Thursday 31 July 2014

A secret court suppression order? You have to be joking!

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in December 2013 there were 12.3 million Internet subscribers in Australia, of which 9.6 million connections were for home use.

In practical terms, this meant the odds on keeping secret the super-injunction imposed by court less than two months ago were slim at best.

So it should have come as no surprise that on 30 July 2014 ABC News online, SBS online, Crikey online and The Sydney Morning Herald all reported that a suppression order been released by Wikileaks.

Overseas media picked the story up and quickly parted the veil of secrecy:

The Guardian UK quotes from and gives date of the super-injunction.

MSN Malaysia News names the Australian companies, foreign countries and broad titles of foreign politicians involved, plus other details.

The Malay Mail Online states the number of heads of state and top government officials covered by the suppression order, as well as naming specific individuals in quotes. from Ireland broadly outlines the order.

The Sun Daily from Malaysia outlines the allegations, the number of persons indicted, outlines the suppression order, states the number of foreign politicians and officials covered by the order, mentions some of the politicians/officials titles.

A short Google search based on these articles revealed national/international media reports naming those since charged or other details going back as far as 2007, a still available 2011 Four Corners program on the matter now before the court, video interviews with some of the people who were in that program, a 2011 public statement by the Reserve Bank, as well as the name a journalist from The Age facing contempt of court charges in 2013 for reporting certain facts relating to the matter now before the court.

Hansard records for the Australian Parliament show that the allegations were mentioned/ debated on a number of occasions between 2009 and 2012.

The Abbott Government may wish to keep secret the current matter before the court (as it is obvious from news articles that the issue at hand had its roots back in Iraq in 1998 during the period the Howard Government was in power here) however it would be foolish of it to hope that there will not be mention in the international media of evidence coming before the court on future hearing days.

Because the court, albeit unwittingly, unleashed the Streisand Effect in its full glory and soon there will be nowhere left for the truth to be hidden.


The Guardian 30 July 2014:

Human Rights Watch in New York has been drawn to comment on the Victorian orders, with general counsel Dinah PoKempner saying:
The gag order published by WikiLeaks ... is disturbing on its face as it suggests the Australian government is suppressing reporting of a major corruption scandal to prevent diplomatic embarrassment. The embarrassment of diplomatic partners is not the same thing as a threat to national security, or to the integrity of the judicial process.

The Australian government’s attempts to protect international relations by suppressing details of a sensitive court case in Victoria appeared to have backfired, prompting Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to demand an explanation.
Apparently in response, the Australian government released an extraordinary statement late on Thursday saying that the “Indonesian President and the former president are not the subject” of court proceedings which Australian media outlets are otherwise banned from reporting.
A blanket suppression order prevents Fairfax Media and other Australian outlets reporting the contents of the Victorian Supreme Court case, an affidavit in the case, or even the suppression order itself. The order was sought to protect the reputation of international leaders.
But the order was published on international site WikiLeaks, where it can be read.
After the document was uploaded, Dr Yuhoyono insisted that Australia immediately clarify why his name had been mentioned in such a context.
"I ask that Australia issue a statement that both [former president] Megawati [Sukarnoputri]] and my names are unstained, and so they do not defame other Indonesian officials. We want to hear directly from Australia," Dr Yudhoyono said, as reported by news portal Viva.
Late on Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs put out a statement headlined: “Suppression orders: Securency court proceedings”, saying the case “names a large number of individuals” but that “the naming of such figures in the orders does not imply wrongdoing on their part”.

A taste of things to come with the Abbott Government unemployment policy or the flimsey excuse that will be used by Abbott & Co to further harry the unemployed?

The Guardian reports on a taste of things to come, 29 July 2014:

I applied for 40 jobs in nine minutes…
I've just tested how fast I could meet the 40 job application requirement and it only took me nine minutes, albeit with ready internet access.
Here's how:
I created a profile on job search website You can set up a profile with all your details, including your previous employment history and a resume. I created a fake profile (welcome to the workforce, Mr Fakey McName, former CEO of Awesome Corporation) and uploaded a dummy resume.
I helpfully put a line at the top of my resume to let people know that this was not a serious job application, and included a picture of a kitten in a hat to alleviate any feelings of ill will my fake application might create.
Once you've got your profile, you just need to do a search (I clicked on all "marketing" jobs) and shortlist a bunch of job ads. From your shortlist you can click through to apply for each job. Some job ads take you to their own website and application process – I skipped these, and instead only used job ads that made use of Seek's built-in application system.
Seek allows you to then apply for the job with around two clicks. The details of the job application are sent to your email, which you then have on record in case you might need them for a job seeker diary (not that I'm advocating any rorting of the system, this is purely an academic exercise)….
It's pretty clear that if someone was determined to merely fulfil their 40-job quota, and then concentrate on finding work they would actually like (or not), this new requirement is likely only to create a headache for the people tasked with sorting through job applications.

