Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Religious Freedom Review Report: a curate's egg in the hands of an Australian prime minister who doesn't understand the definition of secular or why there is a separation between Church and State


"Australia is not a secular country — it is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose.”  [Scott Morrison, 2007]

“Secular [adj] of or pertaining to the world or things not religious, sacred or spiritual; temporal, worldly.” [Patrick Hanks & Simeon Potter, Encyclopedic World Dictionary, 1971]

On 22 November 2017 then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the appointment of an Expert Panel to examine whether Australian law adequately protects the human right to freedom of religion.

The Panel’s Religious Freedom Review Report was delivered on 18 May 2018, accompanied by a statement that the report was now in the hands of the Prime Minister any government response was a matter for him.

The prime minister of the day is now the Liberal MP for Cook - a nakedly ambitious man who uses his public profession of Christian Pentecostal faith as a political tool.

Until this week the national electorate had no idea what the report might contain. It remained a closely guarded secret.

Which leads one to wonder if the leak which came Fairfax Media’s way is in fact Morrison preparing voters for what at best is highly likely to be proposed legislation which attempts to extend the exemptions religious institutions enjoy when it come to obeying human rights and anti-discrimination law and at worst an attempt to insert church into the heart of state.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 October 2018:

Religious schools would be guaranteed the right to turn away gay students and teachers under changes to federal anti-discrimination laws recommended by the government’s long-awaited review into religious freedom.

However the report, which is still being debated by cabinet despite being handed to the Coalition four months ago, dismisses the notion religious freedom in Australia is in “imminent peril”, and warns against any radical push to let businesses refuse goods and services such as a wedding cake for a gay couple.

The review was commissioned in the wake of last year’s same-sex marriage victory to appease conservative MPs who feared the change would restrict people’s ability to practise their religion freely.

The contents of the report - seen by Fairfax Media - are unlikely to placate conservatives and religious leaders, and will trigger concern within the LGBTI community about the treatment of gay students and teachers.

The report calls for the federal Sex Discrimination Act to be amended to allow religious schools to discriminate against students on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status - something some but not all states already allow.
“There is a wide variety of religious schools in Australia and ... to some school communities, cultivating an environment and ethos which conforms to their religious beliefs is of paramount importance,” the report noted.

“To the extent that this can be done in the context of appropriate safeguards for the rights and mental health of the child, the panel accepts their right to select, or preference, students who uphold the religious convictions of that school community.”

Any change to the law should only apply to new enrolments, the report said. The school would have to have a publicly available policy outlining its position, and should regard the best interests of the child as the “primary consideration of its conduct”.

The panel also agreed that faith-based schools should have some discretion to discriminate in the hiring of teachers on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status…..

The panel did not accept that businesses should be allowed to refuse services on religious grounds, warning this would “unnecessarily encroach on other human rights” and “may cause significant harm to vulnerable groups”.

The review also found civil celebrants should not be entitled to refuse to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies if they became celebrants after it was was legalised.
The review does not recommend any changes to the Marriage Act. Nor does it recommend a dedicated Religious Freedom Act - championed by several major Christian churches - which would have enshrined religious organisations’ exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

“Specifically protecting freedom of religion would be out of step with the treatment of other rights,” the report found.

However it did recommend the government amend the Racial Discrimination Act or create a new Religious Discrimination Act, which would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s religious belief or lack thereof.

The panel said it had heard a broad range of concerns about people’s ability to “manifest their faith publicly without suffering discrimination”.

This included wearing religious symbols and dress at school or work, communicating views based on religious understandings, obtaining goods and services and engaging in public life without fear of discrimination.

The report also recommends federal legislation “to make it clear” that religious schools cannot be forced to lease their facilities for a same-sex marriage, as long as the refusal is made in the name of religious doctrine.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month told Fairfax Media new religious freedom laws were needed to safeguard personal liberty in a changing society.

“Just because things haven’t been a problem in the past doesn’t mean they won’t be a problem in the future,” he said.

While the panel accepted the right of religious school to discriminate against students on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, it could see no justification for a school to discriminate on the basis of race, disability, pregnancy or intersex status.

“Schools should be places of learning, not breeding grounds of prejudice. This looks and feels like a vindictive attempt to punish LGBTI people for achieving marriage equality."  [just.equal spokesperson Rodney Croome, 2018]

As is usual for this prime minister, Morrison fronted the media with half-truths and misdirection about the Religious Freedom Review Reportimplying that the contentious matters within the report were already uniformly codified in law across all the states.

