Thursday, November 09, 2006

Another crooked Victorian cop

A policeman who helped a junior colleague steal and traffic drugs has been jailed for four months after vowing to teach police recruits about corruption when released. The detective senior constable, who can't be identified [Why not??], pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office, drug trafficking and theft, but received a discounted sentence for his offer to give evidence against the other policeman. He admitted attending two fake raids with the other officer, a constable, and stealing cannabis crops from growers in January and February this year.

In January the pair arrived at a house in Werribee and produced a document they said was a warrant. They then took garbage bags of drugs, which were not entered into police logs. No warrant existed. A month later an informer told the constable his uncle had a cannabis crop and the two officers signed out guns, equipment and an unmarked police car to go to the property on their day off. They showed the occupant, who didn't understand English, a paper they said was a warrant and seized 18 plants. The constable told the occupant if he paid them cash he would avoid prosecution. At a later meeting the drug grower handed $8000 to the constable while the senior detective sat in a car and waited but did nothing to stop the extortion.

The officers and the informer hid the stolen plants at another house to be dried out, but plans to sell the crop for profit were dashed when the tenant discovered the plants while showing the property to potential home buyers and called police.

When the ethical standards division took over the investigation, both the informer and the senior detective made statements implicating the constable. The judge said the senior detective had offered to speak at the police academy about corruption and his own experiences, despite humiliation it would bring him. The senior detective was jailed for a year, but eight months was suspended for two years. The informer received a six-month term suspended for three years. The constable is due to face a preliminary hearing in the magistrates' court next month.


Another crooked Greek

Looks like Victorian Labour does not have a monopoly on them

NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Milton Orkopoulos has been dismissed by Premier Morris Iemma after being arrested this morning for alleged serious sexual offences involving minors. Mr Orkopoulos, 49, is believed to be at Belmont police station, south of Newcastle, where he is being questioned. It is understood he will appear before a magistrate in Newcastle or Sydney later today on a total of 30 charges.

The charges include counts relating to aggravated indecent assault, child prostitution, homosexual intercourse involving persons aged 10 to 18 and supplying prohibited drugs, a police statement said. Mr Orkopoulos has also been sacked from the Labor Party. Community Services Minister Reba Meagher will take over the portfolio of Aboriginal affairs until the next state election on March 24.

Mr Iemma told a press conference he had learned of the allegations against Mr Orkopoulos this morning. He said he expected Mr Orkopoulos to resign from his Hunter Valley-based seat of Swansea. He said a by-election would not be held for the seat and a new MP would be elected at the March election. "I am today dismissing him as a minister and a Labor MP," Mr Iemma told reporters. "I expect him to resign from the parliament immediately. "Let me be clear about this: I make no judgment on his guilt or innocence. This is now a matter that's before the courts and I have no information as to the detail of the charges. "The only way for Mr Orkopoulos to proceed in this matter is as a private citizen."

He is married with three children and was first elected as the Member for Swansea in 1999. He has served as Aboriginal affairs minister since 2005, when he also took on the role of minister assisting the premier on citizenship.

Mr Iemma last month sacked Police Minister Carl Scully for twice misleading parliament. He has also been under pressure to sack Local Government Minister Kerry Hickey, who has been caught speeding four times - three times in a ministerial car. Asked if his government was falling apart, Mr Iemma said: "Absolutely not."


Determined education ignoramuses

The bureaucrats and their Leftist masters are pushing the hoary old superstition that promotion of gifted children harms them socially. It has been known to be false since the work of Terman in the 1920s

A legal battle between Education Queensland and a gifted schoolgirl will soon resume - this time in Queensland's Court of Appeal. Lawyers representing the state of Queensland have filed notice they intend to appeal against a Supreme Court ruling last month that quashed an earlier favourable finding in the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. The case centres on a decision by education authorities in 2003 not to allow Gracia MalaxEtxebarria, then 9 and who had already skipped two grades at school, to advance to high school the following year.

Education Queensland refused the request because they had concerns for her social development, but offered to tailor a program for her. That decision was later separately backed by then education minister Anna Bligh, one of her advisers and a senior departmental figure. The Anti-Discrimination Tribunal - which considered the case in mid-2005 - ruled in April that there was no discrimination by the department.

