Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Former union boss John Maitland found guilty of misleading ICAC

The first criminal prosecution arising from the NSW corruption watchdog's landmark coal inquiries has resulted in a guilty finding against former union boss John Maitland for giving misleading evidence.

Local Court Magistrate Janet Wahlquist found on Monday that Mr Maitland "intentionally gave misleading evidence" to the Independent Commission Against Corruption during public hearings in May 2013.

She rejected expert evidence tendered by the defence that Mr Maitland may have had a memory lapse, and said it "does not require expert opinion".

Mr Maitland was charged with misleading the ICAC by not admitting he had broken a secrecy order by telling a friend about evidence he had given during a private hearing.

The ICAC caught him in a phone tap discussing the evidence.

His lawyers had argued that talking on the telephone did not breach the secrecy provisions of the ICAC Act – which say that evidence "shall not be published" – because a discussion did not amount to "publishing" the evidence.

But Ms Wahlquist rejected that claim and referred to sections of the Defamation Act in finding that a publication can be made by way of a conversation.

The court will hear submissions on sentencing on January 29.

Mr Maitland faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison, a $5500 fine, or both.

The former head of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy union was embroiled in the ICAC's inquiry into a coal licence given to a company he once chaired, Doyles Creek Mining, by former state Labor mining minister Ian Macdonald. Both were found to have acted corruptly.

In an exchange presented to the court, counsel assisting the ICAC, Peter Braham, SC, opened his questioning of Mr Maitland during a public hearing in May 2013 by asking if Mr Maitland was determined to be "absolutely honest".

"I am," Mr Maitland replied.

He also admitted he was told it would be a criminal offence to talk about the evidence he gave at a private hearing in July 2012, and agreed he took the obligation seriously.

But he was then played a taped telephone call in which he told close friend Archibald Tudehope about the evidence he gave in private.

Asked if he disclosed his evidence in "direct and knowing contravention" of the secrecy order, Mr Maitland said at the time: "Not knowing, but it appears."

"Well, you knew what you were doing, Mr Maitland, and you certainly knew the order had been made?" Mr Braham said.

"I agree,"  Mr Maitland said.

"And you've lied about that fact already this morning haven't you?" Mr Braham pressed.

"It appears so," Mr Maitland replied.

"It's not a good start," Mr Braham said.


12 men arrested over massive brawl in Seaford, Melbourne

How did I know as soon as I saw the headline that this would be an African event?

 A MAN is in a critical condition after he was repeatedly stabbed in a wild brawl involving up to 100 people outside a train station in Melbourne’s southeast last night.

Police arrested 12 men following the fight outside the Kananook Railway Station on Wells Rd in Seaford at 5.35pm. They have since been released pending further inquiries.

A 23-year-old Seabrook man suffered a number of stab wounds to his abdomen and was left at Frankston Hospital by a group of unknown men, where he remains in a critical condition.

Police investigating the fight searched three vehicles and seized weapons including baseball bats, a samurai sword and a machete.

They were from suburbs across Melbourne including Sunshine West, Carlton, Taylors Hill, Deer Park, Collingwood, Ardeer, Melton and Dandenong.

They were taken to Frankston and Mornington police stations for questioning.

Police confirmed the fight “was in the vicinity of a sporting event”, believed to be the South Sudanese Australian Summer Slam basketball competition that was held at the nearby Frankston Basketball Stadium.

It’s believed the fight started in the carpark at the stadium and the men continued brawling for about 200m towards the station.

Basketballer Abraham, who did not want his surname published, said players were preparing for the trophy presentation when they heard “yelling” from the carpark.

There were reports a man had hit another with a baseball bat, Abraham said, and players and spectators ran outside to see what was happening.

“It was at the end of the tournament and there were a few people in the carpark outside,” he said.

“Apparently one guy came up and hit one of them with a baseball bat and he got chased.”

He said a number of spectators and players went outside, but they were not involved in the fight. “We just heard people running outside and yelling,” Abraham said.  “Everyone was wondering what was going on.

“It had nothing to do with the basketball ... it was just people in the carpark (who were) drinking.”

South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association manager Manny Berberi said he was confident players in the tournament were not involved.  “I think maybe they (drunken youths) saw the competition was on so came down, but they didn’t even come into the stadium to support the teams at all,” Mr Berberi said. “None of the players were involved.

