Monthly Archives: August 2019

Aug
17
  • Serco/G4S wear blame for UK scandal

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    (Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

    Multinational Serco and G4S have apologised for overcharging the British government by tens of millions of dollars, including for services involving dead people.

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    They face other allegations over other contracts.

    The British investigations are unrelated to their outsourcing operations in Australia but a member of the British Public Accounts Committee says people should be concerned.

    Stefan Armbruster prepared this report.

    (Click on audio tab above to hear full item)

    “Well, it’s a judgement that was flawed. It was just a flawed judgement, I don’t think we did correctly tell the difference between right and wrong. We got it wrong.”

    That’s Ashley Almanza, the new CEO of one of the world’s largest private sector employers, explaining to a British parliamentary committee what went wrong.

    G4S is under a criminal fraud investigation for overcharging the UK government on an offender tagging contract.

    Also caught up in the scandal is Serco.

    Its new CEO is Alastair Lyons.

    “It was never right that we should bill, where we weren’t doing work, in respect to that bill, it was wrong, it was ethically wrong, and for us it is one of the signs that we need to have an attitudinal change within our business.”

    Serco is under seven British government investigations, including by the Serious Fraud Office, for its handling of government contracts.

    Both the of these huge, multinational, British-based companies are currently barred from bidding for further work there and both have significant interests in Australia, including running mainland and offshore immigration detention centres.

    Chair Margaret Hodge of the powerful Public Accounts Committee set the tone.

    “Can I just start by saying this is not a session to pass a verdict on whether it is a good or a bad thing for the government to contract public services, what we are about is starting to ensure there’s a proper accountability for the taxpayers pound.”

    In a pre-emptive strike, G4S offered the government an apology the day before the hearing and offered to repay the equivalent of AU$41 million of an AU$87 million deal to monitor tagged offenders.

    That’s been rejected by the Ministry of Justice, which is waiting on the outcome of the fraud investigation.

    In some cases, the government was being charged for monitoring offenders who were dead.

    “If you hadn’t of been caught charging for these people who were out of jail, or dead, or whatever, you would have kept on charging until the year 3000. Why on earth, for both of you really, couldn’t this have been detected.”

    G4S’s previous CEO resigned in May, due in part to the scandal.

    New boss Ashley Almanza admits fault.

    “I think the first thing I would say is I apologise to the Secretary of State, and I apologise to the committee and the taxpayers on behalf of our company. We didn’t have the systems in place, too much was left to a small number of individuals and we didn’t have the appropriate checks and balances in place and that is changing now as we speak.”

    G4S, Serco and other companies are deeply entwined with the British government’s outsourcing of public services.

    The goal: to deliver more efficient services, at a lower cost to the taxpayer, all the while making a profit for shareholders.

    Public Accounts Committee member Austin Mitchell spoke to SBS after the hearing.

    “I’m not an enthusiastic friend of these big companies having so many government contracts, because what we are doing is replacing a state monopoly for the services, with an oligopoly, they’re to big to displace once they’re incumbent, and they’re too big also to be effectively controlled from the centre.”

    Internal control is just one faction in an ongoing debate about how far these companies should penetrate the pubic sector and their duty of care.

    G4S employs over 600,000 people in 115 countries.

    In South Africa, the government last month found G4S had “lost effective control” of the second largest privatised prison in the world, amid claims inmates were being subdued with involuntarily injections and electric shocks.

    G4S denies those claims.

    G4S also bungled the London Olympics security contract, forcing the British government to bring in the army.

    Opposition Labour MP Austin Mitchell says Australians should be concerned by what has happened in Britain.

    “A lot of things that have been made worse under this government were started by the Labour government, that goes for privatisation and outsourcing like this, it goes for reducing the functions of the state. The Labour government did a lot of good but because spending was so high, it tried to economise in this fashion, and therefore it opened the door for the conservative government which believes in reducing the power of the state as an ideology, it opened the door for the conservative government to do it on a much bigger scale.”

    The outsourcers say many of the contracts are high risk.

