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High Court overturns $250k damages decision over death of Stephen Rose at the hands of Phillip Pettigrove

A NSW health service has successfully appealed an order that it pay more than $250,000 to the family of a man killed by a mental health patient who had just been released from a mental health unit.

In a judgment examining the extent to which doctors should detain people with a mental illness in order to protect the wider community, the High Court of Australia overturned a damages decision in favour the family of Stephen Rose, who was strangled to death on July 21, 2004.

Mr Rose, 45, and his friend Phillip Pettigrove – who had a long history of schizophrenia – were camping in a caravan park north of Taree when Mr Rose became concerned about Mr Pettigrove’s behaviour.

After spending the night in Manning Base Hospital department and mental health unit, Mr Pettigrove, 44, was discharged into Mr Rose’s care so he could drive the disturbed man back to his family in Victoria.

Mr Pettigrove strangled Mr Rose on the side of the Newell Highway the next night, later telling police that he was taking “revenge” for Mr Rose having murdered him in a past life.

The 44-year-old committed suicide in his jail cell three months later.

Mr Rose’s mother and two sisters sued Hunter New England Health for negligence, claiming that a psychiatrist’s decision to release Mr Pettigrove into Mr Rose’s care led to his death.

After losing in the NSW District Court, the Rose family successfully appealed the decision in NSW Court of Appeal and were awarded $252,000.

But the Health Service appealed to the High Court which has now found that hospital staff did not owe Mr Rose’s family a duty of care.

Central to the court’s decision was the fact that the NSW Mental Health Act demands “minimum interference” with the liberty of a mentally ill person.

The five-judge appeal panel found that this was inconsistent with and ultimately overpowered the common law obligation to protect third parties, in this case, Mr Rose’s family.

“Particularly relevant was the obligation … not to detain or continue to detain a person unless the medical superintendent was of the opinion that no other care of a less restrictive kind was appropriate and reasonably available to the person,” their honour’s said.

“Performance of that obligation would not be consistent with a common law duty of care requiring regard to be had to the interests of those, or some of those, with whom the mentally ill person may come in contact when not detained.”

With Stephen Ryan

Don’t ignore stay-at-home mums, MPs warn Prime Minister

Coalition MPs have welcomed Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s move to water down his unpopular paid parental leave scheme, but have warned that he should not ignore support for stay-at-home mothers in the process.

Mr Abbott will spend the summer holidays revamping his signature policy, but faces a tough task with divergent backbench views about how he should approach it. Some MPs are keen to see him pay down national debt with PPL savings, rather than boost funds to childcare.

On Sunday the Prime Minister announced he would divert funds away from paid parental leave towards childcare. Mr Abbott did not give any specific details of his plans, but said the scheme would be “better targeted”, in a sign wealthier mums could no longer be eligible. He also stressed that the policy would still be based on “a woman’s real wage” and include superannuation.

Confused Coalition MPs contacted each other on Sunday, trying to work out what the announcement meant.

Mr Abbott’s revamp plan comes after sustained and widespread criticism of his existing $5.5 billion policy that would have replaced a new mother’s income for 26 weeks, with superannuation, up to a cap of $50,000.

Those within the government have argued the scheme is too expensive and others, such as the Productivity Commission, have suggested that the money would be better spend on early childhood education. The Coalition has also been unable to secure Senate support for the scheme, with opposition from Labor, the Greens, Palmer United and other crossbenchers.

The Prime Minister told reporters in Sydney that he would present a “holistic families’ package” in the new year and dismissed claims that he was breaking a promise that he had taken to two federal elections.

Liberal MP Alex Hawke, who was an early critic of the scheme, said he was pleased to see “some understanding” that the current proposal needed to be scaled back. But he reserved his judgement about whether it would be enough.

“Like everyone else I read today’s papers, and like everyone else, I’ll wait to see what the specific proposals to wind back the scheme are going to be,” he said.

Fellow PPL critic, Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi, also said he would look at the new policy “with interest”.

His ACT colleague Zed Seselja said that if the payment was means tested, then the government should not forget support for stay-at-home mothers. Senator Seselja added that if savings where found out of the PPL scheme, they should pay down the national debt first, rather than go to childcare.

