Monthly Archives: June 2019

 

June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Three key players, including a judge, failed to disclose Anglican church associations in 2001 trial

Three key players, including a judge, failed to disclose Anglican church associations in 2001 trial

The ‘ambush’ and the apology: abuse survivor takes on the state Unfinished business: Hunter Anglican child sexual abuse survivor Steve Smith has sought an apology from the State of NSW over a 2001 trial in which three key players, including the judge, failed to disclose their associations with the Anglican church. Picture: Jonathan Carroll.

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‘Intemperate’: The late Newcastle District Court Judge Ralph Coolahan whose harsh criticism of Mr Smith in court in 2001 was described as ‘intemperate and ill-conceived’ by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Picture: Darren Pateman.

Criticism: Former Newcastle Anglican deputy chancellor Paul Rosser, QC, who was criticised by the royal commission for providing advice to former Bishop Roger Herft that allowed the bishop to remain “wilfully blind” to the sexual misconduct of clergy.

Criticised: Solicitor Keith Allen who held positions with the diocese while representing accused child sex offender Anglican priest George Parker in court in 2001.

Charged: Accused Anglican child sex offender priest George Parker outside Newcastle Courthouse in 2001 during his trial for offences against Steve Smith.

Referred: Former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft who was criticised by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse for “weak and ineffectual” leadership on child sexual abuse.

Warned: Former Newcastle Anglican Assistant Bishop Richard Appleby. The royal commission heard evidence he was told George Parker and other priests committed crimes against children.

Outsider: Steve Smith outside Newcastle’s Christ Church Anglican Cathedral. He has written to NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman about the conduct of a 2001 Newcastle trial.

Request: NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman. Hunter abuse survivor Steve Smith has written to Mr Speakman seeking an apology for the conduct of a 2001 Newcastle trial.

Grateful: Steve Smith said he is grateful to Newcastle Anglican Diocese professional standards director Michael Elliott who disclosed the associations between the diocese and key players in a 2001 trial.

Thanks: Steve Smith praised Newcastle Detective Sergeant Jeff Little who re-investigated allegations against Anglican priest George Parker from 2013 and charged him with 24 child sex offences two weeks before Parker died in January, 2017. Picture: Simone De Peak.

TweetFacebook Abuse survivor says state needs to apologise for conduct of 2001 trial STEVE Smith calls it an ambush –the day he walked into a Newcastle courtroom to give evidence against an Anglican priest only to be blindsided by a judge’s attack against him, in a trial where three key players had undisclosed associations with the church.

Seventeen years after the case against the priest collapsed, Mr Smith has written to Attorney General Mark Speakman seeking an apology from the State of NSW.

“I expected to get beaten up by the defencebutI had a judge attacking my credibility in court. He was basically calling me a liar in court, that I was fabricating it. I remember thinking, someone say something,” Mr Smith said.

“I spent years in the wilderness, despairing about what happened.I spent years thinking,I should have just shut my mouth. So the state should apologise. I just want some acknowledgement it was wrong.I want the state to take responsibility for that because it was devastating. It was soul-destroying. It’s unfinished business for me.”

The late Judge Ralph Coolahan exploded in court in September, 2001 and described the prosecution of priest George Parker for child sex offences in the early 1970s as a “disgrace” and a “real farce”. Judge Coolahan slammedMr Smith as“truly ridiculous” for not reporting the abuse for two decades, despite evidence Mr Smith had repeatedly reported the abuse to the church from 1975.

‘Intemperate’: The late Newcastle District Court Judge Ralph Coolahan. The judge’s harsh criticism of Steve Smith during a 2001 trial was described by the royal commission as ‘intemperate and ill-conceived’.

“So, (he has)waited 20 years… well, that is just ridiculous. It is truly ridiculous. The fact that someone is brought to trial, 26 years after an alleged offence, is in itself a disgrace,” said Judge Coolahan, despite NSW judges from 1981 being required to direct juries that delayed complaint in sexual assault cases did not necessarily mean an allegation was false.

Judge Coolahan did not disclose he had worked for the diocese as a lawyer in a matter several years before the trial, and Parker’s lawyers Keith Allen and Paul Rosser did not disclose they held significant positions in Newcastle Anglican diocese –in Mr Rosser’s case, deputy chancellor.

It was nearly 10years before Mr Smith knew.

The trial collapsed in 2001 after a parish registerwas produced by the defence during the trial despite the prosecution subpoenaing all records from the diocese months earlier. The register, whichcontained “a number of irregularities”, was “pivotal” in having the case withdrawn, the royal commission noted. Parker’s close friend, the dioceseregistrar and later convicted fraudster Peter Mitchell, issued a public statement incorrectly sayingParker had been acquitted.