Liberal Party powerbroker and former Coalition federal minister allegedly caught breaching company law to the tune of $93 million

Liberal Party powerbroker Peter Clarke has admitted giving untrue evidence under oath during a lawsuit that found he and others who controlled $500 million retirement village flop Prime Trust breached their duties, a court has heard.
As Mr Clarke and other directors of the company that ran Prime Trust prepared to face the Federal Court on Monday, it also emerged the Australian Securities and Investments Commission wants the group's founder, Bill Lewski, banned for life from running a company.
In other submissions to the court by directors of Prime Trust's responsible entity, Australian Property Custodian Holdings, Howard-era health minister Michael Wooldridge begged to be spared any penalty because of his ''vast'' and ''profound'' contributions to public life and the company boards on which he has served.
Mr Lewski, who received a $33 million fee at the centre of the Federal Court case, told the court his was ''a serious but not worst-case contravention''.
The Federal Court is to begin hearing arguments on Monday as to what penalties - bans and fines of up to $200,000 - it should impose on Mr Clarke, Dr Wooldridge, Mr Lewski, Mark Butler and Kim Jaques, who were directors of APCH in the lead-up to its collapse in 2010.
In December, Justice Bernard Murphy found that the five businessmen breached their duties as directors of APCH by approving Mr Lewski's $33 million fee, paid in 2007 when Prime Trust listed on the ASX, at the expense of Prime Trust unitholders.
Separately, Mr Lewski, and Prime Trust's lawyers and advisers, face a $100 million lawsuit over a second fee, of $60 million, the trust paid to Mr Lewski for retirement village management rights.

It's been a long hard slog for investors trying to recover any of the $500 million they pumped into retirement village empire Prime Trust, which collapsed in October 2010.
Since then, they've watched with helpless anger as Prime Trust founder Bill Lewski walked away from the wreck with $60 million reaped by selling management rights over the villages - rights the investors say should belong to the trust.
They've been able to do nothing about the decision by Lewski to gift that money to his sons, who are involved with an online betting operation in tax haven the Isle of Man. But the intervention of an Adelaide-based litigation funder this week gives investors hope that perhaps they will see some money shaken loose from Lewski and others involved in the debacle.
A $100 million lawsuit over the management fee, brought against Lewski, other directors including former health minister Michael Wooldridge and their lawyers and advisers, was sitting moribund in the Victorian Supreme Court until Tuesday, when LCM Litigation Fund agreed to back the action.
LCM's move comes as the litigation sector is under unprecedented scrutiny, with calls from Attorney-General George Brandis for a crackdown on the industry because of its ''ethical and moral hazards'' and scrutiny from the Productivity Commission, which has simultaneously proposed more regulation of existing funders and allowing law firms effectively to become litigation funders - something that is currently illegal.
In the stoush over the future of litigation funding, investors, lawyers and funders who stand to profit from legal actions that would otherwise be impossible, clash with company management and defendant lawyers who say funding promotes frivolous lawsuits that would otherwise never have seen the inside of a courtroom.
The writ kicking off the Prime Trust lawsuit had been sitting in the Supreme Court registry for a year, gathering dust. It hadn't been served on any of the defendants, which would normally have killed it off. But with the prospect of a backer emerging, the court gave extra time for it to be served.
''There's been no payment to investors for certainly the last four years,'' says Steve O'Reilly, one of the heads of the Prime Trust Action Group, which represents more than 6300 investors. ''It's just horrendous what the cost has been to investors - not just the financial cost but the human cost. They're really angry and upset that firstly there's no remorse and secondly that money is shifting over to the Isle of Man and it's business as usual.''….

Wednesday 30 July 2014

The NSW Nationals have been whispering about it for quite a while, but this is the first time I have seen it in print

Former Labor MP Janelle Saffin is considering taking on the sitting Nationals MP Kevin Hogan for the federal seat of Page at the next general election.

Snapshot from The Northern Star 29 June 2014

Hat tip to Clarrie Rivers for supplying this.

