Monthly Archives: August 2019

North Queensland MP Rob Pyne to allege fraud, bullying in local government

Labor MP Rob Pyne. Photo: Chris HydeLabor MP Rob Pyne will demand an inquiry into local government in Queensland, alleging fraud, bullying, nepotism and toxic environments are running rife.

Mr Pyne, a former Cairns Councillor, will use parliamentary privilege to table “explosive allegations” against the Tablelands Regional Council, where residents are to face a 30 per cent rate rise in the 2017/18 year, which Mr Pyne said had been brought to him residents.

Mr Pyne said he had also received complaints regarding other councils and believed a widespread inquiry into local government in Queensland was over due.

“As a result of a number of issues which have been brought to my office by constituents concerning the maladministration and allegedly illegal conduct within their local councils [I am calling for this inquiry],” Mr Pyne said on Tuesday.

“I’ve made a number of appointments to speak to Jackie Trad [Local Government Minister] and I am sure I will speak with her very soon,” he said.

“Cairns is a long way away, and I am confident I will be talking to Jackie very soon and I am confident of a fair hearing.”

Mr Pyne said he believed the current complaints system was a failure.

“The first thing that will happen when people complain to the CCC will be the matter will be referred back to the CEO of the relevant council, that is obviously wrong on a number of levels,” he said.

“The other thing is the whistleblower protections are actually quite unsatisfactory, because what you’ll find is matters will go back to the local council to the CEO, and people won’t be dismissed for raising their concerns – but it just happens a few weeks later they are dismissed for completely different reasons.”

Mr Pyne believed the local government changes introduced by the LNP to allow councils more autonomy had contributed to the problem.

Tablelands Resident and farmer Lyn O’Connor said there was “deep division” within her local government, which had led to serious problems, while fellow resident Jason Ward said concerned citizens were seeking to “stop the harm” across the board.

Mrs O’Connor said an inquiry was needed to “pull apart all the causal effects”, but a spokesperson for Ms Trad said there were other steps as outlined in the Local Government Act.

“It is understood that the complainants have previously provided information to the Department of Local Government, Infrastructure and Planning (DLGIP) regarding the administration of local governments,” she said in a statement.

“We are advised the issues raised were investigated by the Department and found to be unsubstantiated.

“The complainants have previously been advised that if they have further evidence then there are appropriate avenues for progressing their complaints depending on the nature of the allegations – this includes investigation by DLGIP, referral to the CCC, or Queensland Ombudsman.

“Our office understands that the complainant has not yet provided any further evidence to the department or to the Deputy Premier’s office.

“If there are new allegations they should be provided to DLGIP for investigation or referral to another agency.”

A spokesman for the Local Government Association of Queensland said they could not comment without knowing the allegations.

But Mr Pyne said he believed it was time to take a stand.

“This call for a judicial inquiry is not merely based on evidence that has been brought to me in my short time as an MP, but the likelihood that much more material will come forward if any inquiry is set up and witnesses feel safe to testify,” he said.

“I am more than confident it is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg’.”

With Cameron Atfield

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Phone reception flickers to life in City Loop as telcos conduct final tests

Mobile phone coverage in the City Loop will soon be a reality. Photo: Craig AbrahamThe long wait could soon be over for commuters frustrated by one of Melbourne’s worst blackspots, as mobile phone reception in the City Loop flickers to life.

It is understood the major telecommunications companies switched on their services for testing in the City Loop on Monday night, with a formal announcement expected from the state government later this week.

Some mobile phone users reported strong 4G reception in Melbourne’s train tunnels on Tuesday, as telcos work to extend coverage underground after a series of false starts.

Plans for mobile phone services through the City Loop have been delayed multiple times due to complications over possible interference with train radios. The most recent schedule was for the service to be ready by November.

VicTrack, the government body leading the project, said on Tuesday that telecommunications companies were undertaking final tests on the service before switching on the network.

Spokesman Jason Murray was not able to provide a solid date for when the service would be fully available, however he said an announcement could be expected soon.

“This is the last round of testing so what they picking are up is the telecommunications companies optimising their mobile phone service,” he said.

Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan would also not be drawn on when the much-awaited mobile phone network upgrade would go live:

“Mobile carriers are carrying out testing of the system, which is why passengers may receive mobile coverage in the loop,” she said.

Melbourne is well behind other cities when it comes to phone reception underground, however the New York Subway and London Tube have also grappled with the issue.

The project first stalled in December last year after the previous Napthine government promised to have a 3G phone service working underground by the end of 2014, with 4G ready by 2015.

