Nurses take Qld Health to industrial commission over mask concerns


The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union is taking Queensland Health to the industrial relations tribunal over concerns frontline nurses are being put at risk of contracting COVID-19 because of ill-fitting masks.

The QNMU says it still has not received adequate assurances that the N95 masks being used by nurses who care for COVID-19 patients are being properly fit-tested to ensure they work properly.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union is taking Queensland Health to the industrial relations tribunal over concerns about mask use in the state’s COVID hospitals.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union is taking Queensland Health to the industrial relations tribunal over concerns about mask use in the state’s COVID hospitals.Credit:ACM

Union secretary Beth Mohle said that, in the wake of a doctor and three nurses contracting COVID-19 while working with infectious patients at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital recently, clear guidelines for fit-testing needed to be in place across the state.

“We still haven’t got to the bottom of what has happened there, and the investigation is yet to determine why that occurred,” Ms Mohle said.

“So it’s even more important that we have assurances over PPE. The incidents at the PA highlighted that this is a very virulent virus, and we are not sure how transmission is occurring, so we need to be vigilant with PPE.”

Ms Mohle said they had written to the Director-General of Queensland Health, Dr John Wakefield, expressing their concern that the guidelines had not been made into explicit rules.

They also requested an audit of all Queensland’s public health facilities dealing with COVID-positive patients to ensure they are following the guidelines.

“The response we got back from that letter was inadequate. It didn’t answer our questions,” Ms Mohle said.

“So we are going to the commission with this, because we need focused attention on this. It is a significant health and safety concern for frontline health workers.”

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Victorian Nationals MP used fake documents to earn commission from farm sales, court told


Victorian Nationals MP Tim McCurdy used false documents to facilitate the sale of two dairy farms that landed him more than a quarter of million dollars in commissions, a court has heard.

Mr McCurdy has been charged with five fraud offences, including use of a false document and obtaining property by deception.

If he is found guilty, he will be ineligible to sit in the Victorian Parliament.

The alleged offending occurred in 2009, before Mr McCurdy was first elected in 2010.

He is fighting the charges.

In her opening remarks, prosecutor Susan Borg said that in 2009 Mr McCurdy facilitated the sale of two properties in northern Victoria using the letterhead of a business he did not work for.

Mr McCurdy had been involved in the attempted sale of the properties before the real estate business ceased operation in Victoria.

But the County Court of Victoria heard Mr McCurdy continued to facilitate the sale of the properties at Katamatite and Boosey using letterheads from Andrew Gilmour Real Estate.

Man walks past building
The court heard Mr McCurdy used the letterhead of Andrew Gilmour’s real estate business.(

ABC News, file photo

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The prosecution alleges that Mr Gilmour was unaware of the use of the letterheads, and that Mr McCurdy was not employed by his business.

Mr McCurdy’s defence, Ian Hill QC, argued that Mr Gilmour was aware of Mr McCurdy’s use of the letterheads but did not dispute Mr McCurdy had helped sell the farms.

“There was no dishonesty, there was no attempt at deception,” Mr Hill told the court.

The sale of Pinegrove Park in Katamatite included a $105,105 commission to Mr McCurdy, while the sale of the Malmo family farm included a $163,900 commission.

The trial is expected to last more than a week.

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Protests against Aboriginal deaths in custody mark 30 years since royal commission


WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains images and names of people who have died

The protests also mark the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, which handed down its final report on April 15, 1991.

The report made 339 recommendations but few have been implemented.

More than 470 Indigenous people have died in custody in the past 30 years, including at least five since the beginning of March this year.

Protests and marches took place in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Alice Springs and Lismore on Saturday.

In other cities, like Perth and Adelaide, rallies have been organised for Thursday, the exact date of the final report’s 30th anniversary.

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‘Worse than ever’: Australian bank culture has not improved since royal commission, staff say | Banking


The culture inside Australia’s banks has not improved in the two years since an overhaul of the scandal-prone sector was recommended by a royal commission, employees say.

In focus groups conducted for the Finance Sector Union, bank workers rejected statements from the Australian Banking Association’s chief executive, Anna Bligh, that employees were no longer being paid based on hitting sales benchmarks.

“If anything since the RC things have just gotten worse,” one worker said during the focus group sessions, a report of which has been obtained by Guardian Australia.

“The banks think that no one is watching. Since the royal commission they’re just slipping things back in and it’s now worse than ever.”

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While some workers said things were slightly better, most condemned bank bosses for continuing to run a sales-oriented culture.

A retail bank worker for one of the big four banks, who spoke to Guardian Australia separately, said the lure of bonuses for making sales, which were banned as a result of the royal commission, had been replaced by the fear of being sacked if targets were not met.

“They used to offer us a carrot, now they threaten us with a stick,” the worker said.

