Tuesday, 30 September 2008

$50b Aussie wipe-out


A board at the New York Stock Exchange displays the final numbers.

Australian stocks wiped more than $50 billion off the value of the market today after the US House of Representatives rejected a $US700 billion ($860 billion) plan to rescue the financial system.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index fell as much as 258.3 points, or 5.4 per cent to 4643. Futures had indicated a fall as much as 7 per cent.

Shares in Macquarie Group fell as much as $5.60, or 15 per cent, to $31.60.

Babcock & Brown shares were the biggest single fall in early trade, losing as much as 35 per cent, or 82.5 cents, to $1.52.5.

Trillion-dollar US wipe-out

The US House of Representatives voted down the package overnight, sending Wall Street into a panic and driving the Dow Jones Industrial Average down a record 777.68 points - or 6.98 per cent - wiping approximately $US1.2 trillion off the market value.

The S&P/ASX 200 was down 3.35 per cent at 10.10am.

Although it's the first-ever trillion-dollar one-day loss, it does not make the top 10 greatest percentage losses. On "Black Monday", October 19, 1987, the Dow dropped by 22.61 per cent.

Mr Rudd said he had spoken to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown this morning after the US House of Representatives rejected the financial package overnight, sending the Dow into freefall.

"We are now in touch with all of our counterparts in the United States from the Australian point of view, a British point of view and the Europeans are doing the same," he said.

Treasurer Wayne Swan said the fallout could have an impact on interest rates in Australia.

"There's no doubt that events in the United States will probably put further upward pressure on borrowings but we'll just have to wait and see," Mr Swan said today.

He would not commit to the Reserve Bank of Australia intervening in local markets today and went on to repeat his belief that Australia was in a much better position than the US because of tighter regulations.

"There's a world of difference between what's going on in the United States and Australia," Mr Swan said.

Related:

“Is this the United States Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?” Rep. Dennis Kucinich Rejects $700 Billion Bailout


The House is set to vote today on a $700 billion emergency bailout plan for the financial industry. The proposed legislation was forged during a marathon negotiating session over the weekend between lawmakers from both parties and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. The 110-page bill would authorize Paulson to initiate what is likely to become the biggest government bailout in US history, allowing him to spend up to $700 billion to relieve faltering banks and other firms of bad assets backed by home mortgages, which are falling into foreclosure at record rates.

Democrats take charge of pushing through Bush’s bailout of Wall Street

Democratic congressional leaders held a press conference late Sunday afternoon to announce agreement on a bill to hand over more than $700 billion in taxpayer funds to US banks and finance houses and press for its passage by Wednesday.

Upwardly immobile: mortgage stress bites
Reserve Bank statistics do not begin to tell the real story of housing stress in Sydney's western suburbs, according to financial counsellor Mike Young.

Households give up three years of gains
AUSTRALIAN households have been hit so hard this year that their financial gains of the past three years have been wiped out, a Reserve Bank report has found.

Rental rage surges in Sydney
One in three real estate agents have been threatened or abused by people frustrated at Sydney's rental shortage, a survey has found.

Qld has highest homeless rate in Australia

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show Queensland has the highest homeless population in Australia.

More homeless seeking help: report
A new report shows there has been a substantial increase in the number of homeless Australians seeking government help.

Housing rents surge in Sydney
RENTS for houses across Sydney surged 8 per cent in the three months to June, driven by landlords facing higher mortgage rates.

First mortgages doubled in a decade: ABS

The amount first home buyers borrowed to make their housing purchase doubled in the 10 years to 2005-06, new statistics show.

Housing crisis forcing people to sleep rough
A Wesley Mission study found 71 per cent of respondents identified the housing crisis as the major reason for them becoming homeless. Of those, 88 per cent said accumulated debt and unexpected financial crisis were factors.

Funding fall 'locks workers out of housing'

People who cannot afford to rent or buy suitable homes have been locked out of public housing because of a drastic fall in national funding, a Sydney conference has heard.

Renters must pay for their own evictions
SYDNEY renters have plenty to gripe about. Not only are their rents soaring but they are also funding the legal machinery used by landlords to evict them.

NSW feels the deepest jobs cut

MORE than 17,000 NSW workers left or lost their jobs last month in the worst labour market reading in years, fuelling fears the state will suffer the brunt of the coming economic slowdown.

Welfare services under strain: survey

The number of people accessing community services is on the rise, a new survey shows.

Report warns new wave of homelessness
State and federal governments are being warned of a new wave of homelessness threatening disadvantaged families.

When pain persists, they arrive
People are still angry when they lose their houses, but he notices that "people nowadays seem to think, when they take a loan, that it's a risk and that if they take the loan they might end up losing their house".

'No warning' about Beechwood collapse
The New South Wales Government says it had no warning one of the state's largest building companies was about to collapse, despite receiving more than 100 complaints over three years.

Housing crisis is real: industry
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) says new research highlights the seriousness of Australia's housing crisis.

Fee too much for Block project
THE Aboriginal Housing Company has accused the Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, of "trying to crucify" an ambitious housing plan for the Block in Redfern after his department refused to waive a $60,000 development application processing fee for the project.

Too many athletes just 'arrogant bullies'

AGGRESSIVE, uncompromising, arrogant, hypocritical, bullies, racist, sexist and violent … they are ways Australian athletes can be described, the sports commentator Tracey Holmes says.

The names of Australian greats Edwin Flack, Marjorie Jackson and Evonne Goolagong Cawley risk being besmirched by "a group of arrogant, alcohol-fuelled bad winners and losers", says Holmes, who will argue the affirmative in tonight's IQ2 debate, "For a sporting nation, we're not very sporting". On her side are the noted cricket writer Gideon Haigh and the Monash University lecturer Brett Hutchins.

Arguing the negative is retired cricket vice-captain Adam Gilchrist, the former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons and the broadcaster Adam Spencer.

Outlining her case Holmes says Australia's lack of sportsmanship is demonstrated in the way we consider our athletes clean and our sporting coaches traitors if they dare take their knowledge elsewhere.

We do not question our Beijing Olympic gold medal winners, she says, but we harbour doubts about Jamaica's 100-metre world record holder, Usain Bolt.

Our blindness may have allowed Shane Warne to try the claim that he failed a drug test because of a diet pill his mum gave him. We are happy to take the expertise of foreign coaches such as Robbie Deans, Guus Hiddink and the diving guru Wang Tong Xiang, yet we hounded Jessicah Schipper's 78-year-old coach for offering his services elsewhere.

Holmes writes that Australian sport has become synonymous with alcohol, saying that 30 per cent of 13-to-17-year-olds drink at sports clubs and footballers' drunken indiscretions no longer shock us.

She points out the national cricket team has never won the Spirit of Cricket Award.

Related:

Alcohol-related hospital visits rise
DRUNKEN female party animals are inundating NSW hospital emergency departments in record numbers.

Brumby confronts booze culture on streets
Victorian Premier John Brumby has toured some of Melbourne's most notorious nightlife strips as his government plots its next move against rising alcoholism and street violence.

Message on a bottle for binge drinkers
BOTTLES of alcoholic drinks could soon carry graphic pictures warning of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption as part of the Federal Government's latest series of measures to cut down on under-age and binge drinking.

Alliance tackles drunken violence
THE TOLL of alcohol-related violence has reached the point where one in five Australians now say they have been directly affected or know someone who has been affected by this type of violence, a new survey shows.

Binge drinking teens: 'two deaths a week'
South Australia's Drug and Alcohol Service says there are about two deaths a week in Australia involving young people who have been binge-drinking.

Calls for binge warnings on alcohol packaging

The Public Health Association (PHA) says warnings about the dangers of binge drinking should be pasted on all forms of packaged alcoholic drinks.

Worked for the dole and ended up injured

GREGORY WARREN THOMSON went out to work for the dole and ended up injured.

His previous job working for his unemployment benefits in northern NSW had been with the Tweed Maritime Museum, but on September 21 five years ago he was asked to present himself at a labour hire company the next day.

Not having been told anything to the contrary, he expected a similar job and turned up in similar clothing and the flat-soled shoes he wore at the museum.

Mr Thomson was taken by bus to a farm for distressed animals and told to do fencing work. When he asked for steel capped boots, which other workers were wearing, the supervisor told him no boots were available for him.

Mr Thomson, then 36, was given little or no instruction, supervision, or training and ordered to help put up a 1.8-metre fence with cyclone mesh to keep in alpacas and wallabies.

The fence was to be erected on a rocky and downwards sloping uneven area with stones and loose gravel.

To attach the mesh Mr Thomson had to work with his hands above his head, looking upwards, while walking across rubble. His feet slid and he fell down the slope into a trench.

Mr Thompson's lower left leg snapped and the bone was pushing through the skin. He was taken to hospital in extreme pain over dirt roads without any first aid. He needed an operation and was bedridden for three months.

