Unemployment at 11 year high
The Newman Government continues to deliver the worst unemployment figures since 2003. Queensland’s trend unemployment remained at 6.7 percent for October with 3,800 full-time jobs and 1,700 part time jobs disappearing for a total loss of 5,500 jobs across the state. A total of 168,600 people are now unemployed in Queensland, up from 137,700 in March of 2012 when the LNP took office.
Premier Campbell Newman looked to new coal mines planned for next year to create 10,000 jobs. Treasurer Tim Nicholls blamed a downturn in the mining industry but offered no further plans on how to bring the jobless rate down other than the mention of selling state assets or leasing.
Read more on October’s unemployment rate at our @NoFibs report; ” Try hards: October labour force, Qld trend unemployment at 6.7pc”.
Care factor zero – Newman Government was warned
What is the purpose of government, to look after the most vulnerable in society or deliver endless surplus budgets?
In August, the third former patient of the Barrett Adolescent Centre (BAC) committed suicide. @NoFibs reported on that at, “Third suicide after Newman closure of Barrett Centre”.
The original plan under the previous Bligh Government was to build a new centre at Redlands and migrate the patients from the Wacol site to a modern facility. However, in its eternal quest to save money, in January of 2014, the Newman Government terminate the plan. Staff had been given 5 months notice to come up with alternative accommodation for all of the patients. Patients were sent back to their home towns or into adult facilities, where care was either inadequate or non-existant.
Right to information (RTI) by the @730Qld’s Kathy McLeish revealed that the Health Minister Lawrence Springborg had been made aware of the dangers of closing the centre by doctors, health care workers and parents. Cravenly, he refused to be interviewed in the ABC studio but did make one aired comment during the week.
“The most important thing is appropriate models of care is to actually provide young people with their needs, mental health care needs, closer to their own community and that’s what we intend to do around Queensland,” he stated defending the centre closure.
A report written after the centre had closed and entitled “Transitional Care for Adolescent Patients of the Barrett Adolescent Centre” showed an “atmosphere of crisis” had developed as staff struggled with the tight migration timeframe which lead to “…a contagion effect of distress and anxiety amongst the adolescents and an increase in incidents on the units.” The report also found given the circumstances, the individual plans for patients were, “…appropriate and took into consideration patient care, patient support, patient safety, and service quality.”
However, authors of the report did not speak to any former patients, families of patients or examine what happened after the they were transitioned out of the centre. Parents and families were also ignored in the lead up to the closure on proposed individual plans.
Alison Earls from “Save the Barrett Centre” said the scope of the report wasn’t wide enough to provide an accurate account.
“The parameters are so narrow that it hasn’t looked at any of the key aspects of a transition that is as serious as that,” she said.
Another document written before the closure obtained by the ABC under RTI entitled, “Expert Clinical Reference Group Recommendations Barrett Adolescent Strategy” revealed that the Department of Health noted that a Tier 3 centre such as Barrett is essential as, “there is a small group of young people whose needs cannot be safely and effectively met through alternate service types.” For this group to have no “interim service provision if BAC closes and Tier 3 is not available is associated with risk”.
To counter this, the government provided two Tier 3 beds. In speaking with Executive Director Mental Health Queensland Dr Bill Kingswell, reporter Kathy McLeish found out that these appeared not to have been used at all in the case of the three deceased teens.
“We also had the capacity at the Mater for Tier 3 as specified by the Expert Reference Group and we’ve stood by that from the whole of the transition process those beds were available they haven’t been called on. Now I don’t know why they weren’t called on,” Dr Kingswell stated.
“You’ve got three kids who have died and they weren’t called on,” said McLeish, challenging him.
“That’s going to be an investigation for the Coroner the beds were available,” he replied.
Questioned as to why none of the families had been consulted on the transition he explained that the decisions were made based on documentation.
“The decision was taken that there was extensive documentation around the communication with parents and children that there would be adequate and when you look at the review teams findings they’re persuaded that they did have an adequate and complete picture of the governance and the transition process,” he said.
However, mother of deceased former patient Caitlin Wilkinson-Whiticker, Justine Wilkinson denied there was any consultation process.
“The families have been excluded from the whole process right from the beginning of the transition period right through to this report. I have never seen a treatment plan for Caitlin I’ve never seen a care plan for Caitlin that came out of the mental health system,” she said.
