Friday, January 07, 2022

Corruption in the Australian Federal Police

Two senior Australian Federal Police officers accused of being part of a “mafia-style group” have been sacked for “abuse of office” and two more have resigned amid the biggest corruption scandal to hit the national police force in decades.

The sackings and resignations follow a high-level investigation into the activities of the group dubbed the “Sydney Mafia”, accused of fraud by using AFP credit cards to buy white goods, televisions and Xboxes, as well as misappropriating office equipment and furniture.

The group was also in the frame for travel rorts, falsifying AFP records and time sheets, misappropriating AFP property and taking vehicles supposed to be used for protecting Defence Force properties for private use.

The investigation made the shocking findings that the officers had been acting in “collusion to engage in corruption and the coercion of others”.

More than 20 serious corruption and misconduct complaints investigated by the anti-corruption watchdog, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), have been established against the four AFP officers.

The revelations come as it can be revealed 22 AFP officers have been sacked in the past two years and 39 AFP members suspended. The AFP has not revealed if any of those have been charged with any offence.

It is the biggest and most serious fraud and corruption investigation into the AFP since the secretive Harrison inquiry findings in the 1990s – which the AFP kept under wraps and never released publicly but led to the sacking of seven AFP officers.

AFP sources who spoke out about the scandal last year said they had been warned not to talk about the investigation “in case it sparks a royal commission” into the wider activities of AFP Protective Service Officers.

But it can now be revealed the corruption investigation established four AFP officers engaged in nine corruption offences and 12 serious misconduct issues, including failing to report corruption.

“The corrupt conduct ranged from private spending on AFP corporate credit card unauthorised acquittal of transactions, using commonwealth monies to fund non-business related travel, collusion to engage in corruption and the coercion of others,” the AFP has reported.

An ACLEI spokesman said “once an investigation is completed, the Integrity Commissioner provides a report to the Attorney-General and the head of the agency involved (AFP) … and may decide to publish that report … on the ACLEI website.”

It has not yet been published.

All four officers involved were Protective Service Officers, who are specially trained in anti-terrorist response tactics, close protection work and are responsible for guarding the Prime Minister, foreign diplomats and Defence Force properties.

When News Corp broke the story last year, law enforcement sources said members of the “Sydney mafia” clique were practised at standover tactics relying on fear, intimidation and retribution to coerce others to keep quiet about their illegal activities, using “dirt files” on staff and unfavourable rostering to “destroy their lives” if they spoke out.

They said the officers had run rampant for years “deliberately abused positions of power for personal gain at the expense of government departments” and the fact they were allowed to operate for so long despite having “atrocious reputations” and widely known fraudulent activities “highlights an absolute failure of the AFP’s internal governance, human relations, professional standards and core values”.

The investigation began after a tip-off led to AFP professional standards officers visiting the Defence Force’s Garden Island base in Sydney to check the number of AFP vehicles in use by protective service officers. One was found missing – sparking raids on the homes of officers.


Newish Brisbane Business School has been recognised with two awards at the global QS-Wharton Reimagine Education Awards

Bronze Awards were received by the Griffith MBA program in the Management Education category and by the Business School for its revamped Bachelor of Business degree, in the Oceania category of the Regional awards.

Griffith MBA Director Associate Professor Stephanie Schleimer
MBA Director Associate Professor Stephanie Schleimer described the QS Wharton awards as the Oscars of Education awards, so to receive Bronze for their submission Tri Hita Karana: An MBA that Leads through Values was humbling.

“Trinita Karana is a Belen, Asian philosophy denoting three pathways to wellbeing through a harmony of people with people, the environment and a spiritual, Associate Professor Schleimer said.

“The Griffith MBA is the one of the world’s leading value based MBA program that builds on these principles through three core values embedded in the 17, UN SDGs and reshaped the hearts and minds of 1000s of business leaders around the world.

“We attract students from all demographic profiles including gender, age, nationality, and socio- economic status who really want to drive change.

“We’ve increased the number of women studying an MBA with us to 59%.”

“With nearly 700 active students and more than 1600 graduates, we are reaching almost 100 different industry sectors. In less than seven years, we have almost tripled our student intake.”

The new Bachelor of Business degree was recognised following a five-year project to redesign the first year, 22 majors and final capstone course.

Students are now given greater flexibility to complete a foundation year before exploring or committing to a wide variety of majors.

“This is a wonderful achievement and demonstrates that the work we have done is of value to current and new students,” Professor David Grant, Pro Vice Chancellor of GBS, said.

“The curriculum redesign for first year subjects produced an engaging, interdisciplinary suite of subjects with incredible online content such as animated videos, industry expert videos, interactive tools and more.

“This was underpinned by peer supported learning events, live workshops, online consultations and a weekly Business Social Hour where people could meet to discuss real life issues, study tips, and matters that the whole of the cohort would be interested in.”