Last week he was awarded $199,550.19 in compensation for past and future economic losses and expenses.

The District Court judge Brian Knox found Twin Towns Employment Enterprises owed Mr Thomson a duty of care. "There was an inequality of bargaining power between the parties given that the plaintiff was effectively required to work for the defendant where, and when, and how he was directed - otherwise he would risk losing unemployment benefits," Judge Knox said.

"[Mr Thomson] had very little say in the work he carried out."

Aussie motorists getting angrier: report

Australian drivers are getting angrier and they're not shy about showing other motorists exactly how they feel.

Figures released by insurance company AAMI shows driver aggression is at an all-time high with acts of revenge becoming increasingly popular.

The figures show 68 per cent of drivers had been tailgated at some point, while 32 per cent said they had been followed.

The number of motorists who considered tailgating to be an acceptable response to road rage had more than quadrupled since AAMI first canvassed road rage among drivers in 1997 when just five per cent said they had been angry enough to tailgate another driver.

Alarmingly, one in seven drivers surveyed said they had been forced off the road, while one in 10 have had their car wilfully damaged as a result of an altercation with another motorist.

Two-thirds, or 69 per cent, said they had been verbally abused, while four in five, or 83 per cent, had received rude hand gestures.

More than half (57 per cent) of those surveyed admitted to gesturing rudely or yelling at another driver when they had done something dangerous or rude.

Of those, 83 per cent thought the payback was justified.

"While many of us have sworn or gestured rudely at other drivers from time to time, it is completely unacceptable that one-fifth of drivers have become so angry with the actions of another motorist that they have resorted to tailgating," AAMI public affairs manager Geoff Hughes said.

"If this wasn't bad enough, 60 per cent of those drivers thought tailgating as retribution was entirely justifiable."

"The rise in road rage is worrying in itself, however, also concerning is the increasing number of motorists who believe this sort of retaliation is entirely acceptable," Mr Hughes said.

'Parasitic' grandfather jailed for sex offences

An elderly man who sexually abused eight members of his family over almost four decades has been sentenced to 18 years in jail.

The 76-year-old man, who can only be identified as RP, sexually abused his daughters, stepdaughters and granddaughters over 37 years, only stopping when he was caught in 2007.

The court heard the youngest of his victims was four-years-old.

RP pleaded guilty to 29 counts including incest, carnal knowledge and indecent assault.

In sentencing, Justice Philip Cummins said RP's offending was vile and parasitical, and against victims who were wholly vulnerable.

He said RP had caused his victims suffering and anguish for which he had limited genuine remorse.

RP will serve a non-parole period of 12 years.

Rockhampton murderer loses appeal bid

A university student found guilty of murdering a Rockhampton woman has lost his bid to appeal his conviction in the High Court.

Beau Ernest Hinschen was last year jailed for life for the murder of Suzanne Standing at her home in August 2005.

She was stabbed and had her face shattered and the trial judge described the killing as vicious and frenzied.

Hinschen claimed that Ms Standing's former partner, Scott Jobling, forced him at gunpoint to kill the 30-year-old woman.

Hinschen's lawyers today sought leave to appeal their client's conviction in the High Court, arguing the trial judge failed to properly instruct the jury about his previous good character.

But the High Court refused the application, concluding that it was not convinced that an error occurred or that there was a miscarriage of justice.

Man sentenced for schoolies attack

A 20-year-old man has been sentenced to two years in a youth justice centre for hitting a fellow reveller during schoolies week celebrations in Lorne.

Alexander James Kennedy had pleaded not guilty to one count of recklessly causing serious injury, but was convicted by a jury.

The County Court heard Kennedy had punched a fellow reveller, Jon Hucker, in the face outside the Lorne Hotel in 2006.

Mr Hucker fell to the ground and fractured his skull.

He was comatose for a fortnight, and required long-term rehabilitation to learn how how to walk and speak again.

Outside court, Mr Hucker said he was pleased with today's sentence.

"(There's) no need for violence. Really, like, why do it? There's no need for it," he said.

His mother, Suzanne Hucker, said the two year sentence was fair.

"Very grateful that truth and justice prevailed, and that Jon now can move on," she said.

The court heard Kennedy was drinking before the attack, but was remorseful and had resolved to curtail his consumption of alcohol.

Judge Wendy Wilmoth said courts must deal severely with alcohol-fuelled street violence.

Man sentenced for koala slingshot attack

A man has been ordered to do 150 hours of community service for firing a slingshot at a koala.

James Daniel Healey, 22, from Rostrevor in Adelaide has been convicted on a charge of taking a protected animal.

Magistrate Simon Smart has put Healey under the supervision of a community services officer and ordered him to pay more than $200 in court costs.

Hospital workers to walk off the job

Thousands of hospital workers across Queensland will walk off the job for at least two hours today as part of an ongoing wages dispute with the State Government.

Admin and clinical staff from at least ten major facilities including the Royal Brisbane and Womens' Hospitals and Princess Alexandra and Prince Charles will take part in the stoppage.

Queensland Public Sector Union spokesman Alex Scott says they have been forced into taking the drastic step.

"We are a minute from midnight in terms of a significant crisis because the Government is refusing to listen," he said.

Mr Scott says emergency cases will still be seen and some staff will remain at work.

The Premier Anna Bligh has warned public servants will be taken to the Industrial Commission if the strike is too disruptive.

"I don't expect we'll see any significant disruptions to services," Ms Bligh said.

The stoppage is due to begin at 11:30am AEST with workers to attend rallies around the state.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Policeman admits to sex charges


Police officer Andrew Robert Macdonald Storr (centre) pleads guilty to sex charges

A police officer has pleaded guilty in the District Court in Adelaide to nine sex charges involving two girls.

Andrew Robert Macdonald Storr, 24, from Whyalla has admitted having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl three times in 2004.

He has also admitted to five counts of indecent assault against a younger girl at Whyalla last year and that he inappropriately contacted her.

Storr will return to court in December for sentencing submissions.

He is suspended from active police duty.

Scientists push PM for 25pc emissions cut


A group of top level climate change experts has written a letter to the Prime Minister arguing that cutting greenhouse gas emissions by only 10 per cent would be dangerous.

The Federal Government's climate change adviser, Professor Ross Garnaut, will release his final report on climate change tomorrow.

Professor Garnaut recently flagged a target of 10 per cent reductions by 2020, drawing criticism from the scientific community for not being high enough.

But he also said a 25 per cent cut would be more effective.

Professor Matthew England from the University of New South Wales says he and 15 of his peers are urging Kevin Rudd to decide on a 25 per cent cut in emissions.

"This is unprecedented for a group of scientists to write a letter to the Prime Minister of a nation advocating a certain emissions trajectory," he said.

"It's just a message of 'take the deepest cuts possible' because the science tells us that anything less than than will commit us to dangerous climate change.

"A couple of weeks ago we had the release of an interim report from the Garnaut team and that stated, it came away from the 450 target and it went right up to 550 which is really a dangerous level of carbon dioxide to be speaking about."

Related:

Greenpeace criticises clean-coal plans
The environmental group Greenpeace has called on the Federal Government to rethink its support for clean coal technology.

Garnaut too soft on emissions target: expert

A leading Australian climate scientist has criticised the greenhouse gas reduction targets proposed by the Government's climate change adviser Professor Ross Garnaut.

Green groups slam failure to set firm targets
THE Federal Government has refused to commit itself to any of the pollution reduction models outlined by its handpicked climate change expert, Ross Garnaut, saying it will make its own decisions by the end of the year.

Native forests should be part of the solution

The Greens leader Bob Brown says lifting Australia's reserves of native forests should be part of the Federal Government's solution to climate change.

Sea levels could rise 4m this century
An expert in climate change says the world's sea levels could rise by up to four metres this century.

Greens: Tougher ETS in Senate

Greens Leader Bob Brown has vowed to use his party's new power in the Senate to push for a tough emissions trading scheme (ETS). The Greens now share the balance of power in the Upper House and Senator Brown says he will use his vote to force stronger action on climate change.

Greens urge swift response to Garnaut draft
The Greens say the Federal Government can not be worried about electoral popularity and must move quickly when it responds to economist Ross Garnaut's draft report on climate change.

Climate change fight needs political ardour: Greenpeace
Greenpeace says the only thing Australia lacks in the fight against climate change is political will.

Leaving petrol off emissions trading scheme 'dangerous'
The Greens say any moves to leave petrol out of the Federal Government's emissions trading scheme will render it ineffective.

Aust's ecological footprint one of biggest in world: index
The annual Climate Living Index, which measures humanity's demand on natural resources, has listed Australia's ecological footprint as one of the biggest in the world.

