A royal commission is not enough IV

As long-time readers will recall I have argued that a royal commission into the black Saturday fires isn’t enough. Those individual policy-makers and bureaucrats that made choices and decisions contributing to the extent of the fires should be arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for their role in the tragedy that resulted in the deaths of 173 Victorians and $4 billion of property damage. I’m sure they have their excuses and reasons lined up, and they should have the privilege of explaining themselves to the jury.

Barry Cohen makes an argument that this should happen next time.

The next time Australia has a cataclysmic bushfire and lives are lost, those who knew about the technology and blocked its use will be guilty of criminal negligence.

This is in the context of an apparently lackadaisical attitude to testing new fire detection technology. In the absence of any downside to their choices and decision making why should we expect any better decisions? The vigorous pursuit of those who contributed to the extent of the black Saturday tragedy through incompetence, indifference, recklessness, or just plain stupidity would ensure that future decision makers would go about their business with a bit more dilligence.

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72 Responses to A royal commission is not enough IV

  1. The troll formerly known as Tom N.

    Fine, as long as you as a taxpayer are willing to pay the relevant bureaucrats the substantially larger salaries, now incorporating the risk premium associated with your proposal, that would result.

  2. Frankly, the suggestion of what even you seem to half suggest would amount to futile show trials for “individual policy-makers and bureaucrats” is more than a tad nutty, Sinclair. It seems to speak more of an interest in anti-Green cultural warfare than making legal sense. (Not that I am any lover of the Greens, by any means.)

    As for the article by Cohen: what’s the bet that the CSIRO will have serious issues with his account of how the trials were conducted? As the article acknowledged at the end, he’s a consultant for the company that failed to sell the CSIRO on the idea, which automatically suggests a large degree of skepticism is warranted for his account of events.

  3. JC

    Yea, Tommy you’re right. The right time to spend money is on the Canberra public schlocks like yourself running for the door the day before an RDO.

    But to prosecute government workers for criminal negligence?… Hey, that will never work.

  4. JC

    You creep Steve.

    It seems to speak more of an interest in anti-Green cultural warfare than making legal sense. (Not that I am any lover of the Greens, by any means.)

    Nearly 200 people weren’t alive and you think we should not prosecute those lowlifes that may have been criminally negligent because they would only amount to a show trial?

    How disgusting.

  5. Find me a (credible) lawyer who has backed the suggestion, JC, and I’ll reconsider.

  6. Sinclair Davidson

    TomN – nice try. Given that you continually boast about how much satisfaction you get from your job despite to monetary rewards, I reckon we’ll keep the money the same and eat into your utility levels. 🙂

  7. THR

    By extension, why wouldn’t you apply the same stringent accountability tests to other public service areas, like health? A person’s health, in some instances, at least, has more controllable variables than a bushfire scenario.

  8. Sinclair Davidson

    THR – we already do. Medical practitioners can be sued and/or tried for malpractice.

  9. THR

    True, but it’s not in a criminal jurisdiction, and nobody gets sued at the level of policy or technology implementation. There are both public hospitals under-servicing patients (and fudging the figures) and private hospitals over-servicing patients (and fudging the diagnoses for insurance companies). If this turns pear-shaped for a patient, why not apply the same standards that you’re proposing here?

    Moreover, by criminalising alleged bad bushfire policy, are you going to raise the burden of proof so high that any such prosecution will be a complete waste of taxpayer’s money? How are you going to demonstrate a causal connection between a bushfire death and the failure to use a particular technology?

  10. Sinclair Davidson

    THR – Dr Patel in Qld was prosecuted not sued.

    I would have thought the standard would be the same for any manslaughter charge – could the person have reasonably forseen that consequence x would follow from action (or inaction) y.

  11. DavidJ

    “Fine, as long as you as a taxpayer are willing to pay the relevant bureaucrats the substantially larger salaries,”

    So unless you are paid more, you will continue to perform inadequately? The country is great hands.