“They don’t call them sales anymore, they call them different things like ‘customer requirements met’. Frontline staff are always terrified of being performance managed out the door.”

The FSU’s focus group material was prepared by the union as part of a submission to a review of the ABA’s own program to reform retail banking pay.

In 2016, as part of its efforts to fend off a royal commission, the ABA commissioned former senior public servant Stephen Sedgwick to conduct the review.

Sedgwick’s final report, released in April 2017, recommended severing the direct link between sales and pay and replacing it with what the industry calls a “balanced scorecard”, where financial results are just one component that goes into determining pay.

While his review was not enough to stop the royal commission taking place in 2018, commissioner Kenneth Hayne endorsed it in his final report, saying the industry should “implement fully the recommendations of the Sedgwick review”.

Sedgwick is currently conducting a review of the implementation of his report. As part of this process he has invited submissions from industry participants, including the FSU.

However, the FSU national secretary, Julia Angrisano, said the changes had not addressed a culture of greed in the banking industry because they only affected frontline workers and bosses were still earning bonuses based on financial targets.

“If we don’t change the way pay is structured from the very top, nothing will change,” she told Guardian Australia.

She said branch workers such as tellers were trying to sell products “because they were getting smashed from above”.

The change from explicit sales targets to balanced scorecards had not reduced the pressure to sell, she said.

“Before everyone knew what it was, it was a sales target.

“Now there’s all this trickery.”

In the FSU’s focus groups, rank-and-file workers also raised concerns about the continued existence of leaderboards to track sales, which Sedgwick criticised.

Leaderboards should only be used if they were “consistent with the intention to de-emphasise sales relative to ethical behaviour and customer outcomes”, he said in his 2017 report.

But workers in the FSU focus groups said leaderboards were still rife and still focused on sales.

“Leader boards still 100% exist,” one worker said. “I’ve seen them with my own eyes. They are lying through their teeth when they say they don’t have leader boards.”

Workers also raised concerns that banks expected them to continue to hit sales targets during last year’s coronavirus shutdown.

The bank employee who spoke to Guardian Australia said that despite a big turnover in executive management since the royal commission, bank bosses were still not listening to rank-and-file staff.

“They all say we’re going to clean up the culture, yeah right. Nothing has changed.”

An ABA spokesman said that banks were “committed to improving culture and remuneration arrangements”.

“The current Sedgwick review is an important opportunity to take stock of the progress made so far,” he said.

“In recent months, Prof Sedgwick has been conducting staff surveys to inform his review. He’s also been meeting with the Finance Sector Union and regulators before delivering his final report.”

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NT Electoral Commission audit finds $88,000 discrepancy in CLP financial disclosures


The Country Liberal Party failed to report almost $90,000 in electoral donations by the required deadline, an audit commissioned by the Northern Territory Electoral Commission (NTEC) has found.

The NTEC has published a report on compliance with the NT’s new election donation and expenditure regime, which became law last January and was enforced on a “transitional” basis for the August 2020 election.

The audit, conducted by an accounting firm, found a discrepancy of $88,346 between the CLP’s electoral disclosure returns published on the NTEC website and receipts in the party’s accounting systems.

The review said the CLP’s accountant excluded receipts with values under $1,500 dollars, when the law required the total of all receipts to be reported.

CLP president Jamie DeBrenni told the ABC the party responded to the NTEC soon after the report’s publication on Thursday afternoon, to give it the information it required.

“As of this afternoon, the CLP has fulfilled all the requirements asked for by the NTEC to their satisfaction and we thank them for working with the party in a courteous way,” he said.

“These are new processes that everyone is working with and all organisations seem to be doing the best they can to comply.”

A spokesman for the NTEC said it had received the CLP’s revised figures and the website would be updated to reflect this.

The changes to the NT’s electoral donation and expenditure laws include an expenditure cap of $1 million dollars for political parties with 25 candidates and a $40,000 cap for individual candidates.

There is also a requirement to set up and operate a campaign-specific bank account to ensure transparency around donations and expenditure.

Overall, the NTEC audit found there had been a “satisfactory” level of compliance from political parties and candidates with the new rules.

Third-party spending a threat to transparency

But the auditors recommended the NTEC push the NT Government for a third-party campaigner spending cap to ensure transparency.

Australian money
The NTEC’s auditors have urged it to push for a cap on third-party campaigner spending at elections.(

Thinkstock: iStockphoto

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Third-party campaigners in the NT have included organisations like unions, environmental groups, GetUp and the Friends of Fannie Bay group.

“There is no limit on what the third-party campaigners can spend in respect of electoral activities during the election period while there is a spending cap of $40,000 on candidates,” the audit report said.

There is currently no requirement for third-party campaigners to keep separate bank accounts so the NTEC’s auditors had trouble identifying their expenses.