Mr Smith’s life fell apart.

Criticised: Former Newcastle Anglican Diocese solicitor Keith Allen outside Newcastle Courthouse after giving evidence at the royal commission. He was criticised by the commission in the Newcastle Anglican Diocese final report.

“I was powerless in that courtroom and it was as if I was that powerless kid being abused all over again,” hesaid.

“The judge was using thepower of the bench to slap me down. If I’d known the way I was going to be treated I’d never have walked into the courtroom. People need to be encouraged to do it, not intimidated out of it.”

In Newcastle Courthouse in late 2016 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed how systemic issues, ineffectual bishops andpowerful lay people allowed a group of child sex offenders to operate almost unchallenged in the diocese for more than 30 years.

The commission strongly criticised Newcastle bishops Alfred Holland, Roger Herft and Richard Appleby. Newcastle Anglican Diocese hasreferred the three men forchurch disciplinary proceedings.

The commission found Judge Coolahan’s comments about Mr Smith were “intemperate and ill-conceived”. It noted that “reasonable minds may differ about whether it was appropriate for Judge Coolahan to recuse himself (from presiding at the Parker trial) on the basis of an appearance of bias” after he actedas advocate for the diocese in a 1998 matter.

During evidence Mr Allen confirmed he did not raise the judge’s work for the diocese with the judge during the trial. Mr Rosser did not apply to Judge Coolahan to recuse himself. The judge didnot raise the issue.

Advice: Paul Rosser, QC, leaves Newcastle Courthouse in 2011. He was criticised by the royal commission for advice to former Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft that allowed the bishop to be “wilfully blind” to sexual misconduct by clergy.

The commission found Mr Allen showed a “callous disregard” for another Anglican child victim raped by a Newcastle diocese priest, and a “complete lack of insight into the gravity of child sexual assault”.

The commission found Mr Rosserprovided advice in 1998 to then Newcastle Anglican Bishop Roger Herft that allowed the bishop to remain “wilfully blind to the criminal misconduct of his clergy”. It found Mr Rosser had a “clear conflict of interest”representing Parker in the 2001 trial while, as deputy chancellor, advising Mr Smith the diocese was prepared to offer “as much help as the circumstances require”.

Mr Smith said he was grateful toprofessional standards director Michael Elliott who disclosedJudge Coolahan, Mr Rosser and Mr Allen’s associations with the diocese to him in 2009, although it “crushed the life out of me”.

“When you go into a court you expect the legal system to be impartial, but anyone who saw what happened to me that day would have run a mile from ever taking something up in court,” Mr Smith said.

“It’s something I’ve been angry about ever since. I knew nothing during the trial about Rosser having a position at the diocese. I knew nothing about Allen having a position with the diocese. I knew nothing about the judge having worked for the diocese. Why would I even think that would be the case? That’s why people have to disclose conflicts of interest.”

Charged: Anglican priest George Parker outside Newcastle Courthouse in 2001 during his trial for child sex offences against Steve Smith.

In December, 2016 NewcastleDetective Acting Inspector Jeff Little reinstated the no-billed 2001 offences against Parker and charged the priest with 20 fresh offences, including five counts of buggery, against Mr Smith and another boy. Parker, 79, died two weeks later.

Mr Smith praised Mr Elliott and Detective Little for extraordinary work both investigating his allegations and providing care and support over an extensive period.

“Michael has really paid the price for standing up for survivors despite what we now know was going on within the diocese. Jeff Little took the time to look at what I was saying and really went above and beyond to try and get justice,” he said.

“The police were great, both back then and now, but it all came a cropper in the court. It was part of the apparatus that failed us, the justice system itself.I want an apology from the state for that, and I’m not letting this go.”

Mr Smith, who was the last person to give evidence at the royal commission, received a settlement from Newcastle Anglican Diocese after taking legal action.

Mr Speakman’s office has been contacted for a response.

 

June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Williams chasing World Cup sevens success

Williams chasing World Cup sevens success

Australia hung tough to win a World Series title without their unsung hero but co-captain Sharni Williams plans to show just what they missed at this weekend’s rugby sevens World Cup in California.

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Williams, one of just four in the squad to play at Russia’s 2013 World Cup, missed most of the side’s Commonwealth Games campaign in April thanks to an ankle injury on day one.

But the Canberran is back for the ruthless knock-out tournament to be played at the picturesque AT&T Park, which normally houses Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants.

The qualified mechanic is the quiet achiever of a women’s sevens side that holds both Olympic and World Series crowns.