It was delayed for a second time earlier this year, as VicTrack blamed issues with radios communicating with Metro and a lack of access to the City Loop to install the required infrastructure.

Optus is leading the consortium of telcos piping phone coverage through the City Loop, however a spokesman would not comment on the project, saying it was best to speak with VicTrack. I HAVE 4G IN THE CITY LOOP TUNNEL! Thank you for finally catching up with technology, #Melbourne— Leith Marshall (@LeithMarshall) October 13, [email protected] I notice I had 4G coverage through the Melbourne city loop. Has it been turned on for testing? Or is official turn on imminent?— Rocco Dimase (@resadude) October 12, 2015I have 4G in the city loop.. first time ever. testing, testing @VodafoneAU— Andrew Collins (@AndyCollinsSP) October 13, 2015Not losing phone coverage in the city loop is an absolute game changer for Melbourne. #nostoppingusnow— Riley Brettell (@RBrettell13) October 13, 2015Strong mobile signal Richmond-Parliament (Caulfield Loop). On and off over recent months. Assume still testing. pic.twitter老域名/JAnS6pOLnz— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) October 12, [email protected] Hi Daniel, mobile carriers are currently undertaking final testing in the loop— VicTrack (@VicTrack_Vic) October 13, 2015I just got full 4G coverage in Melbourne city Loop. Has this been turned on for all? Go #vodafone— Rajesh Vasa (@rvasa) October 12, 2015

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Police force grapples with mental health and guns

John Silvester: The emotional toll of policing

A veteran police officer charged with murder had an extensive history of psychiatric problems, which has raised further concerns about Victoria Police’s handling of mental illness and its policies surrounding access to firearms.

The suicide of another police officer on Monday, who is also understood to have suffered from mental illness yet was armed with a service revolver, is expected to intensify pressure on Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton to act.

Force command has been accused of being slow to react to the increasingly erratic behaviour of several officers, who were deemed fit to work and permitted to carry firearms.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the force had strict policies to the ability of members to carry personal firearms which take into account, health, wellbeing and welfare issues.

“Members are monitored very closely in relation to carrying a firearm. We are not complacent and continually review these policies to ensure they remain robust, and we look for opportunities to improve,” the spokeswoman said.

Senior Constable Tim Baker, 44, is understood to have suffered serious mental health issues for almost a decade before he killed Vlado Micetic during a routine intercept in Windsor in 2013. He was charged with one count of murder last week, after shooting Mr Micetic three times in the chest and claiming he acted in self-defence.

Mr Baker took extended leave on several occasions because of his illness, and was only allowed to resume work after approval from a Victoria Police psychiatrist.

But less than a year before the shooting, it is believed Mr Baker was involved in a serious altercation with another officer during Operational Safety Tactics and Training that should have set off alarms, according to colleagues of the accused man.

During firearms training, an instructor placed a hand on Mr Baker to assist with his stance. According to a source, Mr Baker responded: “take your hands off me or I’ll f…ing kill you”.

Two former colleagues have expressed serious concern that Mr Baker was subsequently issued with a gun and permitted to work alone.

“He should not have been operational and he definitely should not have been working by himself. It’s a failure of the department and Tim’s supervisors, they’re the ones who should also be held accountable for this tragedy,” said a former colleague.

Another officer, who worked briefly with Mr Baker, said his mental health issues were widely known and he had received professional help.

Police Association secretary Ron Iddles refused to discuss Mr Baker’s case, but said more than 200 officers had gone on sick leave over the past year because of depression and post-traumatic stress.

As Victoria Police force grapples with the issue of mental health and an entrenched history of “suffering in silence”, Mr Iddles urged more members to seek help when they were unable to cope with the demands of the job.

The state coroner is presently investigating at least four police suicides, including the death of an information technology specialist at the Victoria Police Centre in June, who did not carry a weapon as part of his daily duties, but was issued with a gun by the transit safety division.

The man shot himself at a Rosanna primary school, where his estranged partner is believed to have worked.

A senior police officer said the man should never have been given the weapon .

“The force hasn’t always been great at dealing with (the) mental health or stability of its people. Obviously the job’s stressful and people handle it different ways, and there’s definitely some coppers who shouldn’t have guns.”

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the force had appointed Deakin University to assist with a workplace analysis, while also undertaking an internal review of the welfare work and support it provides to officers.

“The Chief Commissioner has commissioned an external review to look at what more Victoria Police can do to best manage the issues surrounding mental health to ensure that going forward we deal with these issues in the best way possible,” the spokeswoman said.

