Corporate penalties need to ‘create fear’, says watchdog ASIC

ASIC chair Greg Medcraft has defended the performance of the agency. Photo: Jim RiceThe Australian Securities and Investments Commission has defended its record as the country’s main corporate watchdog, saying Australia doesn’t have big enough penalties to deter corporate misconduct.
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ASIC chairman Greg Medcraft told a Senate estimates hearing this morning that the regulator was upholding its mandate and called for tougher government policy to help it conduct its job better. ASIC is facing staunch criticism for its role in investigating a number of cases.

The Senate inquiry into its performance follows a number of articles in Fairfax Media that revealed serious misconduct and a cover-up by Commonwealth Bank’s financial planning arm and the failure of ASIC to act promptly.

”It is frustrating – both for us and the public – when the penalty available to respond to misconduct is much less than the profit someone made in the process,” Mr Medcraft said. ”If this is so, then rational players in the market will routinely take that risk.”

”If the thinking of law-breakers is a tussle between fear versus greed, then we need penalties that amplify the fear and smother the greed.”

”We need penalties that create a fear that overcomes any desire to take risks and break the law.”

Dealing with whistleblowers

Mr Medcraft also said ASIC was attempting improve its dealings with whistleblowers that approach the regulator with information.

This includes establishing specific whistleblower staff and bolstering training around whistleblower protections and handling of whistleblower complaints.

He said the watchdog had a strong record on enforcement and was proactive in identifying market problems. He said Australia needed stricter penalties to improve its enforcement record.

”ASIC recognises a number of submissions were from people who have incurred significant monetary loss and suffered serious financial hardship.

”We appreciate the difficult circumstances these people face and the trauma that it can bring – and we thank them for their contribution to the inquiry.

”Individual losses are distressing. However, the settings established by Parliament for our financial system are such that no financial regulator can prevent all losses from occurring.

ASIC’s performance on the issue of whistleblowers is also coming under scrutiny by the Senate economics committee inquiry. The inquiry was launched in the wake of series of BusinessDay articles that exposed allegations of forgery, fraud and a cover-up by former CBA financial planners including Don Nguyen and Ricky Gillespie.

Hundreds of clients are believed to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the misconduct. Commonwealth Bank has so far paid out $50 million in compensation.

ASIC has previously acknowledged that its dealings with a group of whistleblowers who contacted the regulator with concerns about CBA’s financial planning operation in October 2008 were “not adequate”.

BusinessDay has revealed that ASIC took 16 months to act on the information provided by the whistleblowers.

‘Front page test’

Following ASIC investigation into the actions of two David Jones directors, Mr Medcraft also called on companies to look beyond the law and at the “front-page test” when allowing their directors to trade shares,

“[Companies] do need to go beyond the law and you need to be careful about perception,” he said.

“Any company needs to make sure that the market has confidence in it.”

The inquiry began with the chairman of the Senate Standing Committees on Economics, Mark Bishop, questioning Mr Medcraft and his commissioners about ASIC’s investigation into the purchase of shares by two David Jones directors just days before Myer approached its rival about a $3 billion scrip merger.

Senators Mark Bishop and John Williams questioned the commissioners over the timing of the share purchases by the directors, which were made three days before a better-than-expected quarterly sales update.

But the ASIC commissioners, including Mr Medcraft, said they did not deem the information held by the directors to have been material, meaning that it could have affected the share price. They said the material, on its own, was not deemed material by ASIC, especially given that the like-for-like sales were 0.3 per cent lower than in the previous corresponding period.

Expert advice

ASIC revealed that Harold Schapiro, an experienced stockbroker, was the market expert they had engaged to assist them with the investigation into David Jones and allegations of insider trading and the improper use of confidential information.

Mr Medcraft said that while ASIC had issued a “no further action letter”, it was not a tick of approval and the corporate regulator held the right to open the case again.

He added that Myer’s offer of a nil premium scrip merger was “just a try-on … frankly”.

