Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The message is being sent that the Clarence Valley does not want the Clarence River estuary industrialised and says "No" to a mega port - Part 2

NSW Greens Spokesperson for Maritime and Ports letter to NSW Minister for Roads Maritime and Freight, 7 July 2016.

Letter in reply from NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, 10 August 2016.

Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment, Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash, is learning the hard way that Australians expect the boss to act fairly

As a recognised bargaining representative of the Turnbull Government, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment, Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash is once more before the Australian Fair Work Commission.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), media release, 17 August 2016:


The CPSU has taken Employment Minister Michaelia Cash to the Fair Work Commission over her failure to engage in good faith around enterprise agreements for Commonwealth public sector workers.

The case is based on Minister Cash’s refusal to deal constructively with the CPSU, including refusing to discuss or properly consider the union’s fair and reasonable proposals to settle bargaining across multiple Commonwealth agencies.

Action in Fair Work is part of the union’s multi-pronged plan to make the Turnbull Government fix its public sector bargaining mess; the strategy also includes industrial action at international airports and elsewhere, community campaigning targeted in marginal electorates and repeated efforts to engage directly with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister Cash.

CPSU National President Alistair Waters said: “Minister Michaelia Cash is responsible for setting and implementing the Turnbull Government’s harsh and unworkable approach to public sector bargaining. We’re taking her to Fair Work to hold her and the Turnbull Government accountable for this debacle that’s unfairly attacked workers for nearly three years.”

“Minister Cash hasn’t just refused to meet with the CPSU, she has also publicly misrepresented our position on numerous occasions and otherwise tried to undermine our attempts to help her fix the Turnbull Government’s bargaining mess. Our members have shown a willingness to compromise but Minister Cash’s responses have been consistently toxic and unfair.”

“There’s a bitter irony that we’ve had to take Minister Cash to the Fair Work Commission to get her to fulfil even her most basic obligations. This is the person who as Employment Minister is responsible for the Fair Work Act she’s flouting by actively undermining bargaining.”

“Public sector workers have fought for nearly three years to protect their existing rights against this Government’s bargaining attacks and they are determined to secure a fair and reasonable outcome. The only way for this protracted dispute to end is for the Turnbull Government to realise that its attempts to force workers to give up family friendly rights and other conditions have failed, and instead engage with us on a sensible alternative.”

“Our action in the Fair Work Commission is just one part of a much broader strategy to pressure Prime Minister Turnbull and Minister Cash to fix their bargaining debacle. We’re also planning further industrial action in the wake of last week’s Immigration and Border Force strike at international airports and elsewhere and continuing with our community campaigning in marginal electorates.”

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Clancy says Clarence a winner under Greens plan - fairer funding for regional councils

NSW Greens candidate in Clarence Valley local government election Greg Clancy, media release, 15 August 2016:

Fairer Funding for Regional Councils: Clarence a winner under Greens plan to ensure a fairer distribution of crucial Commonwealth roads funding.

Greens Senator and Local Government Spokesperson Lee Rhiannon said, "NSW regional councils are the winners under the Greens plan for a fairer federal funding based on local needs rather than on a per capita basis.

"When parliament resumes on 30 August I will move to set up an inquiry into Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants to gather evidence to show that regional areas are losing out under the current system."

Under the current system, the federal grants are awarded according to population numbers with little consideration of the size of the region and transport networks that must be maintained.

Greens candidate for Clarence Valley Council, Greg Clancy said, "Getting equitable road finding, based on financial need and the size of a council's road network, would see the Clarence Valley Council with extra funding to build local infrastructure.

"The roads need fixing and Council needs better support to do that. People also want cycleways, parks, playgrounds and pools. The federal grants program can make that happen.

"The current system of awarding road grants to Councils based on their population and not of their needs is inequitable and short changes regional areas.

"You only have to look at the results from last year's funding. Fairfield Council, which covers just 104 square kilometres and has 677 km of roads, received $5.1 million in Federal road funding. Clarence Valley, which has 2445 km of roads across 10,441 square kilometres, also got $5 million. From these figures, it is clear that something is seriously wrong.

