Saturday, 22 July 2017

Mouth of the Clarence River in Yaegl Country



“Always” by Frances Belle Parker

Quotes of the Week


“Abdel-Magied's savaging has been so grotesque in its meanness, ugly in its intolerance and alarming in its violence, that it's obvious something else is going on, too – something has been legitimised and unleashed. And it seems to be hostility to Islam, as well as women.” [Julia Baird writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 July 2017]

“A few years ago I talked to [Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull] for two hours about climate change, and he had a great grasp of it. Then he turns around and does nothing. To me, that is truly criminal.” [Marine scientist J.E.N. “Charlie” Vernon quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 July 2017]

It has put Australia in a position it's only been in three times before: Minor parties securing more than a quarter of all votes. Every time we have been in this situation, one of the major parties has been reshaped or disappeared.” [Economist Andrew Charlton quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 July 2017]

Look who's trolling Trump


Friday, 21 July 2017

A reminder to rural and regional businesses that there always needs to be a valid reason based on fact for dismissing staff


FAIR WORK COMMISSION
Excerpts, 14 July 20017

[42] In dealing with unfair dismissal claims over the past 20 years a handful of cases remain memorable because of their particular circumstances. In some instances, the case was remarkable because of the manifest absence of valid reason for dismissal, usually accompanied by deplorable procedural deficiencies. In other cases, the audacity of the employee to make complaint about their dismissal was consistent with a history of misconduct that provided unassailable valid reason for which the individual should have been dismissed much earlier. Unfortunately, this case will join the ranks of those elite few which forever remain ignominiously memorable…..

[52] Employees are human beings and not human resources. A machine or item of office equipment might be quickly discarded if it is broken or malfunctioning. However, an employee is entitled to be treated with basic human dignity, and advice of the termination of employment by telephone or other electronic means should be strenuously avoided so as to ensure that the dismissal of an employee is not conducted with the perfunctory dispassion of tossing out a dirty rag……

[59] In summary, this case has involved a very regrettable absence of valid reason for the applicant’s dismissal. Further, it has been highly lamentable to observe the seriously flawed manner in which the employer first determined, and then conveyed the decision to dismiss the applicant. The circumstances of this case provide strong foundation for argument against any lessening of legislative protections for unfair dismissal, a proposition which seems to regularly resurface, and gain a level of publicity that is disconnected with reality.

[60] Regrettably, the dismissal of the applicant was harsh, unjust and unreasonable. Thankfully, the applicant is a person protected from unfair dismissal, and she is entitled to have the Commission provide an appropriate remedy.

A plea on behalf of NSW Liverpool Plains communities


LOCK THE GATE:
It's been a difficult week on the Liverpool Plains.
Yesterday the New South Wales Government paid coal company Shenhua $262 million dollars in a deal that removes part of their larger exploration licence but still lets the company go ahead with it's full coal mining project on the irreplaceable Liverpool Plains.

There is a lot of public relations spin from the NSW Government, but the cold hard truth is that they haven't stopped the Shenhua Watermark coal mine and the company now says it plans to proceed to start the project.

The consequences for local farmers adjoining the mine, and the productivity of this vital national foodbowl, will be severe.

Phone in 4 the plains button
The Government is trying to throw the coal dust over our eyes by telling us this is a great win for the Liverpool Plains.

But in fact, all they have done is pay an exorbitant price for some areas that Shenhua never had any intention of mining, whilst allowing the full 4,000 hectare mine with 3 massive open-cut coal pits to go ahead full bore on the Plains.

The NSW Government has the legal power to cancel the entire Shenhua exploration licence and put an end to this dangerous mine proposal once and for all.
Phone in 4 the plains button
This is an incredibly crucial moment. We need a crescendo of voices demanding full protection of this magnificent country and an end to the Shenhua mine project.