Leaders unite to ride the Omicron wave to freedom

Federal and state leaders have held their nerve and prioritised the availability of rapid antigen testing kits for Covid-19 for medical cases and those who need them most. It is now clear that the world has entered a new phase with the Omicron variant, with soaring case numbers but steady hospital admissions, of which few require emergency treatment or ventilation. Vaccination is proving to be effective, and the worst outcomes have been restricted mostly to the unvaccinated.

In recent days, administration of the pandemic has been distracted by grandstanding over whether RAT kits should be made available to everyone free of charge. Under the existing rules, rapid tests have always been available free of charge for anyone who has symptoms or has been deemed a close contact. “Tests for close contacts and those symptomatic are free. They have always been free. They are essential tests that are required for public health management,” Scott Morrison said. “If you are not a close contact, not symptomatic, you do not need to get a test. We need to ensure we are focusing testing resources on essential tests required, not the casual tests.” In short, anyone wanting a test for social or other purposes is required to pay for it. This will remain the case, but a limited number of tests will be made available to low-income earners and concession card holders through pharmacies for three months. The cost will be shared by the federal government and the states.

The Prime Minister said there was no mood among any premiers, territory leaders or the commonwealth at Wednesday’s national cabinet meeting to make RAT kits free for all. This leaves Anthony Albanese on a limb, demanding measures that are not supported by any Labor premiers. Ahead of Wednesday’s national cabinet meeting, the Opposition Leader said Labor called on the Morrison government to make RAT kits free for Australians via Medicare. “We have considered the options and it is clear that this is the simplest, most efficient, fairest and most responsible way to fix the mess that Scott Morrison has made of testing at this critical juncture of the pandemic,” Mr Albanese said. State leaders engaged at the coalface of managing the pandemic know that encouraging the uptake of unnecessary tests will only add to the problems they are facing. As case numbers continue to escalate, the question is at what point will cases of the Omicron variant peak and start to decline.

This is the same question confronting leaders in other countries, including Britain and the US. More than a million new Covid cases were reported in the US on Monday, but the US government’s top adviser on the pandemic, Anthony Fauci, said it was now “more relevant” to focus on hospitalisations than cases. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is holding firm with his view there is a chance of riding out the Omicron wave without shutting down the country. Chief medical officer for England Sir Chris Whitty said that in London, the centre of the outbreak, case numbers were “levelling off or falling”.

There is still a chance that Omicron will hold further surprises or that a new, more deadly variant of the virus will emerge. But the big message remains that higher case numbers globally are not translating into equivalent rises in serious medical consequences. Health systems are struggling, but the primary issue is staff allocation rather than lack of treatment facilities should they be required. State and federal leaders have shown they are able to reach a sensible compromise on how to ride the Omicron wave.


Masks dumped in most settings as WA records no new cases of Covid-19 but Omicron confirmed in the community

A surprising let-up from a set of very tough regulations

The mask mandate in Western Australia will be almost entirely dumped despite the Omicron strain of Covid-19 spreading in the community.

Acting Premier Roger Cook told reporters on Friday that there were no new locally acquired cases overnight, but there were six other infections – three interstate and three international arrivals, who were all in quarantine.

Regarding the Hyatt Hotel quarantine security guard and his household contact, 23 close contacts had been identified and the majority had tested negative.

“Importantly, all their work colleagues have tested negative,” Mr Cook said.

However, genomic sequencing confirmed the guard had the Omicron variant.

“It means in turn, his household contact is the first local locally acquired transmission case of Omicron in the community,” Mr Cook said.

“While this is undoubtedly concerning, I want to assure everyone there was only a short time that the household contact could have potentially been infectious in the community.”

There have been no new cases linked to the backpacker cluster for the past two days.

“However, we can expect that we will continue to see some cases pop up over the coming days, most likely, among those who are already in quarantine linked to the backpack cluster,” Mr Cook said.

“But we are confident that this can be contained through our contact tracing efforts.

“Overwhelmingly, everyone did the right thing,” Mr Cook said.

It means that from 6pm on Friday, masks will no longer be required for indoor venues or other outdoor major events where it was mandated, such as music festivals.

Masks will only be required in vulnerable settings, such as aged care, disability care and hospitals, as well as on public transport, taxis and ride-share vehicles.

“So please, keep a mask at hand just in case,” Mr Cook said.

“We are able to cautiously ease these mask mandates because of the proof of vaccination requirements that are now in place for higher risk venues and events, such as nightclubs, larger venues, music festivals and major events.”

WA now has a first dose rate of 93.5 per cent and the second jab rate is approaching 90 per cent. The third dose rate is at 12.2 per cent, which Mr Cook said was increasing about one per cent every day.




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