Climate change hot topic at youth 2020 summits
More than 500 schools held talks during the past month ahead of the Federal Government's Youth Summit in Canberra this weekend. Ms Gillard says she is not surprised the environment is the number one concern of many children.

Greenpeace to give Treasurer carbon capture petition
A petition with 30,000 signatures will today be handed to the Federal Treasurer's office urging the Government to abandon its investment in carbon capture and storage.

Suspended sentence for attempted murder

A 76-year-old woman who tried to kill her elderly husband because she believed his nursing home was neglecting him, has been given a suspended sentence.

The Victorian Supreme Court has heard Anastasia Nestorowycz's husband suffered from dementia and diabetes and had lost the use of his legs.

The court heard she believed his nursing home in the Melbourne suburb of Thornbury was not taking care of him. She was unable to care for him herself.

The court heard she was distressed because her husband of 35 years made repeated pleas to be taken home.

She tried to kill him by stabbing him once in the stomach and also tried to commit suicide.

Nestorowycz pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was sentenced to two years and nine months prison. However the sentence was wholly suspended.

Justice David Harper said Nestorowycz had been suffering from an impaired mental state and had made a decision she had no right to make.

Over 130 police have criminal convictions

New South Wales Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione has defended his force, as new figures show 133 serving officers have criminal convictions.

Three senior constables and two detectives have kept their jobs despite more than one conviction.

It is reported that documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the officers have 166 offences between them.

Commissioner Scipione says most of those are traffic offences, although there are several assaults.

He says he dismissed some of the officers, but the Industrial Relations Commission ruled that they could keep their jobs.

"I lost confidence in them in the first instance," he said.

"But whilst I might not be to pleased at having to take them back, at the end of the day the commission is the commission and they have the authority to make sure I take them back."

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Gillard stresses local relevance of US crisis

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard has highlighted the seriousness of the United States financial crisis, warning that Australia is not immune to financial turbulence overseas.

The US Treasury is currently debating an $840 billion rescue package, funded by taxpayers and designed to lure investors back into the struggling market.

Ms Gillard says the situation in the US has serious implications for the domestic economy.

"What it means for us is, we as a Government have to take a prudent approach to economic management," she said.

'Not immune'

Ms Gillard says the Federal Government's proposed budget measures aim to keep a reign on the domestic economy.

"The point that we have been making is that we are in different circumstances here," she said.

"We are not immune from global credit markets but we have a strong well regulated financial sector and that puts us into a different position as the United States where the subprime mortgage issue has just been so huge."

But Ms Gillard says the Opposition is being irresponsible and are "standing in the way" of important budget measures.

"We inherited a domestic inflation challenge with inflation running at 16-year highs," she said.

"In uncertain economic times globally, the last thing we can afford is uncertain budget spendings at home."

Related:

Wall Street crisis: Poor to bail out the rich again “Rich people got it good in this country”, said African-American comedian Wanda Sykes on the September 24 Tonight Show with Jay Leno. “We refuse to let them not be rich. Think about it. Broke people are about to bailout rich people. This is what is going on.”

THEY WANT MAMA TO MAKE IT ALL BETTER! Rep Kaptur 'Rep. Marcy Kaptur gets it right — sort of. Wall Street and the banksters are not irresponsible, as she claims, they are criminals who methodically plotted to loot as much money as they could from the markets and then turn the corpse over to the American people, who they know will be obliged to pay for the damages.'

Bailouts Will Push US into Depression
Infowars.com 'The end result of the global economic slowdown may be the U.S. announcing national bankruptcy as the government cannot afford the bailouts that it promised and the market will not bail out the government, Martin Hennecke, senior manager of private clients at Tyche, told CNBC on Thursday.'

Democrats, Republicans conspire to remove Wall Street bailout from election campaign Closed-door talks continued throughout the day Friday between congressional Democratic and Republican leaders and the Bush administration, with all sides pledging to reach agreement on terms of a $700 billion bailout package for the US financial system before the Asian stock markets open Monday morning—Sunday afternoon in the US.

Biggest US bank failure ever
Another US banking giant fell Thursday, with the government seizure of Washington Mutual and the purchase of its operations and assets by JPMorgan Chase.

Upwardly immobile: mortgage stress bites
Reserve Bank statistics do not begin to tell the real story of housing stress in Sydney's western suburbs, according to financial counsellor Mike Young.

Households give up three years of gains
AUSTRALIAN households have been hit so hard this year that their financial gains of the past three years have been wiped out, a Reserve Bank report has found.

Rental rage surges in Sydney
One in three real estate agents have been threatened or abused by people frustrated at Sydney's rental shortage, a survey has found.

Qld has highest homeless rate in Australia

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show Queensland has the highest homeless population in Australia.

More homeless seeking help: report
A new report shows there has been a substantial increase in the number of homeless Australians seeking government help.

Housing rents surge in Sydney
RENTS for houses across Sydney surged 8 per cent in the three months to June, driven by landlords facing higher mortgage rates.

First mortgages doubled in a decade: ABS

The amount first home buyers borrowed to make their housing purchase doubled in the 10 years to 2005-06, new statistics show.

Housing crisis forcing people to sleep rough
A Wesley Mission study found 71 per cent of respondents identified the housing crisis as the major reason for them becoming homeless. Of those, 88 per cent said accumulated debt and unexpected financial crisis were factors.

Funding fall 'locks workers out of housing'

People who cannot afford to rent or buy suitable homes have been locked out of public housing because of a drastic fall in national funding, a Sydney conference has heard.

Renters must pay for their own evictions
SYDNEY renters have plenty to gripe about. Not only are their rents soaring but they are also funding the legal machinery used by landlords to evict them.

NSW feels the deepest jobs cut

MORE than 17,000 NSW workers left or lost their jobs last month in the worst labour market reading in years, fuelling fears the state will suffer the brunt of the coming economic slowdown.

Welfare services under strain: survey

The number of people accessing community services is on the rise, a new survey shows.

Report warns new wave of homelessness
State and federal governments are being warned of a new wave of homelessness threatening disadvantaged families.

When pain persists, they arrive
People are still angry when they lose their houses, but he notices that "people nowadays seem to think, when they take a loan, that it's a risk and that if they take the loan they might end up losing their house".

'No warning' about Beechwood collapse
The New South Wales Government says it had no warning one of the state's largest building companies was about to collapse, despite receiving more than 100 complaints over three years.

Housing crisis is real: industry
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) says new research highlights the seriousness of Australia's housing crisis.

Parents lack life skills, means, time: Stanley

ONE in five Australian parents are poor caregivers because they don't have the means or life skills, child health expert Professor Fiona Stanley says.

she said many others could not devote enough time to their kids because of excessive job commitments.

"If we don't respond to these challenges ... we will be looking at our generation, my generation, as being the last generation that lives longer than its parents," Prof Stanley said.

"If you look at the overall trend in many problems, they are actually showing no improvement and some of them are getting dramatically worse."

Mental illness, obesity, asthma and substance abuse were the biggest health risks for Australian kids.

"Family life has changed a lot," Prof Stanley said.

"You've got more hours of work, you've got more women working, but without men, or the business world or government, actually coming forward with really good childcare.

"So who's responsible for the children when a high proportion of women are working?

"That's been very detrimental to children."

Related:

Mental illness more prevalent among youth

A new report on children's health shows that young people's mental health may not be improving, as was previously thought.

Alcohol-related hospital visits rise

Alcohol-related hospital visits rocket, with young women the worst

DRUNKEN female party animals are inundating NSW hospital emergency departments in record numbers.

NSW Health has released new figures which show an overall 59 per cent increase in alcohol-related emergency department cases from 2000 to 2007.

The biggest increase in hospital visits was among young women - the 18- to 24-year-old group of females with a thirst for grog to match their male rivals - whose numbers increased by 200 per cent.

The numbers were drawn from a sample of NSW hospital emergency departments with the number of females increasing from 412 to 1233 patients a year.

Alcohol-related illnesses and injuries are taking a huge toll on the NSW health system.

Yesterday NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said he was so concerned about the level of these hospitalisations - particularly among young people - he would use the health ministers' round-table meeting in November to call for a ban on alcohol advertising.

Mr Della Bosca said the time had come to address the issue, with more than 40,000 drinkers being admitted to NSW hospitals each year.

Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with cirrhosis of the liver, mental illness, several types of cancer, pancreatitis, fetal growth retardation, aggressive behaviour, family disruption and accidents.

He said all options should be considered, including warning labels on alcohol, no alcohol ads to be screened on television before 9pm or a complete advertising ban.

"Binge drinking is caused by a number of factors but advertising does not help," Mr Della Bosca said. "The power of persuasion of alcohol advertising is the most sophisticated and seductive I have seen. As a student of the art of persuasion for electioneering, the alcohol industry is almost unbeatable."

Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon yesterday said the alcohol-related hospitalisation figures were a cause for concern. She did not rule out toughening advertising laws, saying: "We need to have a comprehensive response to tackle binge drinking in Australia."

A $1.5 million trial of specialist nurses in six hospital emergency departments to deal with drunk or drugged patients is being rolled out by the Rees Government. The nurses will work at the Campbelltown, Liverpool, Royal Prince Alfred, Concord and John Hunter hospitals and The Children's Hospital at Westmead to deal with emergency department patients suffering behavioural disturbances due to drug or alcohol use.

"The hospitals have been chosen because they have access to psychiatric emergency care centres and in-patient detoxification units," Mr Della Bosca said. "This will alleviate the pressure on emergency department staff who experience an increase in alcohol and drug-affected patients.

"At the request of Council of Australian Governments, the Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy also has agreed to progress the Federal Government's $53.5 million National Binge Drinking Strategy, including community level initiatives.

"This national approach aims to reduce the incidence of alcohol-related violence and the impact of alcohol abuse on individuals, the community and the health system.

"There was also agreement to assess late-night lockouts for licensed premises based on analysis across the nation of existing and trial lockouts to recommend a preferred framework."

Mr Della Bosca's comments came as police investigated a brawl near a Parramatta hotel yesterday.

An 18-year-old man was struck in the head with a beer bottle during the incident, about 12.40am in Horwood Place. He underwent surgery at Westmead Hospital.

Social commentator Neer Korn said trying to change young Australians' love of binge drinking would require more than changing taxes for alco-pops.

Mr Korn, director of Heartbeat Trends, said the number of young people visiting hospitals for alcohol-related problems came as no surprise.

"We have been tracking 18- to 24-year-olds for at least a decade, talking with them three to four times a year, and we have increasingly seen them engage with alcohol," Mr Korn said. "They want to have a great life with extreme experiences. They have this philosophy of compensation where they beat up their body to the nth degree on a binge, but then take a vitamin pill, go for a swim or do yoga the next day to make up for the punishment. They view bingeing as being functional. Someone who drinks every day in the morning or lies in the gutter is dysfunctional in their minds."

Related:

Brumby confronts booze culture on streets
Victorian Premier John Brumby has toured some of Melbourne's most notorious nightlife strips as his government plots its next move against rising alcoholism and street violence.

Message on a bottle for binge drinkers
BOTTLES of alcoholic drinks could soon carry graphic pictures warning of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption as part of the Federal Government's latest series of measures to cut down on under-age and binge drinking.

Alliance tackles drunken violence
THE TOLL of alcohol-related violence has reached the point where one in five Australians now say they have been directly affected or know someone who has been affected by this type of violence, a new survey shows.

Binge drinking teens: 'two deaths a week'
South Australia's Drug and Alcohol Service says there are about two deaths a week in Australia involving young people who have been binge-drinking.

Calls for binge warnings on alcohol packaging

The Public Health Association (PHA) says warnings about the dangers of binge drinking should be pasted on all forms of packaged alcoholic drinks.

One in 10 Aussies are racist: study

The lead author of a 10-year study into the attitudes of Australians towards cultural diversity says the findings are encouraging.

Researchers from the University of Western Sydney surveyed about 12,500 people across the country about their opinions on cultural diversity and racism.

It found that New South Wales is the least tolerant of all the states and territories.

Human Geography and Urban Studies Professor Kevin Dunn says overall Australian's are accepting of cultural differences.

"More than 80 per cent of people see cultural diversity as a benefit and that's a good thing for Australian society," he said.

"More than half are comfortable with the experience of cultural difference too and they reported that to us as well.

"Well this is a positive and negative, probably only one in 10 we would call racial supremacists, they believe in racism that some are inferior and superior to others."

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Three sentenced over cocaine bust

IT WAS a complex ploy but police discovered it by accident.

They were investigating another man, when a recorded phone call led to a plan by three eastern suburbs men to conspire with others to import a large amount of cocaine.

The plan, hatched in phone calls and during meetings between co-conspirators in Spain, Canada and at the Clovelly Surf Life Saving Club, was to import the drugs hidden in a truck that was being shipped from Panama to Sydney on a container ship.

At Patrick's dock at Darling Harbour, dock workers known to one or more of the conspirators were to offload the truck and its contents, and take the drugs out of the terminal.

But neither the Illinois-registered truck, nor its expected 30-kilogram illegal cargo, ever made it to Australia.

Yesterday - more than six years after the conspiracy started and after two lengthy trials - the three men were sentenced for their roles.

The first trial, which ended after five months in a hung verdict, attracted attention when one of the jurors told the judge they had lost their job because of the length of the trial.

The Crime Commission was investigating allegations of jury irregularities during this trial.

After a second lengthy and costly trial the three - the former South Sydney footballer Ricky James Montgomery, the former hotelier Bradley James Evans and a Maroubra man, Hayden Rodgers - were found guilty.

Since then, their lawyers have raised concerns over the role of the then Crime Commission investigator Mark Standen, who faces drug charges, and his link with Steven James, the key Crown witness against them.

James, who had taken a leading role in the import plan, had misled the court at his own sentencing hearing and successfully minimised his role, Judge Peter Zahra found yesterday. He found he could not trust James's testimony unless it was corroborated and found Evans and Rodgers were not as involved in the conspiracy as Montgomery.

All three would face a difficult time in prison because of the effect on their families, and various physical and psychological ailments, Judge Zahra ruled.

Montgomery, who had a record, was sentenced to a minimum of nearly 11 years. Evans received a minimum prison term of seven years, and Rodgers was given a minimum six-year prison sentence.

Related:

Ruling puts drug stings in jeopardy
IN ANOTHER embarrassing blow for the NSW Crime Commission that may have wider implications for undercover drug stings, the High Court ruled yesterday that invalid authorities were used for an unprecedented commission operation that sold cocaine imported via corrupt Sydney Airport baggage handlers.

Crime Commission urged to make changes
A joint parliamentary committee has called for significant changes to the Australian Crime Commission (ACC). The commission investigates serious and organised crime and has coercive powers to source information which cannot be accessed through traditional policing methods.

How elite agents went off the rails
THEY were the untouchables, an elite band of Australian Federal Police, some of whom insiders say were no better than "gangsters with police badges".

Iemma: Crime Commission probe?
New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma says he would support an investigation into the state's Crime Commission after one of its senior investigators was arrested for allegedly working with a global drug ring. Police allege 51-year-old Mark Standen worked with a syndicate based in the Netherlands to import 600 kilograms of chemicals to make $120 million worth of ice.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Upwardly immobile: mortgage stress bites


Reserve Bank statistics do not begin to tell the real story of housing stress in Sydney's western suburbs, according to financial counsellor Mike Young.

The former banker who joined Parramatta Lifeline as a financial adviser about nine years ago has seen his client list expand exponentially in the last three years.

"I've been doing this for about nine years now and up until about three-and-a-half years ago I'd see one client a year with a mortgage problem," Mr Young said.

"I'm now seeing one client a week if not two a week and I only work two days a week. (Mortgage stress) is alive and well."

The biggest myth about mortgage arrears and home repossessions, according to Mr Young, is that the problem is confined to single-income, struggling families.

"It's not just the down and outers, a lot of the people I'm talking to are your upwardly mobiles where the thing to do is buy your investment property," he said.

Successive interest rate hikes and spiralling living costs have combined with falling house prices across much of Sydney's west, he said.

Abbotsbury father-of-two Gil is a victim of this cycle.

The 55-year-old steel industry manager bought a two-bedroom townhouse at Rooty Hill in 2003 as an investment, in the hope of having some "money on the side" during retirement.

He fixed the majority of the loan at 7.19 per cent but the rest is variable and currently sitting just above 9 per cent.

Gil, who did not want his surname published, says the real estate agent's "flashy and glittering sales pitch" about the potential capital growth and using equity in his first home, plus a loan to minimise his tax burden, were false promises.

His initial investment of $305,000 would now fetch just $265,000.

"When the property market was going up and up I thought I can't lose," Gil said.

"It was a bit late for me to do it, then I should have realised (the market) was too high. My only hope to keep this property is if the banks start lowering their rates in conjunction with the RBA."

He says the big banks' reluctance to pass on rate cuts was insulting.

"It's the banks thinking they won't have to put our interest rates down that really pissed me off," he said.

"Why don't they look within their smug little world and see what they can do to fix the problem because that's where it stemmed from and it was their decision-making that got us all in this predicament."

NSW Housing Minister David Borger, who is also the Member of Granville, criticised lenders for being too soft on financial checks and documentation.

But industry representatives said it was up to banks to decide which loans to approve.

"Unfortunately there are some fringe lenders in our industry and we are determined to rid our industry of these unscrupulous operators," Mortgage and Finance Association of Australia chief executive Phil Naylor said.