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Rich harvest reward of tender care

Suri Talip with his black sweet japanese pumpkin. Photo: Katherine Griffiths Photo: Katherine Griffiths
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Suri Talip of Holder practises a form of organic gardening known as Yoko agriculture, which includes giving positive words of encouragement to the plants, giving ”true light” (spiritual energy) to the garden, and having gratitude for the fine tilth of his soil that produces easily lifted kipfler potatoes and black sweet heirloom Japanese pumpkins.

For Talip, gardening has a spiritual side, and he quotes Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet: ”And what is it to work with love? … It is to sow the seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy.”The Holder harvest

Rows of tomatoes, among them red and green striped tigerella and longish Amish paste, form a bower. The family reaped a January harvest of a year’s supply of purple Italian garlic, grown from garlic from organic suppliers in Melbourne and Canberra, and white onions, red salad and red Spanish onions, and cream gold (brown) onions raised from a supplier at the Exhibition Park farmers’ market. The honey and cream corn and breakthrough corn from Diggers Club in Victoria are growing prolifically.Orchard trees

Talip has planted five varieties of apples – pink lady, granny smith, sundowner, golden delicious and red fuji. He has nectarines, plums, apricots, figs, almonds, pomegranate, and an old peach tree they are trying to cure of curly leaf and brown rot. A variety of citrus includes oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangelo and cumquats. He espaliered young pear trees beside the chook run and round nashi pears dangle at eye height with sun-blushed williams bon chretien pears.Indonesian inspiration

Surianshah (Suri) Talip was born in Kalimantan Timur on the island of Borneo. In Indonesia his family had a wet paddy field and grew hill rice by shifting cultivation – after one planting and slash and burn, they would move back to that site five years later. They grew their own vegetables, tapioca, sweet potatoes and bananas and his mother was the greenest ”green finger”. He and his wife, Jackie Talip, met when both studied at the University of New South Wales. They have seven children. Talip came to Canberra in 1974 and taught surveying at Canberra Tech College (now the CIT). He lived in Charnwood, then ”in the sticks”, where he kept an organic garden and was vice-president of the Canberra Natural Health Society. He left for overseas work in 1977 and returned from Malaysia in 2007.Berry curtain

Raspberries are grown on single stems and trained up wires to create a living curtain between the house and a paling fence. They have just produced a second flush of fruit. There are goji berries, a bumper crop of youngberries, gooseberries, blueberries, currants, kiwifruit vines, rockmelons and honeydew melons. Surrounding the strawberry patch are the blue-starred flowers of borage that are used as an edible decoration on fruit salads.Nowra’s Yellow House

The Burketts of the Yellow House in Nowra are friends of the Talips and they inspired him to create an integrated garden incorporating vegetables, fruit, flowers and chickens. Since 2009 the Burketts have been selling heritage perennials through their garden nursery at the Yellow House and, apart from a vast orchard, their culinary ”wonder vegetable” is the choko.

Talip’s tips

Talip grows lemon verbena and uses the fragrant leaves in tea or adds them to iced water. To improve the soil he uses compost, green manure, mulch, liquid fertiliser made from compost, comfrey and worm teas. He has a small worm farm and the family keeps four isa brown chickens. A friend recently gave them two rhode island reds but they are having trouble integrating with the others. He is a member of the Diggers Club in Melbourne and subscribes to the ABC’s Organic Gardening magazine. Jackie French’s books are constant references, particularly Backyard Sustainability.

In the kitchen

Talip is the cook in the household and he cooks a variety of cuisines, including Mediterranean using homegrown mini black eggplants, and Asian dishes incorporating homegrown bok choy (pictured). He is also happy cooking scones for morning tea in the garden. Baked meatballs with tomato sauce made from homegrown tomatoes, garlic, red onions and capsicums were a frequent request from a seven-year-old grandson recently.

>>Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.

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Quirk hopes to show more flair for Reds

Ed Quirk, the Reds flanker with the World Wrestling Federation hair, insists Queensland are on alert for everything but an elbow off the top rope as they prepare for their Super Rugby opener against the Brumbies on Saturday.
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Quirk shapes as a key player for a Queensland side determined to find the kind of attacking zing that saw them skip away with the 2011 title. Last year, that attack faltered, particularly when they lost 24-6 to the Brumbies in 2013’s first round.