Rupert Murdoch's plan to cripple public broadcasting in Australia is apparently still on track

A secret study of ABC operations has identified $60 million worth of potential savings, a finding the Abbott government will use to justify a new round of cuts to the broadcaster's budget.
Fairfax Media can also reveal the government is considering issuing directions to the ABC and SBS on managing their budgets - a move that would have the government exert greater influence over the broadcasters' operations.
The proposal is contained in the Abbott government's efficiency study into the ABC and SBS, which cherish their operational independence from government.
The government cut the ABC's budget by $35.5 million over four years in the May budget - a cut the government described as a ''downpayment'' on the results of the efficiency study.
The efficiency study, led by former Seven West Media chief financial officer Peter Lewis, says the government could encourage belt-tightening at the broadcasters by issuing a regular Ministerial Statement of Expectations to the ABC and SBS boards.
The study acknowledges the idea is ''controversial'' and could spark concerns the government is intervening in the ABC and SBS for political reasons….
Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has insisted any future cuts should affect only back-office operations, not programming. ABC and SBS insiders dispute this and argue many of the study's savings proposals - such as moving SBS in with the ABC - are short-sighted and impossible to implement.
Earlier this month the ABC announced it would axe 80 jobs in its international division following the government's termination of funding for its $223 million Australia Network international broadcasting service.

How the Australian Broadcasting Commission competes with the Murdoch media empire according to Crikey on 3 December 2013:

The full extent of the ABC threat to News Corp isn't clear until you closely examine their competing activities.
First there's television, and the years-long saga of the ABC's Asia Pacific service, a national vanity project costing tens of millions a year, which the Howard government begged Jonathan Shier to take on in 2001. After the ABC began producing a reasonable, if low-cost, service, News coveted it for Sky News (of which News Corp has an interest via its holding in one-third owner BSkyB) to improve its international clout at taxpayer expense and tried twice, in 2005 and 2010, to win it, getting knocked back both times, although for very different reasons the second time around.
Then there's ABC News 24, a direct rival to Sky News itself and to News Corp's half-owned Foxtel, which carries Sky News. News 24 reaches about 14% of metropolitan audiences a week, far ahead of Sky News.
And free-to-air: Lachlan Murdoch's Ten Network has been regularly losing its third spot in the evening television ratings to the ABC. The ABC pointed out yesterday that it had lifted its prime-time share to a 14.6 share, up 1 percentage point from 2012 and the best performance of any free-to-air network this year. Ten's share fell and in fact spent all of 2013 behind the ABC, consigning it to fourth in metro markets, while its regional performance was even worse. ABC management has simply outclassed Lachlan's conga line of executives. The former head of ABC TV, Kim Dalton, was behind the suite of programs that enabled the ABC to have programs that viewers wanted to watch when Ten imploded in August of 2012, and continued to slide this year. Lachlan Murdoch has removed two CEOs and is now on his third in three years. Ten's problems are as much his problems as those of the poor decision making by former management.
Lachlan Murdoch also slashed and burnt the previous Ten management's carefully developed news and current affairs presence, at a time when the ABC was strengthening its position as the most trusted source of news for Australians across radio and television, far ahead of commercial broadcasters and newspapers — with News Corp's increasingly biased mastheads bringing up the rear as Australia's least-trusted newspapers.
"Plainly there are good leaks involving government secrets, which embarrass the ALP, and bad leaks, which make life difficult for the Coalition."
The ABC's online iView service is also a threat. It's now the most popular TV replay source online, and it competes directly, and for free, with Foxtel.
ABC Radio also competes directly with Lachlan's DMG radio stations in each state capital; Nova FM only beats the ABC's metropolitan local stations in Brisbane and Perth. And ABC Radio is planning a development that will not be greeted warmly by News or Ten or DMG Australia. Fairfax won't be happy either. In an email to staff two weeks ago, ABC Radio head Kate Dundas revealed that, among a long list of changes and new ideas, were state-based online news editions planned for 2014, a new e-mag for Radio National, a huge revamp of the Triple J Dig multiplatform, and a second online music stream for Classic FM.
Probably the most important will be the first version of the ABC audio player — the audio equivalent of iView. Podcasts for programs such as Conversations (which attracts hundreds of thousands of listeners a month) and RN programs will move to this new player site. ABC Radio Multiplatform also has a lot planned for 2014, with mobile versions of key sites like ABC Rural, Dig Music and ABC Local news sites.

