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Nothing Fluffy about this story

By John Hargreaves - 6 March 2017 23

Mr Fluffy Asbestos

Almost every day the papers contain yet another story of a Mr Fluffy issue. But by and large, the issue seems to have died down a tad because people have been bought out and mostly moved on with their lives. Some blocks are still being cleared and some streets in Canberra still like a row of teeth with a tooth missing.

Former Fluffy contaminated blocks have been sold and some building on them has commenced. OK you might think.

Yeah well, I am not so sure about that. In fact, I’m enraged about the slowness of resolution in one case and the apparent inability to achieve a resolution.

Back in April 2015 (yes, nearly two years ago,) I got a call from a friend of mine, Jon Crowley, in a state of distress. He asked for my help.

You might remember Jon. He was the guy who was shot by the police in Chapman, whilst he was having a psychotic episode and waving a bamboo kendo stick around. He was rendered a quadriplegic. He spent ages in hospital in Sydney and ultimately came back to Canberra to be with or near his family. His principal carers were and are his parents, now in their 80s.

He sued for compensation but the ACT Government, the Commonwealth Government and the AFP defended the case and he was awarded $8 million. Those entities appealed and after a lengthy period won their appeal and he was left with nothing but his disability pension and a dependence on the public health system.

To their credit, the ACT Government modified a semi-detached house in Chapman for Jon and he moved in, hoping for an improved life, including interaction with his limited range of friends and his church. How he could believe in the compassion of a God, when he had been through all this, just escapes me.

After some battles with carers provided by the ACT Government, things seemed to have settled down a bit, until that fateful day in April 2015.

He got a letter saying he had to move out because he was in a Mr Fluffy house! It turns out that the ACT Government owned five houses with Mr Fluffy contamination. Incidentally as at mid last year, the other four have been resettled.

They wanted him to move many suburbs away, far from his support network and his social opportunities. I waded in and spoke to a number of people and this was canned. So, thanks to the guys in the bureaucracy who put a stop to this. I thought that some sympathy and empathy were at work.

We talked about a number of alternatives and the people went off looking. Nothing for another year! More agitation was needed and delivered. Appeals to the ministers responsible were met with undertakings of immediate action. Yeah right! Even the agitation of a local ALP branch had not much effect.

A place had been found near his home in Chapman and the department was to buy it and modify it. Jon was ecstatic. Then they were gazumped! Jon is devastated. How can a government be gazumped? Slowness to act is how they can get gazumped!

A number of weeks later Jon is told that they are going to buy a house, knock it down and purpose build a house on the block for him. (smelt like a Mr Fluffy house to me) Jon is getting a bit skeptical about now and who can blame him?

Everything looked good, with plans flowing back and forth. It was hoped he could be in by Christmas. I had my doubts because I couldn’t see the planning approvals and building approvals being done in this time, no matter that the political will of the ministry wanted a speedy resolution.

Well, it is now two months into 2017, nearly two whole years after he first found out he was in a Mr Fluffy property, and still no resolution. The latest explanation is that it takes time to get the demolition approvals from some imaginary friend before the builder can be tasked with demolition and construction. And so, Jon waits.

He waits in a Mr Fluffy property, not being allowed to put nails in the walls for pictures, being scared in case his huge wheelchair bangs into a wall, being required to advise his itinerant carers that they are working in a Mr Fluffy environment (with all that this entails), being promised resolution; all the while being in a distressed state, fearing that he will get a cancer from the asbestos.

This is a guy who was in a mental health state, shot by the police instead of being talked around by the crisis management team from ACT Mental Health, who is now having nightmares in dealing with NDIS issues of reducing entitlements, having massive medical issues requiring acute care in an environment where that medical support is limited and is supported by his parents in their 80s.

Hello! What part of fixing this can’t be fast-tracked. Anyone out there want to change places with Jon, even for a week?

I’m sick of being told how grateful people are for our intercession on behalf of Jon. I’m sick of being patted on the head and told everything will be ok. I’m sick of waiting nearly two years for Jon to have a half decent existence. And imagine how Jon feels!

We let him down. He was a sick member of our community and we shot him. Then we denied him just compensation, even denying him an act of grace payment with no admission of liability. What does he have to do to be treated with kindness? Respect? Compassion? I find it hard to look Jon in the eye and feel that we haven’t let him down because we have.

