Sunday, 19 April 2015

Who guards the guards in Abbott's Australia?

On 25 February 2015 the Abbott Government presented a bill to the House of Representatives titled Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015.

This bill seeks to amend the Migration Act 1958 to allow a private company under contract and its immigration detention centre management team to use reasonable force against any person or thing an authorised employee reasonably believes is necessary to protect the life, health or safety of any person or to maintain the good order, peace or security of an immigration detention facility.

The Abbott Government has given itself a ‘get out of gaol free’ card if any such use of force results in serious injury to or death of an asylum seeker being held in detention:

             (1)  No proceedings may be instituted or continued in any court against the Commonwealth in relation to an exercise of power under
                   section 197BA if the power was exercised in good faith.
             (2)  This section has effect despite anything else in this Act or any other law.
             (3)  Nothing in this section is intended to affect the jurisdiction of the High Court under section 75 of the Constitution.
             (4)  In this section:
                   Commonwealth includes:
                     (a)  an officer of the Commonwealth; and
                     (b)  any other person acting on behalf of the Commonwealth.

The Explanatory Memorandum authorised by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, appears to extend this immunity from prosecution to include an authorised employee of the private company.

His explanation to Parliament on 25 February 2015 concerning the need for this bill included this statement:

In the absence of legislation, officers and staff of the detention services provider rely on common-law powers, as conferred on ordinary citizens, to exercise reasonable force when it is necessary to protect themselves and others from harm or threat of harm. The extent of this authority is, however, limited. Clearly, using reasonable force to manage issues of physical safety, good order, peace and security in an immigration detention facility is a matter for parliament to decide, not the common law.

On the other hand the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights considers that this bill engages and limits a number of rights, including the right to life; the prohibition against torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; the right to humane treatment in detention; and the right to freedom of assembly and worries that in relation to meeting human rights obligations under international law there may be inadequate oversight and control of private detention facilities by the Australian government.

The Australian Human Rights Commission submitted 9 recommendations to the Committee, including recommendations that: a) the Committee seek clarification from the Government as to whether it intends to authorise employees of contracted detention service providers to use lethal force and, if so, what controls and limits will be put in place to ensure that the right to life is adequately protected; b) private contractors use excessive force, both the contractors and the Commonwealth should be legally accountable; and c) new provisions be added after s 197BA(5) dealing with the limitations on the use of force in relation to children.

Further concerns were articulated in The Guardian on 16 April 2015:

The president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, said the bar on proceedings would make it “virtually impossible” to bring forward an action, because of the difficulty of demonstrating bad faith in legal proceedings.
“Senior courts have ... explained the very high threshold that you must prove to demonstrate bad faith. It’s very hard to show a subjective intent of bad faith of a serving officer acting in the course of their employment,” Triggs said.
She said the language in the bill surrounding the scope of the powers “need to be significantly tightened up.”
Triggs added that if the powers were to be included into the Migration Act then the limits to the exercise of the power should also be clearly spelt out.

Gabrielle Appleby, associate professor at UNSW, said “the individuals authorised under this bill are not department officers, they are contractors”.
Appleby raised concerns about the training requirements for guards, which are not expressly set out in the bill and will instead be left up to the minister. The explanatory memorandum suggests the standards will be a certificate II in security operations, which are a base level training requirement for security operations.

“The determination by the minister is not a disallowable instrument. This means it’s not subject to parliamentary scrutiny,” she said.

While the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre issued a media release on 2 April 2015 which stated in part:

“These proposed laws will give officers in detention centres more power to use force than are granted to prison officers,” CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis said today. “They also introduce a subjective test where officers themselves get to decide if violence is warranted. When they do use excessive force, they will effectively be immune from legal action except in the rarest of circumstances. This virtually gives them the green light to use force without fear of repercussions. “There is no reasonable basis for granting broad, sweeping powers to authorised officers to use force indiscriminately. These laws are unnecessary and they are dangerous. “It is another example of the Government’s ongoing push for unchecked power when it comes to their treatment of asylum seekers.”
There is legitimate cause for concern with regard to this bill, as excessive use of force is already an issue in detention centres.