Commercial television networks have leapt on the release of a Department of Communications research paper into Australian media ownership to renew calls for a relaxation of laws on media mergers and acquisitions.
The Abbott government is considering scrapping media ownership laws, including the law which prevents owners from controlling a newspaper, television station and radio station in the same market.
The release of the 78-page study came as Prime Minister Tony Abbott shared a private dinner with Rupert Murdoch at the News Corporation co-chairman's apartment during a busy schedule of meetings in New York.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Tony Abbott's relentless blowing of his own trumpet fails to impress most voters

This is how Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Murdoch press spin Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site negotiations since this passenger plane was downed with loss of all lives on 17 July 2014:

This is the nation and government which actually successfully arranged access to the site:

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 (Bernama) 2014 - Russian President Vladimir Putin has given his assurance to use his influence to enable a Malaysian investigation team to enter the crash site of MH17 to commence investigations into the tragedy.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said in a telephone conversation with Putin today after breaking fast this evening, the Russian President stated that Moscow understood the need to investigate the incident.

"President Putin said he hoped Ukraine President (Petro Poroshenko) would agree to a ceasefire to enable the entry of the investigation team into the site.

"Putin said the party in control of the area wants an objective investigation to be conducted and Putin also said Russia did not have the capacity to shoot down the aircraft," Najib told reporters after receiving the call from Putin.

Earlier, Najib attended a breaking of fast with the media organised by the Communications and Multimedia Ministry at the Al-Muhammadi Mosque compound in Angkasapuri, here.

In the telephone call, the prime minister also told Putin on the need for the investigation team to be allowed into the crash site to start the investigation.

He said the investigation team which comprised Malaysian representatives should be given assurance on safety while carrying out their task.

"I also told Putin that the site should not be tampered before the team begins its investigation," he said.

Asked which party was responsible for the incident, Najib said Malaysia was a victim of an intense geopolitical conflict in the area.

"So that's the one that hangs over the whole attempt to initiate an immediate investigation," he said.

Najib said the group in control of the MH17 crash site and the Ukrainian government must agree to a ceasefire to enable the investigation team to enter the incident site as soon as possible.

"There is a commitment for a ceasefire by both parties but it should be translated into a form of an agreement, and I have informed President Putin that our investigation team has left for Kiev and I want them to be allowed into the area," he said.

On the involvement of some of the world's superpowers in the incident, Najib said the matter was very complex as they had their own and opposing views.

Najib said although he had no plans to visit Kiev on the incident, he was in constant contact with the leaders concerned.

He said today, he had received calls from leaders of several countries including Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, United Nations Secretary-General (UN) Ban Ki-moon and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

On reports that the MH17 plane was shot down and the parties involved should be held responsible, the prime minister said it needed complete investigation based on facts and solid evidence.

He said if the aircraft was shot down, forensic investigations would be able to determine it with ample evidence recovered from the aircraft.

MH17 aircraft, carrying 298 passengers and crew, was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed in Ukraine, near the Russian border, on Thursday.

The Boeing 777 plane left Amsterdam at 12.15pm (local time) on Thursday and was expected to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 6.10am (Malaysian time) on Friday.

Of the 298 passengers on board MH17, 44 were Malaysians.

Malaysia has secured an agreement with Ukrainian separatists, who control the area around the MH17 crash site, to allow a group of international police personnel to enter the area in order to provide protection for international crash investigators.

Pursuant to the earlier agreement between Prime Minister Najib Razak and Alexander Borodai, leader of the separatist forces, Mr Borodai today agreed to allow a deployment of international police personnel to enter the crash site.

Prime Minister Najib has today spoken to the prime ministers of the Netherlands and Australia, and the three grieving countries have agreed to work closely together in deploying police personnel.

68 Malaysian police personnel will leave Kuala Lumpur for the crash site on Wednesday as part of the international deployment.

Under the original three point agreement brokered between Prime Minister Najib and Mr Borodai last week, the Ukrainian separatists agreed to:
1. transfer the black boxes to Malaysia;
2. handover the human remains to international officials;
3. and grant full access to the crash site for international investigators.

So far, international air crash investigators have been unable to properly deploy across the vast crash site in eastern Ukraine and collect evidence due to ongoing security concerns, including continued military activity. Malaysia calls for an immediate cessation of all military activities in and around the crash site.

Malaysia is concerned that these security concerns are preventing full and unfettered access to the site, and therefore a proper, independent investigation from being carried out. Moreover, Malaysia is particularly concerned that some human remains may still be at the crash site.