I know that the bureaucrats have done their jobs so far, but really don’t you think that a resolution for Jon could have been fast-tracked?

PS: since writing this article, I’ve been advised that the Gumment has let a contract to build a home for Jon. Baby steps but movement.  Still months away!

What’s Your opinion?


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23 Responses to
Nothing Fluffy about this story
1
rommeldog56 11:34 am
06 Mar 17
#

I recall the shooting and following legal proceedings quite vividly. What a gut wrenching story. Jon is surely very fortunate to have u – someone who is “connected” and knows their way around the bureaucratic maze, to advocate for him. So many others are not so fortunate. But in this case, good to see that some belated action might be happening. I can also identify and sympathise with issues around the NDIS. A great concept of a scheme by Federal Labor but which was unfortunately considerably underfunded/demand under estimated and is adversely affected by bureaucracy now. That just more added stress and complexity that the disabled and their carers/advocates just do not need.

The plight of ageing carers for the disabled, often parents/siblings/friends, must also be acknowledged. Those are the real heroes in of our society who must be acknowledged and rewarded, not politicians and already highly paid public servants.

What happens to the disabled when their carers can no longer assist, who pass away ? It’s incredibly difficult to get suitable accommodation now in Canberra. Yes, many high rise units now have a number of accessible units for purchase/rent. But, the ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t has increased Annual Rates on Units by 20% last financial year and another 15% next financial year and drip feeds the release of land for new development, forcing up the price !!

And whilst the ACT Gov’t increases Annual Rates by 10% avg pa, they have “frozen” the Annual Rates concession (which applies to Centrelink beneficiaries) to that which applied for last financial years rates assessments. This means that the “gap” between the concession and the Annual Rates charge will widen much more quickly. And then there is the incredibly high body corporate fees in Canberra !!

Even if a disabled person can afford their own place, if it is a first home, apparently it must be a new build, not an established unit or townhouse, in order to qualify for the 1st home owners grant. That’s bizarre. Why can not a first home be established ?

Anyway, how these actions by the ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t aides housing affordability for the disabled (who are often lower income earners), the elderly, low income earners/families, self funded retirees, etc, remains a mystery to me. Perhaps this is an issue that often highly paid “progressives” in the ACT could reflect on as they advocate for more spending on infrastructure projects, more cafes, more public art, etc.

As a parent and carer for a disabled person, its this type of priority setting by the ACT and federal Govt’s that is a crushing burden to carry. So may ageing carers fear for the future of their disabled children after they pass on. Something for the pro ACT development and ACT Govt glee club might benefit from giving some humane and compassionate thought to.

2
bigred 8:13 pm
06 Mar 17
#

I have watched this case with interest since the shooting event. It really does drive home for me how shabbily we treat the disabled in our community. A few examples that raise my ire are abuse of disabled parking spaces by what I call the Lorna Jane daughters, ACTION drivers charging off before obviously disabled folk are seated, school kids on ACTION buses occupying seats while people struggling are left to stand and turning disabled parking into VIP parking at major events. There are many more I have witnessed and I could go on and on.

Good on Johnno for taking a keen interest in this fellow’s case. I look forward to seeing a positive result.

3
Ten_Inches 12:03 pm
07 Mar 17
#

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

4
bigred 8:39 pm
07 Mar 17
#

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

Not sure how your comment got through moderation. I Suggest you read the whole story about the systemic failure of mental health services to deal with a known client going through a mental health episode. We can be a very cruel town towards anyone not travelling too well. You just callously reminded me that generation selfish is very much out there.

5
Masquara 11:00 pm
07 Mar 17
#

The government can be “gazumped” – did you mean “outbid”? – because they are the keepers of ratepayers’ money and need to look after our interests as well as this unfortunate fellow. Chapman is an expensive suburb – surely there is a cheaper suburb adjoining or at least nearby. Of course he should be looked after, but within budget reason.

6
Masquara 11:00 pm
07 Mar 17
#

bigred said :

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

Not sure how your comment got through moderation. I Suggest you read the whole story about the systemic failure of mental health services to deal with a known client going through a mental health episode. We can be a very cruel town towards anyone not travelling too well. You just callously reminded me that generation selfish is very much out there.