The Age 24 February 2015:

...a Fairfax Media investigation that revealed three reported attacks on detainees housed at the centre in December and January alone, and internal concerns among the workforce about a growing culture of brutality.
Confidential documents from within private security firm Serco, which runs the centre on behalf of the Australian government, detail incidents including a middle-aged Chinese woman allegedly being kicked in the stomach by a guard and a Sri Lankan man being punched in the face.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has launched an inquiry into a third case in which several officers allegedly harmed a detainee who was handcuffed behind his back and held down on his stomach for 45 minutes. The Turkish national said he struggled to breathe and was denied repeated requests for water.
Fairfax Media this month revealed Serco sacked two of its guards after internal reviews into violent clashes at Maribyrnong.
Serco officers said the spate of attacks reflected a disturbing "prison camp" culture coming from hard-line managers, who were sanctioning the use of brutal force.
On Tuesday, the Australian Immigration Department confirmed new allegations raised against Serco guards were being "taken seriously and escalated through appropriate channels"......
Dozens of complaints have been lodged by inmates at the Maribyrnong centre in recent years, mostly about staff harassment and bullying. But insiders say physical assaults have become regular occurrences since Serco transferred a number of ex-corrections managers out of the prison system into the detention centre late last year.
One said detainees were being "literally bashed" and "viciously assaulted", while another described how senior staff were condoning the use of excessive force on volatile detainees......

The provisions of the Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015 have been referred to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 12 May 2015.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Destroy the Joint is counting dead women - Part Four

Since 1 January 2015 thirty-one women have died in violent incidents. That equates to two women killed each week so far this year.

Destroy The Joint keeps a register of these deaths here.

On 7 May 2015 there is a general election in the U.K. Are you eligible to vote?

North Coast Voices received this email from the Leader of the Green Party of England & Wales on 14 March 2015.

Greetings from London, where we Greens are in the final weeks of our biggest-ever national election campaign.

Did you know that all Australian adults currently in the UK are eligible to vote in British elections?

It’s true. So are most British citizens living in Australia. The UK elections on May 7 are the most important in a generation — and a Green vote has never been more powerful.

Find out if you can vote in the UK election today.

British politics is broken. 3.5 million children live in poverty but the old parties all support huge cuts to public services. The Conservative government here is slashing clean energy and expanding fracking across the country — just like Tony Abbott.

But people here are standing up. Nearly 50,000 people have joined the Green parties of the UK in the last year alone. There is a hunger for change and it’s showing in the polls. Predictions show that if we can turn out every Green supporter on May 7, we will help decide who forms the next government.  

That’s why we need you. Our key seats will come down to a handful of votes — eligible overseas voters could decide this election for the Greens.

If you're an Australian in the UK or a British citizen in Australia, register to vote today.

Just like in Australia, the Greens are the only party keeping multinational companies honest about the tax they (don’t) pay. We’re for keeping healthcare in public hands and providing good homes for everyone.

I was the only party leader to mention climate change in the election debates last month.

For the good of the planet, keeping a Green voice in the UK Parliament has never been more important. That’s why we need everyone next month.

Please, register to vote in the UK election today - and vote Green on May 7 to change politics forever.


Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green Party of England and Wales

PS As an Australian myself, I really appreciate your support in this. Know any Australians in the UK at the moment — or British citizens living in Australia? Please forward this email to them to get the word out. We can change politics, but it’s going to take all of us.


Voting in a UK General Election

In a UK parliamentary general election, registered voters in every area of the country vote for an MP to represent them in the House of Commons. There are 650 geographical areas - these are called constituencies.

You can vote in a UK parliamentary general election if you’re registered to vote and:
 * aged 18 or over on polling day
 * a UK citizen, Commonwealth citizen or a citizen of the Irish Republic
 * not legally excluded from voting (eg because you’re in prison)

You can’t vote in a UK parliamentary general election if you are:
 * under 18
 * a member of the House of Lords
 * a European Union citizen (and not also a UK, Irish or Commonwealth citizen)
 * in prison (apart from remand prisoners)

Friday, 17 April 2015

Knitting Nannas' three year long yarn outside pro-CSG MP's office in Lismore continues

The NSW North Coast Nationals never learn.