"We're talking about a significant amount of funding. This is crucial funding for roads that needs to be distributed fairly, with those Regional Councils in most need getting priority funding in order to deal with their extensive road network.

"It's not just the Greens saying this. The NRMA has said the same, so has a recent NSW Parliamentary report. A new federal funding model would provide a 'win-win' for Council and the community," Dr Clancy said.

"I believe we need more Greens on regional councils to get behind our senators and state MPs so we get the support for a national senate inquiry to fix the broken federal funding model for local councils," he said.

Further information on the General Purpose and Local Road Financial Assistance Grant available at:

The Turnbull Government is just not listening to those who have experienced the immigration detention camps first-hand

The Guardian, 18 August 2016:

The Guardian can reveal that the offices of senior members of the Australian government – including prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, attorney general George Brandis and Dutton – all received an extensive dossier in May 2016 that outlined the ongoing harm to children held on Nauru and the “numerous child rights violations” that had occurred.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Australian Society: you can't make things like this up.....

Having worked with people who are homeless I can just imagine how this incident will be remembered on the streets of Melbourne.

Daily Mail UK, 17 August 2016:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been spotted giving a $5 note to a homeless man while holding a wad of cash in his other hand.
Mr Turnbull was on his way to make a speech about economics in Melbourne on Wednesday when he stopped to drop a folded-up, purple note in a homeless man's coffee cup.
In his other hand, the 61-year-old, who had an investments portfolio worth at least $200 million last year, clutched a money clip that was holding a stack of $5, $20 and $50 notes…..

Five hours of alleged neglect in a Maitland Police cell and a woman lay dead

Maitland Police Station. Image: The Sydney Morning Herald

There is absolutely no excuse for any intoxicated person dying whilst in police custody.

The mother of four, a Wiradjuri woman, was placed in a cell alone at about 1am and checked on at 6am. [The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 August 2016]

If true, the reported five hour gap between security checks by a detention officer should be called for what it is – neglect of the safety and physical wellbeing of a vulnerable person.

Aboriginal Legal Service, excerpt from media release, 17 August 2016:

NSW legislation may need to be reviewed

Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT (ALS) is concerned about the care of intoxicated persons in police holding cells following the tragic death of an Aboriginal woman in police cell custody on 19 July 2016.

Rebecca Maher, 36, died in police cell custody in Maitland Police Station following her detainment by police for apparent intoxification.

Although earlier reports suggested Rebecca Maher was arrested, police media reports state Rebecca Maher was detained for intoxification.

A police media statement says Ms Maher had ‘appeared intoxicated’ and was placed in a holding cell, and ‘about 6am the woman was found deceased.’

Gary Oliver, CEO of ALS says the legislation relating to the detention of intoxicated persons may need review.

“We understand Rebecca Maher had been held in a holding cell for some hours before she was found to be deceased.

“We have many questions about what happened that night, and that includes what continuing avenues the police took to find a responsible person as guided by the legislation, and during that time, what level of care was provided to Rebecca Maher during those 5-6 hours while held by police.

“Putting an intoxicated person into a cell places enormous responsibility on the police to carefully manage the health and welfare of that person until which time they do not appear to be intoxicated and can be released.

“Police notification using the ALS Custody Notification Service (CNS) applies if police have arrested a person for an alleged offence.

“Police are currently not required to call the CNS when they have detained someone who appears to be intoxicated for the sole purpose of their own welfare.

“Police however are required to do a number of other things, including giving the person an opportunity to contact a responsible person, or continually seeking to put the person into the care of a responsible person willing to undertake the care of the intoxicated person, such as a family member, a friend, a member of staff of a government or non-government organisation, or a facility providing welfare or alcohol or other drug rehabilitation services.

“If a responsible person cannot be found, or if the person is not willing to go into the care of the responsible person, or if it is impracticable to transport the person to a responsible person or to their home, police may hold the person at the Station as a temporary measure until that person is seen not to be intoxicated.