With a pack lacking the muscle and bulk of some rivals, the Reds are once again intent of swinging the ball around the park, rather than crashing one-out drives into the kind of muscular defence the Brumbies are certain to provide.

Coach Richard Graham wants the attack to flow not just from Will Genia and Quade Cooper but from the backrow. With a background in Sevens and a good handle on the ball, Quirk wants to see some more room when the chances arise.

But he said to exploit that opportunity, it first had to be gained at the breakdown. After losing George Smith, the Brumbies now bring David Pocock to the fight. It’s a fair replacement.

The Reds were stung by the physical intensity of the Brumbies in this fixture last year and never recovered during the match. Quirk said some heavy duty training with forwards coach Nick Stiles had sharpened them for the expected onslaught.

“They’re good. They’ve got some world-class players that get on the ball. We’ve done a lot of stuff in pre-season with Stilesy to counteract that so we’re a bit more efficient on the ball,” Quirk said.

“Just some hard stuff, him being an ex-prop, just getting in and getting your head in bad places.

“Last year we got caught out a bit but we’re playing a more expansive game. We want to use the ball more but if we have to dig deep and go, we will.”

The return of that adventurous spirit was evident in the first trial against the Chiefs but the Reds battled in their loss to the impressive Rebels last week.

Graham was hardly impressed but Super Rugby is a different ballgame and Quirk said the confidence was high, especially given the good news about Quade Cooper’s neck injury.

The Reds couldn’t best the Brumbies in two outings in 2014, while the ACT went on to make the grand final as the Reds dipped out early in the finals race.

Quirk admitted there was some history between the teams and the derby had become as heated and important as the more traditional meeting with the Waratahs.

“The Reds and the Brumbies had some history last year, with some really hard fought games. We didn’t come out with a win but to start off the season again with the Brumbies, it’s good for us,” Quirk said.

“It’s a new year. We had a poor ending to the season and they went through to the grand final.

“Both games were very physical and there’s a lot of Wallabies versing each other. Wallaby spots are up and a lot of guys push for that. And you want to top the Australian conference.”

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Alcoa denies carbon tax led to closures, job shedding

Shock news: Workers David Browne, Vince Purcell, Ben Bernabe and James A’Hern said they heard of the review two weeks ago. Photo: Edwina PicklesThe last aluminium recycling plant in NSW will close, leaving about 180 workers in western Sydney out of a job. Alcoa has also announced it will shut its Point Henry aluminium smelter and a rolling mill in Geelong, Victoria, resulting in the loss of 980 jobs in August.
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The company said the 50-year-old Victorian smelter was no longer economically viable.

A spokeswoman for Alcoa said the closure of Alcoa’s aluminium rolling mill and recycling centre in Yennora in western Sydney would result in the loss of another 180 jobs.

But the company contradicted federal government claims the carbon tax led to the decision to shut the company’s Point Henry smelter and two rolling mills in Geelong and western Sydney.

Treasurer Joe Hockey and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane blamed the tax for the loss of nearly 1000 jobs.

A company spokeswoman confirmed ”the carbon tax was not a factor in the decision to close Point Henry smelter or the rolled products business”.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Hockey said the company’s decision was ”disappointing”, but ”predicable’ and linked it to the carbon price imposed by the Gillard government, which he said had added to the high cost of production at the plant. He called on Labor to back the Coalition’s legislation to repeal the tax.

”The carbon tax adds to the cost of production,” he said. ”It does, no matter what people say. You cannot say the carbon tax helps with producing things in Australia.

”At the end of the day, the carbon tax is a greater cost on business. It is a massive cost on aluminium smelters, obviously. A 50-year-old smelter with a carbon tax is never going to be cost effective.”

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird also blamed the carbon price for the company’s woes.

”With higher energy costs and increased manufacturing in neighbouring Asia, Australian manufacturers are clearly facing challenges in remaining open,” he said.

”It’s time for federal Labor to support jobs and vote to repeal the carbon tax.”

Alcoa had been exempt from 94.5 per cent of its carbon tax liability for its smelting operations as a so-called emissions intensive trade-exposed industry.

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union NSW secretary Tim Ayres said the closure was ”the next wave of blue collar job losses in western Sydney”.

