Monthly Archives: April 2019

OPINION: If we’re in doubt, let’s rule these ‘drugs’ out

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SO-called ‘‘legal highs’’ have been around in NSW for a number of years, but in early 2011 they started to become more prevalent in the community.
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Until then there had been a relatively small but growing group of consumers who preferred to use products that claimed, and mostly were, legal.

They had friendly types behind the counter who could rattle off all the good points of using this type of weed rather than cannabis, from the mild sedative effects and slight buzz to the biggest selling point – that it was legal.

It was a similar case to other substances, with pills, powders and potions all said to give you a particular high without the worry of committing a criminal offence.

Fast forward to October 2012 and the Newcastle region may have had its first death related to one of these products. While this is yet to be determined pending a police investigation and brief to the coroner, there is little doubt this substance had a severe psychotic effect on both the two users.

Tragically, a man passed away a few days after using the substance.

What we do know is the substance was sold at an adult store and marketed as a legal alternative to prohibited drugs, sometimes referred to as ‘‘bath salts’’ or ‘‘plant nutrient’’.

While these products are generally labelled not for human consumption, this is nonsense and, in my opinion, an attempt to absolve the seller of any responsibility should the user be adversely affected. These products are marketed on various websites describing the type of high you should get and comparing the products to the illicit substances they purport to mimic.

So what can or should we do? We often hear from eminent and not so eminent members of the community that all drugs should be legal. They wax lyrical about freedom of choice and about not putting young people in jail for using drugs, but we rarely, if ever, hear what a reasonable alternative would be.

As an aside, in 28 years in the police force, I’ve never heard of a person charged only with using drugs going to jail.

Back to the new synthetics. In July 2011, the NSW government, after consultation with police and health authorities, banned a number of synthetic cannabinoids.

These are the generally herbal mixtures that mimic the effects of cannabis. What happened immediately was that manufacturers altered the ingredients slightly to circumvent the legislation, so, while banning these products was a start, it hasn’t provided the solution.

Further work is being done at a Commonwealth and state level to find a permanent solution and there is a parliamentary law reform committee made up of a bipartisan group of state politicians researching this issue.

There is some evidence to suggest that many of the synthetic cannabis products seized by police since July last year contain one or more of the banned substances.

Further, some of the products marketed as bath salts or plant nutrient – and said to mimic the effects of cocaine, amphetamines or ecstasy – contain analogues of methcathinone or cathinone, both prohibited drugs in NSW.

What this means is, if you supply, possess or use one of these products, you are committing an offence under the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act, as analogues of prohibited drugs are treated the same as the prohibited drug listed in the Drug Schedule.

The problem is you don’t know what you are buying and this alone should ring alarm bells.

These products started life 40 or 50 years ago as research chemicals to see how they acted on certain receptors on the brain.

The fact they never made it to the pharmaceutical drugs market should be a good indicator that they never satisfied authorities they had a legitimate use.

These drugs are made in countries that don’t have the same stringent compliance issues as Australia.

They are not subject to any clinical standards that pharmaceuticals or even foodstuffs need to pass.

There are no ingredients listed, no advice on safe dosage levels and no information on what to do in the event of an adverse reaction.

The truth is we don’t know what the long-term or even the short-term effects of these drugs are. Research across the world shows there have been many adverse effects attributed to these substances and while some out there would argue that many others haven’t been affected, who knows how they will be affected in the years to come.

New Zealand has placed a temporary ban on these products pending testing.

While prohibition is not popular with some, it’s my view that if a manufacturer, distributor or retailer wants to sell these products then the onus is on them to show they are safe.

We should take the lead from New Zealand and ban these products until it is shown they have no harmful effects and don’t cause impairment issues. If a product is allowed on to the market, I guess it will then be up to a more informed consumer about whether they should make a purchase or not.

Detective Superintendent Nick Bingham is the commander of the NSW Police Drug Squad.

PLAIN PACKAGING: Unknown ingredients in synthetic drugs can often be illegal.

Wall goes up between Diggers and Afghan army

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Australian troops in Afghanistan have been physically separated from the Afghan National Army to protect the Diggers from their allies after a spate of green-on-blue attacks.
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Attacks this year on coalition forces by men wearing Afghan army uniforms – known as green-on-blue, or insider attacks – have almost doubled the record set the previous year.

