Friday, August 31, 2012

Police called to investigate trolls behind Twitter tirade against Charlotte Dawson

This seems more a matter of police negligence than anything else.  The law is clear and at least some of the trolls have breached it.  Calls for more laws are just an attempt to excuse official negligence by both State and Federal governments

POLICE have been called in to investigate the "trolls" behind the Twitter tirade against TV host Charlotte Dawson that led to the celebrity being admitted to hospital yesterday.

With the Federal Coalition calling for tougher laws on online abuse, NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher called for trolls to be "dragged out of their mother's basement and put before a court".

Any trolls caught would be prosecuted under the relevant state legislation.

Dawson's case, which saw more than 100 messages of hate aimed at her after she named a Monash University employee who had told her to "go hang yourself", has been referred to NSW police by Mr Gallacher.

Dawson was admitted to hospital early yesterday after police and an ambulance were called to her inner-Sydney residence. A St Vincent's Hospital spokesman said she was expected to remain there last night.

Mr Gallacher said "even a cursory examination of the comments made to Ms Dawson overnight reveals they are clearly offensive to a reasonable person which is the test for any prosecution under Section 474.17 of the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act".

That section punishes use of a "carriage service" to menace, harass or offend with a maximum three-year jail term.

University of Technology Sydney communications law expert Michael Fraser said those who attacked Dawson had committed criminal acts.   "The online world is not above the law," he said.

Still, the Coalition wants reforms that would better protect people from cyber-bullying and harassment. The chairman of its online safety working group, Paul Fletcher, said the "online hate campaign" against Dawson was "shocking" and that "no Australian should ever have to go through something like this".

"The Coalition has been consulting extensively on whether changes to laws are required, with a particular focus on cyber bullying in children and young people," he said. "The sad experience of Charlotte Dawson is another indicator of the importance of a close look at the laws in this area."

Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy declined to comment.

A spokesman for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the trolls' behaviour was reprehensible and had no place in the community.

Many Twitter users set up fake accounts for the purpose of joining the campaign against Dawson.

Her Wikipedia page was edited 44 times yesterday as users with Dawson's best interests at heart fought to remove the cruel and hurtful edits trolls had added to her bio including renaming her as "Charlotte the Harlotte".

Karalee Evans, APAC digital media strategist for creative agency Text 100, said social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook needed to address their operating procedures in dealing with online abuse.


Surrogacy hopes closer

THE dream of starting a family for many Tasmanians unable to conceive a child is one step closer.

The long-awaited Surrogacy Bill to allow couples, including same-sex couples and singles, the ability to enter into surrogacy arrangements legally, was debated in the Upper House of the Tasmanian Parliament last night.

After agreeing to 25 amendments to the Bill, the Upper House has paved the way for the Bill to be passed back to the Lower House to vote on as early as today.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said last night he was confident the Bill would pass the Lower House with the new amendments.

Murchison Independent MLC Ruth Forrest said last night a lot of work had been done to get the legislation to the present point.

"It has been a real collaborative approach between the Upper and Lower House," she said.

The Bill first passed the Lower House in April 2011 after Labor and the Greens united to defeat more than 10 amendments proposed by the Liberals, which they said would force many who wanted surrogacy underground.

Most of the debate last night centred around amendments, including the requirement for birth mothers to have given birth previously and to be 25 years old at time of the birth.

Without the Bill it is not legal for two parties to enter into a legally binding agreement where a woman could agree to become pregnant and to relinquish the child to those intending to be the child's parents.

The amendment that the birth mothers should have previously given birth to a live child was agreed to all Upper House Members.

But Hobart MLC Rob Valentine and Government Leader in the Upper House Craig Farrell wanted the legal age of the birth mother to be set at 21 not 25.

The proposed new legislation does require the birth mother and the new parents to seek counselling before entering into the agreement.

Tasmania will be the last state to legalise surrogacy.


Phantom Qld. Health employees paid by the state to do nothing

THEY have jobs funded by taxpayers but no actual work to do. More than 400 employees have been discovered on the Queensland Health payroll who do not have designated positions.

The government employees, who have been dubbed "supernumeraries", have been costing Queensland taxpayers almost $30 million a year to do next to nothing at the beleaguered health department.

Many of the permanent employees, dubbed by some as "ghosts who work", have been left without a real role following corporate restructures or finite project funding.

Dozens have even maintained "frontline" staff status after being transferred from clinical positions to policy and project roles.

However, strict industrial relations laws have meant the troubled department was required to retain the workers.

No supernumeraries, who earn on average about $70,000, are believed to have taken the voluntary redundancies offered by the Bligh government.

However, they will now have to find a proper position or face being forced out by the Newman Government.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg yesterday said the idle employees were a prime example of the "archaic" workplace laws in place.

"There has been a lot of talk about public sector job security," he said. "But I suspect most Queenslanders didn't know that actually extended to paying people whose job had been abolished."

Mr Springborg said if the Government could not find them work, voluntary redundancies would be offered.

"I feel for these employees because it's not their fault they have been left in limbo by the previous government," he said. "But if we can't find meaningful employment where they can use their skills to provide real services, then I will be offering voluntary redundancies."

According to an internal briefing note on the issue, the 409 staff discovered as at July 1 ranged from level 3 operational staff to a senior officer, who earns a six-figure salary.

Of the 409 permanent staff without work, 75 were categorised as "frontline" employees, such as nurses and health practitioners.

"However, this does not mean they are working on frontline roles as they may in fact have held that classification prior to relinquishing their role and may now be working in another capacity," it said.

The internal note said surplus staff with permanent status had often occurred because of "organisational change", where they had relinquished their position by taking extended leave or filled a role where the program funding had finished.

"In such circumstances, the officers have effectively decided that they wish to maintain their permanent employment status but recognise that they do not have a specific claim against a position," the briefing note said.

Eighty of the surplus staff have been found work or quit, leaving the Government with 329 staff in Queensland Health sitting all but idle.


"Asylum" boat survivors taken to Indonesia

Indonesia's search and rescue authority says 54 asylum seekers who were pulled from the water after their boat sank are being transferred to the country's mainland.

Dozens of people are still missing after their boat, bound for Australia, sank near Indonesia's Sunda Strait two days ago.  The boat was believed to have up to 150 people on board.

An Australian navy ship and merchant ships rescued the 54 people and found one body yesterday. Three of the survivors have injuries and are in a serious but stable condition.

A senior source for Indonesia's search and rescue authority, Basarnas, has told the ABC of an overnight plan to transfer the survivors from the Australian Navy ship HMAS Maitland to Indonesian authorities.  It is understood they are being taken to Merak, in west Java.

In the past, attempts to send survivors back to Indonesia have proven difficult or even failed.

Asylum seekers have protested or threatened self harm in response to being sent back to Indonesia, which is not a party to the refugee convention and detains and deports even recognised refugees.

Four commercial ships and the Australian Navy will continue the search for survivors today.

Jo Meehan from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority says the operation will continue at full scale as it is believed that more survivors can be found.

But she still could not confirm how many are missing.  "The only report we have of the number of people on board the boat which was 150 came from the initial distress call that we received early Wednesday morning," she said.

The boat is the fourth known to have sunk on that route to Christmas Island in recent years.

Meanwhile, a customs boat intercepted 31 asylum seekers north of the Cocos Islands overnight.  Those on board have been taken to the Cocos Islands and will then be sent to Christmas Island for health, identity and security checks.

The Federal Government has again warned they are at risk of being sent to Nauru or Papua New Guinea for processing.


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