“Under the legislation, if the intoxicated person is kept at the station, they have to be kept in a separate part of the station, they are not to be detained in a cell unless it is necessary or impracticable to lock up the person elsewhere, and they have to be given food, drink, bedding and blankets, appropriate to their needs.

“The person must be released as soon as they stop being intoxicated, or appear to not be seriously affected.

“If an intoxicated person is held but not charged, under existing legislation, there is no requirement to call the CNS.

“This may well be a law reform issue. A vulnerable person in custody needs protection.

“A notification system such as the CNS can help trigger protective processes, such as health and welfare checks.

“However, the legislation already requires police to enact certain pathways to ensure the care of the intoxicated person.

“Did police enact those pathways?

“Does the legislation relating to the detention and notification of intoxicated persons need to be reviewed?

“These are some of our questions.

“It is the 25th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody this year, and so many recommendations have still not been implemented, yet they remain astutely relevant.

“The lessons for the care of Aboriginal people in custody are already written. Let’s use them.”

 NSW Police Force, media release, 19 July 2016:

Critical incident - Maitland

A critical incident has been launched after a woman died while in custody at Maitland Police Station.
About 12.45am (Tuesday 19 July 2016), police located and detained a 36-year-old woman who appeared intoxicated, walking along Wollumbi Road, Cessnock.
The woman was transported by police to Maitland Police Station and placed in a holding cell.
About 6am the woman was found deceased.
A Critical Incident Team from Newcastle will now investigate all circumstances surrounding the incident.
That investigation will be subject to independent review.
All information will be provided to the Coroner who will determine the cause of death and make any findings about the events leading to the woman’s death.
The welfare of the police officers has been addressed and they are being supported.
The woman's family has been notified and our thoughts and condolences go out to the family.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Liberal Democratic Party Senator for NSW David Leyonhjelm appears intent on publicly making a fool of himself

This is what Sydney Morning Herald journalist Mark Kenny had to say about Liberal Democratic Party Senator for NSW David Leyonhjelm on 8 August 2016:

David Leyonhjelm is a boorish, supercilious know-all with the empathy of a besser block. And that new Hansonite conspiracy theorist from Queensland? He's an absurdist fringe-dweller and fellow hate-speech apologist. It's a case of wacky and wackier.

Neither of these self-promoting misanthropes would have the first idea about entrenched discrimination. Yet both are experts.

You may disagree with this harsh critique and probably think it unbecoming of a serious media outlet. But offensive to them, it is not. And that's the point.

You see, this gormless duo has declared, with all their angry-white-male certitude, that a verbal abuser cannot cause offence or humiliation. It is all in the mind of the recipient.

In their peerless assessment of the lived experience of all minorities, they have decreed that the fault of hate-speech does not lie with the utterer of a given slur or insult, no matter how cruel, baseless, or humiliating. Rather, the "offence" lies with the recipient - the subject who simply "decides" to be affronted.

Infantile reasoning, but there it is……..

Leyonhjelm, who has been sitting in the Australia senate since July 2014, has reported taken the matter of being described as having angry-white-male certitude to the Human Rights Commission allegedly lodging a complaint under section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 – the very section of the act he is keen to see abolished.

This is an excerpt from Section 18C of this act:

Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin
             (1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:
                     (a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and
                     (b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.
Note:          Subsection (1) makes certain acts unlawful. Section 46P of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 allows people to make complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission about unlawful acts. However, an unlawful act is not necessarily a criminal offence. Section 26 says that this Act does not make it an offence to do an act that is unlawful because of this Part, unless Part IV expressly says that the act is an offence…..

The senator’s behaviour is suspect because he would be well aware that airing his supposedly offended feelings will probably go nowhere because of Section 18D of that same act:

                   Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:
                     (a)  in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work; or
                     (b)  in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest; or
                     (c)  in making or publishing:
                              (i)  a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or
                             (ii)  a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment.

New Matilda was less than impressed by both Leyonhjelm and Roberts on 16 August 2016:
Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm, during an August 2016 
appearance on ABC's Insider's program.