  12. daddy dave

    1. People are dead.
    2. Those deaths are the direct result of decisions that other people made.
    3. The decisions were poor decisions (obviously, since people died).
    4. The poor decision making was a result of negligence.

    So. People died because of the negligence of others. But hey, nobody’s to blame and we don’t want to set a precedent for public servants being at risk. that would be ‘nutty.’

    It seems to speak more of an interest in anti-Green cultural warfare than making legal sense.

    What’s “cultural warfare” about holding people to account for causing the deaths of others?

  13. Your arguments works well up to point 1, D-D.

  14. C.L.

    Jayant Patel was jailed over the deaths of four people.

    That’s the same number killed by the Rudd/Gillard insulation catastrophe – for which not one single public official has been even reprimanded.

  15. Sinclair Davidson

    steve – you’re on a hiding to nothing. If you want to pass yourself off as some sort of conservative, you need to embrace responsibility.

  16. boy on a bike

    Prosecute them under OH&S legislation then. I’ll argue that those that died were under the care and management of the fire bureaucrats – so just like a manager is charged if an employee is killed on the job, a fire bureaucrat should be charged if anyone in the fire zone is killed.

    Given the onerous nature of OH&S legislation, it’s the easiest way to get a conviction, and they’ll be banged up for life.

  17. Sinclair, who else has been suggesting this? Anyone apart from some bloggers?

    Find me a credible lawyer who thinks there is a hope in hell of a successful criminal prosecution of a bureaucrat for manslaughter for something like inadequate fuel reduction in a forest, or not allowing adequate clearing around a house, and I’ll start to take the argument seriously.

    People have lost houses and relatives may have a right to feel aggrieved with some of these policies, but you’re not going to be able to pin a bureaucrat with criminal manslaughter unless they personally went and lit the fire near the house.

  18. dover_beach

    Find me a credible lawyer who thinks there is a hope in hell of a successful criminal prosecution of a bureaucrat for manslaughter for something like inadequate fuel reduction in a forest, or not allowing adequate clearing around a house, and I’ll start to take the argument seriously.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that in some instances a bureaucrat might be charged with criminally negligent manslaughter. The biggest hurdle I would imagine is showing that:

    The defendant fell so far below the standards of the reasonable man in that situation that he should be labelled grossly negligent and deserving of criminal punishment.

    but you’re not going to be able to pin a bureaucrat with criminal manslaughter unless they personally went and lit the fire near the house.

    They needn’t have to have done such a thing. If the Crown can show that the defendant prevented the victim from tending to their property adequately and that this dramatically increased the likelihood of death in case of a fire then such a charge is not outside of the bounds of possibility. The problem with such a case, however, isn’t whether the principles involved can be satisfied but with (i) the Crown prosecuting a bureaucrat and (ii) with who in such an insistence bears the final responsibility of what may be in fact a very bad law, the bureaucrat, the Minister, the Government, or the Parliament (and, by extension, the People).

  19. And sorry, THR is right. While some doctors who directly cause death by incompetence have been prosecuted, your argument is more that the Registration Board that failed to Google to double check Patel’s record could also be done for manslaughter.

  20. dover_beach

    And sorry, THR is right. While some doctors who directly cause death by incompetence have been prosecuted, your argument is more that the Registration Board that failed to Google to double check Patel’s record could also be done for manslaughter.

    If a bureaucrat decided to lessen the use of antiseptics at a hospital as a cost-cutting exercise and this lead to increased infection rates at this hospital, some ending with death, I would imagine that a charge of criminally negligent manslaughter wouldn’t be far-fetched.

  21. Sinclair Davidson

    steve is worried that we’ll start thinking that ‘greenies lied and people died’. Too simplistic.

  22. dover_beach

    Indeed, Sinc. I don’t see how this is far-fetched. If managers of private corporations can be charged with criminally negligent homicide, I’m not sure why we should imagine that bureaucrats cannot since they are essentially managers of public corporations.

  23. THR

    I would have thought the standard would be the same for any manslaughter charge – could the person have reasonably forseen that consequence x would follow from action (or inaction) y.