"The very small minority of brokers and lenders who recommend loans inappropriate for a borrower's needs are a blight on our whole industry."

Darren Murphy, from the Parramatta-based Loan Management Centre, said worried homeowners should ask for help as soon as possible.

"People will leave it until they're three months in arrears before they put their hand up," Mr Murphy said.

"If people sought advice and help from professionals sooner rather than later then they'd give themselves wider choices.

The client list at the Salvation Army's Moneycare counselling service has also long reflected this week's Reserve Bank of Australia Financial Stability Review.

Moneycare co-ordinator Tony Devlin said mortgage payment problems had grown from 10 per cent to half of the service's work.

Most families were victims of poor lending practices coupled with sheer bad luck, Mr Devlin said.

"It's not reckless spending, they've lost their job, there's been an illness, a partner has died," he said.

"Couple that with easy access to debt and it becomes a huge problem."

Related:

Households give up three years of gains
AUSTRALIAN households have been hit so hard this year that their financial gains of the past three years have been wiped out, a Reserve Bank report has found.

Rental rage surges in Sydney
One in three real estate agents have been threatened or abused by people frustrated at Sydney's rental shortage, a survey has found.

Qld has highest homeless rate in Australia

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show Queensland has the highest homeless population in Australia.

More homeless seeking help: report
A new report shows there has been a substantial increase in the number of homeless Australians seeking government help.

Housing rents surge in Sydney
RENTS for houses across Sydney surged 8 per cent in the three months to June, driven by landlords facing higher mortgage rates.

First mortgages doubled in a decade: ABS

The amount first home buyers borrowed to make their housing purchase doubled in the 10 years to 2005-06, new statistics show.

Housing crisis forcing people to sleep rough
A Wesley Mission study found 71 per cent of respondents identified the housing crisis as the major reason for them becoming homeless. Of those, 88 per cent said accumulated debt and unexpected financial crisis were factors.

Funding fall 'locks workers out of housing'

People who cannot afford to rent or buy suitable homes have been locked out of public housing because of a drastic fall in national funding, a Sydney conference has heard.

Renters must pay for their own evictions
SYDNEY renters have plenty to gripe about. Not only are their rents soaring but they are also funding the legal machinery used by landlords to evict them.

NSW feels the deepest jobs cut

MORE than 17,000 NSW workers left or lost their jobs last month in the worst labour market reading in years, fuelling fears the state will suffer the brunt of the coming economic slowdown.

Welfare services under strain: survey

The number of people accessing community services is on the rise, a new survey shows.

Report warns new wave of homelessness
State and federal governments are being warned of a new wave of homelessness threatening disadvantaged families.

When pain persists, they arrive
People are still angry when they lose their houses, but he notices that "people nowadays seem to think, when they take a loan, that it's a risk and that if they take the loan they might end up losing their house".

'No warning' about Beechwood collapse
The New South Wales Government says it had no warning one of the state's largest building companies was about to collapse, despite receiving more than 100 complaints over three years.

Housing crisis is real: industry
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) says new research highlights the seriousness of Australia's housing crisis.

Fee too much for Block project
THE Aboriginal Housing Company has accused the Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, of "trying to crucify" an ambitious housing plan for the Block in Redfern after his department refused to waive a $60,000 development application processing fee for the project.

Sex offender jailed for nine years

A Victorian man who sexually abused 12 children has been sentenced to nine years and four months in jail.

John Beyer, 66, abused children including wards of the state from boys' homes where he volunteered, and children living in his local area.

His youngest victim was four or five-years-old, and the oldest 13.

Beyer pleaded guilty to 31 counts of sexual assault.

The court heard the offending stretched over 12 years, between 1973 and 1985.

In sentencing, Judge Duncan Allen said his offending was ruthless and horrifically predatory.

Outside court one of Beyer's victims said the sentence gave him closure.

"It's going to help me move on for sure," the victim said.

Beyer will serve a non-parole period of six years.

Mental illness cuts ecstasy smuggler's term

A man facing up to 25 years in jail for one of the largest seizures of ecstasy ever recorded in Australia has received a reduced sentence because of mental illness.

Zachariah O'Brien, 36, was found to have been suffering from bipolar disorder when he and Kings Cross drug dealer Robert Drury, 58, imported $200 million worth of ecstasy tablets hidden in the walls of a baking oven from Germany.

Both men were arrested by federal police on November 13 in 2004 when they picked up the oven containing 820 kilograms of the drug from a storage centre at Wetherill Park in Sydney's south-west.

O'Brien, from the NSW north coast village of New Italy, and Drury were charged with conspiring to import a large commercial quantity of ecstasy and with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

In June 2006, Drury was sentenced to 18 years' jail for his part in the importation with a minimum non-parole term of 11 years.

During this time it was alleged the pair obtained the drug from a Netherlands-based crime syndicate which has been since dismantled with convictions against three Dutch men and two other men in Belgium.

After spending almost four years in jail on remand since his arrest and conviction in a trial in August last year, O'Brien came before Judge Greg Woods in the Downing Centre District Court today for sentencing.

In sentencing O'Brien to serve 12 years imprisonment with a non-parole period of eight years, Judge Woods took into account the mental health issue.

He also took into account the time Woods had already spent in custody and said that period should be deducted from his non-parole sentence. Woods will be eligible for release in 2012.

The seizure in 2004 was regarded at the time as the largest ever shipment to have been recovered by Australian Federal Police and customs in Australia.

The oven ecstasy haul is now ranked by federal police as the third largest seizure of the drug after 1.2 tons was seizure in Melbourne in 2005 and last year 4.4 tons of ecstasy was recovered in Melbourne last year.

Darkroom sex-attack teacher jailed

A teacher who sexually assaulted a student in a school photography darkroom over a two-year period has been sentenced to five years' jail.

Paul Anthony Segar, 50, of Mount Waverley, went on trial for 10 sexual offences against a former student.

A jury found him guilty of eight, including indecent acts with a child under 16 and sexual penetration of a child under 16 under his care.

The victim, a student of Segar's at an eastern suburbs secondary college in the 1990s, was 14 when he grabbed her from behind and touched her thighs and groin.

County Court Judge Julian Leckie said Segar's offences involved a serious breach of trust.

"I find nothing within the evidence which indicates true remorse," he said.

Judge Leckie told the court the victim and Segar worked on developing photos in the darkroom for the school magazine.

The court heard Segar first approached the victim in the darkroom, putting his hand on her chest and running his hands up and down her pelvis when she was 14.

During the next two years he sexually assaulted her on a number of other occasions.

The woman reported the matter to police about eight years later and wore a recording device to meet him at a shopping centre in March 2006.

Segar was sentenced to five years in jail with a three year non-parole period.

Households give up three years of gains

AUSTRALIAN households have been hit so hard this year that their financial gains of the past three years have been wiped out, a Reserve Bank report has found.

Despite missing out on the worst of the global financial meltdown, householders are still going backwards.

[Did we miss out on the worst? Perhaps it's a little too early to tell?]

A combination of falling house prices, the plunging sharemarket and high inflation was to blame, the Reserve's Financial Stability Review concluded.

It found the financial downturn in the first half of this year had cut household net worth so it was back to the level of early 2005, as a ratio of disposable income.

In other grim news, new home sales dropped across the nation last month and were particularly bad in Queensland - down 4.7 per cent on the previous month.

But the Reserve review said consumers in other countries were doing much worse.

It also singled out the Australian banking system for special praise, saying it was "weathering the current difficulties much better than many other financial systems".

Mortgage stress creating 'struggle street' in Aust

Mortgage stress is an increasing problem in Australia, according to the Reserve Bank, which says thousands of households across the country are struggling to keep up with mortgage repayments.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has pointed the finger of blame at what it describes as "predatory" lending practices by mortgage brokers and an increased appetite for debt among households.

The situation is outlined in the RBA's financial stability review released yesterday, which focused on how Australian banks are weathering the financial storm.

That is the big picture, but another section looks at the real world which is becoming "struggle street" in parts of Australia where mortgage stress is on the rise.

The top six worst affected areas are in western Sydney, but other parts of the country are also suffering from high interest rates and increasing household costs

Financial counsellors say there are more people seeking assistance in Melbourne's north and western suburbs.

In western Sydney, though, the number of loan repayments in default by 90 days or more is three times the national average.

The mayor of western Sydney's Blacktown, Leo Kelly, is witnessing more mortgage stress every day.

"It's very tough for young aspirational families that have moved into the area, obtained their dream home in one of the largest populated local government areas in Australia, with all the facilities and resources they need to live, work and play close to home," he said.

"They've built the dream home and because of the tardy operation and thoughtless activities of the banking system they've now found themselves in extreme difficulty and mortgage stress which is breaking up families.

"You can only see the result of this by driving through the new release areas and seeing the for sale signs up."