The divisions the attacks have created between the ANA and the Diggers stationed in patrol and Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) across Oruzgan province is stark.

At FOB Mirwais in the Chora Valley, a barbed-wire topped fence and a locked door now separates the two sides.

An armed Australian soldier, known as a guardian angel, accompanies any Australian going over to the ANA side.

No armed ANA soldiers are allowed on the Australian side.

Before an Afghan army soldier killed three Australians at a patrol base in August, the two forces lived side by side.

Seven Diggers have been killed in three separate insider attacks, and 57 NATO-led troops have been killed in green-on-blue attacks this year alone.

But the commander of 3RAR Task Group, Lieutenant-Colonel Trent Scott, says this isn’t why the army is handing over the bases to the ANA.

“We’re not pulling off them because of insider threat, or an insurgent threat. We’re pulling off them because they’re well on track to be independent,” he says.

The army has previously announced all patrol and forward operating bases will be emptied of Australian forces and handed over to the ANA by the end of the year.

The bases, many built by the Australians, have been pivotal to Australia’s mentoring and training mission of the ANA 4th Brigade.

At FOB Mirwais, 3RAR Task Group troops have been mentoring the ANA 2 Kandak – the Afghan term for Battalion – as well as fighting alongside them on joint patrols.

The base’s commanding officer, Major Judd Finger, says the new dividing wall is a precautionary measure against the insider threat, and not a sign of a damaged relationship.

“You can’t rule it out 100 per cent however our troops will carry on with the ANA and our relationship is still good,” he says.

While 2 Kandak hasn’t yet been officially declared independent, Major Finger says they’re ready.

“The Kandak itself now is independent. So it can operate independently and it has done so for the last year throughout the Chora Baluchi region,” he says.

The ANA operations commander at Mirwais, Lieutenant-Colonel Mohammad Wasseem, says the wall is not “a division that can stop our co-operation… This was only a security measure and there is no other consideration.”

He blames the insider threat on Pakistan: “They train their personnel amongst our personnel.”

On August 29, Afghan army Sergeant Hekmatullah opened fire on five Australian soldiers at patrol base Wahab.

Private Robert Poate, 23, Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, 44, and Sapper James Martin, 21, were killed. The two wounded have not been named.

ANA soldiers at the base had been disarmed except for those on guard duty. The shooter had only just checked out his weapon to begin a guard shift when he fired on the men.

He jumped the fence, ran away and disappeared.

“As for his motivation, look I’m pretty keen to have a chat with him and ask him. And if he shows his face again we’ll do that, we’ll have a chat,” says Lieutenant-Colonel Scott.

A $US5000 ($4785) bounty on his head has failed to result in his capture.

Lieutenant-Colonel Scott says the threat has to be put in perspective.

“We deal with 4000 ANA soldiers on our tour here. We’ve had one insider attack…. so that’s one soldier in 4000 who’s managed tragically to kill our mates.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Bike lane triumph for Lord Mayor

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IN an ironic twist, Barry O’Farrell’s push to take control of transport in Sydney’s CBD may finally complete Clover Moore’s network of bike lanes.
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Despite the Premier’s hostility to the Lord Mayor’s plans for the city, a committee set up by Mr O’Farrell gave fresh momentum on Wednesday to building the extra bike lanes needed to finish the city’s grid.

The Central Sydney Traffic and Transport Committee was set up in May by the Premier, who declared that the city was being “held hostage” to Cr Moore’s political constituency.

“It’s very clear Clover Moore’s pitch for re-election is built around more bike lanes and making the CBD as unfriendly to cars as possible,” Mr O’Farrell said at the time.

In response, Mr O’Farrell set up a new committee, to be chaired by the Director-General of Transport for NSW, Les Wielinga, to take control of transport planning in the city.

The committee would feature another six members, three nominated by the government and three by the council.

But at its first meeting on Wednesday afternoon, that committee left Cr Moore beaming after it endorsed her agenda and gave new impetus to implementing it.

All seven committee members resolved to finish the design of the city’s bike network by May next year.

And they agreed to report back on a separate “access plan” for the CBD to co-ordinate bus, pedestrian and potentially light rail movements finished by March.

The executive manager of City Access and Transport Strategy at the Council, Terry Lee-Williams, said the committee’s joint approach should have happened long ago.