    What you’re describing sounds more like duty of care than manslaughter.

    That’s the same number killed by the Rudd/Gillard insulation catastrophe – for which not one single public official has been even reprimanded.

    CL, it’s highly dubious that any ‘public official’ was legally or morally responsible. It’s baffling that you seek to exonerate shonky, greedy, private operators who’ve committed corporate manslaughter, and attribute the blame to bureaucrats (useless or otherwise) several times removed from the matter at hand. It’s a complete volte-face on the Tory notion of ‘personal responsibility’ – ‘I fucked up because somebody in Canberra made me’.

    f managers of private corporations can be charged with criminally negligent homicide, I’m not sure why we should imagine that bureaucrats cannot since they are essentially managers of public corporations.

    Managers are never charged with corporate homicide. Corporate crimes are minimised to the point of meaninglessness, even when OHS violations are utterly blatant (a recent case on Lateline is fairly illustrative of this).

    Look, I’m not trying to suggest that useless bureaucrats should be let off the hook. I do believe, however, that the bushfire example is a weak one when it comes to attributing personal responsibility to policy-makers, compared to the sort of culpability of bureaucrats in health, disability, and other sectors. Secondly, a move like the one you’re proposing would likely have a range of unintended consequences. Govt departments would become even more risk-averse and arse-covering than they already are, so you can expect loads more cash to be spent on lawyers and policy wonks, and proportionately less on practitioners on the ground who might actually achieve something. Also, the latter would face ver more strangluation through regulation. By extension, one could imagine ED doctors having to consult through 7 layers of management before getting the all clear to perform emergency CPR.

  24. This is odd: normally, I think most people on the right feel it’s OHS laws that go too far in imposing unrealistic or unfair degrees of responsibility to bosses. (So that, for example, they’ll be prosecuted for an employee doing something that is obviously dangerous, because the boss didn’t put up a sign warning against, or a physical guard that would stop the employee doing, the obviously dangerous.)

    But it seems any concern about unrealistic stretching of the concept of responsibility is for naught if it comes to punishing a bureacrat for being too “green”.

    Anyway, still waiting for any link to a lawyer who has said this is realistic.

  25. Sinclair Davidson

    THR – fair enough, but 173 dead people don’t make a weak case.

    Govt departments would become even more risk-averse and arse-covering than they already are, so you can expect loads more cash to be spent on lawyers and policy wonks, and proportionately less on practitioners on the ground who might actually achieve something.

    That’s not a bug – that’s a feature. Government would eventuallt exit a lot of stuff that it doesn’t really need to be doing.

  26. rebel with cause

    There is a good chance OHS laws would be a good deal less onerous if public officials were held to account under them. You make your bed, you lie in it I say. Fat chance of that happening though. Pity.

  27. dover_beach

    But it seems any concern about unrealistic stretching of the concept of responsibility is for naught if it comes to punishing a bureacrat for being too “green”.

    It seems you’re not even addressing the examples raised and prefer making silly points about our purported ‘hypocrisy’.

    Anyway, still waiting for any link to a lawyer who has said this is realistic.

    Do you imagine that before Donoghue vs Stevenson there was a lawyer who said such a principle was realistic? In such a case, you test whether this or that legal principle can credibly cover this or that fact situation by actually making the argument in a court of law.

  28. It seems you’re not even addressing the examples raised and prefer making silly points about our purported ‘hypocrisy’.

    OK: I think your hospital example was also unrealistic and no hope of a criminal prosecution. Civil prosecution in negligence, maybe, but criminal – no.

  29. dover_beach

    OK: I think your hospital example was also unrealistic and no hope of a criminal prosecution. Civil prosecution in negligence, maybe, but criminal – no.

    How is it unrealistic?

    In R v Adomako the House of Lords affirmed R v Bateman, and set out the five elements required for negligence:

    * A duty of care owed by the defendant to the victim.
    * A breach of that duty.
    * A risk that the defendant’s conduct could cause death.[19]
    * Evidence that the breach of duty caused the victim’s death.
    * The defendant fell so far below the standards of the reasonable man in that situation that he should be labelled grossly negligent and deserving of criminal punishment.