At the 28 March 2015 state election they lost one of their safe seats, Ballina, and suffered a 19.6% swing to Labor in Tweed, a 22.4% swing to Labor in Clarence and a 22.5% swing to Labor in Tweed where Thomas George only survived on preferences - yet they tried to flex their political muscle on the one issue that saw so many voters walk away from the National Party at the ballot box.

NSW Police confront Knitting Nannas: Image from @LockTheGate 10 April 215

The Northern Star 9 April 2015:

A group of 10 nannas had yesterday just settled in to their usual positions on the pavement outside Mr George's office yesterday when they were approached by a group of police who informed them the act was illegal.
Eltham Knitting Nanna Judy Summers said she was told by a senior policewoman the group "had no reason to be here as CSG is done and dusted".
The police left after issuing a warning that the group would face more serious action if they returned next week.
But Ms Summers vowed the group were "not going anywhere" and were seeking legal advice over the issue.
"I told her it is not done and dusted; until both licenses are cancelled we will continue to be here," Ms Summers said.
"We are not obstructing the pathway."….
The Knitting Nannas [should] move their weekly protests from Thomas George's office to the boat sculpture at Molesworth Street, Lismore Nationals president John Barnes has said.
Speaking on ABC Radio this morning, Mr Barnes said he was against CSG but the Nannas were a "nuisance" and they should move to "the HMAS Jenny Dowell", referring to the sculpture.
"I don't care what they are protesting for, if it is CSG or the man on the moon," Mr Barnes said.
"They should give the streets back to the people.".....

Later the same day:

THE GREENS NSW coal seam gas spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham wants to know if the government has an agenda to 'shut the Nannas down'.
Following ABC reports that suggested National Party members initiated the confrontation between police and Knitting Nannas on Thursday at their usual knit-in in front of Thomas George's office, Mr Buckingham today called on Deputy Premier Troy Grant to clarify whether his party and government wanted the Nannas shut down.
The 'post-election police crackdown', according to Mr Buckingham is 'a ridiculous attack on the democratic right to peaceful protest'.

What happened two days later was entirely predictable.

Image from @CSGFreeNR 11 April 2015 

The Northern Star 11 April 2015:

POLICE moves to stop the Knitting Nannas against Gas staging protests outside Lismore MP Thomas George's office have spawned a huge outcry since the group was told they were breaking the law on Thursday.
But was it a planned move to shut down the regular "knit-ins" - or a case of mistaken identity?
Knitting Nanna Clare Twomey said the Nannas may have been "implicated by association" over a complaint from another protest - not involving the Nannas - during which a female employee of Thomas George's allegedly injured herself while trying to avoid bags of manure.
Local police were not answering questions on the matter yesterday and the Nannas said they had legal advice their protests were within the law.
Ms Twomey said the group had also received overwhelming public support, and the police intervention had only served to fire them up.

Just as predictable was the public slapdown later on that same Saturday of John Barnes by his leader, who is understandably nervous about the party's poor showing at the recent election.

Anti-gas group the Knitting Nannas Against Gas are welcome to continue their regular "knit-ins" outside Lismore MP Thomas George's office NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader Troy Grant has said.
Mr Grant has today issued a statement demanding Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham apologise for suggesting the government wanted to get rid of the Nannas.
The statement follows a furore over a police visit to the Nannas on Thursday, where officers told members of the group they would have to stop their protests outside Lismore MP Thomas George's office.
He said Mr George was out of the electorate when the complaint was made and he had no involvement in it or knowledge of it.
                                Go the Grans! 

