Friday, June 19, 2015

Cop accused of leaking Surfers Paradise police station bash footage facing charges

Justice campaigner Renee Eaves with the honest cop

A GOLD Coast police officer accused of leaking video footage showing his colleagues brutally bashing a young dad in a police station basement is facing criminal charges.

Gold Coast chef Noa Begic was repeatedly punched and ground in to the concrete floor of the station’s basement with his hands cuffed behind his back in January 2012.

While two officers responsible for the attack were given a slap over the wrist, the officer who allegedly leaked video footage to The Courier­-Mail is now facing charges including misconduct and abuse of public office and fraud.

Rick Flori was a sergeant at Surfers Paradise police station at the time of the incident and his house was raided by officers from the Ethical Standards Command weeks later.  He was ‘reassigned’ and has been fighting to clear his name ever since.

Sgt Flori was formally notified of the charges yesterday but vowed to fight them.  “I intend on fighting the charges to the full extent of the law,” he said in a statement.

Of the four officers involved in the attack, only two ever faced disciplinary action and one of those – a sergeant seen washing away blood with a bucket of water – retired from the service before any findings were made.  The officer caught throwing punches was stood down, but has since been reinstated without demotion.

Charges of public nuisance and obstruct police against Mr Begic were eventually dropped.

Mr Begic, who settled out of court in his own action against the QPS, is now prevented from speaking about the incident, but at the time he paid tribute to those who ensured the video footage came to light.

White knight Renee Eaves, who has helped both men in their battles against the QPS, said the charges against Sgt Flori were a disgrace.  “There are many good police within the organisation without a voice and intimidated by these types of actions,” she said.  “They are too scared to report misconduct for fear of workplace harassment or intimidation.”


Bill Shorten's union took hundreds of thousands from building company

One of Australia's biggest builders paid Bill Shorten's union nearly $300,000 after he struck a workplace deal that cut conditions and saved the company as much as $100 million on a major Melbourne road project.

A Fairfax Media investigation has uncovered large payments from joint venture builder Thiess John Holland to the Australian Workers Union when Mr Shorten, now opposition leader, ran the union.

The payments started soon after work began on the $2.5 billion East Link tollway in Melbourne's eastern suburbs in 2005.

Fairfax Media understands that, at the time, Thiess John Holland regarded the payment as an acknowledgment of the flexibility of the AWU deal, which was struck by Mr Shorten.

It's unclear what the union used the money for. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has previously accused the AWU of running a "business model" whose purpose was "ripping off workers to advance its own political position".

The deal was hugely favourable to the builder, allowing it to effectively work around the clock by reducing conditions around rostering and weekend work, helping the project finish five months early. It was lauded in a 2006 report by the free enterprise lobby, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which claimed it saved the company tens of millions of dollars.

The payment was part of more than $1 million of largely unexplained employer cash flowing into the AWU's Victorian branch between January 2004 and late 2007, when Mr Shorten was either state or federal secretary.

These include almost $200,000 from cardboard manufacturer Visy industries, which at the time was run by Shorten's billionaire friend Richard Pratt, almost $100,000 from aluminum giant Alcoa, and $300,000 from chemical giant Huntsman.

The figures are detailed in fine-print in documents lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission as well as documents before the Abbott government's royal commission into union corruption.

Fairfax Media understands that some of these amounts include spending on training and payroll deductions that the union will defend if quizzed by the royal commission.

Huntsman denied any improper payments had been made and said from 2004 it paid the AWU for an on-site "workplace change facilitator", whose role was to balance the "needs of the unionised workforce and the company".

John Holland declined to comment.

A spokesman for Mr Shorten said: "Specific questions about individual contributions from individual companies to the union should be directed to the individual companies or the union".

Last week Mr Shorten was called to appear before the royal commission after Fairfax Media revealed the AWU had received $38,228 from Winslow Constructors in 2005 to pay the union dues of 105 of its employees. The Winslow payments continued for a decade, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Under questioning by the royal commission, current AWU state secretary Ben Davis described the Winslow payments as having "profoundly" weakened the industrial position of the AWU.

But the regular payments from Thiess John Holland are much larger. They started when Mr Shorten was both the AWU's state and national secretary and continued to flow after he left the union and entered federal parliament in late 2007. Mr Shorten is likely to appear before the commission in August or September.

Some of payments from Thiess John Holland are listed in union documents lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission, including $134,500 originally described as a "donation" to the AWU. The filing was amended a year later to be describe the money as "other receipt". As a Labor-affiliated union, the AWU is required to disclose some of the payments it receives.

