Authorities defend not prosecuting over Canberra bridge collapse

Updated October 20, 2017 17:57:33

Authorities have defended abandoning prosecution over the collapse of a Canberra bridge that hospitalised nine workers.

The bridge on the Gungahlin Drive Extension across the Barton Highway collapsed during a concrete pour in 2010, injuring 15 people and forcing the road to close for weeks.

The Director of Public Prosecutions made the decision not to prosecute, partly because the two-year statutory limit to start litigation had expired.

Dave Peffer from Access Canberra said a heavy workload for investigators was a main reason for not launching a prosecution.

“In the two years following [the bridge collapse] we had four fatalities in the construction industry,” Mr Peffer said.

“As the community might expect, the investigation resources within Worksafe were taken off this particular investigation and reprioritised to investigating those fatalities.”

Mr Peffer denied that the choice to abandon litigation due to a lack of resources showed incompetence, but said changes had since been made to improve the agency’s ability to respond to incidents such as the bridge collapse.

“We’ve comprehensively rebuilt the team that undertakes these investigations and prosecutions,” Mr Peffer said.

“What we have done over the last 18 months is some quite significant changes in terms of governance and leadership.

“We are already starting to see the results of those changes.”

ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay expressed disappointment over the fact no-one will be held to account for the incident.

“We are continuing to look at ways that we can continue to develop and to improve on workplace safety and also the capacity of our regulators to investigate and prosecute matters,” Mr Ramsay said.

But Alex White from Union’s ACT said damage was already done.

“What this does is send a green light to dodgy builders that there will be no consequence of any kind,” he said.

Mr White said the appalling response to the incident showed the ACT Government failed to prioritise workers’ safety.

Topics: workplace, accidents, disasters-and-accidents, work, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 20, 2017 17:46:08

‘Mum, I’m sorry’: Daughter plagued with guilt over mother’s slow death

Updated October 19, 2017 18:54:23

Rosemary Dupont’s mother felt she a had a fabulous life, and as a nurse who was regularly confronted with death, formed strong views on her right to end it if she was faced with that decision.

She died in 2014 after enduring a decade of deteriorating health conditions including dementia, arthritis and a poor heart.

Ms Dupont said she felt guilt every day over being unable to fulfil her mother’s desire to be euthanised.

“One of the things she made me promise her was that she would not die terribly,” Ms Dupont said.

“I remember one day going to see her when she was bedridden. She said ‘Rosemary, you promised me I wouldn’t die like this’.”

“And I looked at her and said ‘Mum, I’m sorry, there’s not much I can do for you’.”

Ms Dupont felt her mother, along with others whose dire health had robbed them of a fulfilling life, should have the choice to die.

But years of advocating for the legalisation of euthanasia before and after her mother’s death were unsuccessful.

This was despite the ACT Government expressing it was not opposed to debating the issue. Federal law prevents them from doing so.

Greens call for lifting of ‘gag order’ on euthanasia legislation

The Victorian Parliament is preparing to vote on assisted dying legislation, prompting the ACT Greens to push for a gag order on similar proposals in the territory lifted.

The ACT cannot legislate on euthanasia because of a private members’ bill named for conservative backbencher Kevin Andrews, introduced after the Northern Territory legalised euthanasia in 1995.

The 20-year-old piece of legislation blocks the ACT from bringing in its own laws on assisted dying.

ACT Greens MP Caroline Le Couteur says it is time the law was repealed so Canberrans could stop being treated “like second-class citizens”.

“We need to treat the people of Canberra like that adults they are. This is discrimination against us,” she said.

“The ACT Greens are calling for the right for terminally ill people [in Canberra] to choose what they want to do.

“Currently this can’t even be debated in the ACT Legislative Assembly.”

Assisted dying advocate Rodney Syme, also the vice-president of Dying With Dignity Victoria, has been lobbying for 30 years.

Mr Syme said he believed fewer people would end their lives violently if they could instead do so voluntarily, with administered “medication”.

“The Victorian coroner, in his evidence, found that people who had [died by] suicide in a violent and lonely way – a significant number of those were people with an end-of-life situation or a very, very severe chronic health problem – ended their life because the structure of medicine and the fear of the law meant they couldn’t talk to the doctor about it,” he said.

“And if they did they knew he couldn’t do anything.”

A spokesperson for the Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the Federal Government had no plans to repeal the Euthanasia Laws Act.

Topics: euthanasia, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 19, 2017 17:52:59

Which state has the best drinking water in Australia?

Posted October 18, 2017 14:41:32

A city in Queensland has been judged to have the best-tasting drinking water in Australia, with Toowoomba receiving the top gong by popular vote in today’s third annual Best Tap Water in Australia competition.

The winning sample was taken from Toowoomba Regional Council’s Mt Kynoch Scheme.

Water Industry Operators Association of Australia chief operation officer Craig Mathisen said competition this year had been stiff.