Thanks for your help,
George Woods
Lock the Gate Alliance
http://www.lockthegate.org.au/
Lock the Gate Alliance · PO Box 6285, Sth Lismore, NSW 2480, Australia
.
You can also keep up with Lock the Gate Alliance on Twitter or Facebook.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

A new Australian Federal Government super ministry capable of deploying armed soldiers on our streets


“The first question to ask yourself is this: does handing Dutton that power sound like a good idea?” [journalist Katherine Murphy, The Guardian, 18 July 2017]

A new Australian Federal Government super agency capable of deploying armed soldiers on our streets? With a former Queensland police officer of no particular merit as its head?

What could possibly go wrong with a rigid, far-right, professed ‘Christian’ property millionaire having oversight of a super portfolio which would reportedly bring together the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Australian Border ForceAustralian Criminal Intelligence Commission and AUSTRAC along with a database on ordinary citizens, ‘intellectuals’ and perfectly legal organisations, going back literally generations?

How long will it take before any industrial action or protest event would be quickly labelled as terrafret and armed soldiers sent to disperse people exercising their democratic right?

Australia’s been down that painful path before during the last 229 years and been the worse for it.

Turnbull at Holsworthy Barracks, Forbes Advocate,17 July 2017

“The measures I am announcing today will ensure that the ADF is more readily available to respond to terrorism incidents, providing state and territory police with the extra support to call on when they need it.”  
[Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull, media release, Holsworthy NSW,17 July 2017]


Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed a dramatic shake-up of Australia's security, police and intelligence agencies that will put Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, in charge of a sprawling new Home Affairs security portfolio.

The department of Home Affairs will bring together domestic spy agency ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Border Force, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC and the office of transport security and will be put together over the next year.

And Mr Turnbull has also announced the government would, in response to the 
L'Estrange review of Australia's intelligence agencies, establish an Office of National Intelligence and that the Australian Signals Directorate will also be established as an independent statutory authority. 

The new Office of National Intelligence will co-ordinate intelligence policy and is in line with agencies in Australia's "Five Eyes" intelligence partners in the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand…..

The changes are to be finalised by June 30, 2018 - subject to approval of the National Security Committee of Cabinet -  with Mr Dutton to work with Senator Brandis in bedding down the changes.

Senator Brandis will lose responsibility for ASIO under the changes but, crucially, retain sign-off power on warrants for intelligence agency. 

Mr Turnbull said the Attorney-General's oversight of Australia's domestic security and law enforcement agencies would be strengthened, with the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the independent national security legislation monitor moving into his portfolio. 

The Prime Minister said Australia needed these reforms "not because the system is broken, but because our security environment is evolving quickly…..


However that L'Estrange review – part of a routine reassessment of national security arrangements – is understood not to specifically recommend such a super-portfolio.

Mr Turnbull has been dropping strong hints lately that he is inclined to make a significant change, rejecting what he's branded a "set and forget" policy on national security and warning that Australia must keep up with an evolving set of threats from terrorism to foreign political influence.

Security and intelligence agencies themselves are also believed to have concerns about such a change, while some former intelligence heads have publicly said they do not see any need for change.

However, a well-placed source in the intelligence community said a Home Affairs office - as opposed to a US-style Department of Homeland Security - was the preferred options for police and intelligence agencies.

That was because a Home Affairs department would potentially be broader, including agencies such as the Computer Emergency Response Team, the Australian Cyber Security Centre, Crimtrac, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and the new Critical Infrastructure Centre, rather than just police and intelligence agencies.

The Guardian, 18 July 2017:

Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, put it well on Tuesday when he said any “grit” in the Dutton/Brandis relationship could be problematic for intelligence operations, which is obviously problematic for all of us, given we rely on the efficiency of the counter-terrorism framework to keep us safe.

So we’d better hope for the best, to put it mildly.

We’d also better hope it’s a good use of the time of our intelligence services and public servants to nut out how the Big Idea is going to work in practice, which will be a reasonably complex task, at a time when these folks already have a serious day job.

Recapping that specific day job again: trying to disrupt national security threats, in a complex environment. Pretty busy and important day job, that one.

It’s cartoonish to say this is all about the prime minister rewarding old mate Dutton, on the basis you keep your friends close, and your (potential) enemies closer.