NSW Nationals Senator John Williams, who has threatened to cross the floor on the issue, said a new policy should ensure that support to parents was fair on the private sector and made childcare affordable. He also stressed that stay-at-home mums should not be forgotten.

The Greens, who represent one of Mr Abbott’s best chances of passing the scheme, said a lot more detail would be needed before they could form a position.

Palmer United’s Clive Palmer maintained his opposition, saying “childcare is what we need, not PPL”, while a spokesman for independent Senator Jacqui Lambie noted she wanted the money currently flagged for paid parental leave to be spent on early childhood education, higher education and superannuation for new mothers.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott’s changes to his signature policy showed the government was in “deep trouble”. Labor also called for the government to release the Productivity Commission’s final report into childcare, which went to the Coalition at the end of October but will not be made public until February at the earliest.

Asian Cup squad to contain some surprise names

It might seem as though Ange Postecoglou will name almost every player he has called up during his 13-month reign as Socceroo boss when he unveils a preliminary Asian Cup squad of almost 50 contenders on Monday. However, the Australia manager still plans to include a few fresh faces and names who have been out of the limelight for some time as he looks to create the right blend for the tournament.

All the usual suspects, headed by Tim Cahill and Mark Bresciano, will be there. But Postecoglou is expected to grant recalls from the international wilderness for the likes of Nathan Burns and diminutive midfielder Mustafa Amini, while Terry Antonis, the Sydney midfielder who missed out on the squad for the recent clash with Japan in Osaka after a road accident on the way to the airport, is another thought likely to be named.

Another wildcard for selection is young Melbourne Victory defender Scott Galloway, who has been tipped as a possible call-up following impressive displays in the opening weeks of the new season.

Under the rules of the AFC competition, coaches have to name a long list of players they are considering for the Asian Cup by Monday.

They will name their final 23-man squad at the end of December, but any injury replacements on the run into the kick-off – in Melbourne on January 9 when the Australians hosts Kuwait in their first group game – can only be included from the names on the preliminary squad.

The release of the names should bring public attention on the cup into sharper focus.

Postecoglou has tried numerous players during the lead-up to the World Cup. In the series of  five matches after, which have yielded only one win, a 3-2 victory over Saudi Arabia in London, he has also cast his net wide.

While there has been some concern about the Socceroos’ plunge down the rankings – Australia now sits at number 102 in the FIFA standings – and the lack of success in recent times, Postecoglou has stood firm in the wake of criticism, insisting that he needs to fast-track the development of a young, inexperienced squad with difficult away games.

The coach knows he is on a hiding to nothing by taking the difficult decisions necessary to rebuild the national team, decisions which his predecessors only embraced half-heartedly.

Postecoglou is overseeing a root-and-branch transformation of the squad and accepts that there will be brickbats as well as bouquets when results do not go his way.

The coach has always argued that he should be judged by the progress made in the Asian Cup.

The release of the preliminary squad means that examination is looming ever closer. The mock exams of the friendly matches are over and the real test begins in a month’s time.

While Postecoglou has a long-term contract, he is not naive enough to believe that his future is secure irrespective of the Asian Cup outcomes. So any temptation to see the tournament as a warm-up or trial campaign for the World Cup qualifiers for Russia 2018 would be misguided.

Matildas drawn in World Cup ‘group of death’

The Australian womens’ football team was dealt a horror draw for the 2015 FIFA Womens’ World Cup after being selected in the “group of death” alongside title favourites USA.

The Matildas received one of the most unfortunate draws, as not only were they pitted in the most difficult group but also one widely regarded as the hardest possible outcome in the 24-team draw. After being pitted with two-time world champions and the number one ranked USA in Group D, the Matildas also drew nine-time African champions Nigeria, alongside 2003 World Cup finalists Sweden, who are also ranked fifth in the world.

Despite their high ranking, Sweden were unlucky not to be one of the six seeded nations in the first pot and were drawn from pot 4 for geographic reasons.