Malaysian officials are discussing the details of the police deployment with the Netherlands and Australia. Malaysian Foreign Minister, Anifah Aman, has been speaking to his international counterparts and officials from the Ukrainian government on the legal and diplomatic framework for the deployment.

Malaysian Transport Minister, Liow Tiong Lai, has been leading on the MH17 investigation, working closely with the head of the investigation in the Netherlands.


“I am deeply concerned that international investigators have been unable to properly deploy to the crash site because of the volatile security situation. It is imperative that we deploy a full team of investigators to ensure that all the human remains are removed from the site, identified and repatriated. Everyone who was on board MH17 must be afforded proper dignity and respect.

“We also need a full deployment of investigators to have unfettered access to the crash site so we can understand precisely what happened to MH17. I hope that this agreement with Mr Borodai will ensure security on the ground, so the international investigators can conduct their work.

“Three grieving nations have formed a coalition to secure the site. Through our joint deployment of police personnel, the Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia will work together to achieve justice for the victims.”

Because Australian voters are not stupid, Tony Abbott relentless media releases, interviews, press conferences (and News Corp’s shameless propaganda on his behalf) since the downing of Flight MH17 have fallen on somewhat deaf ears when his overall performance is considered and fails to significantly improve the overall Coalition position :

Snapshots from The Daily Telegraph poll of 1,400 people across Australia conducted on 23-25 July 2014 by Galaxy Research

This Newspoll telephone survey conducted for The Australian between 25-27 July 2014 is based on 1,157 interviews across Australia excluding the Northern Territory.

More proof that when Tony Abbott promised "Work Choices, it's dead, it's buried, it's cremated now and forever" he was lying?

More proof that when Tony Abbott promised Work Choices, it's dead, it's buried, it's cremated now and forever he was lying?

The Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government widens its political moves against unions ahead of final consideration of the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014  and Building and Construction Industry (improving productivity) Bill 2013 by both Houses of  the Australian Parliament.

The Australian 28 July 2014:

The Abbott government has asked commonwealth agencies to supply detailed information about contact with unions, ­including during the years Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd were in office, leaked documents reveal.
Unions last night condemned the extraordinary move, but the Attorney-General’s Department said the information was neces­sary in the event the government needed to respond quickly to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. Confidential government documents obtained by the ACTU show agencies have been asked by the Attorney-General’s Department to supply broad-ranging information by Friday about their contact with unions, including documents relating to policy development.
Agencies have been asked to detail the nature and frequency of their consultation with unions on policies and programs, negotiations on workplace relations matters, and any appointments of union officials to government ­positions.
Agencies have been asked whether they made any grants, including research grants, gifts or donations to unions over the past five to 10 years, a period covering the Rudd and Gillard governments as well as John Howard’s final term in office.
The department has also sought information about any significant property transactions between agencies and unions over the past five to 10 years.
The request seeks information about agency contact with all unions, not just the five unions being investigated by the royal commission. Agencies have been asked if they have documents relating to policy development concerning unions and payments made to unions.
They have also been asked if they possess documents that contain “credible allegations’’ of wrongdoing by a commonwealth official, including a minister, agency head, ministerial adviser or public-sector employee in ­relation to a union.
The department asks agencies if they have had direct contact with the royal commission.
In a letter to agencies, the ­Attorney-General’s Department says it was seeking their assistance to identify “potential areas of commonwealth exposure to matters being considered by the royal commission’’.
“So far, the commission has had limited attention on the commonwealth but this could change at any time should an allegation be made about the conduct of a minister, employees, agency or other matter in relation to a trade union, trade union official or member or a spate entity such as a ‘slush fund’,’’ it says.
“In the event that a credible ­allegation were made against the commonwealth, it is important that the commonwealth is able to respond quickly.’’….

Monday 28 July 2014

NSW Labor Conference votes for a CSG Free NSW North Coast on 27 July 2014

One more nail in the coffins of coal seam gas exploration companies with tenements in the NSW Northern Rivers region.
The West Australian 27 July 2014:       

Delegates at the party's state Labor conference backed the motion on Sunday which affects Lismore, Ballina, Clarence and Tweed electorates.
Under a state Labor government, the CSG industry will be banned from the NSW north coast and the Northern Rivers region.
Former federal Labor MP Janelle Saffin told the conference, held in Sydney's Town Hall, that the motion aligned the party's platform with community opposition to CSG mining.
The motion comes after the NSW government in May suspended Metgasco's drilling licence in Bentley, in the state's Northern Rivers region.
The suspension came just days before thousands of protesters were expected to form a blockade at the drill site and up to 800 police officers were detailed to monitor their activities.
Metgasco has filed for a judicial review in the Supreme Court.