Economic rescue

Much turns on what happens in the financially stricken United States.

ANZ chief executive Mike Smith says the credit crisis could run another 18 months and as a result it will get more difficult to get a mortgage, personal loan or credit card, in other words credit rationing.

With more pain ahead, Mr Smith says banks and customers must rein in debt.

"People are being cautious, there's no doubt," he said at a meeting of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Sydney yesterday.

"Loan demand has reduced a fair amount.

"We are beginning to see an uptick in mortgage defaults.

"We're not seeing it in credit cards which is unusual, I'd have thought it would be the other way round but employment numbers are holding up and that is the key I think, that is the key we have to watch."

In an indication that there is no easing of the credit crisis, the 90 day bank bill rate, which measures what banks charge each other for interbank loans, has had its biggest one day increase in nine years today.

The implications for Australia include continued pressure for the RBA to cut interest rates again next month.

Some economists say the RBA needs to make a 0.5 per cent cut, to ensure something is passed on to mortgage stressed customers.

Because of the higher cost of money, bank costs are going up and they are likely to hold on to some of the reduction.

As the ANZ's Mike Smith said yesterday, he is running a bank, not a welfare state.

Related:

As Bush Admin Pushes $700B for Wall Street, Ralph Nader Asks, "Why Is There Need for a Bailout?" As the Bush administration intensifies its pressure for Congress to quickly approve a $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, we get reaction from Independent presidential candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader. Nader calls Democratic claims of White House concessions “wish fulfillment” and says the bailout might not be needed in the first place.

"Cash for Trash": Unwanted "Junk" in Hand, Demonstrators Head to Wall Street to Protest Bailout Among the more than 100 protests against the $700 bailout plan is a rally today on Wall Street. We speak to Arun Gupta, a reporter/editor at The Indypendent newspaper, whose email to friends and colleagues helped inspire the protest. Participants are planning on bringing their own personal, unwanted “junk” to illustrate what they call the federal bailout of Wall Street’s worthless securities.

Save children not Wall St

The head of World Vision Australia, Tim Costello, says the global market turmoil is threatening progress being made on reducing world poverty.

No to Wall Street bailout! The plan, which is being rushed through Congress for passage this week, is the response of the government and the entire political establishment to what is acknowledged to be the greatest economic crisis since the Wall Street crash of 1929. It calls for an unprecedented transfer of public funds to the major banks and the American financial elite at the expense of the broad mass of the people.

Market Watch: The $75 trillion American fiscal fright fest. Eight megahorror debts chilling America America's out of control, drowning in debt, gorging: $75 trillion and getting worse. Now we're dumping Fannie and Freddie on America's balance sheet. Every year we pile trillions more on future generations.

Siblings jailed for plot to kill father

Maria Stallone and Dominic Natale couldn't stand the thought of their violent father selling two family properties and disinheriting the children he denied fathering.

So they hatched a plan to knock him off.

They initially plotted to stab Dominico Natale, now 83, with a syringe while he was out walking, hoping to pass his death off as a heart attack.

But a hitman hired by Stallone, 44, and Natale, 48, told them it wouldn't work and suggested a hit-and-run instead in return for a payment of $14,000.

The only hitch was the hitman wasn't a hitman at all.

He was an undercover police officer who had been dutifully recording telephone conversations between Stallone and Natale as they plotted to kill their father in September 2006.

The pair was visibly distraught on Thursday as Victorian Supreme Court Justice Betty King sentenced each of them to nine years in jail. Both had pleaded guilty to one count of incitement to murder.

Stallone sat with her head bowed, hiding behind her brown wavy hair, throughout most of Thursday's hearing, occasionally wiping away tears.

Natale also hung his head, and began to weep when Justice King delivered the sentence and his family, sitting opposite, cried out in dismay.

A violent and aggressive man, Dominico Natale Snr regularly beat his wife and four children in the family's home in Melbourne's North Fitzroy.

He was jealous of his wife and disputed he was the children's father.

When his wife passed away in 2005 from a brain tumour, Dominico Natale Snr planned to sell the family's North Fitzroy home and another property in Preston.

He was entitled to the proceeds of the Preston house, but his wife's share of the North Fitzroy home would be split between the four children.

Stallone and Natale feared their father would disinherit his children and give the money instead to his niece and other daughter, whom he lived with, or to the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Stallone, who was a teacher at the time, met with the undercover policeman she believed was a hitman.

When told she could back out at any time, she replied she wanted to go through with the murder and handed over a $3,000 deposit.

On September 20, the day of the planned murder and her ultimate arrest, Stallone had the $11,000 balance ready.

Justice King agreed the siblings' father was a "difficult, irascible man who had no great love for his children or wife," but noted this was not their motivation for murdering their father.

Even if this had been the motivation, that would not have justified any plan to murder him, Justice King said.

"This was not a crime committed in the heat of passion or extremis, but calculated, planned and pursued over a period of some weeks," she said.

"Your father's behaviour towards you as his children was reprehensible, your behaviour to your father as his children was morally repugnant and indefensible."

Justice King said the pair had earned a three-year discount from their sentences by pleading guilty.

Stallone, of Reservoir, and Natale, of Mildura, will be eligible for parole in six years.

Man gets life for grandmother's murder

A Supreme Court judge in Brisbane has jailed an Ipswich man for life for murdering his grandmother.

Brett Adam Crowley, 20, stabbed and smothered his 81-year-old grandmother, Violet Crowley, at her Ipswich unit in 2006.

During the trial, the court heard Crowley attacked her during an argument over housework and his attitude towards her.

The jury returned its guilty verdict after five hours of deliberations.

In sentencing Crowley to a mandatory life term, Justice Richard Chesterman said the Crown's case was a strong one and the jury's verdict was not surprising.

Justice Chesterman told Crowley he had killed the woman who had offered him a home and support, and that his attack on her was vicious, uncalled for and wholly disproportionate.

Outside the court, relative Charlene Scanlan described her grandmother as a wonderful woman.

"She was just a caring lady and she loved us all unconditionally," she said.

"She didn't deserve to die the way she did, especially with the person she loved and trusted as the culprit."

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Pipe protester arrested on own property


"It's a sad day for democracy": Farmer Deb McLeish had the backing of her extended family after being led away by police on her Yea farm yesterday.

LANDOWNERS planning to resist the Brumby Government's controversial north-south pipe were sent a clear message yesterday when a 50-year-old woman was arrested for obstructing the project.

Less than a week since work started on the 70-kilometre pipeline, Yea farmer Deb McLeish was arrested on her own property when she tried to prevent workers from entering her land to perform surveying works.

A group of close to 20 anti-pipe campaigners gathered at Ms McLeish's property as she attempted to defy the Water Act of 1989, which gives pipeline workers legal permission to enter private properties.

Workers used ladders to enter the property as the stand-off with Ms McLeish showed no sign of abating.

Shortly before 2pm Ms McLeish was led away and charged after she again tried to stand in the workers' way.

"It's a sad day for democracy when you get arrested on your own property," she said.

Workers are expected to return to her property as early as this morning, but Ms McLeish said police had warned of stronger charges if she attempted to obstruct workers again today.

Ms McLeish said she wanted to demonstrate that the Government did not have the approval of landowners to carry out works on private land, but Water Minister Tim Holding said access had been given by 85% of landowners along the pipe route.

Melbourne Water said correspondence had been ongoing with Ms McLeish since August last year and the work was rescheduled to today at the landowner's request.

Premier John Brumby urged property owners to accept that pipe workers had a legal right to enter their properties.

"If you look across a map of Victoria there are literally thousands of underground pipelines … and they all access somebody's property," he said.

Mr Brumby also invited Professor Tim Flannery, to inspect the project after he labelled the Government's justification for the plan as "bullshit" during an address in Melbourne on Tuesday night.

Professor Flannery accepted the invitation, saying he was particularly interested in how the Government planned to power the pumping of water through the pipe.

"I'm not entirely knowledgeable about the (pipeline) scheme, but just concerned that it's taking water from an already stressed system," he said.

Melbourne Water will negotiate with power companies to buy about 70,000 megawatt hours of renewable energy each year to offset the power used from the electricity grid to pump the water through the pipe.

Victorian Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu — who earlier this week backflipped on a pledge never to take water through the pipeline to Melbourne — seized on Professor Flannery's comments, saying he had branded the north-south pipeline "a dud".

"Tim Flannery says taking water from a drought-stricken catchment is the wrong thing to do. He said exactly what we have been saying and exactly what we will continue to say," he said.

VICTORY FOR MENTAL PATIENTS

“Finally the government has acknowledged the right of mental patients to treatment that respects their special needs. To cause vulnerable citizens to suffer for administrative purposes is essentially torture and diminishes us as a community” said JA spokesperson Brett Collins.