This is far from the truth.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Quotes of the Week


“There are some people who seem to find it a very funny circumstance that last week, in full daylight, and in a main street of Cooktown, two black troopers, with their clothes in the same condition as those of a clumsy butcher’s apprentice, fresh from the shambles, exhibited a naked black girl, not twelve years old, as their newly caught prize. This young slave, taken by force . . . has since been transferred, either for payment or as a gift, to a citizen in this town, whose property she has now become. What were the circumstances that attended, or immediately followed, her capture we do not know, nor do we very much care to inquire ...”  [ Journalist & author Carl Feilberg writing in the Cooktown Courier in January 1877 ]


“Adding a new level of fear and uncertainty onto that with the findings coming out of a royal commission is going to harm the community as well as the industry,”  [CEO Clarence Village Ltd Duncan McKimm acting as an apologist for the aged care industry in The Daily Examiner ahead of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety]


Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Aged Care in Australia 2018: why government and the aged care industry make one want to weep in frustration


"The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members." [Attributed to Mahatma Ghandhi]

A little over five months ago the ABC program "4 Corners" asked people to contact its office to talk about their experience of the aged care system as staff, client or family member of an older person. 

Over four thousand Australians responded and the "Who Cares?" episode was produced and then aired on national television on 17 September 2018.

The day before this episode was scheduled for viewing Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison made a rush announcement of a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety - no terms of reference and no start date specified.

This royal commission if it goes forward this year will be the 21st review of the aged care system since 1997 - that's 21 reviews in 21 years.

Twenty-one years in which not one federal or state government has come to grips with the fact that there is a two-tier care system in operation based on the older person's ability to pay.

This plays out almost as apartheid in many aged care facilities, with separate wings in the building/s, separate nursing & other staff, separate meal choices and recreational activities.

It is also twenty-one more years in which older people of limited means have been almost warehoused. Receiving at best what can only be described as benign neglect and at worst extreme abuse.

No-one appears to being asking why so many older people entering residential care die within four years of admission (with death occurring on average around 2.5 years after admission) and why there is such a high percentage of premature deaths.

The incidence of premature and therefore potentially preventable death from the 11 principal external causes identified in a 2016 epidemiological analysis is apparently not going down over time and over the last ten or so years appears to be rising.

For over two decades registered charities, consumer groups and government watchdogs have never truly comes to grips with the basic realities of this two-tier care system.

A system which sees vulnerable older people verbally abused, threatened, physically beaten and deliberately denied appropriate basic care - reports of which can be found in the records of the federal Health Care Complaints Commission, state agencies such as the Nurses and Midwifery Council of New South Wales and in the media.

The day after the "4 Corners" program went to air, one representative of a registered charity which purports to represent older Australians was on national television condemning the types of abuse revealed in this program.

However, in the next breath - and almost in denial of such widespread abuse - he was talking about the need to understand why there was also excellent care in the aged care system and how residential aged care providers which meet or exceed Commonwealth aged care standards need to be rewarded.

He talked about some aged care providers being "world class" until the interviewer brought him back to looking at the ugly truth of the situation.

He was not alone in demonstrating how difficult it is for those associated with aged care to steadily fix their gaze on this seriously flawed system and insist that it be genuinely reformed.

It is hard not to see Scott Morrison's announcement of a royal commission as one meant to pre-empt the "4 Corners" program ahead of the Wentworth by-election on 20 October 2018 - given that the Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care & Liberal MP for Hasluck Ken Wyatt appeared lukewarm about the need for a royal commission into the aged care system just last month and, in the face of contrary evidence the Prime Minister continues to deny the controversial federal funding cuts to the sector by way a tweak of the Aged Care Funding Instrument to the tune of $1.2 billion in efficiency savings in the 2018-19 Budget.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Quote of the Week



We have lost our moral compass as a nation. And our new PM has been a huge part of the problem.  [Director of Legal Advocacy at Human Rights Law Centre Daniel Webb, Twitter, 31 August 2018]


Thursday, 23 August 2018

“Sneaky laws which declare you as guilty in the eyes of the law the minute the police say you are guilty” - Turnbull Government legislative overreach continues in 2018?