Other internal AWU documents, including bank and accounting records, list some of the payments as being for "training" but several large amounts are listed as "service" with "???" beside the entries. Total payments from the construction company into the AWU's state branch bank account under Mr Shorten and his successor Cesar Melhem were $282,308. Another $16,500 was paid into the union's national branch account.

Thiess, John Holland and Visy all bought tables to the annual AWU balls in the mid-2000s but they cost only tens of thousands of dollars.

Early completion of a major infrastructure project is a rarity in Victoria, where projects are often delayed by industrial issues and other problems.

Central to the East Link deal was the elimination of industry conditions routinely demanded by AWU arch-rival the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. The deal struck by Mr Shorten halved the number of mandatory rostered days offs, an end to extended "lock down" weekends, and more flexibility to work in hot and wet weather.

At the time, the CFMEU described the deal as a "second rate agreement", and a "shocker" when it came to rostered days off.

Originally struck exclusively with the AWU, the CFMEU was later included. But its members were given limited work and its officials had little influence over the project.

The IPA report said the reduction in non-working days created a "significant advantage" to the project, allowing work in theory to occur 365 days a year.

At the time, Mr Shorten described the workplace deal as a "unique deal" for a "unique project".  "The terms deliver long-term, secure, well-paid jobs for our members, while recognising that the whole job should not have to shut down for 26 days every year," he said.

"The agreement provides breakthrough levels of superannuation, parental leave, allowances and penalty rates for the industry."

Last week Mr Shorten said he would not comment on his time as a union official before he fronts the royal commission.

On Wednesday, the union's current secretary Ben Davis told Fairfax Media he would not comment on the period when the union was run by predecessors Mr Shorten and Cesar Melhem.


Gillian Triggs’s misguided assault on system

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs has launched a sweeping assault on Australia’s system of governance, the parliament, the executive and the political parties in the name of human rights freedoms that she claims are being abandoned or prejudiced.

In an escalation of her campaign against executive powers, Triggs, in speeches over the past week, says our democracy is being undermined from within, that dozens of laws breach basic freedoms, that a collusion exists between Labor and Coalition and that the “supremacy of law over the executive is under threat” in Australia.

She continued this campaign in her appearance on the ABC’s Q&A program celebrating the Magna Carta anniversary when, at the conclusion, she made the astonishing claim the Human Rights Commission operated in a “very neutral way”, that she was not being political and that it was unfortunate the commission’s work was interpreted as political.

This was pure sophistry. That Triggs cannot grasp her recent speeches and TV appearance were entirely political cannot be ruled out. She seems to be a synthesis between, on the one hand, an idealistic and naive human rights activist and, on the other, a statutory officer seized by her responsibility laced with a fighting instinct against her opponents in the government. With the government declaring “no confidence” in her, Triggs is free and running.

The Q&A program finished with almost unanimous warnings (Bronwyn Bishop apart) about the “tyranny of the majority” in the context that the tyranny of the king is now substituted by the tyranny of the majority as an evil to be contained. It was gobsmacking stuff.

It was also an illustration of the chasm in this country between a legal culture propelling human rights laws, self-righteous in its moral vanity and intellectual faith, and the practical, imperfect nature of a parliamentary/executive system, obliged to change norms to meet changing situations from terrorism to boat arrivals, and inevitably responsive to public opinion.

What was most striking about the Q&A panel was its patronising, even contemptible, attitude towards majority or “mob” views, with the implied critique that Triggs has been shouting from the rooftops — that parliament and the executive are betraying the freedoms of the Australian people.

These, of course, are the freedoms as pronounced by the Human Rights Commission. It is several years old now but the Colmar Brunton research conducted for the Frank Brennan-led human rights report to the former Labor government found that “most participants in the groups reported that they had had no experience of having their rights violated” and that only 10 per cent of people felt they had ever had their rights infringed.

The Brennan report put heavy emphasis on the need to “educate” the public into proper human rights awareness. This is the crusading purpose of the Human Rights Commission: the public needs to be educated into human rights culture. The patronising nature of the mission is brazen and declared.

The commission is a statutory agency with wide responsibility in relation to racial, sex, disability and aged discrimination. It both manages individual complaints and operates as an advocate, lobby group and media campaigner for its particular view of human rights.

This is a highly ideological view partly because of its statutory charter. The Human Rights Commission puts huge emphasis on human rights that define the progressive agenda, notably asylum-seekers, sex and racial discrimination, but in relation to human rights that define the conservative agenda, notably freedom of religion and free speech, it often appears to be antagonistic.