”There have been jobs flowing out of the Toyota and Holden decisions and a series of closures over the last few months,” he said.

Mr Ayres said Alcoa was the only aluminium recycler in NSW, churning through 55,000 tonnes of scrap metal each year.

”It puts a question mark over whether we can recycle aluminium,” he said.

”Recycling uses 5 per cent of the energy needed to produce aluminium. All of our scrap aluminium will have to be exported.”

Mr Ayres said the federal and NSW governments had shown ”hostile indifference” to the plight of manufacturing workers facing a ”jobs crisis in NSW and particularly in western Sydney”.

He said they had no plans to ensure Australia remained competitive in manufacturing.

”We have to make sure we have the capability to build more jobs,” he said. ”Barry O’Farrell is refusing to get involved. The north west rail link is the biggest project around and there is no local jobs plan attached to it.”

Vince Purcell, 50, of St Clair, said he first started working at Alcoa’s plant in Yennora at the age of 22 just after getting married.

”I’ve had one redundancy here many years ago. My current employment is 21 years,” he said.

”We were notified two weeks ago that this plant was under review. Up until then we were told our grandkids would have jobs here.”

NSW Opposition leader John Robertson said the closure of the Yennora plant was a blow for western Sydney.

”The O’Farrell government should be immediately working on a jobs plan for western Sydney and the rest of NSW that addresses the growing trend of job losses,” Mr Robertson said.

with Brian Robins

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Ryan Harris: it’s not nice to be called ‘the slow one’

Ryan Harris. Photo: Morne de KlerkPitch scares groundsmanPitch won’t stop MitchPhilander worked out
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As we were doing our game-day warm-up and the I saw the commentators talking to Graeme Smith after the toss, meaning he’d won it, we all started walking off thinking we were bowling. When someone said ‘No, we’re batting’, it was a shock – but a nice shock. Three days’ out you would’ve bowled on that pitch, because it looked so green, but on the day of the game it looked a very good wicket. The way Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith batted on it on day one proved that. As a team, we never looked back from there.

Even though Mitch Johnson is a teammate I was still able to marvel at what he did – but I’ve been doing that all summer with Mitch. And I’m adamant it wasn’t just because of the pitch, which all of us got to bowl on. I was at short cover to him a few times and the pace his balls were going through at was just unbelievable. I’m glad I’m not facing him. Morne Morkel is a similar pace but, I’m not sure what it is, just wasn’t having the same impact. Maybe it’s because Morne gives you a better look at the ball. But he’s definitely still tough to face. With Mitch, I don’t know whether it’s just the angle of his arm but the balls he’s hitting their blokes with and getting nicks from are just scary – right at the helmet badge, right at the throat. That’s hard to play. I say it’s great to watch because he’s on my side. If he was against us I wouldn’t say that though.

Sometimes Mitch bowls so fast it makes you feel like you’re not pulling your weight. It’s not nice to feel like you’re ‘the slow one’. But I never get cranky when he’s taking wickets and I’m not. If I ever got that way I’d hope someone would come up and give me a rocket. I was rapt when Mitch got Graeme Smith in the second over of the match, after he’d hit me for 10 runs in the first. I wasn’t unlucky though. It was a rubbish over from me to start with. I look back and realised I started to sledge a bit in the match, which I don’t normally do. That probably shows I was a bit frustrated. A couple of things came out, although nothing silly.

I’ve played well over a decade of first-class cricket but suspect nerves got to me a bit, playing South Africa for only the second time. I reckon I tried a bit too hard, ran in a bit too hard in that first innings and focused too much on how fast I was going to bowl rather than where I was going to put the ball. It was just one of those days where not everything clicked.

You won’t hear me complaining when people chip me after bowling like that, because it’s warranted. I know when I’m not bowling well. Even Boof came up to me and said it wasn’t my greatest effort, but not to worry. I knew that already, no-one had to tell me. I’ve built my career through consistency, but at Centurion I wasn’t consistent. It was as simple as that. I was happier in the second innings, bar the last two overs when I against started bowling rubbish and Vernon Philander got me away a few times. I just didn’t put the ball in the right spot enough.