A year before the closure, Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg began to receive multiple concerned letters from doctors and staff.
A psychiatrist pointed out that people are referred to Barrett when “every other avenue of community treatment has been tried and exhausted.”
An Occupational Therapist told him, “It keeps children alive.”
A BAC staff member reminded him that the workers were, “acutely aware of the risk of death or severe injury to the adolescents by their own hand if they are not cared for in a unit like Barrett.”
A former patient also told Kathy McLeish, “When I was admitted to the Barrett Centre I hated being there, I hated everybody there, I hated what they were doing, but looking back on it now I can see that that was the key point, the pivotal moment that helped me turn my life around and ultimately get better and survive.”
To politicians like Springborg and his ilk, ‘one size fits all’. To those who have a severe and complex mental illness, like the three deceased teens Caitlin Wilkinson-Whiticker, Will Fowell and Talieha Nebauer, an holistic, intense care regime is essential.
Oppostition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk has pledged to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the closure of Barrett, should Labor win office at the next election.
“The truth is the least we should deliver to those who have been so devastated,” she said.
A website to take action has been established entitled, Save the Barrett Adolescent Centre.
G20 – Newman Law declared in Brisbane
If you’re ever offered a chance to NOT host a G20 conference, take it. The disruption of road closures, vehicle searches, special police powers, armed soldiers and the general sense inconvenience erodes any benefit. It’s a bit like giving the keys of your house to a party of complete strangers whilst you go and live in the garden shed for a month….
Newman lied to parliament claims Together union
The union representing Queensland public servants has launched a petition calling for Premier Campbell Newman to be investigated by the parliamentary ethics committee. Newman told the House that his government had met inflation in its three year term by granting a 2.2pc pay rise last December.
“I say this: this government gave pay rises to hard-working men and women in the Queensland public service that met inflation over the three years of this term. This is what we did,” he said
The Together union pointed out that this was below inflation of 2.6pc.
“The premier has … lied to the public service, so all we’re trying do is get the matter investigated,” explained Together’s state secretary, Alex Scott.
The process of investigation into a MP who misleads the parliament is for the matter to be referred to the ethics committee by the Speaker of the House, Fiona Simpson. Early in the Newman administration in 2012, the government reinstated an old law making lying to parliament a criminal offence. To date no one has been convicted or charged with such a crime.
Politicians are in general protected from prosecution outside the House by parliamentary privilege. They can also apologise or update the parliamentary record before a matter escapes into the real world of police and the courts. Most likely if the matter were referred to ethics and the government’s committee chair was to find something untoward, the premier would likely be given a quiet heads up allowing for the House to be “updated”.
When hoons controlled the streets
Premier Campbell Newman declared the war on hoons to be over this week. Changes to the legislation against reckless driving in the suburbs, dubbed ‘anti-hooning’ laws, now allow police to impound, sell or destroy repeat offender’s cars. It’s been the signature policy of Police Minister Jack Dempsey.
“Any funds that are retrieved from these confiscations will go back into further road safety measures,” he said.
Newman and Dempsey dropped into the Unwin family at Capalaba on Friday who’d suffered through years of disturbance and even had a car land in their front yard.
“We used to have people going past almost every day if not two or three times a day,” explained Mr Unwin. “Our daughter woke up screaming in the middle of the night and coming into our bed. She didn’t feel safe in her own home.”
Newman declared that “hooning was not a joke”.
“I can also report that almost 1,600 vehicles have been seized and actually sold or crushed,” he announced.
— Campbell Newman (@theqldpremier) November 7, 2014
However, the Twitter wrangler at LNP headquarters went over the top evoking “Mad Max” style images of an apocalyptic Queensland under the previous Labor Government.
Under Labor, hoons controlled our streets. Under LNP, safer streets for families are the priority. We have a plan for a safer QLD #qldpol
— LNP (@LNPQLD) November 7, 2014
While not to detract from the illegal activities of reckless driving, it’s these sorts of populist policies reflected so exaggeratedly in the above tweet that Newman has chosen as his prime focus. The macro state policies, such as job creation or the National Disability Insurance Scheme, he’s shied away from throughout his tenure.