Federal Assistant Employment Minister Luke Hartsuyker and Ben Fordham indulge in jobseeker bashing during 2GB interview

Snapshot taken from on 27 July 2014

In Job Seeker Compliance Data released for the March 2014 Quarter there were 858,104 jobseekers receiving unemployment benefits, of which 643,511 were active jobseekers who attended 2.215 million scheduled appointments with employment service providers.

From 1 January to 31 March 2014 Centrelink issued 121,216 Participation Reports (non-compliance), 20 per cent of which involved jobseekers whom the department considered had a reasonable excuse but who did not give prior notice of non-attendance and 15 per cent of which were the jobseeker’s first instance of a participation report.

A reasonable excuse can involve medical issues, caring responsibilities for a sick child or relative, homelessness, transport difficulties, recent bereavement, literacy or language difficulties, legal appointment, court appearance, attending a job interview, doing paid work/found a job, or other circumstances.

Of those jobseekers who failed to attend their usual appointment or did not comply with other requirements, a total of 215,284 had their benefit payment suspended under the new compliance arrangements introduced from 1 July 2011. Non-payment penalty periods generally are for a period of eight weeks.

Out of all those 858,104 registered jobseekers (including school leavers) only 137 refused a suitable job offered and only 183 did not turn up to commence a suitable job.

Yet 2GB radio’s Ben Fordham and the Assistant Minister for Employment in the Abbott Government, Luke Hartsuyker, indulged in some classic jobseeker bashing on Friday 25 July 2014.

With Hartsuyker stating that the reasonable excuse definition was being “toughened" and, not turning up for a scheduled appointment because it was “too hot or too cold or I couldn’t be bothered certainly doesn’t cut it”. For Hartsuyker to so misrepresent what is currently considered a reasonable excuse is extremely dishonest. 

For 2GB to call registered job seekers "dole bludgers" and Fordham to decide that all people who refuse jobs or do not turn up to interviews is because "they just can't be bothered" was dog whistling at its best.

To place job seeking in perspective, in seasonally adjusted terms in February 2014 there were 743,100 unemployed people across Australia of which 218,400 were in New South Wales.

That same month there were 143,600 job vacancies nationally and only 49,600 of these were in New South Wales according to the Australian Bureau of StatisticsLooking at jobs advertised online in the Northern River region it is likely that there were as few as 500-600 job vacancies in that February and most of these would not have been for permanent full-time employment.

Sunday 27 July 2014

Asylum seekers make it to Australian mainland despite Abbott Government policy

According to Australian High Court July 2014 transcripts; outside Australia’s territorial waters on or about 8 June 2014 the Abbott Government intercepted a boat carrying approximately 150 Sri Lankan Tamil men, women and children (of which the youngest appears to be two years of age) allegedly intending to seek asylum in this country. All were taken on board a Customs ship which then moved further out into international waters, allegedly so that Australian officials could at some point transfer them to the custody of Sri Lankan officials.

On 20 June 2014 the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection issues this media release :

The latest weekly update from Operation Sovereign Borders highlights the continued success of the Coalition Government's border protection policies with more than six months having passed without a successful people smuggling venture, and is a reminder to the people smugglers that the same set of policies and resolve they have faced to date will remain on our borders, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison said today…..

The ABC The World Today program reported on Monday 23 June 2014:

TONY ABBOTT: We've stopped the illegal boats, we will ensure that we stop the jihadists as well.

A month later and matters were not going Abbott and Morrison's way.....

ABC News 26 July 2014:

The Government has confirmed it intends to send 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who have held been on a Customs boat to the Curtin Detention Centre in remote WA.
The group of men, women and children left in a boat from India and have spent nearly a month in legal limbo on board the Customs ship, after being intercepted by Australian authorities….

ABC News 26 July 2014:

International law Professor Donald Rothwell says the asylum seekers' legal status remains uncertain.
"Bringing them to the mainland - if that is ultimately their destination - would bring them within the migration zone and it would activate for them a capacity to make asylum claims," he told ABC News 24.
"So we are in quite a fluid situation in terms of the ability of these people to actually make asylum claims under Australian law."
Professor Rothwell says the transfer could open up the possibility of another High Court application “to actually have the rights of these people recognised under international and Australian law".