    That’s why they come with big rewards, and every now and then things do go wrong.

    In Australia, G4S and Serco earn hundreds of millions of dollars from contracts, not just for immigration detention, but the Tax Office, operating trains like the Indian-Pacific and Ghan and much more.

    But both companies have been involved in scandals here too.

    The hearing in Britain was unrelated to those operations.

    SERCO’s Alister Lyons told the committee Britain can now trust his company to do the right thing in future.

    “We do an awful lot of other things beside the issues that have arisen this year, which sadden me, which shock me, which I’m very sorry about, but they’ve happened and I need to make sure they don’t happen again and it’s those actions which we are now taking, which is the main reason why I think the taxpayer can have confidence that you can deal with Serco, confident that Serco will deliver value for money, and confident that we will be transparent with our dealings with government.”

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Aug
17
  • Toughest-ever doping tests in Sochi: IOC

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    The Winter Games in the Russian city of Sochi will see the “toughest ever” anti-doping tests, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach says, despite scepticism over the host country’s testing capability.

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    Bach, elected head of the IOC in September, said on Thursday the number of pre-competition tests at Sochi next year would increase 57 per cent compared with the previous Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

    “We can clearly say that both as regards to quantity as well as quality, this will be the toughest anti-doping program we have ever had in the Olympic Games”, Bach told journalists during a visit to South Korea.

    “The tests will be even more target-oriented … there will be more tests pre-competition … where most of the anti-doping violations are happening,” he said.

    Bach arrived on Wednesday to inspect preparations for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

    He told the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg last week that athletes would undergo 1269 pre-competition tests – over 400 more than at the Vancouver Games.

    However, the global anti-doping agency this month provisionally suspended the accreditation of Moscow’s sports drug-testing laboratory because of questions over the quality of its procedures.

    Russia’s sports minister has promised necessary measures would be taken at the lab, which has until December 1 to improve the reliability of its results.

    Global leaders passed a new world anti-doping code at the conference in Johannesburg, under which offenders could face up to four-year bans from competitive sport.

    The code has been backed by powerful sporting bodies such as the International Olympic Committee, world football’s governing body FIFA and governments.

    The revised world anti-doping code follows a two-year re-evaluation, during which the discovery of extensive doping by champion cyclist Lance Armstrong highlighted the challenges of ensuring clean competition.

    Bach hailed South Korea’s preparations for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

    “We’re satisfied with progress made by the organising committee. This progress makes us very, very confident about the success of the Winter Games in 2018,” he said.

    The eastern resort town of Pyeongchang will become the first Asian country to host the Winter Olympics after Japan.

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Aug
17
  • Under-strength Blues take on Qld in Shield

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    NSW will need to consolidate their spot near the top of the Sheffield Shield ladder minus six Test stars against Queensland this weekend.

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    A heavily under-strength Blues squad, missing six players to the Test team facing England in the Ashes opener, will take on a Queensland side they humiliated just a week ago.

    But former Test bowler Trent Copeland says the experienced players they’ll be without, including the likes of Test captain Michael Clarke and vice-captain Brad Haddin, is almost matched by that which they’re bringing in.

    Fellow Test batsman Steve Smith played a crucial role in the 150-run win, scoring 69 and 36 in last week’s one-sided match.

    But Copeland points to the experience of veteran duo Ben Rohrer and Peter Nevill, who will captain the side, as reason for optimism.

    “I think we’ve got the depth,” Copeland told News Corp Australia.

    “We’re not really losing anything in terms of debutants or anything like that.

    “We’re bringing in experienced players.”

    The unusual nature of the back-to-back Shield matches against identical opposition could work in the Blues’ favour, with Queensland still smarting from the heavy loss.

    The Blues are sitting in second spot in the Shield ladder, with one outright win and gaining first-innings points in their other two matches.

    Copeland, who enjoyed match figures of 7-99 at Alan Border Field, said they viewed this as another opportunity to grab an outright victory against a Bulls team missing key fast bowler Ryan Harris.