Was the episode drug induced? If so, no sympathy and no quarter. If not, different story.

7
Acton 12:07 am
08 Mar 17
#

The people I feel most sorry for are his parents. Jonathan Crowley has ruined their lives as well as his own. The people I feel least sorry for are politicians who cynically ignore and distort facts.

Crowley, a large and intimidating man, used violence and intimidation against several members of the public and the police, ignoring repeated warnings to lay down the weapon he had been attacking people with. The facts of the case are set out in detail here:

https://emergencylaw.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/no-liability-for-police-shooting/

We should feel little sympathy for a perpetrator of a violent crime who sues society seeking damages for his own injuries incurred while resisting efforts by the police to protect the public. And who then demands scarce publically funded accommodation on his own terms. By insisting on accommodation in Chapman, instead of gratefully taking whatever was offered elsewhere, he made resolution and compromise difficult and the pain for his family worse.

8
chewy14 11:26 am
08 Mar 17
#

bigred said :

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

Not sure how your comment got through moderation. I Suggest you read the whole story about the systemic failure of mental health services to deal with a known client going through a mental health episode. We can be a very cruel town towards anyone not travelling too well. You just callously reminded me that generation selfish is very much out there.

The failure of the mental health services does not negate the event that caused him to be in a wheelchair. John talks about denying him “just” compensation, despite the fact that the legal system found that he did not deserve to be compensated for the event caused by his own actions.

Despite that, the government has been reasonably generous in the provision of housing and services here and are working towards another solution. The risk of living in one of these Fluffy houses for a short period of time is miniscule and he will be housed appropriately in another taxpayer funded residence in due time.

9
Ten_Inches 12:53 pm
08 Mar 17
#

I suspect because they are facts.

He broke the law. The Police then acted on their assessment of the situation. They don’t just wave their guns about willy nilly, they discharge their firearm for a reason.

Now because of that reason, and the fact that he survived, he is now blaming his predicament on someone else. It’s always someone else’s fault these days hey.

And the OP wants us to feel sorry for him. Not on my shift my suggestive friend.

10
Mysteryman 2:01 pm
08 Mar 17
#

I have some issues with how the whole Mr Fluffy situation has been handled – in particular the cost of the demolitions being far higher than they should be. I have friends who are in construction and are qualified to remove asbestos, and it’s common knowledge that the government is being taken for a ride with the cost of these demolitions.

I’m sorry to hear about the situation with your friend. I’m not surprised by the difficultly they’ve faced in getting things moving. I’m also not surprised by promise after promise being broken or forgotten about. Things with this government only seem to move quickly when there’s money to be made or when developers are involved. The ‘little people’ like Jon and his family get the raw end of the deal in the ACT.

11
wildturkeycanoe 10:53 pm
08 Mar 17
#

I agree with Bigred about this one, sympathy is one emotion I am not wasting on Jon Crowley.
Blaming the health service and police for his injuries is not only wrong, but pursuing it through the judicial system is a wasted expense for the tax payer. Why on earth do criminals [let’s not beat around the bush, what he did was a criminal act] seem to get so much attention and consideration when they try to get compensation for injuries that resulted from their own illegal actions?
The media hasn’t reported the full story, let’s get that out there straight away. If you research the case [search Australian Emergency Law and Jon Crowley] and court documents, it has been shown that both the health service and the police did what they could to protect both the offender, the public and themselves. They tried to intervene, but the decision to put Jon into the care of mental health specialists was overruled by his parents. They didn’t want police involved and by not letting him get the help he needed, they allowed the situation to get out of hand. Crowley not only threatened innocent people with death threats and a weapon, but he actually used it on police officers who were sent to protect the community. They didn’t approach him guns blazing, they tried to subdue him with non-lethal methods first. What were they supposed to do, sing him a lullaby? How are the authorities supposed to determine if a threatening individual is having a psychotic episode or they are running amok with total clarity?
All this finger pointing at the health services is undone by the actions of his carers, who could have prevented the whole thing from happening had they listened to the advice they were given. If they are suggesting that Jon should have been taken into care against both his own wishes and those of his parents, then it opens up a can of worms about what classifies one as a threat to themselves or society and what right doctors have to forcibly institutionalize people.
Now, as to the intertwining of all this with Mr. Fluffy, honestly, why is this particular case any more newsworthy than all the other asbestos riddled homes? Making sensationalist comments such as “not being allowed to put nails in the walls for pictures, being scared in case his huge wheelchair bangs into a wall” does not really have any ground to stand on. For a wheelchair to expose asbestos from a wall cavity would first require the chair to break through the sheet and then sufficiently disturb the air behind it. Unless the chair is equipped with a turbo charged four cylinder engine, I think the chances of that happening are about the same as the chances of getting a run of green lights through Tuggeranong. As for nails in walls, have you not heard of 3M hooks? Nobody uses nails, and in a government funded house he shouldn’t be making holes in the walls anyway.