News broke yesterday that Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm has lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission, alleging he was racially vilified by Fairfax journalist Mark Kenny, who called him an ‘angry white man’. Chris Graham explains why Leyonhjelm will lose, why the current debate around 18c is a ridiculous furphy, and why free speech has never really been under threat……

One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts tried to claim on ABC Insiders recently that 18c was introduced by “Julia Gillard to nobble Andrew Bolt”.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts, 
appearing on ABC’s Insiders program in August 2016.

In fact, 18c was introduced by Keating government Attorney General Michael Lavarch in 1995. That’s three years before Julia Gillard was even elected to parliament, 15 years before she became Prime Minister, and 16 years before Bolt was successfully sued under the 18c provisions. It also happens to be about three or four years before Bolt started writing his rants for the Herald Sun (in the late 1990s).

George Brandis made headlines in 2014 while railing against 18c when he remarked in parliament that ‘everyone has the right to be a bigot’. Which is strictly true, but under Australian law, our Attorney General seemed not to understand that there are so sanctions for being ‘said bigot’.

Since Bolt lost, all the usual suspects have railed against 18c. They need to let it go. Really. So does the media. There is literally nothing to see here. Free speech is not under attack.

You cannot have a rational discussion about 18c without acknowledging the existence of 18d. But that is what conservative whingers keep doing, and the media keep letting them get away with it. It has to stop.

Of all those whingers, David Leyonhjelm is perhaps one of the least interesting, but that brings us neatly back to his boy’s own adventure in the Australian Human Rights Commission, and the other major reason why Leyonhjelm will lose his case.


Shortly after news broke of his complaint, Leyonhjelm took to the airwaves to boast that he wasn’t really insulted, offended, humiliated and/or intimidated. He was just trying it on to expose how bad section 18c really was.

The work of the AHRC is extremely important. It has labored under funding cuts by the Coalition, and yet despite this, has still delivered crucial work, such as its inquiry into abuse in immigration detention.

And yet, despite the pressure on the Commission, an elected parliamentary representative appears to have tried to spark a government inquiry purely for sh*ts and giggles…..

Energy Resource Information Centre sternly taken to task by Doctors for the Environment Australia

On 21 April 2016 the Energy Resource Information Centre wrote a letter to the editor of the Border Watch newspaper.

Doctors for the Environment Australia took exception in a letter to the editor of Border Watch in May 2016:

It is disappointing to again find myself misrepresented in letters to the Editor of your good paper as an ‘activist presenter’ and to witness the Doctors for the Environment Australia be identified as a ‘protest group’ by the Director of the Energy Resource Information Centre. This Centre describes itself as a ‘research and advocacy group for the natural gas industry’ aiming to provide a ‘fact-based evidence-led source of information about natural gas and development’. 
I hope that Border Watch readers felt fact-check bells ringing in their heads while reading this letter. For readers unaware, DEA is a voluntary organisation of doctors and medical students across Australia. DEA is guided by a Research Committee that proudly includes a Nobel Prize Winner, the 2003 Australian of the Year, Deans of Medicine at many of our leading medical schools and world class researchers. Clearly the DEA is not well described as a ‘protest group’.
Furthermore, motives need to be checked. DEA members are motivated by their deep concern for the protection of human health in the face of damage to the environment. In contrast the Energy Resource Information Centre emphasizes its ‘deep interest in ensuring the development of natural gas resources’ ( 
Which group would you turn to for reliable information on current knowledge on health risks and impacts of gas developments?
The director appears to suggest he is perhaps more knowledgeable about health research than myself? I have over 30 years experience and 70 peer-reviewed publications addressing leading public health challenges. I have educated hundreds of students to understand how essential a healthy environment is to human health. I wonder what the director’s health research credentials are? 
An analogy to the issues raised by the director would be, if I can’t prove that my child will be hit if she runs across the street in moving traffic, and I can't be sure if a Holden or a Subaru will hit her, I may as well let her run into the traffic and see what happens. Environmental health studies don’t seek proof, they seek evidence of the presence or absence of harm and this evidence builds over time. The source of harm, be it air, water or distressing experiences matters less than the fact that harm may be happening.
"The key question for ‘proving’ is – is this industry safe to people and the environment? Presently the evidence that it is not safe far outweighs the evidence that it is safe"
Another serious concern of the director’s letter is the nuance to readers that ‘fracking’ is the only part of unconventional gas mining that matters. In fact, there are a range of risks to human health possible at each step of the process which have not been adequately assessed - but for which there is accumulating evidence. 
I understand the challenges researchers face in measuring the health risks and impacts of this complex industry. I have watched the rapid growth of studies and peer reviewed publications on the topic – now emerging almost daily, shedding new light on potential harms across the United States. 
The key question for ‘proving’ is – is this industry safe to people and the environment? Presently the evidence that it is not safe far outweighs the evidence that it is safe. A publication in the highly regarded journal PLOS One examined peer-reviewed publications reporting new research on water pollution (58 studies), air pollution (46 studies) and health impacts (31 studies). Evidence of contamination were identified in 69% of studies on water and 87% of those on air pollution, while 84% reported negative health risks and impacts. 
Australia in general, and South Australia in particular, has enormous potential to develop its wind and solar energy potential, creating opportunities with minimal risks to both health and the environment. 
Most disappointing in this letter is evidence of a continued lack of real dialogue and transparency regarding the risks and unknowns involved in unconventional gas mining. This raises serious questions about the priority the industry places on the health and wellbeing of our communities and our livestock, and the productivity of our lands.
Associate Professor Melissa Haswell, 
Doctors for the Environment Australia, 
University of New South Wales

Saturday, 20 August 2016

A plea from the heart to save a Clarence Valley icon

Letter to the Editor, The Daily Examiner, 17 August 2016:

THE dismantling of the Grafton Regional Gallery is an outrage and every effort to reverse the decision of the executive council must be made.

Should it be a surprise? No.

In June 2015 the Council had to prepare an application to IPART for a special rate variation to increase rates by 8%. The community was called upon to prioritise 24 listed services put forward by the Council.

In a letter to the Editor of the DEX, I drew attention to how significant infrastructure like the Grafton Regional Gallery and the Library have been built with Federal and State Government money. The community has also made important contributions.

It is totally unacceptable for the Director Environment, Planning and Community, Des Schroder, to say the identified saving for galleries and museum area was $25,000. In addition, of course, is the Council decision not to fund the capital art purchases for 2016/17.

This Gallery is probably the most important asset for the Clarence Valley. The professionalism of its staff together with the enormous contribution made by The Friends of the Gallery and the Gallery Foundation members and volunteers has made our Gallery recognised as one of the very best regional galleries.

How ironical it is that the Gallery has been featured over the past few weeks for wonderful events, such as the recent visit to Yugilbar Station and the Soups Day and today we read about the plans for Gate to Plate to be held in October.

Leaving aside social functions - which after all contribute to the liveability of a town - the JADA Exhibition (Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award) has received a record number of entries. This exhibition is held in high regard throughout Australia and receives entries from all states of Australia.

To suggest that the Gallery does not attract tourists just shows how totally out of touch the decision makers are. Recently at both the Yamba and Grafton Bridge Congresses, people spoke to me about the Gallery and I had to inform them that unfortunately it is no longer open on Sundays and there is no coffee shop. This is a recent example but it happens all the time.

I would like to inform those members of the Council executive that worldwide statistics show that more people visit galleries and museums than sporting fixtures. Sure, a sporting fixture attracts a large crowd for one event but those people then want to explore other attractions such as galleries.

The council elections will be held next month. It is our chance to ask candidates whether they want a liveable city or one that has a super and expensive depot so that the general manager can justify his priority of roads, water and sewerage (notes taken at the public meeting May 12, 2015).

Let us make sure we do not surrender our much loved title as "The Jacaranda City" to be replaced by "The Forgotten City".

Heather Roland