“The NSW government has decided to transfer control of the Long Bay prison hospital to the Health Department, thereby ending the uproar caused by their decision in April to reduce time out of cells to cut costs” said JA spokesperson Michael Poynder.

The Health profession including Australia’s leading forensic psychiatrists, nurses and the Mental Health Council of Australia, unanimously agreed that locking patients in solitary confinement from 3.30 in the afternoon to 8.40am the following day would be likely to exacerbate mental illness” said Mr Collins.

“The campaign for the reversal began with a petition from the patients and finally had two Notices of Motion before State Parliament, Supreme Court pending proceedings and pending proceedings based on breaches of Australia's human rights obligations under International Treaties, a complaint before ICAC alleging corrupt behaviour, critical media coverage including Stateline ABC TV, and numerous letters to the Minister for Justice from leading forensic psychiatrists, the NSW Nurses Association, HREOC, the Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, SANE Australia, NCOSS, and other significant community organizations” said Mr Poynder.

We acknowledge the preparedness of the government to listen to the community’s concern” said Mr Collins.

Comments:
Brett Collins 0438 705003 or Michael Poynder 0401 371077
Sebastian Rosenberg, Deputy CEO, Mental Health Council of Australia 02 6285 0802 or 0417 289913
Sylvia Hale MLC NSW Greens (policy advisor Hazel Blunden) 9230 3030
Brett Holmes, General Secretary, NSW Nurses Association 8595 1234

News report

JUSTICE ACTION
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T 02 9283 0123 | F 02 9283 0112
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Related:

LINE IN SAND ON MENTAL HEALTH
“Patients under state control have had their social interaction reduced, and right to smoke removed. These vulnerable and isolated citizens, to whom the state owes a special obligation, are extremely distressed and have asked for community assistance,” said JA spokesperson Michael Poynder.

Madness causing madness in prison hospital
“Fifty mental health patients held at the Long Bay Prison Hospital have from yesterday been locked in cells from 3.30 in the afternoon rather than the normal 9pm” said JA spokesperson Brett Collins.

Save children not Wall St

The head of World Vision Australia, Tim Costello, says the global market turmoil is threatening progress being made on reducing world poverty.

Mr Costello is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 to halve extreme poverty and hunger.

He says in the last eight years, nearly half a million poor people have been helped and for first time the number of child deaths has fallen.

But Mr Costello says the United States Government's bailout of the banks is now taking those goals off track.

"When we describe a crisis, an emergency like Wall Street, suddenly the money's there," he said.

"When 25,000 children are dying each day from preventable disease and lack of food we don't call that a crisis.

"In my books, in most of the leaders' books here, that's actually a crisis. Why can't we find the money?"

Mental illness more prevalent among youth

A new report on children's health shows that young people's mental health may not be improving, as was previously thought.

The Australia 21 research group says more than 20 per cent of all young people suffer psychological distress and up to 50 per cent display stress-related symptoms.

The report's author, Richard Eckersely, says the sharp increase in mental illness shows that governments have to take a more holistic approach to health.

"We have to stop seeing health as simply a matter of the number of GPs, how our public services are going and recognise these problems have their roots in quite fundamental aspects of our society, from things like family conflict and breakdown, work life pressures, poverty, inequality," he said.

Mr Eckersely says the findings contradict the accepted view that young people's health is improving.

"That relies primarily on declining death rates but you can't rely on those measures any more and when you look much more widely at young people and wellbeing, particularly mental health, then it looks like the picture is one of decline rather than improvement," he said.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Rental rage surges in Sydney


Sydney's housing vacancy rate remains unchanged at 1.2 per cent

One in three real estate agents have been threatened or abused by people frustrated at Sydney's rental shortage, a survey has found.

The survey by the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales has found 32 per cent of agents have been threatened or abused within the last month.

The institute's president, Steve Martin, says the police have been called into real estate offices in some instances.

"We've had threats to property managers that in the event of their application not being approved, physical violence would take place," he said.

"We've had the other extreme where people have threatened suicide if their application isn't approved, which is very, very concerning.

"It's pent up frustration from tenants where they have been continually applying for premises and unfortunately, their applications just haven't been approved.

"Now, that's not necessarily their fault. The properties simply aren't available."

Sydney's housing vacancy rate for August remained unchanged from July at 1.2 per cent.

Premier Nathan Rees will meet the Real Estate Institute for crisis talks today.

Welfare groups call for $7.5b housing plan

Welfare groups will today ask the Federal Government to build an extra 30,000 public housing dwellings over the next four years.

The organisations say their plan would cost $7.5 billion.

Gregor McPhee from the Australian Council for Social Service, says the boost is needed to cope with rising demand.

"We know that COAG is meeting early next month to talk about a new national affordable housing agreement and the Commonwealth and the States will be working together on that," he said.

"We see it as an historic opportunity to invest in public housing and as part of that an investment in public and community housing."

Australian bankruptcies up 3pc

New statistics show the number of Australians declaring bankruptcy rose by 3 per cent last financial year.

The Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia says there were almost 26,000 bankruptcies in the 2007/2008 financial year.

The agency's acting inspector-general, David Bergman, says he expects the figure will continue to rise.

"Generally in the country is that we've continued to like debt and obviously there are some pressures out there on people at the moment, we're certainly not expecting to see any decline," he said.

"We probably would expect over the next few years we'll see a similar rate of bankruptcies to what we've had in the last couple of years."

Related:

Qld has highest homeless rate in Australia

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show Queensland has the highest homeless population in Australia.

More homeless seeking help: report
A new report shows there has been a substantial increase in the number of homeless Australians seeking government help.

Housing rents surge in Sydney
RENTS for houses across Sydney surged 8 per cent in the three months to June, driven by landlords facing higher mortgage rates.

First mortgages doubled in a decade: ABS

The amount first home buyers borrowed to make their housing purchase doubled in the 10 years to 2005-06, new statistics show.

Housing crisis forcing people to sleep rough
A Wesley Mission study found 71 per cent of respondents identified the housing crisis as the major reason for them becoming homeless. Of those, 88 per cent said accumulated debt and unexpected financial crisis were factors.

Funding fall 'locks workers out of housing'

People who cannot afford to rent or buy suitable homes have been locked out of public housing because of a drastic fall in national funding, a Sydney conference has heard.

Renters must pay for their own evictions
SYDNEY renters have plenty to gripe about. Not only are their rents soaring but they are also funding the legal machinery used by landlords to evict them.

NSW feels the deepest jobs cut

MORE than 17,000 NSW workers left or lost their jobs last month in the worst labour market reading in years, fuelling fears the state will suffer the brunt of the coming economic slowdown.

Welfare services under strain: survey

The number of people accessing community services is on the rise, a new survey shows.

Report warns new wave of homelessness
State and federal governments are being warned of a new wave of homelessness threatening disadvantaged families.

When pain persists, they arrive
People are still angry when they lose their houses, but he notices that "people nowadays seem to think, when they take a loan, that it's a risk and that if they take the loan they might end up losing their house".

'No warning' about Beechwood collapse
The New South Wales Government says it had no warning one of the state's largest building companies was about to collapse, despite receiving more than 100 complaints over three years.

Housing crisis is real: industry
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) says new research highlights the seriousness of Australia's housing crisis.

Fee too much for Block project
THE Aboriginal Housing Company has accused the Minister for Planning, Frank Sartor, of "trying to crucify" an ambitious housing plan for the Block in Redfern after his department refused to waive a $60,000 development application processing fee for the project.

Self-harm increasing among girls

TEENAGE girls are more likely to be admitted to hospital for overdoses, slashed limbs or other forms of deliberate self-harm than for any other type of injury, including road accidents.

The alarming development, revealed in new national figures, illustrate the effects of intense academic pressure, changing family dynamics and rising drug and alcohol use, experts say.

The rate of self-harm among girls aged 13 to 19 has risen by one-third in the past eight years, moving in the opposite direction to the improved suicide rate, analysis from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows. For every 100,000 girls in that age group, 300 were admitted to hospital after harming themselves last year, compared with 100 boys, the institute's report, Making Progress, says. The report brings together key measures of children's health and social wellbeing from several government sources.

Bruce Tonge, the head of Monash University's Centre for Developmental Psychiatry, said increasing academic pressure, even on high-achieving girls, was undermining their self-esteem at a vulnerable age.

Busy parents who set strict rules but did not put aside time to talk to their teenagers could be especially damaging. "There may be some alienation within families," Professor Tonge said.

Youth suicide rates were down, he said, probably as a result of suicide prevention programs and better treatments for depression, but while there was an overlap between suicide and self-harm, "they're not the same behaviour. [Self-harm is] a cry for help, a communication where other communications have failed."