The draw is a cruel blow for Australia’s World Cup aspirations, as not only have they received a difficult group but the road beyond does not get easier. In the renewed format, the top two progress to the round of 16 while the best four third-placed teams from each group also qualify for the knockout stages.

Should Australia pull off an upset just to finish second in the group, a likely date with sixth-ranked Brazil awaits the Matildas, while if they’re one of the successful third-placed teams, Australia will likely play two-time champion Germany in the second round.

Australia coach Alen Stajcic remained upbeat despite being drawn in the group of death for the Canada tournament.

“We’re really looking forward to it. You come to a world cup and expect to play the best teams, and we certainly got that in our group,” Stajcic said.

“We can’t wait to play the number one team in the world in the first game. There won’t be an easy game for anyone in the group. All four teams are of a similar quality. It definitely gives us a sharp focus now heading into the World Cup, and the players know now it’s no holds barred playing possibly the toughest teams in each pot.”

The Matildas will begin their 2015 FIFA World Cup against USA on June 8 in Winnipeg before playing Nigeria on June 12 at the same venue. Australia’s final world cup group match will be against Sweden on June 16 in Edmonton.

“We’ve really got to prepare well and I can’t wait for January to get stuck into preparations and show the world what we can do,” Stajcic said.

In other groups, host nation Canada received a favourable draw in Group A alongside China, The Netherlands and New Zealand, while reigning champions Japan were drawn in Group C with Switzerland, Cameroon and Ecuador.

Australian teachers being recruited to the UK to cope with “ghastly” shortage

Filling the gap: Kaitlyn Young and Emily Kerr-Laslett from Canberra will be travelling to the UK to work as casual teachers. Photo: Alex EllinghausenYoung Australians looking for jobs as teachers are increasingly being recruited to work in schools in Britain, where there is an acute shortage of qualified teachers.

More than 40,000 teachers are on a waiting list for a permanent job in NSW, with universities continuing to pump out graduates despite the oversupply, which is particularly stark at the primary school level.

Yet in England there are not enough teachers to fill positions and recent reports suggest there could be a deficit of almost 30,000 by 2017.

A fortnight ago, the BBC reported supply teacher agencies were turning to Australia to find trained teachers to cope with the “ghastly” shortage.

Mitch Jones, who recruits Australian teachers to work in the UK, said there was a rush to attract not only experienced teachers but also new graduates.

“At the moment, the demand really is quite high and it definitely is increasing, moving now towards those long-term job positions as opposed to what was that stereotypical two-year working holiday,” he said.

His agency, Protocol Education, works with about 4,000 public, religious and private schools across England and currently sends over about 500 Australian teachers each year.

“We simply can’t keep up with the demand from the schools,” he said. “We are running out of teachers.”

Daniel Mundy, the managing director of the ANZUK Teachers, said his education agency enlisted thousands of teachers from across Australia each year to work in England.

“You do have people going purely because they haven’t had the job opportunities here after university that they believed they would get but most are going because they want to experience another lifestyle and culture,” he said.

Kaitlin Young and Emily Kerr-Laslett, who recently completed their education degree at the University of Canberra, flew out of Australia on Sunday to work as casual teachers in Cambridge.

The 23-year-olds are travelling under the Youth Mobility Scheme, which allows Australians under 31 to live and work in the UK for up to two years.

Ms Kerr-Laslett said it was “a good gateway to get some experience and start our career at the same time as travelling”.

Ms Young expected the opportunity to be “exciting, refreshing and something new”.

They also hoped the international experience would give them an edge down the track when applying for jobs in Australia.

“I know that it’s just going to get more and more competitive with more graduates coming out every year because teaching is a very popular degree,” Ms Kerr-Laslett said.

“I think that having that international experience, particularly with a different curriculum, is going to make us more appealing to different employers.”

The average starting salary for a primary school teacher in Australia was about $US37,000 in 2012, compared with $US28,000 in England, according to the most recent OECD data.

Mr Mundy speculated the deficit of teachers in the UK had emerged in line with a strengthening economy.

“As the GFC has recovered, I believe a lot of people who looked to education for jobs and security while there was a huge downturn in the economy are now moving back into private enterprise where they can command more money,” he said.