Queensland chief scientist Professor Suzanne Miller stood aside amid fraud claims

Queensland’s chief scientist has been stood aside after being charged with fraud over a $45,000 private health insurance claim.

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Scottish-born Professor Suzanne Miller is being investigated by the Crime and Corruption Commission and has been ordered to surrender both her UK and Australian passports.

Police allege the 52-year-old dishonestly gained private health insurance as an employee of the Queensland Museum between February 2014 and July 2017.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Miller, also the museum’s CEO, had been stood aside on full pay while the matter was dealt with.

“I was shocked, just like anyone else, but (the allegations) now need to run their natural course through the justice system,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters on Tuesday.

Miller has been bailed and is expected to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on August 8.

Under bail conditions, she is not allowed to attend the Queensland Museum either as an employee or visitor.

Queensland Premier Anna Palaszczuk says she’s shocked by the allegations.AAP

She is also barred from directly or indirectly contacting any board member or former board member of the museum, as well as current or past employees.

Science Minister Leeanne Enoch on Tuesday praised Ms Miller’s work as the state’s chief scientist since starting last December, while also stressing the matter needed to be dealt with.

“The chief scientist has a very important role in Queensland and she has been incredibly successful in terms of putting science at the front and centre of not just Queensland but Australia,” Ms Enoch said.

“There is a CCC investigation underway, I am not going to make any comments than would impact on that investigation in any way.”

Ms Enoch said she had only been made aware of the situation in the last 24 hours, and had not yet spoken to Miller.

Miller had been due to appear during budget estimates hearings on Tuesday afternoon, but was withdrawn from appearing.

Queensland Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls said the issue was another crisis the government would have to deal with.

“This isn’t a government that is governing for Queensland, this is a government that is lurching from bushfire to bushfire, trying to stay in office,” Mr Nicholls said

Miller has a lengthy and impressive resume and, before moving to Queensland, was the director of the South Australian Museum from 2007 to 2013.

Mental health fears over plebiscite

Giving Australians a say on gay marriage could have mental health consequences, experts warn, amid calls for a postal plebiscite on the matter.

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National Mental Health Commission chairman Allan Fels says there could be mental health impacts for both the gay community and opponents of gay marriage arising from a debate on same-sex marriage if a plebiscite goes ahead.

“People get very stressed about this topic and debates can get out of hand,” Prof Fels told the National Press Club on Tuesday.

“The commission has often said that the mental health of the LGBTI community is not good.

“The numbers are really bad for the LGBTI community.”

Cabinet minister Peter Dutton’s idea of a postal plebiscite has been criticised inside the coalition, with Liberal senator Dean Smith labelling it “corrosive”.

Senator Smith, who is drafting his own private member’s bill for a conscience vote in parliament, acknowledges the latest idea demonstrates a willingness to deal with the issue, but he is wary of the cost and legal hurdles.

“We have had two binding plebiscites previously in 1916 (and) 1917. They were acrimonious and they divided communities,” Senator Smith told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“Postal plebiscites, national plebiscites are corrosive to our representative parliamentary democracy.”

Senator Smith says his bill for a free vote before year’s end will be made public and is a sensible and constructive way forward.

A ReachTEL poll for activist group GetUp says 70 per cent of those surveyed in Mr Dutton’s own electorate want a free vote in parliament.

Just 24 per cent of the 708 Dickson residents disagreed that the government should allow a free vote.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists his party took a plebiscite policy to the election and to change it would be breaking a promise.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott concedes a vote via the post would be better than parliament.

But he too questions how much real authority a postal plebiscite would have.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is happy to have a discussion about holding one.

Vic closes in on safe assisted dying laws

Victoria’s assisted dying laws will be “the safest in the world”, says Premier Daniel Andrews.

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He has embraced a set of guidelines which would allow terminally ill Victorians to choose to die.

A proposed timeline means eligible patients with less than a year to live could use the new laws by 2019.

An expert panel asked by parliament to investigate the matter has made a raft of recommendations to build a legal framework.

“These 66 recommendations provide us with a conservative system, the safest in the world, but one where we no longer deny people that which they seek,” Mr Andrews told reporters on Tuesday.

In a press conference flanked by Attorney-General Martin Pakula and Health Minister Jill Hennessy, the premier said he hoped to have a conscience vote by the end of the year.

“What we know is many Victorians are not getting the care they need,” he said.

“There is no solution to their unbearable pain and they are taking matters into their own hands. That leads to many tragic outcomes. That’s unacceptable to me.”

Legislation was being drafted and could be finalised within months, Mr Pakula said.

If the laws are passed by the end of 2017, it could be in practice after 19 months and there would be a review after five years.

Mr Andrews, who changed his views to support the practice after his father’s death, called for a respectful debate.

“That, I think, requires people to be measured. They can be passionate certainly, they can be very engaged in this process,” he said.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy opposes any form of euthanasia but will allow his MPs to vote freely.

“I don’t think politicians are the right people to decide when someone under what circumstances you should end your life,” he said.

Greens MLC Colleen Hartland unsuccessfully made a bid for assisted dying laws a decade ago and thinks this attempt should be successful.

The family of right-to-die campaigner and palliative care nurse Ray Godbold, who died of gastroesophageal cancer, told reporters they are pleased the laws are making progress.

A ministerial advisory panel on Friday revealed its recommended guidelines, including that a patient would need to be expected to die within 12 months, show sufficient mental capacity to make the decision, and be a Victorian resident at least 18 years’ old.

The medication, which is yet to be finalised, would be dispensed in a lockable box by a pharmacist.

The panel also suggested safeguards including offences for inducing a patient to request assisted dying, proposed offences for falsifying assisted-dying records and administering medication to someone who lacked the sufficient decision-making capacity.

Crow stalwart Thompson to retire from AFL

Adelaide’s stalwart Scott Thompson is retiring, but he’s not giving up on an AFL fairytale finish just yet.

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The dual Crows club champion has confirmed his retirement at season’s end, but clings to hope it might end with recall to AFL ranks – maybe even a premiership.

“If fairytales happened, I would certainly put my hand up for it, that is for sure,” Thompson told reporters on Tuesday

The 34-year-old has played just one game this season, overlooked in Adelaide’s new-look midfield which has the Crows atop the ladder

But the 308-gamer has told his teammates: “I think we are capable as a group of chasing huge success not only this year but going forward,.

“And I said to ’em: don’t slacken off, because I’m right up your arse and I’ll take your spot if you don’t watch it.”

Thompson implored his Crows teammates, six points clear at the top of the table, to take their shot at the flag – he’s played in three losing preliminary finals.

“There’s three games I don’t want to remember but still stick in the mind,” he said.

“I spoke to the boys about that this morning, about doing whatever it takes to chase that ultimate success.

“I played in three losing prelim finals, 05, 06 and then in ’12 when I thought we had a team that was capable of going all the way and for whatever reason it didn’t happen.”

Thompson, who finished top 10 in Adelaide’s club champion award nine times in the past 11 years, has coaching ambitions.

But first, he has a season, and possible fairytale, to finish.

“I have got bigger things to fry with these boys throughout the back half of this year,” said Thompson, who in 2012 was an All Australian and third in the Brownlow medal.

“There’s six home and away games plus finals. And I’m certainly going to do everything I can to play a role in that.”