Asset leasing faux pas
The Newman Government gifted the Opposition by admitting two fundamental flaws in its asset leasing plan scheduled to begin in 2015. The first centred around the dividend to the Queensland Government from state owned power company Energex which rose 38 percent, delivering $406 million in revenue. In contrast the 2012-13 financial year generated $294 million. With 1.4 million customers, Energex’s net profit per client was $327, up from $179 three years prior.
Regional energy supplier Ergon also reaped big profits with dividends of $392 million. The government uses part of this to subsidise power distribution across the vast tracts of country Queensland with a total of $620 million spent to keep power prices lower for regional customers.
In defending the increases and in stark contrast to the asset leasing plan which would see revenue flow to private companies, Energy Minister Mark McArdle explained that the income would benefit the state in terms of improved services.
“Dividends also help to fund Queensland’s health care, education, emergency services and critical infrastructure,” Mr McArdle said.
Taking it a step further, @9NewsBrisbane’s Shane Doherty put it to the Treasurer Tim Nicholls what would happen if parts of the power network were replaced at the expense of the lessee. Light on details on how exactly that would work, Nicholls was forced to admit that those upgraded parts would need to be bought back by the state.
“We need a mandate first, when we’ve got that mandate we will then be able to complete transactions, as we said we wouldn’t do these transactions until we had spoken to the people of Queensland and have a mandate to proceed,” he said.
“We will obviously take the best advice we can from our advisors and from our Treasury officials about the best structure that suits Queensland and suits the Queensland experience and what we are trying to achieve. Bearing in mind that we have said it is a 50-year lease, subject to strict conditions which can be extended by 49 years.”
As Doherty commented in his nightly news report, Queenslanders should have all of the details before the vote.
— Shane Doherty (@ShaneDoherty9) November 5, 2014
— Curtis Pitt MP (@Curtis_Pitt_MP) November 5, 2014
The bats are back in town
Nearly a year on since the Northern Queensland town of Charters Towers began using sirens, smoke, fire hoses and helicopters to relocate flying foxes away from suburban areas, the bats have returned to their favourite summertime roosts. The council has spent $80,000 on the measures, all to no avail.
The council now wants the Queensland Government to fund future bat removal programs, although it’s not clear what other measures might be used to move the colonies on. Over decades, as land is cleared for agriculture and urbanisation, the bats have migrated into leafy town centres, creating an environment of noise and mess for locals. Queensland’s long years of drought have also made the rural areas uninhabitable for the animals.
Being native mammals, the dispute between the town and environmentalists has raged for years. Shortly after coming to power, Premier Campbell Newman had allowed farmers to apply for permits to cull bats and another permit for councils to relocate colonies.
“I’ll make it very clear again, the policy of this Government is that the health and safety of Queenslanders comes before bats and if you’re a bat lover out there this morning, I’m sorry, enough’s enough,” he said in a 2013 radio interview.
Also frustrated because the Charters Towers Council had not applied for a permit, he vented further.
“Now, what do I need to see happen? I want councils, because one of our biggest problems now are councils, we want to councils to actually get some intestinal fortitude and fulfill their responsibilities,” he said.
“Well, here we are 12 months on and I continue to hear stories about the bats in Charters Towers. Again, I urge the council to do something about this. They will have the support of this government to move them on.”
“If they don’t deal with it then I will look at mobilising a workforce of people and we will go up there and do it, and bill the council or deduct it from grants they were expecting,” he threatened, raising the posibility of a state sanctioned “bat squad”.
However, at the time, Senior Lecturer at the James Cook University School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Dr Jon Luly, warned that Newman’s plan was “remarkably stupid” because there was no way of knowing where the colonies would end up.
“Because it will basically achieve absolutely nothing in terms of solving whatever problem he thinks there is and it is very likely to make the circumstances worse,” he said.
“It’s taking Queensland back to the dark ages in terms of animal management practice. The Premier is just running off at the mouth because he’s got a few vocal people in his ear. He thinks the simple solution is to go and run around shooting things and electrocuting things which is the kind of attitude Joh Bjelke-Petersen had, not only with animals, but with greenies in some respects. It’s a very primitive view of natural resource management.”
Two years on from the allowing of permits, one year on from Charters Towers bullied into a relocation program they can scarcely afford, the bats are now back in town.