Nothing is ever that simple outside a House of Cards storyboard– although it remains an irrefutable fact that Dutton wanted this to happen, and if Dutton really wanted it to happen, it would have been difficult for Turnbull, in his current position, to say no.
The Australian, 19 July 2017:         
The pressure points lie in the risk calculations that link intelligence to response. In a liberal democracy, we rightly demand high certainty of the intention to carry out an act of violence before we are comfortable with our security services pre-emptively taking someone off the streets. Usually when an attack happens, here or in the US or Europe, it’s because the calibration of risk hasn’t worked. It’s not because security services weren’t concerned about an individual’s beliefs and actions or couldn’t find him.
For those of us without access to national security data, the evidence suggests that Australia does these important risk calculations relatively well. Our list of foiled terrorist attacks is quite a bit longer than the list of attacks. The reason for this is the national security structures we have evolved: the combination of separate national security agencies, each with highly developed specialist capabilities and slightly different cultures and perspectives, working in close, 24/7 collaboration.
When calculating risk, separation and diversity are a strength because they build contestation, careful deliberation and stress testing into the system. Britain, the US, France and Belgium have chosen more centralised structures, and the evidence is that their systems do not work as well as ours. Bringing our highly effective agencies into a super-department cannot help but disrupt their inner structures and cultures. Such enterprises inevitably lose sight of the goal — keeping Australians safe — as they become driven by the desire for efficiencies and cultural homogenisation, and the urge for bureaucratic tidiness. Look no further than the creation of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, a process that has consumed enormous amounts of resources in reconciling two incompatible cultures, with no apparent benefits and a list of embarrassing blunders.
Creating one security super-department places a major imperative on the government to get everything right, first time. Separate but closely collaborating security agencies create a powerful check against underperformance: a struggling agency or a leader who’s not up to it are spotted and called out quickly. But underperformance in a federation-style conglomerate is not so easy to see and to call out. And in the meantime, it’s the safety of Australians that will be the price for underperformance.
If the Turnbull government were serious about national security, it would not engage in evidence-free experimentation with our national security. It should instead be building on what’s working well and making it even stronger. We need better co-ordination and cross agency connectivity, not big-bang organisational redesign.
We should be getting these sorts of issues right in a system that is working, rather than indulging in the risk-riddled gesture politics of a grand restructure.
Michael Wesley is professor of international affairs and dean of the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The American Resistance has many faces and tweeters are just some of them (11)


In the matter of KNIGHT FIRST AMENDMENT INSTITUTE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY; REBECCA BUCKWALTER; PHILIP COHEN; HOLLY FIGUEROA; EUGENE GU; BRANDON NEELY; JOSEPH PAPP; and NICHOLAS PAPPAS, Plaintiffs, v DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States; SEAN M. SPICER, White House Press Secretary; and DANIEL SCAVINO, White House Director of Social Media and Assistant to the President, Defendants, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK. Filed 11 July 2017.

The New York Times, 11 July 2017:

WASHINGTON — A group of Twitter users blocked by President Trump sued him and two top White House aides on Tuesday, arguing that his account amounts to a public forum that he, as a government official, cannot bar people from.

The blocked Twitter users, represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, raised cutting-edge issues about how the Constitution applies to the social media era. They say Mr. Trump cannot bar people from engaging with his account because they expressed opinions he did not like, such as mocking or criticizing him.

“The @realDonaldTrump account is a kind of digital town hall in which the president and his aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public use the reply function to respond to the president and his aides and exchange views with one another,” the lawsuit said.

By blocking people from reading his tweets, or from viewing and replying to message chains based on them, Mr. Trump is violating their First Amendment rights because they expressed views he did not like, the lawsuit argued.

It offered several theories to back that notion. They included arguments that Mr. Trump was imposing an unconstitutional restriction on the plaintiffs’ ability to participate in a designated public forum, get access to statements the government had otherwise made available to the public and petition the government for “redress of grievances.”

Filed in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, the lawsuit also names Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, and Dan Scavino, Mr. Trump’s director of social media, as defendants. It seeks a declaration that Mr. Trump’s blocking of the plaintiffs was unconstitutional, an injunction requiring him to unblock them and prohibiting him from blocking others for the views they express, and legal fees.