At Port Elizabeth it’s got to be better than what it was at Centurion. That’s why my focus since the match ended has been on putting in the work in the nets before Thursday, to get back that feel that I want.

It’s important for Sidds and I to be bowling well because we’re going to be targeted because Mitch is dominating so much. They’ll obviously be trying to get through Mitch’s spell then come after us. We’ve just got to make sure we’re building the pressure. If we bowl the way we did in our summer then they’re not going to get us away, and they’ll have to take risks to score.

As amazing as Mitch was I’ve got to also give credit to A.B. de Villiers. Even though you never want to pump up the tyres of blokes on the other side I must admit there were a few comments about, when Mitch was bowling to de Villiers, that it was the world’s form bowler against the world’s form batsman.

He’s a bloody good player, de Villiers. How else could you get to 50 in 11 straight Tests? It tells you the bloke’s in pretty fair nick, hitting them nice and straight. Even Mitch he was handling pretty well. He’s obviously got a clear plan to Mitch and stuck to it really well. I reckon he looked tired out there though. A few times I saw him on haunches between balls or between overs. To get past that shows he’s an elite sportsman, and he’s obviously very tough mentally as well.

The challenge for us now is to get de Villiers earlier. The key to doing that is drying his scoring up. I’m going to have to do that a lot better to him, and the rest of the South African batsmen, than I did in Centurion. I didn’t have to wait for the team meeting for Boof or anyone else to tell me that.

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Inquiry into Manus Island violence should be independent, says Human Rights Commission

Federal politics: full coverageMichael Gordon: Stop transfers until we have answersTony Wright: Australia put these people at riskDesperate calls for help as violence erupted on Manus
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Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs has urged the Abbott government to appoint a respected former judge or public servant to investigate the conditions in Australia’s offshore detention centres.

Her comments come as Iran’s foreign ministry reportedly called in Australia’s ambassador to protest the death the Iranian asylum seeker.

According to a report from the country’s official news agency, IRNA, the ministry’s consular director, Hosein Mirfakhar, expressed Iran’s ”protest and discontent” to Australia’s ambassador to Iran Paul Foley.

The Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have announced inquiries after violent clashes between security forces and asylum seekers on Manus Island left one Iranian asylum seeker dead and 77 injured.

On Tuesday night, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison conceded it was unclear whether the attacks happened inside or outside the detention centre. ”I can’t give you an absolute position on that as there are some conflicting reports at the moment and once those are resolved and the reasons for those conflicts then I’d be in a position to report on it,” he said at a news conference in Canberra.

Mr Morrison said an independent review would investigate the violence. The secretary of his department, Martin Bowles, would “initiate a full review into this incident in the same way the former government commissioned previous reviews into incidents”.

But Professor Triggs said she did not believe these inquiries would be sufficiently objective.

”I think we’ve reached a stage now with the violence – both of course a year ago in Nauru and now again on Manus – that it really does call for a more objective inquiry into what is happening at these detention centres and what the conditions are that lead to the levels of very high anxiety and in some cases violence,” she told ABC radio on Wednesday morning.

Professor Triggs said it would be appropriate for a retired judge or civil servant to handle the inquiry. She also called on the government to appoint an independent panel to monitor conditions inside Australia’s detention network.

”I think that a regular monitoring body of respected professionals in the area would carry considerable credibility and would keep us all better informed,” she said.

Professor Triggs said she believed the “tipping point” for the latest violence was a lack of clarity about when asylum seekers would be processed.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said it was a “bit rich” for the Iranian government to criticise Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

But Ms Plibersek said: ”I think the reports [of violence on Manus Island] are very disturbing indeed and I think it’s important that there be a full investigation and that it is made public.”

Mr Morrison said that Tuesday evening passed without incident at the Manus Island centre and that conditions remained calm.

An asylum seeker involved in the incident on Tuesday night has been flown to Brisbane to receive treatment for a fractured skull.