Water providers in each state blind tasted samples at their annual conferences to choose finalists for the national competition, where 150 tasters made the final decision.

Finalists included Icon Water in the ACT, SA Water, Goulburn Valley Water in Victoria, and Fenton in Tasmania.

“All the samples were at the high end. Australia is very fortunate to have high-quality drinking water across all of our communities,” Mr Mathisen said.

“It’s an interesting competition and for us it’s a real celebration of what the businesses and operators do 24/7.”

What does water taste like?

“It surprises a lot of people that water has different tastes depending on where it comes from,” Mr Mathisen said.

It’s not until you actually taste samples from various parts of the state or the country that you start to notice some discernible differences.

“A lot of the time it can be dependent on the source of the water.”

Professor Peter Scales, from Melbourne University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, said most of Australia’s drinking water was surface water, sourced from reservoirs.

Aquifer water was used in Perth, Adelaide and various inland sites.

Professor Scales said all drinking water was put through a purifying process to remove particulates and organic compounds, and to adjust the salt component, which contributed to differences in taste and aesthetics.

“A lot of people don’t like water from Adelaide or Perth because it’s quite salty water,” he said.

“Typically waters from mountain streams that don’t have very much salt, organics or toxins tend to be the best-tasting waters.

“But there is quite a subjective nature to what is a good water. People have different tastes.”

Clear and transparent competition

Samples in the final competition were judged on a variety of features including colour, clarity and odour.

Mr Mathisen said the best water had to be clear and transparent, but the true test was taste.

He said 150 tasters from Launceston, the town that took home last year’s title, had been surprised by the variation of the water samples taken from around Australia.

“Some [samples] had a bit more of a murkiness to them, but they were all of a very high quality,” Mr Mathisen said.

“[Tasters] were interested that water doesn’t just taste the same — that was probably the main message we received.”

Toowoomba will now represent Australia at the International Water Tasting Competition in America in February.

“The community of Toowoomba will be rapt with the news,” Mr Mathisen said.

“There’s no cash prize but there’s a lot of bragging rights.

“Obviously it helps those communities celebrate the water and have the communities think about their water supplies, which is really the result we’re trying to achieve.”

Topics: environment, water, water-management, water-supply, mount-kynoch-4350, toowoomba-4350, sa, launceston-7250, merrijig-3723, mount-stromlo-2611

Man who allegedly kicked pregnant partner in stomach refused bail

Updated October 17, 2017 15:40:30

A Canberra man accused of kicking his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach, choking her, and threatening to kill her if she went to police has been remanded in custody.

The 35-year-old pleaded not guilty to 11 charges in the ACT Magistrates Court over the alleged attack in the early hours of Monday morning, after he had been out drinking.

In court documents, police allege the man pulled the woman along by the hair, pushed her across the room, kicked her in the stomach knowing she was pregnant, and put his knee on her throat to restrict her breathing.

The man is also charged with threatening her with knives as he demanded passwords for her phone and bank accounts.

Police claim the man threatened to kill the woman and her family if she complained to police.

Prosecutors opposed bail saying there was a risk the man could flee Canberra and that the alleged victim had significant fears.

Magistrate Peter Morrison refused bail saying the man was accused of very serious offences towards his pregnant girlfriend, which would almost certainly end in a prison sentence if they were proved.

Mr Morrison said he was particularly concerned about the threat to kill the woman if she went to police.

The man will be back in court in December.

Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, domestic-violence, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 17, 2017 15:24:20

Man ‘grabbed co-worker by throat’ in dispute about biscuits, court hears

Posted October 16, 2017 18:15:07

An aged care worker who allegedly grabbed a teenage colleague by the throat and said he could kill her after a dispute over biscuits has said the girl fabricated the accusations out of jealousy.

Lakshman Senanayake, 68, is accused of assaulting his 17-year-old co-worker during an argument at a nursing home in the north Canberra suburb of Page, where they worked.

The alleged victim told the ACT Magistrates Court Mr Senanayake asked her if she had checked the biscuit supply in the home’s respite care section at breakfast time.

When she replied that she had not, he allegedly became furious.

“That’s when he grabbed me around the throat and said ‘I could kill you’,” she told the court.

The girl said she felt pressure on her throat and pushed him away with both hands.

“I said ‘you’ve gone too far this time’ and he said ‘sorry darl’,” she told the court.

She said she then ran down the corridor to seek help.

In a police interview played to the court, Mr Senanayake denied the allegations, claiming he only touched her hand.

He told police his colleague had lied about the incident because she was jealous of him and wanted to cause trouble.

“This person does not like me and that’s why she made these charges against me,” he said in the interview.

Under cross examination the teenager denied lying about the alleged attack, or that she had been drinking a liquid out of the fridge and gesturing at Mr Senanayake when he spoke to her.

The case will return to court in December.

Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, aged-care, community-and-society, assault, crime, canberra-2600, act, australia