“Vet School”

This evening I watched ABC-TV’s program Vet School. This program follows the lives of a number of veterinary science students at a Western Australian university. The fundamental idea seemed to be to create an animal version of the hospital reality program RPA.

As TV, I tend to think it fails. It takes the same approach to showing emotional upset of vets and pet owners as hospital programs do to showing the anguish of doctors, parents and patients. This means that viewers have to sit there trying to feel the emotions involved, which is almost impossible when you don’t have an actual bond to the animal in question. In a slightly awful way, you find yourself watching pretend-humans and feeling pretend emotions.

I have to say, though, that I prefer to think of this as somewhat manipulative TV than the alternative. If a program like Vet School isn’t trying to manipulate our emotions, it must be trying to elicit a genuine emotional reaction. This seems like a bad loss of priorities. In an age when a great many people are unable to afford healthcare in a timely manner or at all, should our hearts bleed for mere animals? And with so much medical suffering in the world, training young minds to work on pets (and not even on livestock) seems like a profligate waste of talent.

I guess I’m over thinking it; but in a world where many people cannot tell ersatz from genuine emotions, anything pulling on the heart strings begs to be looked at cyclically.

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R v Christopher John Anderson, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 August 2013, p. 19

The outcome of a mention in the Parramatta Local Court before an unnamed magistrate was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of 5 August 2013 at p. 19.

Facts
At the time of writing the defendant is charged with the murder of his six-month-pregnant girlfriend Allira Green in Sydney.
On Saturday 3 August 2013 Ms Green was found with a stab wound at Mr Anderson’s flat. She died at the scene. On the afternoon of that day Mr Anderson attended the area police station and was arrested and charged with murder.

Hearing
The matter was mentioned. No application for bail was made by Mr Anderson’s lawyer

Determination
The matter was fixed for further mention at Central Local Court on 15 August 2013. Bail was formally refused.
The only reason this matter warrants blogspace or its own casenote is the interesting (but unsurprising) detail that, despite Mr Anderson’s co-operation with police, neither his lawyer nor the court raised the issue of bail at this stage.

Prosecutor v Surasak Suwannachot & Surin Toptong, Herald Sun, 9 August 2012, p. 3

The outcome of a prosecution of two robbers for murder in a Thai court was reported in the Herald Sun newspaper of 9 August 2012 at p. 3.

Facts

Mr Suwannachot attempted to rob 60 year old Australian tourist Michelle Smith on Phuket on 20 June 2012. In the course of the robbery she was fatally stabbed in the chest. Mr Suwannachot fled on a motorcycle driven by Mr Toptong.

Trial

Messrs Suwannachot and Toptong pleaded guilty to murder

Determination

By pleading guilty to murder the offenders avoided the death penalty and were instead sentenced to imprisonment for life.

Police v Mohemmed Al Musawi & Amar Al Mosawy, Shepparton News, 23 July 2013, p. 6

The outcome of a recommencing hearing before Magistrate Smith in the Shepparton Magistrates Court was reported in the Shepparton News of 23 July 2013 at p. 6.

Facts

On an unstated date, the two accused had argued about spilt coffee and one had refused to drive the other home. In circumstances which are unclear, when the vehicle driven by Mr Al Musawi left the area, Mr Al Mosawy was clinging to the bonnet in what police described as “the starfish position”.

Trial

Both men were convicted of offences which are not detailed in the report. Both were fined $350.00, of which the only payment was made by Mr Al Mussawi ($50.00).

Resentencing

In resentencing the men, Magistrate Smith expressed strong doubt that the men understood the seriousness of their actions or the harm that could have resulted. He considered that Mr Al Musawi was the more blameworthy, having been the driver.

Mr Al Mosawy was resentenced to a fine of $750.00 and Mr Al Musawi to a fine of $1,000.00 and a three-month licence suspension.

Joe Noonan v State of Victoria, The Age, 13 August 2013

The outcome of an application for leave to sue the State of Victoria at common law in the County Court of Victoria was reported on the website of Melbourne’s The Age newspaper on 13 August 2013.

Many thanks to my friend and colleague Jenna Stewart for pointing this decision out.

Facts

The plaintiff worked as a detective with the Victoria Police major crime squad for nine years with significant exposure to the aftermath of acts of violence. It was alleged that he had developed post traumatic stress disorder.

The plaintiff left Victoria Police on a date not stated in the report. He had subsequently operated a successful insurance business, been an investigator for the government of Papua New Guinea and been a senior manager with a number of private security companies. His skills were in sufficient demand for him to have been recently headhunted and offered a role paying $200,000 per annum. He had also established a new personal relationship and written a lengthy memoir.

Legal Framework

Under §134AB of the Accident Compensation Act 1985 (Vic.), an employee may only sue and claim damages at common law for an injury sustained in employment if they are accepted by their employer’s insurer or by the County Court as having suffered a “serious injury”. A serious injury is defined by the Act as being a “permanent severe mental or behavioural disturbance or disorder”.

Hearing

Mr Noonan’s application was heard by Judge McInerney of the Victorian County Court.

In evidence the plaintiff asserted that the mental stresses involved caused him to drink heavily and to have interpersonal difficulties. However, it was also admitted that he was by nature “argumentative, violent and aggressive” and that the Police Force had allowed him to work at his own pace. He proffered psychiatric evidence that his work-related mental state had had a severe effect on social, recreational and domestic life and caused him to lose his marriage, his friendships and his job.

The evidence relied upon by the State included psychiatric opinions that while the plaintiff had symptoms of PTSD, he was not depressed and presented in a normal manner, notwithstanding that he would benefit from mental health care.