The auditors noted that despite requests they could not get any information from the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union for the purposes of the review.

“As a result, we are unable to determine the accuracy and completeness of the figures disclosed in the disclosure return lodged with the NTEC and whether the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union has complied with all its obligations under the Electoral Act,” the report states.

Confusion about electorate office resources

The review also found confusion among different party candidates about rules that prohibit the use of electorate office resources during an election campaign period.

“An instance was encountered in which the sitting member mentioned that there were insufficient guidelines to follow in relation to the utilisation of electorate office resources during the deemed election period,” the report said.

More education for sitting members about these rules was needed, the auditors said.

Labor needed a better process for refunding self-funded candidates promptly, according to the review, but was the only party that kept track of volunteer activity with a register.

The review noted the NT Greens set up a campaign bank account only in July 2020, about a month before the election, and that the account had also been used for non-election transactions.

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NRL 2021: Australian Rugby League commission, 18th man, HIA rules, three concussions, Phil Rothfield reveals conditions


The Australian Rugby League commission is expected to sign off on a decision to allow teams to use an 18th man on Tuesday.

But the planned roll out of the new ruling is set to come with strings attached in an attempt to stop coaches rorting the system.

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Speaking on NRL360 on Fox League, The Daily Telegraph’s Phil ‘Buzz’ Rothfield revealed that the commission would meet and sign it off.

Round 4

Buzz and Kenty debate 18th man rule

4:03

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Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys denies new rules causing injuries as 18th man change to be examined


The Sharks lost three players during the match to concussion and the Raiders lost two, with both John Morris and Ricky Stuart lavishing praise on their sides as both tired badly in the final quarter.

The AFL introduced a medical substitute on the eve of their season commencement, and NRL executives insisted they could tinker with their interchange policy and have it amended almost overnight.

Sione Katoa was one of four Sharks players whose night was ended early by injury.Credit:Getty

V’landys reiterated he thought this season’s new rules – including six again calls for offside infringement and a reduction in scrums which are designed to increase ball in play time – were not responsible for the staggering injury toll, which has seen almost 20 players alone unable to finish matches this weekend.

“It’s actually pleasing the clubs are adhering to the protocols, which are a lot more vigilant,” he said. “Previously, where players may have went back on, they are being subject to a much more cautious approach, which I absolutely welcome.”

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Victoria’s Crown royal commission to go further than NSW inquiry, commissioner says


Victoria’s royal commission into Crown Casino will go further than the New South Wales inquiry and will put the management of gambling addiction front and centre, despite it not being directly in its terms of reference, former judge Ray Finkelstein has said.

The first day of the inquiry heard the commission was still waiting for the gambling giant to respond to questions about whether it had breached its legal obligations.

There are 300,000 Australians with a gambling problem, accounting for a third of all losses worth about $3.5 billion, Mr Finkelstein said.

“The impact of this problem gambling is widespread — it affects not only the gambler, but the gambler’s family, employers and unrelated third parties,” he said.

The commission has been established in response to the damning findings of the NSW inquiry, which found Crown Resorts was not suitable to hold a NSW casino licence. 

The Bergin inquiry uncovered issues with money laundering, poor governance and the operation of junkets with people linked to organised crime.

Many of the findings were based on incidents and behaviour at the Melbourne casino.

In the opening day of the probe into Crown Resorts’ suitability to hold Victoria’s sole casino licence, Mr Finkelstein said he had written two letters to the company, to seek their response to the damning Bergin inquiry, and to assess whether Crown had broken any Victorian rules.

In response to the first letter, Crown said it disagreed with the Bergin inquiry’s findings that there were deliberate and wilful actions by Crown, including money laundering and running junkets with organised crime gangs.

Crown did accept it was open for the Bergin inquiry to find it was unsuitable to hold a licence.

The second letter was written to ascertain whether Crown had breached its obligations under Victorian laws, and whether it had the internal system in place to detect breaches. The response will determine the course of the royal commission’s investigations.

“I’m concerned that unless the seriousness of the conduct is recognised, any steps taken to remedy the position might only be half-hearted of them,” Mr Finkelstein said.

Mr Finkelstein is yet to receive a response.

The commissioner also put Crown and other parties on notice about any delays to producing documents, given he only has until August 1 to make his recommendations.

He has already received complaints about how onerous it is to find specific documents.

Counsel assisting the commission, Adrian Finanzio SC, highlighted how many of the findings of the Bergin inquiry occurred at the Melbourne casino, and that “many matters” about Crown’s conduct had not been explained by the Bergin inquiry.

He said it was important to assess whether Crown Resorts understood the gravity of the situation.

“Given the seriousness of the matters raised, and the findings of the Bergin inquiry, it will be necessary to test the veracity, the effectiveness and the adequacy of the measures which Crown says have been taken to address the principle conclusions of Commissioner Bergin,” Mr Finanzio said.