Sydney Criminal Lawyers, 16 August 2018:

A Senate committee has just given the Turnbull government the green light to nationalise a scheme that allows government to seize citizens’ assets unless their legitimate origins can be explained, even if the owner of the wealth hasn’t been charged with let alone convicted of an offence.

On 6 August, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee recommended that the federal government pass the Unexplained Wealth Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 without any changes.

Unexplained wealth laws currently exist in every Australian jurisdiction, but the new scheme provides a broader model allowing for federal and state authorities to work in collaboration across jurisdictional borders to target serious and organised crime.
“The scale and complexity of this criminal threat has necessitated an enhanced focus on cooperative, cross-jurisdictional responses by Australian governments,” home affairs minister Peter Dutton said in the second reading speech of the bill.

However, critics of the scheme warn that existing unexplained wealth laws undermine the rule of law and broadening their scope will lead to a further erosion of civil liberties. And while these laws are meant to target untouchable crime bosses, they’re actually being used against petty criminals.

Presumption of guilt

“These beefed-up laws bring down all the secret surveillance and the swapping of scuttlebutt masquerading as intelligence on everyone in Australia,” Civil Liberties Australia CEO Bill Rowlings told Sydney Criminal Lawyers.

“The unexplained wealth laws completely overturn the presumption of innocence, which is part of our rule of law in Australia,” he continued. “They are sneaky laws which declare you as guilty in the eyes of the law the minute the police say you are guilty.”

Unexplained wealth laws are a recent development in Australia. But, unlike other proceeds of crime laws that allow for the confiscation of assets derived from prosecuted criminal acts, unexplained wealth places the onus upon the individual to prove their wealth was legally acquired.

“People don’t understand, under these laws the government can confiscate your assets even if you haven’t been found guilty of anything,” Mr Rowlings stressed.

Broadening the reach

The current Commonwealth unexplained wealth laws were introduced in 2010 via amendments made to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (Cth) (the Act).

These laws apply where there are “reasonable grounds to suspect” an individual’s assets have been derived from a committed federal offence, “a foreign indictable offence or a state offence that has a federal aspect.”

There are three sorts of orders that can be sought in relation to unexplained wealth. Section 20A of the Act provides that a court can issue an unexplained wealth restraining order, which is an interim order that restricts an individual’s ability to dispose of property.

Section 179B of the Act allows for the issuance of a preliminary order, which requires a person to appear in court to prove their wealth is legitimate. And under section 179E, an order can be issued requiring that the payment of an amount of wealth deemed unlawful be made to the government.

The new legislation amends sections 20A and 179E, so that these orders can be issued in respect to relevant offences of participating states, as well as in relation to territory offences. Relevant state offences will be outlined in state legislation that enables participation in the national scheme.

Sharing it around

The legislation broadens the access authorities have to an individual’s banking information in relation to an unexplained wealth investigation.

Section 213 of the Act allows certain authorised Commonwealth officers to issue access notices to financial institutions. This provision will now be extended to states and territory law enforcement agencies.

Proposed section 297C of the Act outlines how federal, state and territory governments will divvy up the seized wealth. A subcommittee will be established to distribute the money. And while any state that opts out of the scheme will be eligible for a share, it will be a less favourable amount.

The legislation also makes amendments to the sharing of information provisions contained in the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979.…..

Backdoor revenue raising

The NSW government has already introduced legislation into parliament, which enables that state to participate in the national scheme. The legislation sets out that the relevant offences the laws apply to are set out in section 6(2) of the Criminal Assets Recovery Act 1990.

NSW police minister Troy Grant told parliament that the legislation allows the state to refer matters to the Commonwealth, which then authorises the Australian federal police to use certain NSW offences as a basis for the confiscation of unexplained wealth.

But, Mr Rowlings states that the nationalising of the scheme will actually streamline a process that sees the unwarranted confiscation of wealth to prop up government coffers.

“The cash seized is paying for extra government lawyers to help seize more cash,” Mr Rowlings made clear, “so it’s a devious upward spiral where more and more unconvicted people will have their assets taken, and then have to prove their innocence or the government gets their assets.”

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Australia’s Border Farce lives down to its nickname


Minister for Home Affairs and Liberal MP for Dickson Peter Dutton’s poor oversight and lack of managerial skills is on display for all to see…….


The benefits of the merger of the Immigration and Customs departments and creation of Australian Border Force  haven't been proven and promised increased revenue hasn't materialised, a damning audit report has found.