But she’s happy to leave the spotlight to high-profile backs like Charlotte Caslick, who recently recommitted to the code despite poaching efforts ahead of the inaugural women’s NRL competition later this year.

“I can bring that physicality and mongrel and leave it to the girls with the ponytails to finish it off,” a cheeky Williams told AAP.

“Being in rehab makes you realise how good your job is; myself and Ellia Green (knee) are just firing, have that fire in the belly and can’t wait to get out there.

“I want to show the girls what they’ve been missing.”

Williams’ roll-up-your-sleeves attitude sits well with new coach John Manenti, who has emphasised the importance of dominating the breakdown since taking over from new men’s coach Tim Walsh.

Manenti coached Williams and fellow co-captain Shannon Parry when he took the Wallaroos to bronze at the 2010 15-a-side world cup.

The Black Ferns beat Australia in extra time to win gold at April’s Commonwealth Games and then claimed the last three legs of the world series to finish just two points shy of the consistent Australia.

Williams missed all three tournaments, with Manenti blooding a host of young talent that found a way to a second world series title.

“I barely saw them for three, four months after the Commonwealth Games but I was so proud of how they hung in there,” she said.

“We really want this but we know if we lose we’re out, so we have to be very prepared from the outset.”

Australia plays Papua New Guinea on Saturday morning (AEST), with the final on Sunday afternoon.

 

June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Newcastle City Council workers in Hazmat suits patrol Stockton beach daily for asbestos as new tip site uncovered

Newcastle City Council workers in Hazmat suits patrol Stockton beach daily for asbestos as new tip site uncovered

Workers in Hazmat suits, asbestos washing ashore and a new tip uncovered by Stockton erosion BLEAK: Council workers wearing Hazmat suits walk Stockton beach looking for asbestos on Thursday morning. Picture: Shannon Hancock

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Asbestos collected by residents from Stockton beach.

Stockton resident Shane Hancock at the site of another tip site uncovered by erosion. This smaller, illegal dump site is just north of the Stockton day-care centre, off Griffith Ave. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Stockton resident Shane Hancock at the site of another tip site uncovered by erosion. This smaller, illegal dump site is just north of the Stockton day-care centre, off Griffith Ave. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Old household rubbish uncovered by erosion on Stockton beach.

Pieces of asbestos collected from Stockton beach by resident Shannon Hancock over five days.

Erosion on Stockton beach near the child-care centre.

TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald revealed a large landfill had been uncovered bythe suburb’s worseningerosion problem, another smaller, unrelated tip – about 500 metres away – has been exposednear Mission Australia Early Learning Centre.

Old glass bottles, rusted metaland crockery are among the items discovered being washed into the sea.

Most of the rubbish iscompressed within theembankment – several metres deep –with what appearsto be asbestos jutting out.

The rubbishislittered along a few metres of the shoreline off Griffith Ave, with items scattered and half-buried in the sand. One ofthe bottles recovered was an old Peck’s Paste bottle believed to be dated between 1930 and 1950.

Mr Hancock said ifthe beach erosion had been addressed, the tip would never have been uncovered.

He is among a group of residents who walk the beach daily collecting historicrubbish and asbestos pieces that range from 40 centimetresin length to the size of a 50 cent coin.

Related reading: The garbage tip washing into the sea(January 20, 2018)

It’s believed the newly uncoveredtip, near the site oftheformer Stockton Colliery No. 3 shaft,was used as anillegal dumping ground decades ago.

In 1955, the North Stockton Surf Life Saving clubhouse was built on the site, that is now used as the child-care centre that is under threat from erosion. It’s understood the land was previously owned by Housing Commission of NSW.

Long-term Stockton resident Jimmy Newton said the area around the old north Stockton surf clubused to be part of the dune system leading to the beach.

He said people used to dump household rubbish in the salt bush where there were depressions.

DEADLY: A bucket full of asbestos pieces collected by resident Shannon Hancock from Stockton beach in the past five days. Some are up to 40-centimetres long.

“Decades and decades ago peopleused to getrid of their rubbish wherever they could, it’s probably a really old illegal dump,” he said. “There were old fibro houses in throughthat area that just got bulldozed into the ground, it’s impossible to know what would be in there or how big it is.”

A Newcastle City Council spokeswoman said staff wearing protective suits and masks would patrol thebeachdaily from Thursday to remove the asbestos.She said ten pieces of debriswere collected on the first day and would be tested.

“The potential asbestos containing pieces pose a very low public health risk and council is removing them on a daily basis to reduce the risk even further, allowing Stockton beach to remain open to the community,” she said.