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Regional services guide

Rural Financial Counselling Services locations. Picture: http://www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/drought/rfcs Rural Financial Counselling Services locations. Picture: http://www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/drought/rfcs
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Rural Financial Counselling Services locations. Picture: http://www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/drought/rfcs

Rural Financial Counselling Services locations. Picture: http://www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/drought/rfcs

Rural Financial Counselling Services locations. Picture: http://www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/drought/rfcs

Local Land Services

p:02 6391 3100NSW Rural Assistance Authorityp:1800 678 593e:[email protected]

NSW Farmersp:02 9478 1000 e:[email protected]爱上海同城论坛.au

National Farmers Federationp: 02 6269 5666

Meat and Livestock Australiap: 02 9463 9333 e: [email protected]爱上海同城论坛m.au

Victorian Farmers Federationp: 1300 882 833 e: [email protected]爱上海同城论坛.au

NSW

Albury/Wodonga, Armidale, Bourke, Buronga, Casino, Coleambally,Coonabarabran,Coonamble, Cowra, Deniliquin, Dubbo, Forbes, Ganmain, Gilgandra, Glen Innes, Gloucester, Griffith, Gundagai/Yass, Hay, Lake Cargelligo, Inverell, Macksville, Manilla, Monaro/South Coast,Moree,Mudgee, Narrabri, Nyngan, Orange, Parkes, Scone, Taree, Tottenham, Walgett West Wyalong

QUEENSLAND

Biloela, Charleville, Coalstoun Lakes, Emerald, Goondiwindi, Gympie, Innisfail, Kingaroy, Longreach, Mackay, Mena Creek, Miles, Mundubbera, North Burnett, Pinjarra Hills, Roma, St George, Toowoonba/Gatton, Warwick

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

South West/Great Southern Region, Great Southern District and Esperance, Midwest/Northern Wheatbelt and Gascoyne, Southwest Region, North Central Wheatbelt, Central Wheatbelt, Esperance and Pastoral Region, North Mid Eastern Wheatbelt and Esperance, South Eastern Central Wheatbelt, Upper Great Southern and Lakes region, Central Wheatbelt, Central and Eastern Wheatbelt, Northern Wheatbelt Region

VICTORIA

Albury/Wodonga, Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Benalla, Bendigo,Cobden, Colac, Ellinbank, Hamilton, Horsham, Kerang, Kyabram, Leongatha, Maffra, Mildura, Numurkah, Seymour, Swan Hill, Woomelang

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Berri, Clare, Magill, Murray Bridge, Naracoorte, Wudinna

TASMANIA

North/North West, South

Beyond Blue1300 224 636

Lifeline13 11 14

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Urgent call for hospital security boost after neurosurgeon stabbed

Doctors and nurses are calling for the government to urgently improve hospital security after a vicious attack at Western Hospital left a leading surgeon battling life-threatening injuries.
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The attack has also highlighted the Victorian government’s failure to introduce tougher penalties for attacks on paramedics and emergency department staff despite repeated promises to change laws since 2012.

Head of neurosurgery at Western Hospital Michael Wong remains in a serious but stable condition in the hospital’s intensive care unit today after sustaining multiple stab wounds to various parts of his body during the attack on Tuesday morning.

A hospital spokeswoman said Dr Wong’s family rushed to be with him after the assault, which occurred while the 43-year-old was walking through the hospital foyer on his way into work about 8:30am on Tuesday.

Kareem Al-Salami, 48, of Sunshine North, was arrested shortly after the incident and has been charged with the attempted murder of Dr Wong.

It is unclear if the two know each other or what the motive could have been, however Kareem Al-Salami’s lawyer told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday that his client was taking various medications and that he was concerned about his client’s mental wellbeing.

The assault has sparked fierce criticism of the Victorian government’s response to repeated calls from doctors and nurses to improve security in hospitals.

In the lead-up to the 2010 election, the Coalition promised to spend $21 million on putting armed guards in hospitals but when the policy faced criticism, a parliamentary inquiry was held in 2011 to look at alternative options.

Following the inquiry, the government promised to spend $21 million on other measures to improve security in hospitals, but has so far only committed $5.8 million over four years to improve training and install duress alarms in some wards.

