Negligent Australian Leftist (State) governments

Extraordinary (Leftist) Tasmanian government negligence

Mass murderer Martin Bryant has been moved out of a maximum security prison into a lower security psychiatric unit. The Tasmanian Government has refused to confirm or deny the transfer of Australia's most notorious murderer. Bryant, now 36, shot 35 people dead and wounded many others at Port Arthur in 1996. He was moved into Hobart's Wilfred Lopes Centre, a secure mental health unit run by the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services, on Monday. There are no guards inside the 35-bed unit for inmates with serious mental illness, just doctors, nurses and other support staff. Inmates are never locked down and can come and go from their cells as they please, day and night.

The only security at the facility, a few hundred metres up the hill from the old Risdon prison where Bryant was kept, is provided by private contract guards who patrol the three-wall perimeter. When the $12 million centre was launched early last year the then Tasmanian health minister, David Llewellyn, said: "It isn't part of the prison." That day it was made clear that Bryant, then a withdrawn and unpopular resident of the old Risdon prison's hospital, would not be moving in. Tasmanian Forensic Mental Health Services clinical director John Crawshaw said the new unit would be "definitely a hospital, a therapeutic environment".

Mr Crawshaw said Bryant did not meet the criteria for admission to the new facility. Keith Moulton, whose daughter, Nanette Mikac, and two granddaughters, Alannah and Madeline, were slain in the massacre, said he wanted Bryant to stay locked up. "I want him under lock and key for the rest of his life," Mr Moulton said. "That was the judge's sentence. It was repeated 35 times. "I'd hate to think of him being given the chance to lead a normal life."

Bryant has spent the past 10 years in the old Risdon prison hospital, hardly speaking and spending most of his time alone in his cell. Authorities had not considered him sick or mentally ill, but the jail hospital has been considered the safest place for him. Many of the other inmates say they want him dead and he has been the target of assaults from other inmates. But the old Risdon jail is now minimum security and more serious criminals have moved into a new Risdon prison next door. A place had to be found for Bryant, who was jailed for life with no chance of parole for the world's worst massacre by a single gunman. When Mr Llewellyn opened the centre in April he said it would be the first time in Tasmania inmates with serious mental illnesses would be cared for in hospital, rather than jail.


Extraordinary (Leftist) South Australian government negligence

Bail restrictions put in place to protect the community from alleged offenders are being breached in record numbers, prompting the new victim's commissioner to demand the law be toughened. Police figures obtained by The Advertiser show the number of bail breaches has almost doubled to 8202 over the past two financial years. The state's new Victims of Crime Commissioner, Michael O'Connell, is now demanding changes to the law which will force people who allegedly breach bail to prove they deserve to remain free and not be put in prison.

Mr O'Connell, who was appointed last month as the state's first victims of crime commissioner, said that under current legislation, the onus was on the prosecution to justify why an offender charged with a breach of bail should not be granted bail again. His proposal, which he has lodged with the Attorney-General's Department, is particularly aimed at alleged offenders who repeatedly breach bail while awaiting trial, often for serious crimes such as murder or rape.

People are given bail after being charged with a crime and have to adhere to various conditions, which can include not consuming drugs or alcohol, curfews, regular reporting to police and not contacting witnesses. If people breach these conditions, they face the court and, under the current law, have a presumption of innocence until proven guilty in relation to the bail breach. Mr O'Connell now wants amendments to the Bail Act to remove this presumption of innocence and place the onus on the alleged offender to prove they are worthy of another chance at bail and should not be jailed. "If an offender has breached conditions intended to protect victims, then the assumption they should receive bail should no longer exist," Mr O'Connell said. "The offender should have to prove why they deserve bail again."

At present, judges can, at their discretion, take into account alleged breaches when determining if someone should continue to remain on bail but it is not mandatory. Under Mr O'Connell's proposal, it would be mandatory.

Chief Superintendent Tom Osborne said most breaches of bail were committed by repeat offenders. In 2004/05 there were 5729 breaches of bail, compared with 4612 in 2003/04 and 2394 in 2000/01. Police attribute the increase to the tighter bail requirements now imposed as well as more active policing of those on bail.

Mr Osborne said bail requirements on alleged offenders had increased in recent years to try to curb their criminal behaviour. He said bail conditions, which varied between alleged offenders, included home detention, regular reporting to police and bans on attending specific areas. Police also had targeted bail-jumpers, employing such tactics as randomly visiting their homes to ensure they were complying.

Victim Support Service chief executive Michael Dawson said the rapid rise in bail breaches was concerning. "Such a dramatic increase is extremely worrying from the victim perspective - we are most concerned about victims' actual and perceived sense of safety which may be under threat by some bail absconder," he said. He said an investigation needed to be undertaken to look at why there was a sudden increase and what could be done to stop it.

Law Society of SA spokesman Michael Abbott QC said Mr O'Connell's proposal would not affect outcomes. "The Bail Act says they (judges) can take into account any factor," he said. An alleged breach of bail would be a relevant factor, he said.


Extraordinary (Leftist) New South Wales government negligence

As Sydney's rental crisis deepens, public housing worth millions is being left to rot or sit empty in a prestigious city location with harbour views. The number of available rental properties - at a six-year low - is still dropping, forcing househunters to offer 20 per cent above advertised rents. In other cases, landlords are demanding huge rent increases from established tenants, leading to a surge in complaints to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal.

And yet four of the historic terraces in this picture of Lower Fort Street in Millers Point, each worth $1.5 million or more if nearby sales are a guide, have been empty for more than three years. The properties were renovated by the Department of Housing in 2003 but remain boarded up against vandals. There are many other examples of this waste, say residents who fear they are being targeted for removal under a secret government plan to sell 190 of these properties to private investors, using 99-year leases. In Windmill Street there are at least eight empty properties, according to residents, a number of which have been vandalised and are boarded up, with piles of rubbish on the front porch. In Argyle Street there are several more, one a huge double-fronted terrace. There are similar sights in Kent and Merriman streets.

The department says it has leased 24 properties recently but shies away from questions about its plans. The department insists its vacancy rate is lower than in private housing, although there are 70,000 people on the waiting list for public housing. Figures obtained by the Herald show that the number of unlet rental properties in inner Sydney plunged from about 4570 in January to 1990 last month. The figures, from the Real Estate Institute of NSW and the department, show that across middle suburbs, such as Burwood and Willoughby, the number of available leases dropped from about 2730 to 1790. In outer suburbs, the number dived from 4770 to 2700.

Rents rose sharply over the year to June. The median cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Sydney's middle suburbs climbed by almost 11 per cent to $260. One real estate agent, who asked not to be identified, said a renter had recently offered $60 more than the $300 asking price for a city apartment. Anita Campbell, a policy co-ordinator at the Housing Industry Association, said tenants were at the mercy of landlords. "When you've got a vacancy rate this low, the landlord can say, 'This tenant's painful, the other's willing to pay me more, this one's causing me more trouble, so what am I waiting for?,"' she said. "The tenant can always go to the [tenancy tribunal] but that's after they've been turfed out or after they've been saying for six months, 'Please fix the toilet."'

Michael McNamara, a spokesman for Australian Property Monitors, said the outlook was grim for renters. "It wouldn't surprise me if rents rose a further 5 to 10 per cent over the next 12 months in all capital cities." Vanessa Sheehan, a rental property manager at the Angus Levitt agency in the eastern suburbs, said there were "astronomical" numbers of people looking at a handful of rental properties. Tenants were offering above the asking price. "They are very eager, saying, 'We can move in as soon as the owner wants,' that sort of thing," Ms Sheehan said.



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