    Just where does my hospital example become “unrealistic” given the fact-situation I’ve described?

  30. Forester

    I’m as outraged as you Sinclair but deaths were the original aim.

    Previous Human Cleansing of the bush via native vegetation and planning laws failed to remove everyone, so the next best policy is to incinerate their pets and children.

    Thankfully all the forest was saved from logging…

  31. Andy

    Hindsight is a marvelous thing. These technologies cost a lot of money and the outcomes of Black Saturday were not known then. They are now. I think Barry is right even though he is pushing a particular technology. There are other options out there and some serious evaluation work needs to be undertaken.

  32. Fair enough, d-b, if your example meant antiseptic simply wasn’t available in certain wards, the bureaucrat knew that, ordered staff to proceed anyway, and procedures had to go ahead without it. Person operated on in such circumstances dies. Kind of an unlikely scenario, but still.

    But to make it more akin to the bushfire analogy, it would be more like: expert A told bureaucrat that costs could be saved in antiseptic use by changing to brand X, which has been shown to be just as effective if you use half of the quantity. Expert B disagrees, and recommends sticking to the original brand. Expert C suggests a third brand is probably the better way to go.

    This is an unusual hospital, and patients are also allowed to bring their own antiseptic if they like to top up the protection they get from the hospital’s.

    Bureaucrat chooses cheapest brand. Infection rates go up. No conviction.

  33. LTLFTC

    I don’t want to appear to be defending governments but this comes across as seriosly just govt bashing.Perhaps a few people have been blinded here.

    I am not suggesting for a second that it is a tragedy that people lost their lives. It is something that I would never wish on anyone before their time (whatever that is).

    But in saying what I have said there are two issues that stick out to me with all the back and forth.

    1. I don’t know the area of victoria specifically where the bushfires happend but in the article the author suggested the new Fire system could be put into bushfire prone areas. Well if they decide to move into a bushfire prone areas then I don’t see why there should be the expectation of Govt to help them. It is kind of like moving into a flood prone area. The risk is there. Your call if you think you can handle it. No point in trying to blame the public service because they didn’t look at a solution to your (potential) problem

    2. Even if you disagree with the above, answer this, why should I as a an innercity resident pay for this type of system. Why should I bear the cost for a risk someone else is making?

    if anyone is wondering LTLFTC stands for Long Time listener first time caller – which is were I am at with this forum. I hope to contribute more in the future and be challenged by you all.

  34. rebel with cause

    BOAB – I’d imagine OHS laws would become a good deal onerous rather quickly if public officials were ever prosecuted under them. You make your bed, you lie in it I say. Fat chance of that happening though. Pity.

  35. dover_beach

    Fair enough, d-b, if your example meant antiseptic simply wasn’t available in certain wards, the bureaucrat knew that, ordered staff to proceed anyway, and procedures had to go ahead without it. Person operated on in such circumstances dies. Kind of an unlikely scenario, but still.

    Ha? I said there was a decision to lower the amount of antiseptic used in the hospital as a cost-cutting measure. That this decision lead to an increasing rate of infection, and that some of those infected died. How is the meaning of this example difficult to understand?

    But to make it more akin to the bushfire analogy, it would be more like: expert A told bureaucrat that costs could be saved in antiseptic use by changing to brand X, which has been shown to be just as effective if you use half of the quantity. Expert B disagrees, and recommends sticking to the original brand. Expert C suggests a third brand is probably the better way to go.

    You don’t need to have an analogues situation to have the same principle apply, you merely need to satisfy the elements of the crime. It is simply clear given the imagined situation I’ve described and the elements that need to be satisfied that such a verdict is possible; you’ve added nothing to suggest that it isn’t.

  36. Michael Fisk

    This is in the context of an apparently lackadaisical attitude to testing new fire detection technology.