“We do ask members of the public not to remove any of these pieces themselves as appropriate removal and disposal of any material will be undertaken by council staff.”

Related reading: Crown lands ordered to take action to prevent pollution from Stockton tip(June 7, 2018)

Stockton Community Action Group member Keith Craig said as the beach erosion gets worse, there was potential for more illegal tip sites to be exposed along the shoreline.

He said residents were “frustrated” at the what many perceived as a lack of action from the state government.

“People are suggesting we should take all the asbestos collected off the beach and dump it on [NSW Environment] Minister [Gabrielle] Upton’s doorstep,” he said.

“The situation is going to get worse every time we get a big swell. This separate tip site appears to haveasbestos in it and it’s very disturbing this stuff is now washing up at the main beach area.”

A spokesman for Minister Upton said the government had “consistently supported Newcastle City Council”in its work to manage the erosion problem. “TheGovernment has supported the management and rehabilitation of Stockton beach for many years and is committed to helping the local community,” he said.

Save Stockton Beach spokesmanSimon Jones, who has been campaigning to get Ms Upton to visit Stockton, said thegovernment could not deny its stake in the environmental disaster.

DISGUSTED: Stockton resident Shannon Hancock at the site of another old tip site uncovered on Stockton beach. This smaller illegal tip site is located near Stockton child-care centre that is under threat from erosion. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

“It appearsthey are doing everything they can to avoid the erosion issue,” he said. “We don’t know the extent of this new dump but its fairly close to the surface and it’s really concerning.

“If someone was to come along with a truckload of asbestos and dump it on the beach the authorities would be all over it, but when its heritage waste and still ending up on the beach it doesn’t seem to matter.”

While they welcomed the council’s decision to patrol the beach, residents said it was not the solution to the problem.

“We need to look at the cause of this and it’s painfully obvious what that is,” Mr Hancocksaid. “I don’t understand how the authorities can watch this erosion happen.”

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said he was “concerned” to hear that residents had been collecting asbestos off the beach forweeks. He said funding to address the beach erosion “had the potential to flow” to Stockton once the Newcastle Coastal Zone Management Plan had been completed by council and signed off by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH).

The draft plan,identifying short and medium-term solutions to address the erosion,is due to go before council next week for possible adoption and submission to the State government.

In December, the council removed Stockton from its coastal management plan, which proposes measures to address erosion along the coastline and is used tosecure money from an $82 million state government funding pool.

It came after OEHrefused to sign off on anearlier version of the plan, which did address the Stockton erosion problems.

After the new plan is approved, council willhave another two yearsto lodgea coastal management program to addresslong-term solutions for the beach. Both plans will be used in an effort toattract funding.

Newcastle MPTimCrakanthorp said it was an “absolute outrage” that the state government continued to “bury its head in the sand” on the issue. He said if residents were combing Bondi beach on a daily basis to collect asbestos there would be a “state emergency”.

An EPA spokeswoman said council was in charge of local waste, including asbestos on Stockton beach.

 

June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Sometimes you need a wake-up call when theball’s not in your court.

Sometimes you need a wake-up call when theball’s not in your court.

TELL HIM HE’S DREAMING: Sometimes you need a wake-up call when the ball’s not in your court.I’ve always been fascinated bydreams.

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Not necessarily whether they come true, like the Thailand cave rescue, or are shattered (think Federer’s exit from Wimbledon), but how you can be laying in bed awake, yearning for sleep but unable to achieve it.

Then without warning the sleep juice kicks in and you go level-fourInception.

Chances are, you don’t even know you’redreaming.

The brain is an amazing mechanism for distracting you from reality, or confusing you about reality, or just being reality.

For evidence of that look no further than the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki this week. I thought I was dreaming watching that, even though experts reckon dreams only last two or three seconds.

Mr Putin’s dream run seems to be lastinga good while longer. Just ask the CIA.

You believe what you want to believe, I guess, or what they want you to believe, or what your brain allows you to believe.

Depends on who’s hacking the system.

The other night I went to bed aware that I had to get up early next morning. I set the alarm on my phone and duely went to sleep.

About two hours out from the assigned wake-up time I found myself wide-eyed watching the clock wondering if the alarm was any closer to going to go off.

No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get back to sleep. A couple of times I toyed with getting out of bed and doing something useful, like watch the World Cup or Wimbledon or wake everyone up.

Then without warning I fell into a deep sleep that I didn’t even realise I was having.

The detail was notable, in retrospect, because I remembered it.