But he said the royal commission would go much further.

The next public hearings will occur next month.

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Scott Morrison confirms he won’t oppose a royal commission into veteran suicides

Scott Morrison has confirmed the coalition will not oppose a motion calling for a royal commission into veteran suicides but remains committed to an alternative model.

The Prime Minister said the non-binding motion would be waved through the House of Representatives, avoiding an embarrassing loss.

“We won’t be opposing that motion at all,” he told 2GB radio on Monday.

“We’ve always thought you need something better than and more than a royal commission – what we need is a permanent arrangement – and that’s what we’ve put into the parliament.”

The government has introduced legislation to establish a permanent agency with the powers of a royal commission to address veteran suicides.

“I’m sure that these two things can come together and we can come to some agreement over the course of this week,” Mr Morrison said.

“I want to do what’s right for veterans.

“Royal commissions are fine but they’re only temporary, they’re not a silver bullet. You need permanent arrangements and support to address the root causes of these issues and that’s what we’re committed to doing.”

Coalition senators voted with Labor, the Greens and independents to establish a royal commission last week.

Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese at a rally to protest veteran suicide outside Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, March 22, 2021.

AAP

The motion notes Australian Defence Force personnel have a suicide rate of less than half of the wider community’s while serving but nearly twice the general population rate once they leave.

It calls on the Morrison government to establish a royal commission into the rate of suicide among current and former ADF personnel.

The coalition would probably lose the vote if it contested the motion.

Craig Kelly, who quit the Liberal Party last month to become an independent, was prepared to vote in favour. So too was Queensland independent Bob Katter.

‘The fight is not over’

The motion before the House of Representatives is only symbolic, rather than a bill to create a royal commission.

Campaigners who want to see a royal commission gathered outside Parliament House in Canberra on Monday morning.

Julie-Ann Finney, whose veteran son David died by suicide in 2019, said a royal commission had to be held.

“I’ve seen some of his friends here today who have come down just for this,” Ms Finney told SBS News on the lawn of Parliament House. “And I promised them that I will not stop telling David’s story until we have veteran wellbeing.”

Julie-Ann Finney outside Parliament House in Canberra

Julie-Ann Finney outside Parliament House in Canberra

Pablo Viñales/SBS News

Retired Special Forces Commander Heston Russell was also in Canberra on Monday.

The founder of advocacy group Voice of a Veteran said a royal commission “would be a rare opportunity where we get to potentially provide hope to people.”

“That hope is that people care enough and [the] government cares enough to go back and provide accountability to the systemic failings that have been, and also the hope that we can then draw a line in the sand from which we can form up and advance from.”

Additional reporting by Pablo Viñales and Tys Occhiuzzi.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and lifeline.org.au. Embrace Multicultural Mental Health supports people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. 

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Truth commission will reveal what really happened at first settlement


A depiction of John Batman making his way up the Yarra River in 1835.Credit:The Age Archives

The governor of the island colony, implicated in the invasion even while publicly upholding its illegality, brought time by seeking advice from distant London. This was unambiguous when it came – remove and prosecute the trespassers. But a subsequent administration, headed by Lord Melbourne, not only sanctioned the squatter camp on the Yarra River, but abandoned any further attempt to control the bounds of settlement. A first-come best-served land rush on the pastures predictably followed.

Squatters moved well-armed men and sheep up the river systems of eastern Australia with such speed that in a decade, conquered country stretched from Hervey Bay to Wilsons Promontory.

While London had not intended the licences to confer an exclusive right of possession, the squatters, with the backing of colonial courts, asserted this anyway. Aboriginal people, now trespassers in their own country, were forcefully evicted, and those who resisted taught a firm lesson.

Indigenous survivors clustered in forlorn refugee camps where the usual factors associated with such places when there is no external support – inadequate food and shelter, polluted water, poor sanitation and broken spirits – predictably led to high levels of death from disease.

There was resistance and extraordinary stories of survival and adaptation. But by the time Victoria separated from New South Wales in 1851, the First Nations population had declined by more than 80 per cent.

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Australians are remarkably adept at normalising our history: while it might be regrettable, it is just what happened in those days. But the truth is that the founding of Melbourne and the subsequent opening of the continent to an uncontrolled land rush was a unique event in the history of the British Empire that was largely driven by local vested interests. It was known at the time that this policy would result in the rapid death of Aboriginal people, but decision-makers put other priorities above preventing this.

The establishment of a squatter camp on the Yarra was the catalyst for the uncontrolled conquest of much of Australia. Its consequences are still being experienced today.

The truth-telling commission will have enormous ground to cover but it will be important to begin with dispelling the celebratory myths still associated with Melbourne’s founding story.

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