    It may not be carelessness. The fact that Labor/social democratic policies consistently produce the same results – fires, electrocutions and drowning – with no change in policy suggests to me that they either wholeheartedly welcome these consequences or that they see them as acceptable costs offset by the greater good of their overall program, namely, spending shitloads of money, pandering to Greens, and opening the borders. Death and destruction are “manageable” for the Labor Party.

  37. FDB

    Libertarians want the government to prevent natural disasters?

    Why can’t the market sort it out?

    Cutting edge fire-detection technology is not “basic infrastructure”.

    The outright lies and exaggerations about fual reduction burning, its extent and its effectiveness, have been done to death.

  38. JC

    Libertarians want the government to prevent natural disasters?

    You idiot.

    Why can’t the market sort it out?

    There were enormous restrictions on people being allowed to cut down trees and vegetation surrounding their homes. The one person who actually did do that, survived and his home was intact, had been fined for doing so.

    Libertarians would say people have the right to do what they like in that regard. So more lives would have been spared.

    Also libertarians would ensure that any government agent would be hauled up in front of a court to defend any prima facie case of criminal negligence in the same way senior executives and boards of directors are in the private sphere.

    Cutting edge fire-detection technology is not “basic infrastructure”.

    had it ever been considered? Why were there changes made to procedures after the fire?

    The outright lies and exaggerations about fual reduction burning, its extent and its effectiveness, have been done to death.

    Yep, you’re right. It has been done to death alright although the intended pun doesn’t help your argument at all.

  39. FDB

    So it’s just a rinse-and-repeat of everything that was said in the aftermath, then during the RC, as if none of the counter-arguments were ever made?

    Typical.

    Note that the one regulatory failure which unequivocally made a huge contribution to deaths from Black Saturday was the failure to make the private electricity company maintain its lines.

  40. JC

    So it’s just a rinse-and-repeat of everything that was said in the aftermath, then during the RC, as if none of the counter-arguments were ever made?

    Typical.

    Which in your book makes it less important while what’s more important is ensuring government agents are protected from potential prosecution for criminal negligence.

    The fat oaf scoffing down more calories on the evening of the fire while all hell was breaking loose means nothing to you.

    Note that the one regulatory failure which unequivocally made a huge contribution to deaths from Black Saturday was the failure to make the private electricity company maintain its lines.

    Okay. The lines went down and we had around 200 burnt alive so start from there.

  41. daddy dave

    Note that the one regulatory failure which unequivocally made a huge contribution to deaths from Black Saturday

    Make that two regulatory failures. Regulations that restricted land clearing also unequivocally contributed to deaths. But the bureaucrats and politicians who are responsible will never be held to account for that.

  42. FDB

    While I believe that there were probably cases where people died because they’d been prevented from clearing, it’s not unequivocal.

    Anecdotal cases where houses and occupants survived after illegal clearing are not compelling.

    Particularly if you’d visited the area shortly afterwards, and seen the burnt farmhouses surrounded by hundreds of metres of open field.

    BAH! I’m falling for it anyway, aren’t I? Rehashing stuff I said at the time and then during the RC, with some personal experience and inside DSE knowledge, and expecting that this time people will actually try to understand.

    But no – it’s the Greens’ fault, or Christine Nixon’s. Not just a terrible accident.

  43. JC

    While I believe that there were probably cases where people died because they’d been prevented from clearing, it’s not unequivocal.

    Anecdotal cases where houses and occupants survived after illegal clearing are not compelling.

    Which it what the courts would be used for.

    Particularly if you’d visited the area shortly afterwards, and seen the burnt farmhouses surrounded by hundreds of metres of open field.

    Clearing isn’t just an open field, you idiot. Proper clearing surrounding a house would also entail gravel breaks etc. or simply dirt.

    BAH! I’m falling for it anyway, aren’t I? Rehashing stuff I said at the time and then during the RC, with some personal experience and inside DSE knowledge, and expecting that this time people will actually try to understand.

    So why are you commenting on the thread?

    But no – it’s the Greens’ fault, or Christine Nixon’s. Not just a terrible accident.