For any help contact:

Lifeline 131 114

beyondblue 1300 224 636

SuicideLine 1300 651 251

MensLine 1300 789 978

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New CBD skyscraper rules ‘stunned’ Asian investors

Planning Minister Richard Wynne. Photo: Paul JeffersAsian investors in Melbourne’s central business district have been “stunned” by new rules restricting skyscraper density in the city centre, a planning consultancy that works extensively with overseas firms building apartment towers has warned.

Urbis director Sarah Horsfield said the new rules risked putting “a handbrake on investment”.

Ms Horsfield told a Property Council breakfast that the introduction of the one-year interim rules last month had hurt the confidence “of a lot of our Asian investor clients who have been quite frankly stunned that the rules of the game can be so fundamentally changed overnight without any prior warning”.

But the government insists that billions of investment dollars are expected to flow into the CBD.

The measures impose mandatory height limits for an initial one-year period and require more space between buildings and shadow and wind controls.

The measures dictate that highrise buildings in the CBD can only go above set, lower height limits if they make trade-offs with contributions to public open space or other community facilities.

City real estate agents CBRE, which has been successful in marketing scores of CBD properties to Asian investors, said there had “been a major shift in terms of confidence from developers coming to Melbourne from Malaysia, Singapore and China since the election of the Andrews government” because former planning minister Matthew Guy signed off on so many high-rise apartment projects.

“Victoria needs to be very aware of how many of these groups are now looking to deploy capital to both New South Wales and Queensland. It’s real and they are a major threat to Victoria’s competitiveness and future prosperity,” said CBRE’s Mark Wizel.

However, Planning Minister Minister Richard Wynne said this year he had approved more than $3.7 billion worth of construction around the inner city, including 6000 apartments and 1550 hotel rooms.

He said it was his responsibility to ensure investment improved the city rather than creating “dark, windy streets”.

“What sort of a city does not have a plan for how it will grow?” he said. “Sydney, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong are among the major cities which have a plan for growth with far stricter conditions than what I have introduced.”

The interim controls apply to the Hoddle Grid, which covers the CBD and Southbank.

Mr Wynne said he could also use his discretion to approve applications that “give something back to the community”, such as open space or a child care centre.

The government will conduct consultation on the measures early next year before they are fully implemented.

Property Council Victorian deputy executive director Asher Judah said the property industry generally agreed that rules governing development in the CBD needed to be “refreshed”. However, he said the latest measures had eroded the confidence of investors.

“The interim measures have undermined investor confidence and have raised question marks over the values of some properties in the city, particularly along Flinders Street,” he said.

Mr Judah said Asian investors may have been rattled by the combination of the cancellation of the East West Link contract, a new foreign investors’ tax and the latest interim measures.

He said those particular conditions did not exist in other cities, including Sydney and Brisbane.

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Bendigo junior cyclists impress in state school road finals

Bendigo cyclists performed strongly in Sunday’s Victorian Schools Cycling Championship Road State Finals in the Bendigo central business district.

Students from across Victoria converged on Bendigo for the final leg of the 2015 series.

RISING STAR: Belinda Bailey dominated the under-11 female race. Picture: DION JELBART PHOTOGRAPHY

Five Bendigo riders – Dylan McKenna, Jagan Woods, Angus Gill, Belinda Bailey and Sam Buckell –won gold medals in the criterium event.

Creek Street College’sBelinda Bailey started the gold medal haul with victory in the female under-11 race.

THRILLER: Jagan Woods, far right, holds off his rivals to win the under-17 final. Picture: DION JELBART PHOTOGRAPHY

Camp Hill’s Angus Hill followed suit in the male under-11 race.

TOP CLASS: Sam Buckell cruises to the line to win the under-15 final. Picture: DION JELBART PHOTOGRAPHY

Young gun Sam Buckell reaffirmed his status as one of the most promising junior riders in Victoria by winning the under-15 male final.

WINNERS ARE GRINNERS: Angus Gill celebrates his under-11 victory. Picture: DION JELBART PHOTOGRAPHY

Buckell, from Bendigo South East College,won a sprint to the finish line in the 20 minutes plus two laps event.

Girton Grammar’s Jagan Woods won a thrilling under-17 male final in a bunch finish.

Bendigo Senior Secondary College’s Dylan McKenna rounded out the event with a strong victory in the male under-19 final.

SPEEDSTER: Dylan McKenna, left, wins the under-19 state final. Picture: DION JELBART PHOTOGRAPHY

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