While the Department of Immigration and Border Protection did achieve the merger effectively, it "is not in a position to provide the government with assurance that the claimed benefits of integration have been achieved," the report said.

The merger of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service took place in 2015, with its functions now covered under the Department of Home Affairs. Controversial at the time, it heralded a move to focus more on guarding the country's borders over resettlement and migration.

In the business case for the merger, the department committed to a "Benefits Realisation Plan," but because the plan was not implemented, the claimed benefits have not been measured and can't be demonstrated, the report said.

While the business case for the integration of the departments promised an increase in revenue from customs duty, less than half of the promised revenue increase has materialised. At the end of 2017, just 42.2 per cent of the extra revenue committed to had been achieved, and the report predicted that at the current rate just 31.6 per cent of the additional revenue promised would be delivered.

When the merger was announced, then immigration minister Scott Morrison promised "hundreds of millions in savings" would be reinvested back into the agency.
Auditor-general Grant Herir slammed the department's record keeping, which the department admitted was in a "critically poor state," and said there was no evidence that the Minister Peter Dutton was given written briefings on the progress of the integration of the departments.

In its response, the Department of Home Affairs acknowledged it had issues with record keeping and committed to making improvements a priority. The report didn't look on this commitment favourably though, pointing to more than 10 years of audits and reviews that have made similar findings.

The problems and their solutions are known to the department, and it has an action plan to address them, although numerous previous attempts to do so have not been successful," it said.

The report also found that the department experienced a loss of corporate memory through the merger.

"Almost half of SES officers present in July 2015 [were] no longer in the department at July 2017," it said.

The report also found that out of 33 consultancy contracts with values of more than $1 million, just 2 were evaluated for value for money, meaning that it was unclear if the other 31 contracts had been value for money.

Spending on consultancy in the department more than doubled in the years after the merger, topping more than $50 million in each of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 financial years…..

The Age, 19 June 2018:

The multimillion-dollar college that trains Australia’s border security personnel has “overpromised and underdelivered” and immigration and customs officials have repeatedly abused their powers, a scathing report has found.

The government-commissioned findings also said many department staff lack the training needed to perform their jobs and “jaws of death” have gripped officials struggling to complete more work with fewer resources.

In May 2014 the Coalition Abbott government controversially announced the creation of the Australian Border Force (ABF), as part of a merger of customs and immigration border operations. Crucial to the new super-charged agency was the establishment of the ABF College, with multiple campuses, to ensure recruits and existing staff “have the right skills to do their jobs”.

Under the former department of immigration and border protection, consultants RAND Australia were asked to evaluate the progress of the merger, ahead of the creation of the Home Affairs portfolio in December last year which combined immigration, border protection, law enforcement and intelligence.

The findings concluded that “clear and unequivocal” progress has been made towards building a “modern border management capability”.

However, success had been “uneven” and in particular, the ABF College “largely remains a disappointment to senior leaders across the department”.

The report involved interviews with senior department officials, who cited concern that the college’s curriculum was “not adequate for actual training needs”.

The college’s use of technology was poor and, in many cases, was used to “automate bad learning environments” rather than improve training.

The college was supposed to train staff across the department, however many officials were not given time to attend courses.

Overall, the college and other training opportunities in the department “overpromised and underdelivered to the detriment of the workforce and the morale”.

One senior official was so frustrated at the problems that he suspended a board examining the issues “until new terms of reference and fresh ideas were developed”.
The report is dated 2018 but it is not clear exactly when it was finalised. The Department of Home Affairs did not answer questions from Fairfax Media on how much had been spent on the college and where its campuses were located. Officials have previously said the 2014-15 budget included $54 million to establish the college and other training measures, and that several campuses would be established including in Sydney and Canberra.

Across the department’s broader workforce, senior officials said staff in many cases lacked “the capability to do the work required of their assigned positions”.

This included customs and immigration investigators “not understanding the law, use of force protocols, and rules of engagement” which in some cases led to “abuse of power,” the report said.

One official said field compliance officers “were doing dangerous jobs without proper training” and another described a junior officer who was “unable to manage shipboard operations due to a lack of proper training and experience”.

Department staff described being held in the “jaws of death” as they juggled an increased workload and declining resources. Senior officials repeatedly raised concern that the ABF received more resources than other divisions but “has not been subjected to the same level of scrutiny”….