“We let him down. He was a sick member of our community and we shot him”.
Sorry John, but no. His parents let the community down and he got himself shot. Combining mental health issues with cannabis and weapons surely will lead to something undesirable. Should we have sympathy for every other mentally disturbed person who got high on drugs and went around the streets threatening people? Do we compare this incident to the fellow who deliberately drove his car into oncoming traffic on the Bussell Highway in a psychotic break, eventually killing an innocent bystander? Why not give him $8 million because nobody stopped him from doing what he did? The question is, at what point do you consider somebody doing violent and dangerous behavior a psychotic episode that could have been avoided? How crazy do you have to be before your actions are considered to be out of your own control? If having long term depression and drug issues makes somebody a threat to society, then there are a whole lot of people who should be put into padded rooms for our protection, before they go out bashing up police and then sue the state for neglect.

12
tim_c 11:38 am
09 Mar 17
#

Ten_Inches said :

I suspect because they are facts.

He broke the law. The Police then acted on their assessment of the situation. They don’t just wave their guns about willy nilly, they discharge their firearm for a reason.

Now because of that reason, and the fact that he survived, he is now blaming his predicament on someone else. It’s always someone else’s fault these days hey.

And the OP wants us to feel sorry for him. Not on my shift my suggestive friend.

I tend to agree – not very many people in ACT get shot at by Police, and you have to be an exceptionally rogue case to ‘earn’ such a title. At the end of the day, the Police officers are people who want to go home to their families – if you threaten them, they will naturally take action to ensure their safety, their colleagues’ safety, as well as the safety the people in the community that they are ultimately hired to protect. While it is appropriate they are called to account for such actions, the courts can deliberate for weeks, months or even longer over a potential life/death decision that a Police officer had to make in a split-second.

13
chewy14 1:29 pm
09 Mar 17
#

Mysteryman said :

I have some issues with how the whole Mr Fluffy situation has been handled – in particular the cost of the demolitions being far higher than they should be. I have friends who are in construction and are qualified to remove asbestos, and it’s common knowledge that the government is being taken for a ride with the cost of these demolitions.

I’m sorry to hear about the situation with your friend. I’m not surprised by the difficultly they’ve faced in getting things moving. I’m also not surprised by promise after promise being broken or forgotten about. Things with this government only seem to move quickly when there’s money to be made or when developers are involved. The ‘little people’ like Jon and his family get the raw end of the deal in the ACT.

So your friends have read the entire tender documentation for all the requirements of the demolition removal and remediation and reckon they could do it cheaper?
As for “common knowledge”, I’ll just leave this here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

I think what you really mean is that you have friends who could do the job cheaper by not meeting the client’s requirements and increasing risks to both the public and workers in not doing a thorough and comprehensive job.

It’s not like that has ever been tried with the removal of asbestos in housing in the ACT before…….

14
JC 4:10 pm
09 Mar 17
#

chewy14 said :

So your friends have read the entire tender documentation for all the requirements of the demolition removal and remediation and reckon they could do it cheaper?
As for “common knowledge”, I’ll just leave this here:

If builders I bet they are licenced for removal on non-friable asbestos, commonly found in wall board and the like and not hard to remove and dispose of at all.

Mr Fluffy is very much of the friable variety which is a tad more complex and specialised.

15
John Hargreaves 2:33 pm
10 Mar 17
#

Ten_Inches said :

So the guy breaks the law, then gets a new house. Now he wants sympathy.

No… the guy was sick, was shot by the cops, made a quadriplegic and has suffered pain and disability ever since. A bit rich to say he broke the law, which he didn’t, anyway! What kind of hard hearted person are you?

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