There was also, "a copycat element, a cultural element," to

self-harming, Professor Tonge said, with the practice apparently more socially acceptable in some countries than others. And self-harm was promoted within some youth subcultures.

Patrick McGorry, the chairman of the executive committee of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, which operates 30 youth mental health centres under the Headspace program, said the self-harm rates were indicative of worsening psychological health.

Young people already suffered, "the worst mental health of the whole life cycle", Professor McGorry said, and evidence from Britain and elsewhere suggested this was deteriorating with successive generations.

This might be because of, "the changing landscape of transition to adulthood … People are now in the mid-20s before they are financially and socially independent." Fees for higher education and debt created extra pressure, Professor McGorry said.

"Young people are not well equipped to deal with unbearable feelings and can be totally overwhelmed," he said.

Brain development was incomplete and this meant teenagers often could not manage intense emotions.

But self-harming could become, "recurrent or even a bit addictive", if it gave temporary relief from the negative emotion.

Increasing alcohol use was likely to be another factor, Professor McGorry said, because it lessened inhibitions that might otherwise stop young people from harming themselves.

Less-punitive work-for-the-dole scheme

The Federal Government says proposed changes to the work-for-the-dole scheme are likely to encourage more unemployed Australians to take up work.

The Government says the automatic eight-week suspension of dole payments for people who refuse to work or do not seek employment is too harsh.

Under a bill introduced today, people who miss appointments would initially be docked a day's pay.

Those who continue to miss appointments would incur the eight-week suspension, but they can have the money reinstated if they agree to extra work.

The Employment Participation Minister, Brendan O'Connor, says the bill is a vast improvement on the previous arrangements.

"Australians in these circumstances are more likely to overcome an extended period of unemployment if the employment system encourages commitment rather than the current punitive approach," he said.

21 years jail for body in lake murder

Darren Ellis, 37, has been sentenced to 21 years jail for murdering his pregnant girlfriend and dumping her body in a lake near Ballarat two years ago.

The body of 19-year-old Naomi Bernaldo was found by canoeists in St Georges Lake at Creswick in November 2006.

She had been shot and stabbed, wrapped in chicken wire, and weighted down with rocks.

During Ellis's murder trial, the Supreme Court heard Ms Bernaldo discovered she was preganant shortly before she was killed.

The court heard Ellis lied to friends saying she had left him to enter a drug rehabilitation program.

He was found guilty of murder in June and sentenced to a minimum of 17 years behind bars in the Supreme Court today.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Concern over anti-terrorism laws


THE Haneef inquiry emerged briefly into daylight yesterday to hear the former chief justice Sir Gerard Brennan express concern that security laws are causing "too great an erosion of our fundamental rights".

Sir Gerard was speaking at a forum examining what he called the "novel" and "drastic" anti-terrorism laws used to detain and interrogate the Gold Coast doctor Mohamed Haneef for 12 days in July last year.

Dr Haneef was charged with terrorism offences but these charges were later dropped. A former judge, John Clarke, QC, is conducting an inquiry into the fiasco.

Sir Gerard listed three areas of concern: "Unjustified discrimination, which drives a wedge between elements of our society; excessive interference with human rights, and absence of judicial supervision which exposes individuals to oppressive exercises of power."

The former chief justice spoke of lack of transparency in the detention process and lack of effective access to the courts. He asked: "Is it possible to devise an effective pathway to legal advice and to a court exercising habeas corpus jurisdiction, casting on the Commonwealth authorities the burden of justifying detention, compulsory questioning and isolation of individuals from contact with family and friends?"

Sir Gerard was plagued by calls on his mobile phone while speaking at the microphone. "Does anybody know how to control these things," he asked. "I'm dashed if I do."

The president of the Law Council, Ross Ray, QC, said: "The price the government agencies must pay for assuming greater powers is an increased level of public scrutiny of their actions."

Speaking in public for the first time since his inquiry began, Mr Clarke rejected calls for him to be given royal commission powers to compel witnesses to give evidence and produce documents. Things were going well with the powers he had, he said. "I remain unconvinced that the alternative would have been more effective." He is due to report in November.

Related:

Haneef's lawyer says inquiry is weak
The inquiry into Australian authorities' handling of the Mohamed Haneef case needs stronger powers to avoid becoming a "toothless tiger", the former terror suspect's lawyer says.

Stand down, lawyers tell Keelty
THE Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, should stand down pending the outcome of the Clarke Inquiry into the handling of the Haneef case, the Australian Lawyers Alliance said yesterday.

Haneef to seek compensation
Greens...AFP needs to properly explain the reasons why it pursued the case against Dr Haneef. MORE than a year after a terrorism charge against him was dropped and more than $8 million later, the Australian Federal Police have finally confirmed they have cleared the Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef as a suspect.

Haneef advice ignored by Andrews: lawyers
Lawyers for former Gold Coast-based Dr Mohamed Haneef say they have obtained new documents showing former immigration minister Kevin Andrews ignored advice from his own department.

Haneef's lawyer wants secret dossier released
A lawyer representing former Gold Coast-based doctor Mohamed Haneef says a secret dossier used to cancel his client's visa contained no incriminating evidence against his client.

Haneef lawyers want more powers in probe
Lawyers acting for Mohamed Haneef want an inquiry investigating the failed terrorism case against him to be given the powers of a royal commission.

Haneef case evidence 'to remain secret'
The retired judge who is investigating the case of Dr Mohamed Haneef says much of the evidence he has received will have to remain secret.

AFP denied lawyer to Haneef: report

Mohamed Haneef's lawyers say the Australian Federal Police (AFP) repeatedly denied their client's request for a lawyer to be present during his first interview.

Legal experts to mull Haneef case
The head of the inquiry, retired Supreme Court judge John Clarke QC, says the forum will examine legislation as it applied to Dr Haneef.

Terror suspects held in 'repressive' conditions: lawyer
Lawyer Rob Stary who represented five of the men convicted of terrorism related offences said the conditions they were held in were 'repressive. He said the Government should review the anti-terror laws.

Key witness terrorism trial previously jailed
Outside the court, defence lawyer Rob Stary criticised Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland for comments made while the trial was still underway.

'Traumatic, stressful' terrorism trial - lawyer

A lawyer for one of the men found not guilty in Australia's largest [scapegoat] terrorism trial has spoken about the effect of the long-running trial on his client and on his own life.

Benbrika guilty on terrorism charges
A Victorian Supreme Court jury has found Abdul Nacer Benbrika guilty [Draconian Laws] of leading a terrorist group.

Jury discharged in terrorism book trial
Khazaal's barrister said his client wrote just two paragraphs in the book, with most of it written by other people.

Jury finds man guilty of terrorist book charge
A Supreme Court jury has found a man guilty of one terrorism-related offence and is still considering its verdict on a second terrorism-related charge.

Judge attacks disparity in laws
Justice Kirby was at the University of NSW last night to accept an honorary Doctorate of Laws for his ''eminent service to the community''.

Suspended sentence in winery terrorist plot
A Victorian grape grower who planned to blow up a rival winery in the state's north-east has been given a suspended sentence.

High Court rejects appeal against Thomas retrial
The High Court has rejected an application for an appeal by Melbourne man Jack Thomas against his retrial on terrorism-related charges.

Bill: Independent reviewer for terrorism laws
Two Liberal Senators have introduced a private member's bill calling for an independent reviewer of terrorism laws.

Push for overhaul of laws on terrorism
In a paper in Judicial Review he said that the National Security Information Act "gives the appearance of having been drafted by persons who have little knowledge of the function and processes of a criminal trial".

Court denies Lodhi leave to appeal
Lodhi claimed the trial did not establish that he had actually decided to carry out a terrorist attack.

Thomas to appeal retrial order
Lawyers for Victorian man Jack Thomas will appeal to the High Court against a decision to retry him on terrorism related charges.

Court orders retrial for Jack Thomas
The Court of Appeal has ordered that Victorian man Jack Thomas must be retried on terrorism-related charges.

Push for overhaul of laws on terrorism
In a paper in Judicial Review he said that the National Security Information Act "gives the appearance of having been drafted by persons who have little knowledge of the function and processes of a criminal trial".

Court denies Lodhi leave to appeal

Lodhi claimed the trial did not establish that he had actually decided to carry out a terrorist attack.

Hicks media gag order ends
As part of the deal, he was also banned from speaking to the media after his release in December 2007.

Terror trial halted over prison conditions
A Supreme Court judge has put a Melbourne terrorism trial on hold and ordered Corrections Victoria to change prison conditions of the 12 accused men

Faheem Lodhi - another non-terrorist jailed under Australia's 'anti-terror' laws? Jack Thomas, a non-terrorist, has been jailed under Australia's anti-terror laws. Now Faheem Lodhi has been convicted under the terror laws on flimsy, circumstantial evidence. It is likely he is another non-terrorist jailed for political purposes under the terror laws.