In 2012, Attorney-General Robert Clark said the Victorian Coalition government would legislate for longer sentences for people who attack paramedics and emergency department workers in hospitals but so far, no legislation has been introduced. Even if the laws had been introduced, they may not have helped Dr Wong because he did not routinely work in the emergency department and he was not there when the attack occurred.

Following the horrific attack, the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association, the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and the Victorian Emergency Physicians Association said more needed to be done to protect health workers against violence which is occurring regularly in Victoria’s crowded hospitals.

Australian Medical Association Victoria president Stephen Parnis, who has previously called for more CCTV cameras in hospitals, and 24-hour guards, said the incident was an example of the “real dangers that hospital and healthcare workers face”.

Dr Parnis said health workers were entitled to feel safe at work and called on the state government to introduce promised legislation that would increase penalties for violent crimes committed against health workers.

He said there had been three inquiries into hospital safety in recent years in Victoria yet little had been done.

A spokesman for Victorian Health Minister David Davis said an advisory committee has been established to provide advice and oversight on initiatives and that the Minister for Health and the Attorney-General had met with the AMA and had “constructive discussions about potential responses, including possible legislative responses”.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said she was extremely concerned “but unfortunately not surprised” by the attack.

“Those who work in hospitals, particularly those in the frontline – nurses, midwives and doctors – are being punched, hit, kicked, bitten, choked, knocked unconscious and threatened and attacked with weapons every day.

“It would not be tolerated in an office or any other workplace and it should not be tolerated in a hospital. Our political leaders must stop ignoring this horrific violence and take immediate action to make hospitals safe,” she said.

Victorian chairman of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Simon Judkins, said problems of violence were not limited to any one hospital or geographical area.

“Particularly in a public hospital [emergency department]… we do deal with a large proportion of disenfranchised, mentally ill, drug-affected patients who can’t get care anywhere else,” he said.

“We often deal with patients who the police don’t want to take to the cells because they are psychologically disturbed so they come to the ED and that can be quite scary for our staff in the early hours of the morning.

“I think this sort of thing could happen in any ED anywhere. We have an open door access policy.”

Dr Judkins said it was possible that no security measures could have prevented the attack on Dr Wong, but greater efforts were needed to protect staff in hospitals against violence.

He said problems included low staffing levels overnight in emergency departments and shift workers returning to their cars through dark carparks without any security.

“No matter what happens there will still be incidents like this but it does raise concerns… No other profession would put up with this. People get abused, punched, pushed and threatened… We expect that’s going to happen and we shouldn’t, we should expect to feel safe in our workplace.”

Victorian Emergency Physicians Association president Allan Whitehead said the state government needed to provide more funding to enhance security, particularly for smaller hospitals with emergency departments that did not have adequate security.

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VIDEO: Mullen out for four months with hamstring tear

NEWCASTLE Knights five-eighth Jarrod Mullen is likely to be sidelined until mid-season after scans revealed he needs surgery to repair a torn hamstring.
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Mullen will see a surgeon next Monday to have the prognosis confirmed but sources have told the Newcastle Herald the 26-year-old pivot will have to go under the knife to repair the hamstring he tore in Newcastle’s 16-11 quarter-final loss to Brisbane in the Auckland Nines at Eden Park last Sunday.

It is understood the tear in his left hamstring is close to the bone and surgery, which will sideline him for up to four months, remains his only realistic option.

In a statement on the club’s website, the Knights said the results of scans taken on Tuesday ‘‘have confirmed a hamstring avulsion’’ and he is scheduled to see the surgeon next Monday.

‘‘The seriousness of the injury and therefore his recovery time will be determined post consultation with the surgeon on Monday,’’ the Knights statement said.

The loss of their primary playmaker for at least the first half of the season is a devastating blow to Newcastle’s hopes of challenging for the NRL title, and ends any hope of Mullen staking a claim for the NSW No.6 jersey for this year’s State of Origin series.

In the absence of regular skipper Kurt Gidley at various stages last season, Mullen captained the Knights and steered them within a game of the grand final. His most complete and consistent season ended with him finishing equal fifth in Dally M Medal voting last year.

Coach Wayne Bennett will consider switching Gidley back to the halves to replace Mullen, which would leave young gun Adam Clydsdale and former Canberra Raiders hooker Travis Waddell to share the dummy-half duties.

