Sunday, February 20, 2011

Turning Tides?

A JP (Justice of the Peace) in Scotland resigned last week, so that she could take up the fight against knife crime. Seems she's as fed up as the rest of us at the namby-pamby sentences handed down by the courts.

Good on her, I say - not before time. I wonder how long it'll be before an Australian in the same position has the courage to take a similar stand.

Read the story here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shortlist for the HarperCollins Varuna Awards 2010

According to Varuna there were over 200 entries for the 2010 HarperCollins Varuna manuscript development award. The program provides five new or emerging writers each year with the experience of working closely with a senior in-house editor from HarperCollins Publishers to develop a book-length manuscript.

Fifteen shortlisted applicants will be awarded a discounted Writing Development Program with a member of the Varuna Creative Team.

Congratulations to all on the shortlist.


Sally Bothroyd: "A Coco Jackson Mystery"
Bill Collopy: "The Hope"
Katherine Delaney: "Miss Kitty's Ghost"
Tim Denoon: “Wilson Turner” (Fiction)
Kathleen Epelde: “The Weight of Love” (Memoir)
S J Finn: “Moral Inconvenience” (Fiction)
Lisa Foley: “Doing Something Marvellous” (Young Adult Fiction)
Peter Fraser: “Through the Heads” (Fiction)
Susanna Freymark: “Sex, love and losing February” (Fiction)
Anne Hedigan: "Psychomachia"
Heather Taylor Johnson: "Pursuing Love and Death"
Wendy Joyce: "Rue du Calvaire"
Jayne Kader: “Mrs Morris for Beginners”
David Kelly: “State of Origin” (Memoir)
Simon Luckhurst: “A Lonely Business” (Biography)
Dave Olsen: "Contagion"
Helena Pastor: “Iron Men” (Memoir)
John Pitt: “Dirty Money” (Fiction)
Robert Szostakiewicz: “The Pendulum” (Memoir)
Greg Woodland: “Pangs” (Fiction)

The five winners will be announced 28 February 2011.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Thousand Cuts

Each cut that's announced by Government may seem like a small cut, but a thousand of them will kill the nation eventually.

Recent research by the UK's Labour Party suggests that as many as 10,190 front-line police officers will see their jobs disappear by the end of 2012.

This may sound like political scare-mongering by a disaffected opposition, but some forces have already announced plans to massively reduce staffing levels and, taken in the context of the government's public commitment to cut police budgets by up to 20% by 2014, it shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

A reduction of over 10,000 officers will, without doubt, lead to a far less effective police service. The people of the UK can expect call response times to increase, detection rates to fall, and the general disincentive presented to criminals by the presence of police officers on the beat to diminish.

Every employer has a duty of care to its employees, and a police officer's employer is no exception. Yet, police officers' lives will be put at risk by these cuts, because any reduction in police numbers will inevitably lead to more incidents being approached by officers acting alone. (The obvious dangers aside, other issues associated with single-officer patrols include lack of corroboration / proof, which leads to a fall in detection / conviction rates, which leads to a fall in morale. None of that seems to matter to most politicians, however.)

Not only will those problems manifest themselves in double quick time, but the UK's national security will be placed at risk - or does the government expect each police authority to maintain the current level of specialist police teams? I think that would be an unrealistic expectation.

Policing minister, Nick Herbert, says it's the effectiveness of individual officers that matters, more than simple numbers.

And I say: there speaks a man who has never policed a picket line, or a student demo, or a city's streets at pub closing time.

By his argument, it matters not how many politicians the UK squanders its hard-earned money upon. What matters is the effectiveness of each politician.

Let me repeat that: It is not the number of MPs that matters, it's what they can achieve with less resources, and for less reward, that counts.

Not surprisingly, there hasn't been one word spoken by Mr Herbert's cronies in government about reducing the burden placed upon the UK taxpayer by that tarted up doss-house we call 'Westminster'.

But here's the rub: I (and I'd bet I'm not alone) would rather see an immediate reduction in the number of MPs - let's start at, say, 50% - than see the number of UK police officers reduced by even one. I'd rather see each MP take on double the work, than see even one library close its doors to the reading public.

The money saved could be spent on maintaining the level of service our cops can provide for us, and keeping our libraries staffed and stocked, and on keeping a five-day school week in North Ayrshire, and in every other council area that's been forced through under-funding to contemplate that unthinkable option of reducing the school week to only four days.

Let's not allow our children - the lifeblood of our great nation - to suffer a lack of education. Let's cut the money that funds Westminster instead, and see how many fat rats jump from the ship.