As a local member it appears that Dutton is also having ‘workforce’ issues ahead of the forthcoming federal election…..

www.peterdutton.com.au as of 20 June 2018:

Peter is working hard but could use your help.
If you can spare an hour or two to help Peter in Dickson, please join the team.

The most shameful evidence of Peter Dutton's management style is found when one condiders that as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection since 23 December 2014, he currently has ultimate responsibility for the welfare of asylum seekers held in custody. 

Bringing the total number of deaths in onshore or offshore detention and in the community to est. 64 people since January 2000. 

That is the equivilant of almost four deaths each year on Peter Dutton's watch and around three deaths per year overall.

According to MSN on 21 June 2018; There are nearly 700 men currently in detention on Papua New Guinea, and more than 900 men, women and children on Nauru.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners: "We're on the frontline defending our lands against Adani" and we ask your help


From: Adrian Burragubba - via CommunityRun <info@getup.org.au>
Date: Thu, May 24, 2018 at 5:46 PM
Subject: We're on the frontline defending our lands against Adani
To: [redacted]


This is a message from the leaders of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners. They are the Traditional Owners of the land where mining giant Adani want to build the Carmichael coal mine. Your details haven't been shared with anyone.

Dear [redacted],

We are leaders of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners. We're the people on the frontline defending our ancestral lands in the fight against Adani's destructive coal mine.

Our people have said no four times to a miserly land deal offered by Adani in exchange for the destruction of our homelands. We have been opposing Adani and holding them off since 2012.

Our resistance has nothing to do with dollars. No amount of money or promises from a deceitful corporation can stop us standing strong in defence of Wangan and Jagalingou lands and waters and sacred sites.

But Adani are ruthless. They have used the dirtiest tactics to undermine our right to say no, and manufacture a phony "Indigenous Land Use Agreement".

Right now we're fighting against Adani's shoddy tactics and their sham "agreement" in court. The judge could hand down a decision any day now. But it won't end there.

Can you sign our petition to stand with us against Adani?

We are willing to fight Adani all the way to the High Court to protect our environment and sacred sites. We are working for a positive future for our people on our country. We won't stand by and watch its destruction for coal.

Adani are relentlessly pressuring the Queensland government to clear our Native Title rights out of the way — and as the clock ticks and Adani gets more desperate, it will only intensify.

So we need to show Adani and our Governments that they can't fake or force our consent.

We have never given our consent to Adani to destroy our country, and we never will. Our land is our living law; we are connected to it through our ancestors and our culture. Without it we will cease to exist as a people.

Our people have been leading a courageous fight against a cashed-up mining giant with politicians in its pockets, and top end of town lawyers to argue away its collusion, bad faith and dishonesty.

We're calling time on this. It's time for Adani to walk away.

Sign our petition to tell Adani No means No.

Adani can't keep bullying us, or pretending they have our consent. Consent is written in our hearts and minds, and the truth is we have said no. Time and again.

And we shouldn't have to keep saying it. Adani haven't been able to put money on the table for this project or even say when they'll start digging. They've given nothing to our people, or to the people of Queensland and Australia, except a bunch of false promises. The smart money and honest commentators know Adani's Carmichael mine is going nowhere.

But still our rights are at extreme risk. The Queensland Government could yield to this corrupt polluting corporation and "legally" rip up our Native Title, just so they can say they have their final "approval".

We continue to hold the line and have many tens of thousands of supporters in Australia and around the world, but we need more. We need to build a more powerful movement, standing in solidarity with us, to take on Adani's wealth, political influence and dirty tricks.

Sign our petition to support our fight against Adani.

We are in the fight of our lives. Adani have shown a relentless determination to use unjust legal maneouvres to trample our rights. But this fight is bigger than Adani. It's about the rights that all Aboriginal people have to say no to dirty extractive industries that profit from our traditional homelands. It's about our right under international law to be free from discrimination, and to choose our own economic future.

We have a vision for our people that's sustainable. We want economic independence, and to make a future on our country that is respectful of the land and uplifting for our people. We want to invest in solar energy and other new clean enterprises. We don't want scraps from a corrupt corporation looking to profit from the permanent destruction of our culture, or meagre handouts and low paid dirty jobs that require us to give up our human rights.

When we say No to Adani, we mean No. We hope you'll stand with us.

