Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Lenient NSW bail laws

AS fears grow at the release of men accused of violent crimes under new bail laws, Attorney-General Brad Hazzard has been accused of avoiding a review of the bail act to halt an explosion in the prison population.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has warned the jail population — at a record high of 10,917 inmates — will increase by a further 17 per cent by next March. Opposition Leader John Robertson said Mr Hazzard was using the new bail act to reduce prisoner numbers.

“The government is struggling to cope with a dramatic increase in prison numbers because they have shut three jails and sacked 600 prison workers, but bail laws should not be used to solve this problem,” Mr Robertson said.

In 2011, the government closed three prisons that housed a total of 900 inmates because the prison population was declining. It is now reviewing the possibility of turning Kariong Juvenile Correctional Centre into an adult jail.

Mr Hazzard has denied the bail laws have been used to cut the prison population, with $24 million set aside in the Budget to fund extra beds and staff to manage capacity.

“The new bail laws are a completely separate issue to fluctuations in prison population. The new bail act has been in development since 2011,’’ a spokeswoman for Mr Hazzard said.

“Corrective Services NSW is constantly reviewing prison stock and the government is continuing to work with a range of agencies to develop short-, medium- and long-term options to respond to this issue.”

Among those granted bail under the new act are Comanchero bikie Mick Hawi, who faces a retrial on murder charges, accused wife killer Steven Fesus, former bikie boss Sam Ibrahim, and Moustafa Mariam, charged over the gunfight that killed truck driver Bob Knight.

Premier Mike Baird yesterday said the new act was designed to protect the community, and the government was open to making amendments to it if need be.

“We were interested in community safety and community safety alone. That was the basis it was put together — anyone that came before them would be assessed based on their risk to the community,” Mr Baird said. “That remains our objective but I have said before and I will say it again — if we need to amend it as the new system is implemented we will.”

Powerful upper house crossbencher the Reverend Fred Nile said it was clear the act needed an urgent review. He has asked Mr Hazzard to make it harder for “courts to release these dangerous criminals on bail”.

Prosecutors yesterday applied to revoke the bail of Sam Ibrahim, saying he is “an unacceptable risk of committing a further serious offence”. Ibrahim, who is appealing against a two-year jail sentence for threatening a former business partner and intimidating a police officer, was granted bail last week.

But the DPP has asked the Supreme Court to revoke bail while he awaits trial on firearms charges.

Ibrahim’s lawyer Brett Galloway said it was not a strong prosecution case, and that the 45-year-old could meet any bail condition. Justice Peter Hidden will give his decision today.


Folly to ignore extremist threat

AUSTRALIA received some notice from US President Barack Obama at the weekend, but it wasn’t the sort of notice we really wanted. The President’s message was a serious one Australia cannot afford to avoid.

“You see jihadists coming in from Europe and as far as Australia to get trained and then going back into their home countries,” Obama said in an interview on CNN. “This is something we have been deeply concerned about.”

Those concerns should be ­particularly elevated in Western Sydney, which is the unfortunate source of many Australian citizens who have joined the conflicts across Syria and Iraq.

Some of these Islamic extremists have form even before departing Australia to join in the bloodshed overseas. In 2011, extremist and Sharia law supporter Zakaryah Raad was given a suspended sentence for whipping a young man he judged guilty of crimes against Islam. Now he is understood to have been killed fighting with ­murderous ISIL forces, as have ­several other Australian citizens.

Australia’s and Western Sydney’s involvement with the ­conflicts in Syria and Iraq doesn’t end with the direct participation of reckless and ideologically corrupt young men.

As The Daily Telegraph reports today, Sydney’s west is a fertile ground for fundraising to generate cash for extremist groups overseas.

This situation is clearly not a one-way street. As fighters and money go from here to the extremists, the extremists’ philosophy of death and mayhem becomes ever stronger in Australia. It’s a cycle that simply must be broken, which is why the federal government’s latest plan to combat terrorism must be supported by all political parties.

Australia, especially Sydney, is incredibly vulnerable at the moment to the evil of extremism. We cannot afford to ignore this threat.


Motorized climate change??

ADVOCATES for action against climate change do themselves few favours when they turn legitimate concerns into outright political propaganda.

Current editions of the official NSW government handbook for learner drivers carry a bizarre warning about the future risks of climate change, claiming that a changed climate could cause “unpredictable weather events” due to “greenhouse gas emissions”.

The excuse for including this information is that drivers should beware of taking to the roads in extreme conditions brought about by climate change.

This is more than a little absurd. If this approach was taken to logical extremes, we could see government climate change warnings attached to almost every conceivable human activity.

Impressively, state Coalition government roads minister Duncan Gay recognises the warning for the political sloganeering that it is and has vowed to cut the lines in future editions of the handbook.

The public might be more inclined to listen to climate activists if the activists’ messages were more realistic and less evangelical.

Which brings us to Scott Ferguson of Haberfield, who brought this to The Daily Telegraph’s attention after a copy of the handbook was given to his young daughter Riley.

“I haven’t been this annoyed since Riley’s old primary school made her sit in scripture class,” Mr Ferguson said. That’s a very good comparison. When climate change activists take their views to extremes, they sound more like religious zealots than like advocates for a better planet.


Apply Adam Smith to dentistry to keep cavities away

Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations, 'people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.'

If alive today, Smith would not be surprised at attempts by the Australian Dentists Association (ADA) to protect the incomes of Australian dentists.

Following the advice of the Australian Workplace Productivity Agency, the Abbott government recently opted not to tighten skilled migration rules on dentists. Dentists remain on the Skilled Occupation List, meaning foreign workers can come to Australia and apply for a permanent visa without requiring a sponsor.

The decision means more trained dentists can work in Australia, which means more competition between dental practices for patients. This can only be a positive outcome for consumers, as increasing the supply of immigrant dentists will put downwards pressure on prices.

Dentist fees can be a determining factor for whether families on middle and lower incomes receive basic dental treatment. Increasing the supply and lowering the cost of dental care can therefore increase access to necessary dental services.

This is not the view of ADA, which described the government's decision on the skilled migration 'criminal,' claiming local dentist graduates would 'cop it.'

There is nothing new about the ADA putting its member's interests ahead of the public interest. Last year, it called on the government to cap the number of university places for dentistry at 460 to address a purported 'oversupply' of dental graduates.

Restrictions on the movement of dentists into the Australian market, either through constraining skilled migration or restricting student entry, are designed with the same intention - to keep prices high and prop up dentist incomes.

According to Graduate Careers, dentistry remains the highest-paid field of education, with 2012 graduates starting on a median salary of $80,000, compared to the average on $52,000. In addition, 83.6% of dentistry students found full-time employment within four months of graduation.

Dentists are hardly doing it tough. This group of well-off professionals do not need their incomes protected by the government at the expenses of the best interests of middle and low income families.


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