But in a judgment handed down on October 4, Supreme Court justice John Helman granted Gracia's appeal against the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal's 2005 decision and ordered the tribunal re-hear part of the case. Justice Helman found that while the tribunal could be justified in finding the initial departmental decision had not been discriminatory against Gracia, the question of whether the department had gone on to discriminate against her in their later review of the case had not been adequately considered.

In their notice of appeal, lawyers for the state have asked that Justice Helman's orders be set aside and the original Anti-Discrimination Tribunal finding be affirmed. The pending Court of Appeal matter has meant a scheduled directions hearing of the case this week in the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal has had to be postponed.


Baby-making debate flares

The birth of a surrogate child to a Victorian senator and his wife has prompted calls for commercial surrogacy. A leading Melbourne IVF doctor says surrogate mothers should be paid for their nine-month duty. Dr John McBain has also called for a review of Victorian laws that make surrogacy difficult and in some cases illegal. Dr McBain, medical director of Melbourne IVF, said surrogate mums should be compensated for the physical hardships they suffer during pregnancy.

Victorian Senator Stephen Conroy and his wife, Paula Benson, are now proud parents after the birth of a surrogate child. Ms Benson was unable to conceive or carry a child after treatment for ovarian cancer. This week Senator Conroy revealed he and Ms Benson had sought reproductive treatment in New South Wales, where altruistic or voluntary surrogacy is permitted.

Under Victorian legislation, a surrogate mother and her partner must be deemed infertile before she can have assisted reproductive treatment. The laws have long been criticised by medical and legal experts as illogical and outdated.

Dr McBain said many couples had been forced to travel interstate or to the US to have children. "It's such a disgrace that Victorian laws stop nice people like Senator Conroy and his wife from having a family, and forces them to go to New South Wales," he said. He said Victorian legislation should be similar to US law, where women are paid up to $24,500 for being surrogates. "They should be paid for the service they provide and rewarded for their discomfort, suffering and inconvenience," Dr McBain said. He said couples needing surrogate mums should also be prepared to cover all the woman's medical expenses. Commercial surrogacy is illegal in Australia.

Monash University Centre for Human Bioethics director Dr Justin Oakley said paying a fee for surrogacy services could be seen by some as "baby buying". "I don't think it's as simple as saying surrogates should be paid - it should be regulated properly, so there are no concerns about exploitation," Dr Oakley said.

The Victorian Law Reform Commission is reviewing the state's fertility laws and is expected to deliver its final report to the State Government early next year. Political colleagues and foes alike congratulated Senator Conroy and Ms Benson on their new family, but most were reluctant to endorse a rethink of surrogacy laws.

Premier Steve Bracks said the Law Reform Commission was reviewing the state's laws, which effectively render surrogacy births illegal. "These are complex issues. They're rare," Mr Bracks said. Victoria's IVF legislation was framed at a time when other states had no laws, he said. "In relation to these matters, which were not foreseen, I've asked for those to be referred to the Law Reform Commission, and the Attorney-General has done that. "So we will wait on that in good faith. If there is evidence that we require changes, those changes will be undertaken."

Australian Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja called for a national overhaul. "I'm sure this will provide a prompt for debate and discussion, and there is certainly a strong argument for a nationally consistent framework on these laws," Senator Stott Despoja said.The debate took off immediately, but Prime Minister John Howard said he had no firm opinion on moving towards a uniform national approach.

"It's not something that I have given a lot of thought to," Mr Howard said. "I'm therefore not going to, just off the top of my head, say yes or no." Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said: "I'm not going to comment on anything other than saying it (the birth) is a terrific thing."

One surrogacy case in Victoria is that of Maggie Kirkman 18 years ago. Ms Kirkman's sister, Linda, was the gestational mother of her daughter Alice. Alice Kirkham, now studying year 12, yesterday backed a shake-up of Victoria's surrogacy laws. "The laws definitely need to be changed. There is no reason why surrogacy should be illegal," she said. But she said surrogate mums should not be paid. "There should be no payment - only for medical expenses, and nothing else."

Surrogacy is required by women born without a uterus or with an abnormal uterus, women who have had their uterus removed, or women who have a medical condition that would endanger their lives if they carried a baby. It is estimated [By whom and on what basis?] that fewer than 20 Victorian couples a year would need the assistance of a surrogate mother to conceive.


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