Ex-National Party member and local contrarian invites a response on coal seam gas

The Daily Examiner’s letters column was the scene of yet another slap down of a wannabee gadfly last week…

The letter

CSG scare success
I was somewhat taken aback by the successes of the Greens at the state elections. Their scare campaign against coal seam gas mining was clearly successful.
I will not waste time by going over old ground but I do suggest that the State itself commissions a demonstration gas field under the control of an appropriate government body to counter the fear-mongering that threatens the establishment of a much needed industry that will boost the prosperity of the region.
6 April 2015

The response

Scare claim off target
Thomas Macindoe's assertions (DE April 6) that the recent high level of support for the Greens' in Ballina and Lismore was the result of a "scare campaign", is just plain wrong.
In fact I'd describe it as a truth dissemination exercise, and the fact that the Government and mining industry could not debunk that campaign was that they knew the anti-gas campaigners were right.
Thomas' comments were simply parroting those made the previous week by our local member trying to explain the 15% drop in his own vote, and can be excused as ignorance, something that cannot be said for Mr Gulaptis, who is in full possession of all the facts.
The suggestion that the government should set up a gas field, independent of the industry, to prove that unconventional gas mining is safe, is ridiculous. We already have two closely monitored gas fields under construction in NSW, one near Gloucester, and the other at Pilligar, and both operators have already been found guilty of polluting underground water supplies; supposedly banned BTEX chemicals turning up in water in the Gloucester operation, and Uranium in an aquifer in the Pilligar.
Further to that, the NSW chief scientist and engineer spent over a year investigating all aspects of the unconventional gas industry, at the government's behest, and found that the industry did pose risks, and that there would be negative consequences.
In Queensland, pollution events, fires, massive 'draw-down' of water in peoples bores, and methane pollution of bores that can be set on fire, have all been reported in the media, including 60 Minutes and other reputable sources. Fugitive gas emissions seeping out of the ground as a result of Hydraulic Fracturing, has seen levels of methane in the gas fields up to 5 times normal levels (see Southern Cross University research), that resulted in reports of health problems among children living in those gas fields.
Most if not all those families that suffered ill health have now been bought out by the industry, with convenient confidentiality clauses ensuring that there is still no recorded evidence linking their ill-health to the elevated gas levels.
The Nationals' loss of electoral support had nothing to do with a scare campaign, and everything to do with their failure to represent their constituents.
South Grafton
9 April 2015

CSG a real worry
I am writing to respond the Mr Macindoe's letter in the DEX on Monday.
I am not sure what planet Thomas Macindoe has been living on for the past few years as there is simply no excuse to be so ignorant about the CSG issue.
With modern technology you can do your own research on anything or anyone.
To accuse the Greens of running a scare campaign is ludicrous when both the NSW Farmers and NSW CWA both came out publicly against CSG way before the NSW election.
The NSW Farmers also ran a campaign against the Nationals in the NSW election which beggars belief when farmers were once the life blood of the National Party. Even our former Governor General Marie Bashir has gone public against CSG.
And if that isn't convincing enough a world wide 'Go Fossil Free' campaign has already seen 180 institutions including universities and churches sell off their investments in coal, oil and gas in the UK and Australia.
Still not persuaded to sell your shares Mr Macindoe?
Maybe this might convince you.
Leading financial groups including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Standard and Poor's have also warned of the risk posed to fossil fuel investments by action on climate change.
A series of large funds and world banks have excluded coal and other highly polluting companies, including the world's largest sovereign wealth fund in Norway, which revealed it had dozens of coal companies earlier this year.
And finally last year, Rockefeller's withdrew their funds from fossil fuels.
Perhaps now the election is over you can stop believing all the National Party propaganda as well and do your own research. I hear the Yamba library has cheap wi-fi if you're not connected to the internet.
10 April 2015

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Monsanto, Roundup and probability of cancer

East Bay Express 15 April 2015:

On March 20, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reclassified glyphosate as a chemical that probably causes cancer. The IARC is a branch of the World Health Organization that focuses on cancer, and it combines the knowledge and expertise of epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, and biostatisticians. The IARC has been engaged in cancer research for more than five decades, and its vast experience in cancer research has led the agency to conclude that "most cancers are, directly or indirectly, linked to environmental factors and thus are preventable."

The IARC had previously designated glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic. Monsanto, a leading producer of glyphosate under the trade name Roundup, immediately issued a press release challenging the new IARC designation and contending that Roundup is safe. But Monsanto has a tremendous amount at stake. Half of the corporation's revenues come from sales of Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds, which can tolerate the herbicide. Monsanto advocates that farmers spray their fields heavily and repeatedly with Roundup in order to kill unwanted weeds, and Monsanto's corporate strategy is based on the assumption that Roundup is safe. If Roundup is found to be toxic, the entire house of cards comes tumbling down, and with it, Monsanto and biotech agriculture. The banning of glyphosate could mean bankruptcy for Monsanto.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Two national political opinion polls begun one day apart - two markedly different results

Two national political opinion telephone polls begun one day apart with two markedly different results made for some confusing headlines this week.

The clue may be in the mix of days of the week on which each poll was conducted, the fact that the first poll would possibly have included a higher number of younger voters due to the inclusion of mobile phone users and, the narrow question range in the second published poll.


Financial Review 13 April 2015:

A promise to spare households more budget cuts, a focus on the economy and a raft of national security announcements has failed to help the Abbott government, with the latest poll showing Labor once more forging a strong lead over the Coalition.

The Ipsos/Fairfax media poll shows Labor leading the Coalition by 54 per cent to 46 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis, an increase from the 51-49 lead Labor held in the last such poll in early March.

Since that poll, the Coalition's primary vote has fallen 3 percentage points to 39 per cent and Labor's has risen 2 points to 38 per cent. The Greens are relatively steady on 13 per cent.

Labor leader Bill Shorten arrested a decline in his own personal ratings that showed up in the last poll. His approval rating was down a point to 42 per cent and his disapproval rating up a point to 44 per cent.

Mr Abbott's approval rating rose 2 points to 34 per cent and his disapproval rating fell 2 points to 60 per cent.

Mr Shorten has stretched his lead over Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister by 3 points. He now leads by 48 per cent to 38 per cent.

The telephone poll of 1404 voters was taken from Thursday night to Saturday night. It follows a busy period in which Mr Abbott has shrugged off the leadership insurrection that dogged him in February and embarked on a blitz of policy announcements and policy launches.

There has been a heavy emphasis on national security as well as the release of the intergenerational report, the tax discussion paper and a focus on multinational tax evasion, an issue on which Labor has seized the initiative..…… for the Coalition is greatest among higher-income households. Among voters with household incomes over $100,000, 49 per cent back Coalition policies and 29 per cent back Labor.

But Labor is more popular among medium and lower-income earners. Among voters from households with between $40,000 and $100,000 in annual income, 36 per cent back the Coalition and 34 per cent back Labor.

Among voters from households with annual income below $40,000, 39 per cent back the Coalition and 41 per cent back Labor.


Channel 9 News 13 April 2015:

Labor continues to hold a two-party preferred lead over the Abbott government but opposition leader Bill Shorten has suffered a slump in ratings, the latest Newspoll shows.

With preferences from the Greens based on the last election, the ALP has a two-party lead of 51 per cent to 49 per cent, the poll conducted for News Corp at the weekend showed.

The Coalition has meanwhile opened a five-point margin over Labor on primary vote to be ahead by 41 per cent to 36 per cent.

The survey of 1172 voters found Mr Shorten's satisfaction fell three points to a 12-month low of 33 per cent while Prime Minister Tony Abbott's satisfaction climbed four points to also sit at 33 per cent……


Essential Research released an opinion poll on 14 April 2015. This survey was conducted online from the 9 to 12 March and is based on 1,002 respondents drawn from a self-managed consumer online panel of over 100,000 members 18 years of age and older. The majority of panel members have been recruited using off line methodologies, effectively ruling out concerns associated with online self-selection.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The little political campaign that couldn't

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) thought it had hit on a good idea - run a small business-based campaign encouraging customers to complain to the Abbott Government about the fact that penalty rates still exist.

This is one of the posters in use during this campaign in New South Wales:

And this, being Australia, is one of the typical responses received:

To add to the amusement a spokesperson for ACCI, Kate Carnell, characterized this form of response as an illegal threat to boycott.

Perhaps Ms. Carnell might like to point out which clause in the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 actually applies to individual citizens letting business owners know they are not amused by the posters in their windows.