Waddell and Clydsdale will alternate at hooker in Newcastle’s pre-season trial against Canberra at Scully Park in Tamworth on Saturday night.

Mullen, who captained the Knights in the Auckland Nines, was running towards Brisbane’s line just before half-time in the quarter-final but, without a defender touching him, collapsed to the ground mid-stride and immediately clutched at the back of his his left thigh.

He hobbled from the field and watched the second half from the sideline bench, holding an ice pack against the back of his left thigh.

Please enable Javascript to watch this videoMeanwhile, the Knights have announced that halfback Tyrone Roberts has signed a new deal with the club, securing his services until the end of 2016.

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MP’s suspended over corruption inquiries

FORMER NBS energy minister Chris Hartcher and other Central Coast MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber have been suspended from the NSW Liberal Party after being named in two major corruption inquiries.
Shanghai night field

Acting state director Simon McInnes announced in a statement on Wednesday morning the trio had “voluntarily withdrawn” from the party after the O’Farrell government was dragged into the scandal surrounding the family of former Labor powerbroker Eddie Obeid, with an announcement that public hearings would begin in weeks.

A senior government source said the Liberal Party had decided on Tuesday night to begin proceedings to suspend the trio.

The MPs had just renominated for preselection in their central coast seats for the March 2015 state election.

But on Tuesday members of Mr Spence’s electoral conference for The Entrance were told a meeting scheduled for next Monday to confirm his candidacy was cancelled until further notice.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption will hold a public inquiry, starting on March 17, into allegations of corrupt conduct by public officials and ’’persons with an interest’’ in the Obeid-linked company Australian Water Holdings.

A second inquiry will be held from April 28 into allegations Mr Hartcher, who is the member for Terrigal, Mr Webber, who is the MP for Wyong, and Mr Spence ’’corruptly solicited, received and concealed payments’’ in return for favours.

Australian Water, which became one of the largest donors to the NSW Liberals before the 2011 state election, was allegedly one of the sources of the payments.

ICAC says the first inquiry, Operation Credo, will look at whether, between 2004 and 2012, interests in Australian Water benefited by inflating charges to state-owned Sydney Water corporation.

It will examine allegations ’’public officials and others’’ were involved in falsifying a cabinet minute relating to a public-private partnership proposal by Australian Water to mislead a budget committee of cabinet.

Mr Obeid and his fellow former Labor ministers Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly are alleged to have ’’misused their positions as members of Parliament’’ to try to influence public officials over the deal.

It is alleged that, in November 2012, Liberal Party identity Nick Di Girolamo – a former chief executive and major shareholder in the company – and Eddie Obeid jnr tried to mislead ICAC’s investigation into whether Mr Obeid snr tried to use his position as an MP to influence public officials over the proposal.

Within hours of the Tuesday announcement, Mr Di Girolamo resigned as a director of the state-owned State Water Corporation.

The second inquiry, Operation Spicer, will look at whether between April 2009 and April 2012 Mr Hartcher, Mr Webber and Mr Spence, along with two former staff of Mr Hartcher – Tim Koelma and Ray Carter – corruptly solicited payments for political favours.

It will also examine whether, between December 2010 and November 2011, the MPs and Mr Carter solicited banned political donations.

The inquiry will consider allegations Australian Water Holdings, through Mr Di Girolamo, made ’’regular payments’’ to Eightbyfive, a company owned by Mr Koelma in return for Mr Hartcher favouring Australian Water interests. The payments were allegedly claimed to be for public relations advice.

Mr Hartcher suddenly resigned from the cabinet in December after ICAC raided his office.

In 2012 Mr Carter and Mr Koelma resigned and Mr Carter was suspended as Terrigal electorate officer after the party referred allegations they had breached donations laws to the Election Funding Authority.

A $5000 payment to Eightbyfive, from Wyong builder Matthew Lusted, sparked the referral by the party.

Mr Lusted was approached for the payment by Mr Carter shortly before the March 2011 election. It is understood Mr Lusted’s name and others were given to Mr Carter by Wyong mayor Doug Eaton, who has refused to comment.

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