    A drunk in car can end up killing people. We don’t just leave it as a terrible accident when there is a good case for criminal negligence.

    and yes, the fucking greens were involved, but like most of those trogs you really don’t give a shit as long as the religion endures.

    Fuck you, FDB. Fuck you and the crass, indifferent attitude you display. All you’re concerned with is making sure your religious cult members don’t end up in jail for 30 years for killing so many people.

  44. JC

    You moron. As I said Fuck you, you callous prick. 188 people were burned alive and all you’re worried about is making sure that disgusting bunch of seriously demented trogs you support get off scot free.

  45. FDB

    Tell me JC – which particular Greens do you think were controlling State and Local fire policy in the leadup to Black Saturday?

    Don’t bother – I’ve asked you this exact question twice before since Feb ’09, and you DO NOT have an answer. Just a bunch of bile.

    So go on – vomit me some more. It counts as rational argument don’t you know…

  46. JC

    You dickhead… where did the laws to prevent clearings originate if not from the environmental movement and their political cohorts? You think it was big Tobacco that helped instigate those laws preventing clearing or perhaps it was Exxon?

    I don’t recall the argument I had with you, but thanks for reminding me.

  47. FDB, are you getting disturbed about the number of times we’re aligned in argument lately?

  48. JC

    If he isn’t already he should be.

  49. FDB

    Not especially Steve – you’re much more socially conservative and prurient than me, but usually correct on the important things.

  50. JC

    snap, it’s a match. two very stupid people find love.

  51. C.L.

    Good Lord.

    Rev Steve brings FDB to religion.

  52. FDB

    I said the important things CL.

  53. Just Passing By

    Hang on a second how is this diferent from a person who buys a car that does not have air bags? Does a survivor in a crash claim negligence on the car company for not including air bags?

  54. .

    “While I believe that there were probably cases where people died because they’d been prevented from clearing, it’s not unequivocal.”

    Yes it is. Remember the dude who got fined over 50k (maybe up to 100k) and he was the only homeonwer left standing, or alive?

  55. dover_beach

    While I believe that there were probably cases where people died because they’d been prevented from clearing, it’s not unequivocal.

    Anecdotal cases where houses and occupants survived after illegal clearing are not compelling.

    Particularly if you’d visited the area shortly afterwards, and seen the burnt farmhouses surrounded by hundreds of metres of open field.

    This is a peculiar logic you’re employing here, FDB. Do we have to find every house within an open field unburned in order to have a claim against those that prevented tree-clearing? No, we don’t. The argument isn’t that having trees X-distance from your house will prevent your house or family from being incinerated, but rather that having trees Y-distance from one’s house or family increases the likelihood of both being incinerated in case of a bushfire and that preventing such tree-clearing is criminally negligent in the circumstances.

  56. Is this a blog for bar room lawyers or what?

    Increases the likelihood by how much, d-b? Who can put a figure on that? You going to run a trial where the prosecutor just says “well, it’s obvious, isn’t it?” And the defence holds up photos (I’m sure it happened) of one house in a heavily wooded street which burnt, and a neighbouring one which lucked out and didn’t. Not to mention the houses sitting virtually in the middle of open fields that burnt from embers blown kilometres from the actual fire front.

  57. dover_beach

    How are these issues resolved in negligence cases everyday, Steve from B? I’m not sure why you’re pretending that this is breaking new ground. If they can satisfy the elements that I’ve stated above the claim has a good chance of winning. That you’ve resorting to caricature suggests to me you’ve exhausted your stock of argument.

  58. Caricature? Rubbish. I just explained exactly how a trial would proceed and why there would be no conviction.

  59. dover_beach

    Caricature? Rubbish. I just explained exactly how a trial would proceed and why there would be no conviction.

    Oh, did you? I missed that. Could you point out the argument of this trial again?

  60. Forget it d_b. Like I said, I’ll wait for a lawyer (with or without credibility) to take up the call for prosecutions arising out the most extreme fire conditions seen for (what?) 60 years or so, and then take the argument seriously.