Support our fight: http://wanganjagalingou.com.au/our-fight/

Adrian Burragubba, cultural leader and senior spokesperson
with Murrawah Johnson, Youth spokesperson
and Linda Bobongie, W&J Council Chairperson

for the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners Council


Adrian Burragubba

CommunityRun is a new online organisation that lets anyone start, run and win their own campaigns. It receives no political party or government funding and is not affiliated with any political party. To unsubscribe from CommunityRun updates, please visit here or visit http://www.getup.org.au/unsubscribe?cr=true. To unsubscribe from individual CommunityRun campaigns, please visit www.communityrun.org.
Our team acknowledges that we meet and work on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. We wish to pay respect to their Elders - past, present and future - and acknowledge the important role all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within Australia and the GetUp community.
Authorised by Paul Oosting, Level 14, 338 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Another asylum seeker death on Manus Island


There have been three deaths of asylum seekers held in Australian off shore detention in the last nine months - one on Nauru and two on Manus Island - according to Border Crossing Observatory.

This recent death brings the count to four.

UNHCR: The United Nations Refugee Agency, media release, 22 May 2018:

UNHCR Statement
By UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra  22 May 2018

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is profoundly saddened by the death of a Rohingya refugee on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, today. The tragic loss of yet another vulnerable person under Australian ‘offshore processing’ again underscores the need for proper care and immediate solutions.

“With the passage of too many years and the withdrawal or reduction of essential services, the already critical situation for refugees most in need continues to deteriorate,” said Nai Jit Lam, UNHCR’s Deputy Regional Representative in Canberra. “Australia’s responsibility for those who have sought its protection remains unchanged. Our thoughts and condolences are with the man’s family today.”

UNHCR renews its call for the Government of Australia to take immediate action to provide assistance and solutions, and to avert further harm and tragedy. Comprehensive, intensive support for refugees and asylum-seekers remains desperately needed in both Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The national authorities of both countries lack the means and infrastructure to address growing needs.

UNHCR is continuing to seek further information from the Governments of Australia and Papua New Guinea respectively.

UNHCR Regional Representation in Canberra
UNHCR’s Regional Representation is based in Canberra, and is responsible for the promotion and protection of refugee rights in Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.


The Guardian, 22 May 2018:

A Rohingya refugee has died in a violent motor vehicle incident on Manus Island.

The man was witnessed “coming out of a moving vehicle”, according to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, and suffered “very serious head injuries”.

He died at the scene, the organisation said. “It is not know who else was in the vehicle.”

The man, whose identity is not being released until his family is notified, had a long history of physical and mental illness and had been on Manus for more than five years.

A few years ago he was sent to Australia for medical treatment but was returned, according to the journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani.

Boochani said the other refugees had been aware of his illness. They were “deeply saddened and horrified at the news of another friend’s death”.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

AUSTRALIA 2018: Turnbull Government continues to hammer the vulnerable


Remember when reading this that the Turnbull Government is still intending to proceed with its planned further corporate tax cuts reportedly worth an est. $65 billion. Compare this policy with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding in Budget 2018-19 which is $43 billion over four years and no dedicated NDIS funding stream established as had been previously promised.

Australian Federation of Disability Organisations & Summer Foundation, media release, 14 May 2018:

JOINT STATEMENT ON THE NDIA’S SPECIALIST DISABILITY ACCOMMODATION PROVIDER AND INVESTOR BRIEF

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) presented its latest policy position for Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) in a statement to the provider and investor market on 24 April.

People with disabilities and developers of innovative housing for people with disabilities are pleased the NDIA has reiterated the government’s commitment to SDA in its SDA Provider and Investor Brief. The NDIA has confirmed that the SDA funding model is here to stay.

However, the NDIA’s SDA Brief expresses a vision for SDA housing with a clear bias toward shared models of housing for people with disability, presumably to reduce support costs. This is unacceptable. You can read our joint statement here (A Rich text format is available here).

You can read the Summer Foundation’s summary of the SDA Brief here.

The Australian, 16 May 2018:

The executives of the flagship ­National Disability Insurance Scheme, which received guaranteed funding worth tens of billions of dollars in last week’s budget, have launched a crackdown on support funding to keep a lid on ballooning costs.

The razor is being taken to hundreds, possibly thousands, of ­annual support plans as they come up for review, demonstrating a new hawkish approach from ­National Disability Insurance Agency bosses but resulting in the loss of funding and support for vulnerable families. In many cases, support packages for families have been cut by half.