Decision

His Honour rejected the plaintiff’s application. Central to the Court’s decision was that, while the plaintiff had suffered PTSD, his psychiatric evidence irreconcilable with his own activities after leaving the Police force. These activities indicated that the effects of the injury were not ‘severe’.

Appeal

The plaintiff has announced his intention to appeal.

Note

The defendant was represented by Mr Paul Jens of counsel.

R v Unnamed Teacher, Herald Sun, 10 August 2012, p. 38

The judgment in the prosecution of an unnamed teacher before Judge Pullen in the County Court of Victoria was reported in the Herald Sun newspaper of 10 August 2012 at p. 38.

Facts

An unnamed teacher at an unidentified school began to abuse a 12 year old girl in his Year 7 class in 1992. While police were contacted after he was known to have kissed her in an unidentified year, no action was taken save that the school warned him that “the relationship was becoming too close”.

When the student was 13 the offender gave the victim amphetamine and had sex with her for the first time. Following complaints from the victim’s stepfather the offender was transferred to another school but continued the abuse, at one point forming a relationship with the victim’s mother to further this objective.

The offender fled interstate with the victim 1996 and they married. Children were born of the relationship in 1999 and 2000. Two earlier pregnancies occurring when the victim was aged 14 and 15 had been terminated.

Trial

The matter was brought to the attention of police when the marriage broke down.

Determination

Judge Pullen sentenced the offender to seven years imprisonment.

My $0.02 on the federal election

I wasn’t going to blog about the current Australian Federal election. After all, enough other people will spill oceans of ink on it, and I have a decent enough contempt for my own opinions not to waste people’s time shoving them down their throats. My only credentials to comment, after all, are being moderately bright and reading the Shepparton News and The Australian fairly regularly, and hearing the odd bit of radio and TV news.

However, I had one or two little insights on some of the parties and thought I’d throw them out there, one week into the campaign, for whatever they’re worth.

1. Australian Labor Party and Liberal Party of Australia/National Party of Australia

The ALP and the Liberal/National coalition are the main contending parties, but they’re so similar in policy that it takes a degree of imagination to identify real differences. Suffice it to say that one is ever-so-slightly to the left, and the other is ever-so-slightly to the right. To steal a line from P.J. O’Rourke, to support their campaigns requires one to jump on the blandwagon.

Currently, the battleground issues seem to be these –

(a) On asylum seeker policy, the ALP would direct all unauthorised boat arrivals to Papua New Guinea. The coalition would try and tow them out of Australian waters. I think it’s safe to say nobody much expects either policy to achieve anything over the long term.

(b) On the building of the National Broadband Network, Labor would connect every house to the grid and the Coalition would connect as far as a ‘node’. I’m not convinced the election will be won or lost on the NBN: my strong impression is that the great mass of voters (a) don’t understand what the NBN is for, (b) don’t see it as particularly relevant to them, and (c) have only heard of it lately in the sense of it being behind schedule and spreading asbestos.

2. The Greens.

Eternally the “party of the future”, the Australian Greens acquired a House of Representatives seat at the last election. Over the last few years they lost their long time leader Bob Brown, replaced by the fairly uncharismatic Senator Milne. Their policies are fairly predictable for a green party. Maybe they’ll keep their House of Reps seat, and maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll keep their Senators, and maybe they won’t. Despite some fevered imaginings, I don’t think anyone genuinely believes that one day they’ll form a government.

3. Katter’s Australian Party

Like most parties with their leader’s name in the title (think Pauline’s United Australia Party), KAP is essentially one politician’s personal following. The party’s heartland is very much rural and regional Australia and its ideas are an odd compound of libertarianism and pre-World War One economics (in two words: tariffs and autarky).

My personal fear is that if this party gets significant publicity in the campaign, the attention will be a poisoned challice for rural Australia. At a time when country areas are being depopulated for the city (1), when rural jobs can’t be filled for want of candidates (2), and when urbanites everywhere are tending to look down on country dwellers as ignorant yokels, the countryside surely needs to show its reasonable, sophisticated and creative side. What it has here is a party whose candidates seem to be preoccupied with sexual morality (3) and whose policy goals include the right to boil a billy without a permit. For obvious reasons, this does not fill me with hope.

4. Palmer United Party

Founded this year by a prominent businessman, this party carries the odour of a Donald Trump-style publicity stunt. It has done little so far to make its policies known aside from putting them up on its website (which, in our information-saturated world, is the equivalent of talking in a locked room). I have literally no idea what the party thinks on any given issue and can’t see a lot of point finding out, given that only its founder seems to think it likely to win any seats. So far their biggest contribution to the campaign is trying to attract volunteers with a party involving models and sex. I am unable to comment in non-defamatory terms.

The campaign rolls on…

Notes

(1) See Chris McLennan, ‘No longer a barrel of fun at Lalbert’, Weekly Times, 18 July 2012, p. 12; idem, ‘Wedge of Darkness’, Weekly Times, 1 August 2012, p. 8; Bernard Salt, ‘How Warren lost its youth’, The Australian, 15 February 2013

(2) Chris McLennan, ‘A farm by any other moniker’, Weekly Times, 30 May 2012, p. 17; idem, ‘Search for Ag future’, Weekly Times, 1 August 2012, p. 10.

(3) ‘Katters party gets into strife’, Shepparton News, 25 January 2013, p.53; Marty Silk, ‘Katter party is ‘homophobic’: member’, Brisbane Times, 13 February 2013.