    “It’s a rare opportunity two weeks in a row to play the same opposition,” he said.

    “I think we’ve got some good performances on the board last week. Hopefully we can back that up.”

    Squad: Peter Nevill (capt), Sean Abbott, Doug Bollinger, Ryan Carters, Trent Copeland, Moises Henriques, Scott Henry, Nic Maddinson, Steve O’Keefe, Kurtis Patterson, Ben Rohrer, Gurinder Sandhu.

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Aug
17
  • Advancements made in treatment for heart disease

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    The federal government recently agreed to subsidise Coralan to make it available to more people.

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    The medication is one of many developments in treatment for heart disease, which is incurable and accounts for more than 30 per cent of all deaths in Australia.

    David Algie said his life changed dramatically after suffering a major heart attack.

    “It’s a slow process and every time you get a twitch in your chest you think ‘oh my god’ and it’s really worrying,” he said.

    The 65-year-old has a realistic view of the road ahead and so does his doctor, Andrew Sindone.

    “More than half of the people in Australia will die of cardiovascular disease,” Dr Sindone said.

    But despite the statistics he said the medical community was making progress in the area of treatment for heart disease.

    “We are making some gains but there still is a lot of room to move,” he said.

    Transplant technology

    Fiona Coots had the first successful heart transplant in Australia 29 years ago and continues to beat the odds.

    “To be still here so healthy is really amazing,” Ms Coots said.

    Organ-donation rates have increased dramatically over the past few years but there simply are isn’t enough to meet a growing demand.

    For every 1000 people in this country, only one is a potential donor and only 30 per cent of that one per cent will become a successful donor.

    But new technology looks set to change these odds.

    Cardiologist Peter Macdonald has created a way to reduce that damage once the heart is removed from the donor by keeping it working while waiting to be transplanted.

    “The heart just isn’t able to withstand the insults that occur during the withdrawal of life support and just isn’t usable, Dr MacDonald said.

    “We think this technology will allow us to utilise hearts from donors that we currently don’t consider suitable for heart transplant.”

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Aug
17
  • Scott slumps, Day fine in World Cup golf

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    A horror hole has severely jeopardised Adam Scott’s winning streak but fellow Australian Jason Day is within two shots of the World Cup lead.

    南宁桑拿

    Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn and American Kevin Streelman lead the tournament at Royal Melbourne after each shot five-under-par opening rounds of 66 on Thursday.

    Their nations also lead the team event, after their respective partners, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen and American Matt Kuchar, each shot even par to make team totals of five under.

    World No.2 Scott, coming off wins in the Australian PGA and Masters, shot a four-over 75, including a quintuple-bogey when he used three balls off the tee on the par 4 12th.

    Day, dealing with the grief of losing eight relatives in Typhoon Haiyan, shot 68 despite dealing with tougher, windier conditions playing in the second-last group.

    The pair’s one-over total leaves them six shots adrift as they try to win the World Cup for Australia.

    Day said he wouldn’t speak with Scott before Friday’s second round, as he sensed his teammate wouldn’t be in the mood.

    “He looks tired, he looks exhausted after the last two weeks,” he said.

    Day was delighted with his own game, coming off a five-week break in which his practice has consisted of hitting balls into a net in his garage or chipping them into his young son’s toy collection in their basement.

    US Masters champion Scott admitted his mind wandered on the 12th.

    His initial tee shot went way right and he lost the ball.

    His second went deep into a grove of trees and he was unable to play that either.

    His third attempt off the tee counted as his fifth shot and he needed four more to complete the horror hole.

    “I was just away with the fairies on that hole,” Scott said.

    He said mental fatigue might have kicked in and a lapse in his game had been inevitable at some point.

    “You just can’t play good all the time,” Scott said.

    But he still holds hope of a comeback victory, saying with Royal Melbourne’s greens fast and getting faster it might not take spectacular scoring to rein in the leaders.

    “If I can plug away at it I’ll maybe claw my way back into it,” Scott said.

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