This ideological bias is inherent in the commission and its culture. It guarantees the political conflict now on display, though it cannot forgive the personal denigration of Triggs herself.

It is, however, the solution that the commission applies that is the heart of the problem. Its fatal flaw is to believe that rule of law constitutes more rule by lawyers. This is a grand folly, yet an idea growing in its illusory impact. More power for lawyers and judges has become an ingrained ideology (and a naked act of self-interest in the case of lawyers). Radiating from every paragraph of Triggs’s recent speeches is the faith that Australia must become a better society by empowering courts with more authority in relation to parliament and the executive. She gives many examples of the abuse of executive power, many valid and some arising from completely legitimate policy changes.

The ultimate objective is a bill of rights. This is an end in itself. In truth, it is something more — it is an industry based on the false idea the result is a better society.

Really? The US has a Bill of Rights along with capital punishment and no universal health insurance. The core assumption of the human rights lobby is still unproved: that giving the courts more power and imposing more limits on the legislature means better social and economic outcomes and more justice. More justice for whom?

The real debate is about conflicting human rights. Who decides how the right of the Australian people to be safe from terrorism should be balanced against the rights of potential terrorists? Who decides how the right of indigenous women and children to be protected from domestic violence should be balanced against the rights of indigenous peoples to be free from state imposed restrictions?

The executive and the parliament are imperfect. But it is their job to take decisions about the conflicting human rights priorities. That is not the proper task of the Human Rights Commission. It is not what judges are equipped to do.

Triggs is a dogmatic product of the transformation of legal culture across the Western world and the powerful notion that parliaments and executives, contained by public opinion, are inherently incapable of securing the protection of human rights.

To the extent the Abbott government is cavalier in dealing with human rights and careless in infringing the judicial power it merely confirms the Triggs’s critique.

The deeper issue, however, is that human rights campaigns, usually in the moral cause of individual enhancement, are always and everywhere about policy. And the Australian people don’t like the policy conclusion where Triggs ends up on boats and terrorism. That is understandable.

In her speech Triggs said that “time and again” the High Court had limited executive discretion and “time and again” the government had persuaded the parliament to change the law to get its way. This is her complaint. In truth, it is how our democracy is supposed to work.


No Charges To Be Laid Against Aboriginal Queensland MP Billy Gordon

According to the Cairns Post, police will not be pressing charges against the North Queensland politician following a three-month investigation.

Mr Gordon resigned from the state Labor party in March after making history as one of only three Aboriginal MPs to be elected to Queensland’s Parliament.

It followed allegations of domestic violence made by his former partner, which he denied at the time. It was also revealed Mr Gordon had failed to disclose his criminal history to the party, including break and enter offences committed when he was a teenager. He was under no legal obligation to disclose the charges.

There were also allegations that Mr Gordon had failed to lodge tax returns and dodged child support payments.

Newly-minted Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was quick to respond to the allegations, saying Mr Gordon had let her, the party, and Queensland down.

In the midst of a police investigation, Mr Gordon publicly stated he hoped he would be afforded “natural justice” and opted to remain in Parliament as an Independent.

It was later revealed that his LNP opponent for Cook, David Kempton, had assisted Mr Gordon’s former partner in revealing the allegations, as well as federal LNP Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch. The allegations were made public on a website linked to former LNP Cook MP Gavin King.

Today, Mr Gordon told the Cairns Post that he had never perpetuated domestic violence in the relationship and condemned the “dirty” political tactics that forced his resignation from the Labor party. “It’s the ultimate baptism of fire,” he told the Cairns Post.

Mr Gordon is now focused on his family, although he has not had contact with his 11-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter from the relationship, he told the Cairns Post.

“I haven’t seen the kids since it’s blown up, but I know they love me and I love them,” he said.

He told the Cairns Post he was now focused on his electorate.

Gordon represents the sprawling electorate of Cook, which takes in Cairns, Cape York and the Torres Strait – which has a sizable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

He is the second Aboriginal MP to hold the seat, following in the footsteps of Eric Deeral in the 70s.

[The above report is excerpted from the far-Left "New Matilda".  I have reproduced the factual part and left out all the huffing and puffing. So are we surprised that Matilda does not mention which party Eric Deeral represented?  It was the Country party, the major conservative party in Queensland at the time.  I had forgotten all about him but when Matilda failed to mention his party, I knew immediately what his politics would be. "New Matilda" are amusing in their predictability.  Balance and fair comment are totally  alien to them.  They also fail to mention that Australia's first Aboriginal parliamentarian, Neville Bonner, was also a conservative nominee]


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