  61. Tator

    Speaking as one who has a good deal of experience with emergency management and the civil liability of government employees, you will find that public servants have protection of the crown via the principle of vicarious liability which means that any liability for damages arising from a decision made in the line of their duties and in good faith by a public servant is covered by the Crown. Secondly, most good lawyers worth their salt actually sue the crown AND the person who made the decision as co-defendants in any court action.

    You will also find that the most important trend in emergency management nowadays is actually “mitigation” or minimising the worst possibility of the emergency from happening. Here in SA our Country Fire Service is active with fuel reduction burns and during days with a “Catastrophic” fire danger, SAPOL actively pays attention to known arson offenders.

  62. Sinclair Davidson

    Tator – I’m well aware the public servants have no liability for any of their actions, yet a determined government – especially one with control of both houses of parliament – can solve that problem.

  63. Sinclair Davidson

    Sorry Tator – I realise I haven’t actually answered your point. Yes, a private citizen would sue both the state and the individual. But I’m not suggesting that private individuals take action against the state, I’m suggesting that the state take action against its own servants. It is true that individuals acting in good faith in the pursuit of their duties should not be harrassed by the citizenry. However, it is inconceivable that polices that led to the deaths of 173 citizens and over $4 billion in property damage could have been in good faith. Parliament would never authorise such a policy – therefore they could not have been following a lawful policy.

  64. dover_beach

    Like I said, I’ll wait for a lawyer (with or without credibility) to take up the call for prosecutions arising out the most extreme fire conditions seen for (what?) 60 years or so, and then take the argument seriously.

    It’s a criminal prosecution, Steve from B; it would have to be pursued by the DPP and I don’t like the chances of the DPP pursuing an action against a bureaucrat and/or whoever authorised such a policy, as I’ve said previously.

  65. .

    Sinclair is course being rather coy, Steve.

    He wants the Vic ALP and the bureacracy that there policy did cause all of that misery, and was done in good faith – i.e he wants them to admit they are/were a bunch of hair brained loons and resign from public office.

  66. Michael Fisk

    This one is for the “land clearance” skeptics.

    The Age reported this week that a family from Reedy Creek, in Mitchell Shire, had been fined $50,000 and spent a further $50,000 in legal costs because they bulldozed 250 trees to clear their property of fire danger.

    The shire allows clearing only within six metres of homes, but Liam Sheahan and his family cleared 100metres. Their house is one of the few in Reedy Creek to have survived last weekend’s bushfire, and the only one still standing in a two-kilometre area. Sheahan believes his illegal action has been vindicated.

  67. duke

    Michael Fisk – there’s more to that story.

    “Clearing” necessarily involved removal of the felled trees from the property. This was, in fact, done only after a lengthy dispute with the Council and complaints from neighbours on the basis that the felled timber constituted a fire hazard. Also, the costs of $20,000 were remitted by the Council, thus militating against any suggestion of bureaucratic bullying on its part and, also, diminishing the image of the Sheahans as victims of such bullying.

    report

  68. Tator

    Sinclair,
    my interpretation of the seperation of powers has the elected legislature of any level of government responsible for policy rather than the public service which is only responsible for the implementation of such policies, which is why there is the existance of vicarious liability. So in effect, the elected “Minister” in charge of such policies should be the one in the firing line, not the poor mug directed to implement it as generally not carrying out directions to implement such policies is basically career suicide for career public servants.

  69. dover_beach

    Yes, that is why I said above:

    The problem with such a case, however, isn’t whether the principles involved can be satisfied but with (i) the Crown prosecuting a bureaucrat and (ii) with who in such an insistence bears the final responsibility of what may be in fact a very bad law, the bureaucrat, the Minister, the Government, or the Parliament (and, by extension, the People).

  70. Sinclair Davidson

    Tator – when 173 citizens die in an otherwise preventable disaster you do whatever it takes to bring the guilty to justice. It is inconceivable that policy elites think that they can hide behind conventions for normal policy making after such a stuff-up. IMHO the only person to take a fall is Nixon, and there wasn’t much she could do.

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