I drove a Tuk-Tuk-type vehicle,which had a door on the right hand side but none on the left,up to the East End of Newcastle where I ate soup from a bowl using a spoon which had a bit of rust on it. I believe it was minestrone soup.

Draw from that what you will.

As I made to leave the place where I was eating, my progress was impeded by a courier van. The van may have represented Shannon Noll, or Australia’s stance on coal-fired power stations. I’m not sure. I justknow itproceeded down a one-way lane, before reversing back past me. Beeping a lot.

Once the lane was clear, I made my way down that laneand noticed laying on the footpath, my mobile phone.

Thiswas a relief, because I thought I’d lost it. When I picked it up, the phone alarm went off in my hand.

With that I realised it wasn’t just the phone alarm in my dream.

The phone alarm on the dresser next to the bed was going off too, telling me it was time to get out of bed.

For a moment there, I wasn’t sure which world was reailty. A bit like watching the Trump-Putin summit.

Trying to interpret all these considerations leaves me thinking it’s a fine line between a dream run and a nightmare finish.

Let’s hope that soccer ball thing isn’t a wake-up call.

SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive

 

June 7, 2019

Comments Off on Funding fight highlights importance of school choice

Funding fight highlights importance of school choice

CRUCIAL: Non-government schools have been estimated to save taxpayers between $2 billion and $9 billion every year.To paraphrase Paul Keating: never get between a school system and a bucket of money.

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Just look at the ongoing stoush between the Turnbull government and the Catholic school system. It notched up another level of tension recently when news broke that Catholic Education Melbourne is being investigated by the Australian Charities and Not-For Profits Commission, because of its advocacy for Labor’s school funding policy during the by-election in the Melbourne electorate of Batman.

It escalated quickly, with Bill Shorten describing the investigation as “un-Australian” and Tony Abbott saying it was “picking on the Catholic Church.” But what exactly is all the fuss about?

Essentially, federal government funding per student is going up significantly for all school sectors (government, Catholic and independent), but this increase isn’t as much as teacher unions and Catholic schools would like. The school funding formula is skewed by historical and statistical anomalies. A recent report by the National School Resourcing Board found that it tends to disadvantage Catholic schools compared to independent schools.

This debate over details will continue, but the passion it has ignited shows the importance of federal funding for Catholic and independent schools. Which raises the broader question: why does the government fund non-government schools at all?

Ultimately, because it saves taxpayer money and gives parents more choice over the education of their children.

The government funding received by most non-government schools allows them to keep fees low enough so that middle-income and low-income parents can generally afford them. Without any government funding, Catholic and independent schools could only be for the very rich.

Parents directly contributing to the cost of their children’s schooling means that the government doesn’t have to foot the entire bill. The existence of non-government schools has been estimated to save taxpayers between $2 billion and $9 billion per year. More importantly, non-government schools receiving financial assistance means parents are empowered with more school choice.

Australia has a relatively high proportion of students in non-government schools at 34 per cent – more than twice as much as the international OECD average of 16 per cent. School choice is firmly embedded in our education system.

While the majority of parents end up choosing the local government school, at the end of the day, parents generally know what’s best for their own children.

Parents want to send their children to a school that reflects their values, or at the very least does not undermine them.

Government schools are not values-neutral or the default optionany more than religious schools.

For example, controversial government programs like Safe Schools are strongly opposed by many parents. Sometimes, parents opt for a non-government school for academic reasons (although there are many high-achieving government schools) or for the extra-curricular opportunities.

Of course, for many parents – such as in some rural and remote areas – there is, unfortunately, limited or non-existent school choice. That’s why it’s important to ensure there is a high-quality government school system across the entire country. But this is not incompatible with also supporting a strong and diverse non-government school sector that takes financial pressure off the government system.

Parents need to be provided with the information necessary to make an informed school choice.

The MySchool website –an initiative of Julia Gillard when she was education minister –provides easy access to clear information about schools, including their academic performance on NAPLAN tests.

MySchool has been under attack recently, with claims that publishing school NAPLAN results puts too much pressure on teachers and students. But there have been no rigorous studies of how parents use MySchool data, and no substantial evidence to suggest MySchool has any negative effect on schools or students.

It is far better for parents to have access to objective NAPLAN data in their decision making, rather than having to rely solely on other factors like school reputation, school uniformsand school websites.

Academic achievement is just one of the many factors parents use in choosing a school, and it’s patronising to suggest parents aren’t capable of understanding the limitations of NAPLAN data. Transparency about school NAPLAN results helps keep the education system accountable to parents and taxpayers.

Parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children, not the government. They should be supported regardless of which school they choose.

Blaise Joseph is an education policy analyst at The Centre for Independent Studies.