Tuesday, 26 July 2016

NT Attorney-General Johan (John) Wessel Elferink's incompetence and possible negligence exposed

Sometime between 8.30 pm on 25 July 2016 and the following morning the Hon Johan (John) Wessel Elferink MLA (pictured left) was removed as the Northern Territory Minister for Correctional Services and Minister for Justice.

However, according to the Dept. of the Chief Minister (2.20pm 26.07.16) to the best of its knowledge he remains NT Attorney-General. 

Elferink also remains listed on NT Government main website as Minister for Children and Families, Minister for Health, Minister for Disability Services and Minister for Mental Health Services.

Here is how this serious issue is being reported in the mainstream media…….

Crikey.com.au, 26 July 2016:

The ABC’s Four Corners program has produced another swift response from government, with Malcolm Turnbull already promising a royal commission into allegations of abuse of children in Northern Territory juvenile detention. But despite protests from authorities that they could not have known what was going on, the abuse was well documented almost a year ago.

In last night’s graphic broadcast, journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna detailed the use of tear gas on six boys held in the Behavioural Management Unit of the Don Dale Youth Detention centre outside of Darwin in August 2014, as well as so-called spit hood head coverings and strapping children to chairs in footage reminiscent of the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay…

The Guardian, 26 July 2016:
Malcolm Turnbull has announced a royal commission following the airing of shocking footage showing the treatment of children at the old Don Dale detention facility in Berrimah, outside Darwin.
The prime minister told ABC radio that like all Australians he was “deeply shocked ... and appalled” at the graphic footage of abuse at the centre, shown by the Four Corners program on Monday.
Four Corners showed shocking vision of instances of apparent abuse of teenage detainees and examined long running issues and instances of mistreatment in the Northern Territory youth justice system. CCTV footage showed the restraint and spit-hooding of one youth, as well as another being stripped and physically held down by guards on more than one occasion.
Turnbull said there was “no question” about the mistreatment of young people as recently as 2014.
He said the Don Dale centre had to be examined specifically but the royal commission would also consider “whether there is a culture that spreads across the detention system in the Northern Territory, whether it was specific to that centre”.
“The important thing is to get to the bottom of what happened at Don Dale, and there may be other matters connected to that to be looked into.”
Asked whether the royal commission would consider the Northern Territory justice system generally, Turnbull said inquiries needed a “clear focus so you get the answers to the specific problem”.
The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, played down the prospect of a broader inquiry, noting “the wider you make it, the longer it takes”.
“We want this to get moving as quickly as possible, to get to a conclusion as quickly as possible. We don’t want this issue to be investigated for years.”
Asked what Nigel Scullion – a Northern Territory senator and Indigenous affairs minister since September 2013 – knew about the mistreatment, Joyce replied “if Nigel Scullion had known about this he would have acted”.
“The issue we had is that we didn’t know about this.”
Turnbull said he had consulted the Northern Territory chief minister, Adam Giles, federal attorney general George Brandis, Scullion and human rights commission president Gillian Triggs, who all agreed the government needed to move swiftly.
He noted the Don Dale centre had been “controversial” in the past and the subject of previous inquiries.
“We will get to the bottom of what happened here: we want to know how this came about, what lessons can be learned from it, why there were inquiries that did not turn up this evidence,” he said.
“We need to expose the cultural problems, the administrative problems that allowed this type of mistreatment to occur,” Turnbull said.
“We need to understand how it was that there were inquiries into Don Dale, as a place where there had been allegations of abuse – there were inquiries, but did not produce the evidence that we’ve seen last night.”
Turnbull said children in detention should be treated humanely, but did not call for Don Dale to be immediately shut down – the centre was moved to the adult jail at Berrimah following the events illustrated on Four Corners. He said the royal commission, to be conducted jointly with the Northern Territory government, would be established and would report as soon as possible.
Patrick Dodson, Labor’s shadow assistant minister for Indigenous affairs, called on the government to take a broader look at the justice system and detention, not just the Don Dale centre.
He said the Northern Territory’s attorney general, John Elferink, should immediately be stood aside until the inquiry took place…..
News Hub, 26 July 2016:
At a press conference today NT Chief Minister Adam Giles announced he had taken over the portfolios of Corrections and Justice from John Elferink, the now former minister responsible for young detainees in the Northern Territory, reports Australian media.
"Can I start by saying that anybody who saw that footage on television last night on Four Corners would undoubtedly describe it as horrific footage. I sat and watched the footage and recognised horror through my eyes," Mr Giles said.
Mr Giles said the footage that aired on ABC's Four Corners had been withheld from him, Mr Elferink and other officials in what he called a "culture of cover-up within the corrections system."
"I think there's been a culture of cover up going on for many-a-long year. The footage we saw last night going back to 2010 - and I predict this has gone on for a very long time."
That said Mr Giles sympathises with the Far North Australian Territory's desire to rid the community of youth crime.
"They've had a gutful of cars getting smashed up, houses getting broken into, people being assaulted. There's no doubt. And the majority of the community is saying let's lock these kids up," he said.

ABC News, 26 July 2016:

The man formerly in charge of the NT's juvenile justice system has a complicated history, which includes making citizens arrests and public altercations.

John Elferink was today sacked as Northern Territory minister for corrections after featuring in the Four Corners report which aired on Monday night, defending the actions of guards at the Don Dale detention centre near Darwin.

"When kids arm themselves with broken glass, when kids arm themselves with metal bars, then reasonable force has to be brought to bear upon them, to subdue them," Mr Elferink said during the program…..

ABC News, 26 July 2016:

The NT Government should not be allowed to play any part in the royal commission into the mistreatment of young offenders at Territory juvenile detention facilities, former chief justice of the Family Court of Australia, Alastair Nicholson, says…..

Mr Turnbull said the royal commission would be held in conjunction with the NT Government but Justice Nicholson said the Territory Government was part of the problem.

"The fact that it's in conjunction with the Northern Territory Government troubles me, because the Northern Territory Government is part of the problem," he said.

"I think that will act as a brake on the freedom of the commission to inquire into what it ought to be inquiring into.

ABC Four Corners program, Australia's Shame, 25 July 2016 can be viewed here.


Chief Minister Adam Giles has now taken over as NT Minister for Correctional Services and Minister for Justice.

This is him on his feet in parliament less than six years ago - forgetting that exclusion from society is the punishment meted out by the courts when sending people to gaol or juveniles to detention and that the correctional system is not supposed to inflict additional punishment by way of harsh treatment or abuse of human rights.

Northern Territory Parliament, Hansard, 19 October 2010:

The recidivism rate is at all-time highs in Australia. The prison system is not teaching anyone anything. People are not afraid to go to gaol. If one of us in this room was deprived of our liberties and placed in a prison system, I am sure we would not like to be there. However, for the majority of the people who go to gaol it is like going on a holiday. Going to gaol is like going to a resort. Going to gaol is like having a reprieve from society as you know it. To have the clean bed, food, meals, $25 a week, Coca-Cola and chip vending machines - why would you not want to be there? More than half the people there do not have this in their normal lives. It encourages people.

I understand there are rules which guide the prisons in Australia and the United Nations, and how we use basic human rights in the treatment of prisoners and so forth. I understand that. What I do not understand is how we are soft, flaccid, and incapable of punishing prisoners in our Corrections system. The soft and flaccid approach of the treatment of prisoners in the Northern Territory is having a detrimental effect on building the social fabric in our towns and, in particular, Alice Springs…..

I would love to be the Corrections minister. It is not the portfolio I really aspire to but, if I was the prisons minister, I would build a big concrete hole and put all the bad criminals in there: ‘Right, you are in the hole, you are not coming out. Start learning about it’. I might break every United Nations’ convention on the rights of the prisoner but, ‘Get in the hole’. The member for Nelson spoke about if you do the wrong thing, you do not go to a course, or you cannot play pool. I am sure every taxpayer in the Northern Territory would like to have a pool table, or be unhappy to know prisoners get pool tables and are paid to do menial tasks.

New Matilda, 28 July 2016:

The man who will lead the Royal Commission into the abuse of children in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory needs no introduction. At least not to Aboriginal people. Chris Graham explains.

Brian Martin, the former NT Supreme Court Chief Justice, achieved infamy among Aboriginal communities in April 2010 when he described five white youths who bashed an Aboriginal man to death in a racially charged drunken rampage as “of otherwise good character”.

The youths – Scott Doody, Timothy Hird, Anton Kloeden, Joshua Spears and Glen Swain – spent the night getting drunk at the local casino, before driving up and down the dry bed of the Todd River, where homeless Aboriginal people sleep.

They abused campers, fired a replica pistol at them, and ran over at least one swag with their vehicle.

Eventually, the boys stopped and kicked to death Kwementyaye Ryder, aged 33, after he threw a bottle at their car as they drove at him.

The killing remains infamous in Alice Springs to this day, in part for the racial motivation behind the attack…..

But the killing is most infamous for the amount of time the five young men ending up serving.

Chief Justice Martin sentenced one of the men to as little as 12 months. The longest time served was four years.

One of Justice Martin’s justifications for the light sentences was that the youths would be caused ‘additional hardship’ in prison, given the overwhelming majority of inmates are Aboriginal.

Following is a story I wrote for the ABC’s Drum site in 2010, while staying in Alice Springs for several months. It should give New Matilda readers some insight to how Brian Martin’s stewardship of the Royal Commission is likely to be greeted by black Territorians.

1 comment:

Humpes said...

I just saw the documentary and i'm shocked
This men John Elferink should locked-up