The early years of the $22 billion program’s rollout saw wild variability in the value and type of support being granted to participants, forcing executives to come up with a way to claw back funding that has “an impact on sustainability”. In the process, people with disabilities and their families have been shocked by sudden reversals of fortune….

In its quarterly report, the NDIA noted there was a “mismatch” between reference packages — rough cookie-cutter guides for how much packages ought to be in normal circumstances — and the value of annual support packages which affected the financial sustainability of the scheme.

“The management’s response to this is to closely ensure that significant variations away from reference amounts (above and below) are closely monitored and justified,” a spokesman said.

“Reference packages are not used as a tool to reduce package amounts to below what is reasonable and necessary. Individual circumstances are considered in determining budgets, including goals and aspirations.

“A reference package does not restrict the amount or range of support provided to a participant, but acts as a starting point for planners to use for similar cohorts. It provides amounts that are suitable for a given level of support needs that has been adjusted for individual circumstances.”

The agency has claimed the implementation of this process has started to reduce funding blowouts and a hearing into the scheme by federal parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS last Friday heard startling evidence about how widespread the new approach is.

Donna Law, whose 21-year-old son has severe disabilities, was told by an NDIS planner: “Donna, watch out because your son’s next plan is going to be cut by about half.”

Clare Steve had funding cut in half by the NDIA and wanted to do another review.
“I spoke to multiple people, because no one would actually give me the paperwork to do the next lot of reviewing,” Ms Steve told the hearing.

“I was told by multiple people that it was a mistake: ‘Do not go for another review.
“If you go for another review, you could get your funding cut again’.”

ABC News, 19 May 2018:

Bureaucrats are reportedly working on a strategy to curb costs by tightening up the eligibility requirements after a blowout in the number families seeking NDIS support packages for people with autism.

ABC News, 19 May 2018:

Last December, Sam's case was one of about 14,000 sitting in the NDIS's review backlog, according to a damning ombudsman's report this week. Then, about 140,000 participants were in the scheme.

The review queue has since shrunk, but the agency in charge of the world-first scheme — a Commonwealth department known as the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) — still receives about 640 review requests each week.

Some of those requests do not reflect badly on the NDIA. People can request an unscheduled review if their circumstances change, for example if their condition improves.

But the agency often is culpable when it comes to another type of review, known as an internal review. People ask for these when they disagree with the plan and funding package they are given.

Some reviews come from people who feel short-changed, given the state government support they previously received, or because of the high expectations associated with the scheme.

But the Government is also to blame. The NDIS's full-scheme launch in mid-2016 was a disaster. The computer system failed. A backlog of NDIS applications quickly emerged.

Plans were then often completed over the phone and rushed. Key staff lacked training and experience. There was little consistency in the decisions being made.

The scheme's IT system remains hopeless, and elements of its bureaucracy are not much better, according to the watchdog's report.

The agency accepted all 20 of the ombudsman's recommendations, and Social Services Minister Dan Tehan said work was underway to bust the backlog "over coming months".


* In February 2018, the NDIA advised around 8,100 reviews remained in the backlog and the national backlog team was clearing around 200 reviews each week. The NDIA also advised it continues to receive around 620 new review requests each week, which are handled by regional review staff.

* We have received complaints about the NDIA’s handling of participant-initiated requests for review. In particular, these complaints concern the NDIA: (1) not acknowledging requests for review; (2) not responding to enquiries about the status of a request; or (3) actioning requests for an internal review as requests for a plan review.

*Participants also complained they had sought updates on the receipt and/or progress of their requests by calling the Contact Centre and by telephoning or emailing local staff. They reported not receiving a response, leaving messages that were not returned and being told someone would contact them—but no one did.

* In our view, the absence of clear guidance to staff about the need to acknowledge receipt of review requests is concerning. Indeed, the large number of complaints to our Office where complainants are unclear about the status of their review indicates the lack of a standardised approach to acknowledgements is driving additional, unnecessary contact with both the NDIA and our Office.

* Our Office monitors and reports on complaint themes each quarter. Review delays was the top complaint issue for all four quarters in 2017.

* Some participants have told us they have been waiting for up to eight or nine months for a decision on their review request, without any update on its progress or explanation of the time taken.

In some instances, the participant’s existing plan has expired before the NDIA has made a decision on their request for review. As review decisions can only be made prospectively, it can mean a participant must go through the whole process for the new (routinely reviewed) plan if they remain unhappy.