“We have until now had no formal mechanism for the two organisations to work together collaboratively,” he said.

Cr Moore said the commitment to work together on the completion of the bicycle network was “terrific”.

“This is a great move that we are working together on this important initiative for the city,” she said.

Cr Moore’s $76 million planned bike network through the city remains unfinished. In particular, there is no east-west crossing of the CBD, with the King Street cycleway running only two blocks from Sussex to Clarence street.

In August Fairfax Media revealed that while the Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, says Sydney’s bike lanes are in the wrong spot, his department has no such concerns.

The committee also discussed changing traffic lanes on College Street, between Oxford street and William Street.

Roads and Maritime Services proposed removing a pedestrian crossing and a lane of parking heading east on College Street in order to give more space to turning vehicles.

But Cr Moore raised safety concerns for students at Sydney Grammar School that the committee agreed to investigate.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

History transformed in VCE exam

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The image that appeared on the exam paper.THE VCE exam body has been left red faced after a doctored artwork depicting a huge robot helping socialist revolutionaries during the Russian Revolution was accidentally included in this year’s year 12 history exam taken by 5700 students.
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Exams for the popular History: Revolution subject were original supposed to include the artwork Storming the Winter palace on 25th October 1917 by Nikolai Kochergin, which depicts events during the October Revolution, which was instrumental in the larger Russian Revolution of 1917.

But when students opened their exam this morning they found an altered version of the work with what appear to be a large “BattleTech Marauder” robot aiding the rising revolutionaries in the background.

It is unclear how the doctored version made it into the exam. But a search for the image in Google brings up the robot version as the first result.

A picture of the exam paper posted on twitter sources the photo to website all-art.org which also carries the doctored image in the Soviet Union part of its Visual History of the World section.

The robot image is also found on the website Dark Roasted Blend, which describes itself as one of the internet’s “favourite destinations on the web for all things weird and wonderful.”

A spokesman for the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) said the image was “sourced and acknowledged by the VCAA as coming from the Internet”.

“The image has been altered but the alteration of the image won’t impact on the students’ capacity to answer the examination question,” he said.

“The VCAA will monitor students’ answers to ensure that any student who has been distracted by the image will not be disadvantaged.”

It is the second year running that the  Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority has been embarrassed by problems in its end of year exam papers.

Last year popular columnist Helen Razer accused the VCE exam body of plagiarism and breach of copyright after the English exam featured on tattoos by the Melbourne writer without her permission or acknowledging she was the author.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

MP’s son found not guilty of indecent assault

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AN indecent assault charge against Jack Fitzgibbon was quashed yesterday in East Maitland District Court.
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Judge John North upheld the appeal against Mr Fitzgibbon’s conviction in Cessnock Local Court in June.

The 21-year-old son of Hunter federal MP Joel Fitzgibbon pleaded not guilty to the charge and said he did not put his hand up the 19-year-old alleged victim’s skirt after midnight on September 11 last year.

He was accused of touching her on the outside of her underwear.

Mr Fitzgibbon’s parents were in court to support him.

The appeal reviewed the original case during which Mr Fitzgibbon admitted that he sat on the woman’s lap in the beer garden of the Cessnock Hotel.

He denied being attracted to her despite admitting that he rubbed her thighs and told her that she had nice ‘‘shapely legs’’.

Mr Fitzgibbon encouraged the woman to hit him after the alleged incident, but denied in court it was admission of guilt.

In upholding the appeal Judge North said that he had reviewed security camera footage from the night in question and it was inconsistent with the woman’s account of what happened.

‘‘It’s difficult to understand how the appellant could have committed the offence in the manner as described,’’ he said.

Judge North said the prosecution had relied solely on the testimony of the alleged victim and there was no DNA or forensic evidence to support their case.

‘‘It’s perhaps highly suspicious that something occurred which caused the complainant to complain.

‘‘I cannot in the all the circumstances be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellant assaulted the complainant.’’

That, combined with the good character of Mr Fitzgibbon, convinced Judge North to uphold the appeal.

CLEARED: Jack Fitzgibbon, middle, and his father Joel Fitzgibbon, left, leave East Maitland courthouse.

Mr Fitzgibbon was originally fined $2000 and placed on a bond for two years.