“The police handled it very well when they arrived.”


Reading Recovery program used in 960 NSW public schools does not work

A key $55 million-a-year program to teach struggling NSW students to read does not work, with the state's first major review of Reading Recovery warning it is offered in too many schools and has few long-term benefits.

The report, by the NSW Department of Education's Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, found that Reading Recovery, which is used in about 960 NSW primary schools, should be restricted to the lowest performing students.

While it may have some impact on students who are really struggling with basic reading, the improvements are short-lived, the report found.

Reading Recovery has been in NSW public schools since 1984, and is also used in Catholic and independent schools. It was developed in New Zealand in the 1970s to help struggling readers in year 1 with daily individual, 30-minute lessons from a specially trained teacher.

In NSW, Reading Recovery is in 60 per cent of schools and at least 14 per cent of year 1 students take part in it.

The report found that the program is an "effective short-term intervention for remediating reading text skills among the lowest performing students" but is not an effective intervention for "students who begin year 1 with more proficient literacy skills".

"The duration of the program is only 12-20 weeks so it is equally possible that Reading Recovery students do not receive the level of support they need to sustain any short-term effects beyond year 1," the report says.

Despite its widespread use, the program – which is also in the US, Canada and Britain – has its vocal critics and earlier this year, influential US literacy academic Louisa Moats told education bureaucrats in Victoria that it was "indefensible" to spend money on the program.

"The whole approach is based on ideas that have not held up to scientific scrutiny," Dr Moats said in March.

The NSW Department of Education's general manager of strategic information and reporting, Jenny Donovan, said the report found that overall, the program was "not particularly effective".

"It shows there is a positive effect on some students in year 1, the very lowest level of ability students, but for all students by the time they reach year 3, any positive effect that may have been seen by Reading Recovery has been washed out," Dr Donovan said.

"What the report is suggesting is that Reading Recovery isn't the answer for students who have reading difficulties, and increasingly we see students whose levels of reading are not as bad maybe being subjected to a Reading Recovery treatment and it doing no good whatsoever for them."

Dr Donovan said the report found that the year 3 NAPLAN results of students with similar reading abilities were the same, regardless of whether students had completed the Reading Recovery program or not.

Leading literacy academic Robyn Cox, president of the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia, said Reading Recovery was effective for some students but it was not the only remediation program available to schools.

"One way of improving achievement in early literacy would be to enhance teachers' skills in identifying children with reading difficulties and fine-tuning their teaching strategies for this group," associate professor Cox said.

"Reading Recovery is successful for many kids but there will be some kids who have ongoing difficulties in processing print. I wouldn't want to say it is ineffective because for many kids it is just what they needed at the right time.''

A spokeswoman for the NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said the report showed where the program was working and where other strategies to improve reading could be more appropriate.

"The minister has asked the Department of Education for advice on how the report's findings can be used to further refine the effective, targeted delivery of reading support to students needing it most," she said.


Must not represent Australian Aborigines as cute

An ‘Australian Aboriginal Lucky Doll’ has been pulled from stores after photos of the key-ring surfaced on social media and were widely condemned as racist.

The wooden dolls were spotted at a store at Brisbane International Airport by Aboriginal activist Robin Taubenfeld.

They were painted with red, white, black and yellow and were attached to a key-ring by a leather rope which some have said is reminiscent of a ‘noose’.

A photo of the ‘Lucky Dolls’ was posted to Ms Taubenfeld’s Facebook page on Thursday, which prompted their removal from shelves the following day.  Her post has since been shared more than 400 times.

One person commented that the dolls were ‘disrespectful to The Dreaming’.

Another person said the reference to the key-chain as a ‘Lucky Doll’ was the source of people’s anger, given the conditions in Indigenous Communities regarding health, life expectancy and high imprisonment rates.

Others said it was an example of non-Aboriginal people misappropriating and profiting off stereotypes.

Many commented speculating that the dolls were likely not even made in Australia.

Some also left comments on Brisbane Airport Facebook page to express their dismay.

A spokesperson from Brisbane Airport confirmed to Daily Mail Australia that the key-chains were 'quickly' removed from shelves.


No comments: