 45 minutes last year.

Mr Costello asked the woman's lawyer Peter Saggers if what she was wearing was "a full burqa" and he indicated it was.

"I can only see the eyes of that defendant," Mr Costello said.

The magistrate questioned whether it was "appropriate" for the full burqa to be worn in court, saying: "This is an Australian court" and he queried "the validity" of her wearing it in court.

But Islamic groups yesterday came out in support of Mr Costello, saying they supported magistrates asking women to remove their face covering if there was a reasonable question of security or identification.

Mr Saggers told the magistrate the woman, 27, was from Saudi Arabia and said: "I have not seen her dressed in any other way."

Mr Costello then proceeded to sentence the female student, without requiring her to remove her face covering, more commonly called a niqab when it reveals the eyes.

Islamic Council of Queensland president Mohammed Yusuf said he opposed any blanket law requiring women wearing burqa or niqab to show their face.

But he said the Islamic council would not object to a magistrate asking a woman to remove her face covering if there was a reasonable question of security or identification.

Mr Yusuf said individual cases could be handled with sensitivity, with the woman taken into another room for identification by a female police or court officer.

Yasmin Khan, president of Islamic community festival Eidsfest, said magistrates should be able to ask women wearing a burqa or niqab to remove their facial covering in court.

"Where justice and security are an issue women should identify by at least showing their face, to identify the person who has been charged," Ms Khan said.

She said another person could falsely pose as an accused person by wearing a face covering.

Nearly three years ago a Perth judge caused controversy when she ordered a Muslim woman to remove a full burqa while giving evidence before a jury in a fraud trial.

"Judges and magistrates are acutely alive to the sensitivity of these situations. They respect the requirements of particular religions," Queensland Chief Justice Paul de Jersey said yesterday.

"They would request removal of a burqa only if necessary for the due determination of a proceeding - if, for example, the identity of an alleged offender were in issue."

Deputy Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Neroli Holmes said the Anti-Discrimination Act did not apply to court directions.

She said it was not unlawful discrimination to respectfully ask someone to remove headwear if it was required "for purposes of reasonable legitimate public safety or identification".

An Islamic woman should be asked to remove her headwear in a respectful way and not in the presence of men, where possible, Ms Holmes said.

A Brisbane Muslim teenager recently complained to Queensland's Anti-Discrimination Commission of being held against her will in a service station, after refusing to remove her full burqa.

In yesterday's court case Mr Costello sentenced the woman to a six-month good behaviour bond.

The court heard the woman and her husband, who also was charged, left their baby in the car, in direct sunlight with windows wound up, for 45 minutes. A nurse called police.


1 comment:

Paul said...

The Menu of Misogyny story seems to be moving faster than Tony Abbott's speedos at a brisk clip.