Scammers posing as Qantas and Virgin Australia appear to be contacting NSW North Coast residents

From the Australian Communications and Media Authority:

SCAM ALERT - Scammers posing as Qantas and Virgin Australia

Consumer Alert: Scammers posing as Qantas and Virgin Australia
The ACMA has received an increase in reports from members of the public about automated voice calls. The call suggests to 'press 1' to claim a loyalty reward or redeem a prize from Qantas, Virgin Australia or similar. These are scam calls.
Where members of the public do 'press 1', they are taken to a human operator who will ask a number of questions, including a request for credit card details.
You should never provide your credit card details under these types of circumstances.
If you receive a call, or repeated calls like this, simply hang up.
For more information on this specific scam, see the ScamWatch alert: Automated scam calls claiming to be from Qantas with bogus holiday win.
You can report phone scams to or by calling 1300 795 995.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Tweet of the Week

Liberal Party nutters at state and federal level out themselves

Politicians are known by the company they keep and members of the Federal Abbott and Victorian Napthine governments are exposing their awful weirdness for all Australia to see.

Brisbane Times online 25 July 2014:

Women who take the pill choose partners who share a similar genetic profile causing them to lose interest in sex and become more likely to be the victim of violent assault and murder.
It is just one of the unconventional theories of Dr Angela Lanfranchi, an American pro-life campaigner who also pushes the debunked link between abortion and breast cancer.
Dr Lanfranchi is set to speak at next month's "World Congress of Families" event in Melbourne where she will share the stage with federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, and a number of Victorian Liberals, including state Attorney-General Robert Clark and anti-abortion campaigner and Victorian upper house MP Bernie Finn....
"In other words, in their relationships they had fewer sexual encounters, wanted sex less and were more likely to engage in infidelity or adultery. Less sex, bad sex and infidelity is a recipe for a bad relationship and conflict that could easily lead to even deadly violence," she wrote.
"Conversely, other studies have shown that men find women who do not take the pill more attractive."
Dr Lanfranchi has also published a "fact sheet" on the four ways the "pill kills", claiming it leads to blood clots, lethal infections, cancer and violent death.....

Friday 25 July 2014

Egyptian court's narrow, religion-based worldview meant Australian journalist Peter Greste was never going to get justice at its hands

The Daily Star Lebanon 22 July 2014:

Agence France Presse

CAIRO: An Egyptian court that jailed three Al-Jazeera journalists for alleged ties with Islamists said on Tuesday that "the devil guided" the group to spread false news defaming the country.
Australian journalist Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were convicted in June of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood and spreading false news that portrayed Egypt as being in a state of "civil war."
Greste and Fahmy received seven-year terms, while Mohamed was jailed for 10 years, in a case that sparked international outrage.
Eleven defendants tried in absentia, including one Dutch and two British journalists, were given 10-year sentences.
"The defendants took advantage of the noble profession of journalism... and turned it from a profession aimed at looking for the truth to a profession aimed at falsifying the truth," the court said in a statement explaining its verdict.
"The devil guided them to use journalism and direct it toward activities against this nation," it said.
Since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the authorities have been incensed by the Qatari network's coverage of their deadly crackdown on his supporters.
They consider Al-Jazeera to be the voice of Qatar, and accuse Doha of backing Morsi's Brotherhood, as the emirate openly denounces the repression of the movement's supporters which has killed more than 1,400 people.
Sixteen of a total of 20 defendants in the trial were Egyptians accused of belonging to the Brotherhood, which the authorities designated a "terrorist organisation" in December.
Foreign defendants were alleged to have collaborated with and assisted their Egyptian co-defendants by providing media material, as well as editing and broadcasting it. [my red bolding]

Daily News Egypt 16 July 2014:

Twenty-one days after the verdict, the Egyptian judiciary issued a response to what their statement called “numerous complaints and inquiries from nongovernmental organisations and human rights activists all around the world”.
“The facts of this case is that the Public Prosecution Office has charged [the defendants] with the crimes that they committed during the duration between 3 October 2013 until 29 December 2013,” read the statement.
The charges listed revolve around the journalists joining and aiding an unnamed “illegal group, the purpose of which is to call for interrupting the provisions of the constitution and the laws, preventing the state’s institutions and public authorities from exercising its works, and infringing upon the personal freedom of citizens”. From the trial, it is clear that the “illegal group” in question is the Muslim Brotherhood, which they are accused of aiding with “material and financial assistance”, and spreading false news to support the Muslim Brotherhood’s position.
Mohamad Elmasry, Visiting Scholar at the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies, an Assistant Professor of Communications at the University of North Alabama, and formerly a professor of journalism and mass communication at the American University in Cairo, said the statement is proof that the government does not respect press freedom.
“There is international consensus among human rights groups and political scientists that Egypt’s trial of Al Jazeera journalists was farcical and politically motivated. As has been extensively documented, the trial presented absolutely no evidence that the journalists presented ‘false’ news or linking them to a terror organisation,” said Elmasry.
“The statement released 14 July by the Egyptian State Information Service is evidence that the Egyptian authorities remain oblivious to basic principles of human rights, freedom, and the rule of law.”
Firstly, it insists the journalists’ crimes began on 3 October, but it fails to mention that the Muslim Brotherhood was not officially made an “illegal group” until 25 December—four days before the journalists’ arrest. It also fails to mention that Greste arrived in the country only two weeks before his arrest, rendering it impossible for him to commit crimes in Egypt before that.
The statement said the role of the prosecutor is “to ascertain whether a case is to be referred to the competent court or not, it has to carry out its duties with the objective of discovering and revealing all the evidence in a crime regardless of whether they are in favour or against the accused.”
But many found the evidence presented confusing and irrelevant.
“Previous court dates have bizarrely included the prosecution showing footage of Sky News Arabia tourism reports, BBC podcasts, songs by Gotye, photo-shopped images of Mohammed Fahmy, Peter Greste’s family photos, and some of Greste’s award-winning work from East Africa,” said Al Jazeera in a statement after a 16 June hearing.
Other evidence included a recorded phone call that was all but inaudible, and Muslim Brotherhood-related literature found in the Marriott suites the journalists had been using as a base of operations.
While the International Cooperation Department’s statement widely cites articles 94 and 96 from the 2014 constitution, which guarantee the independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial, it does not mention articles 70 and 71 which guarantee the freedom of the press and protection against censorship.
The statement reiterates that the journalists were treated exceptionally well in custody. “Relatives of A Jazeera journalists and their lawyers were allowed to visit them numerous times notwithstanding that Law 396/56 regarding prisons do not allow except two visits per month, one regular and the other special,” said the statement, but the journalists themselves have described poor treatment in prison….
The statement by the judiciary widely cites European cases as precedent for the guilty verdict in the Al Jazeera trial, including cases from Austria, Ireland and Switzerland in which the need for security and the ability to fight terrorism trumped press freedom, but neglects the fact that there was no evidence presented that linked the journalists to terrorists.
“In conclusion,” the statement ends, “it is apparent that the convicted three journalists of Al Jazeera English enjoyed all the guarantees embodied within the ambit of the right to fair trial. And their rights and freedoms were never violated or infringed upon at any time. Therefore, it is clear that all the aforementioned complaints were ill-founded.”

Australian expert in community engagement tells Metgasco CEO "he's dreaming"

Gasfield  Free Northern Rivers Media Release, 22 July 2014 :

Senior Australian expert in community engagement tells Metgasco CEO “he’s dreaming”
A senior expert in community engagement, Dr Wendy Sarkissian PhD, has analysed Metgsco’s community engagement policy and come to the conclusion that it is severely flawed and insufficient for Metgasco gaining a social licence to operate in the Northern Rivers.
“As a senior expert experienced in community engagement, I find Metgaso’s Community Relations Policy severely lacking in the fundamentals for successful community engagement. It is laughable that Metgasco’s ‘Community Consultative’ policy was removed from its website a few days after I advised that it was written in Latin,” said community engagement expert, Dr Wendy Sarkissian
“The field of community engagement is well developed, so it is appalling to think that as an ASX listed company, Metgasco is trying to pass off its policy as world’s best practice. While it may be comparable to other gas company’s engagement policies, it is a damning indictment of industry practices if Metgasco thinks providing one-way information and ignoring community concerns amounts to world’s best practice,”
“Marketing and providing information by itself does not amount to community consultation. Community consultation is a two way street that actually involves a dialogue with the community. This involves listening to the community and responding to concerns, clearly something Metgasco has failed to do,”
“Metgasco’s narrow approach to only notify stakeholders living within 2 km of the proposed Rosella drill site ignores the wider impacts invasive gas drilling has on communities and the environment. This unsophisticated and misguided engagement process attempts to ‘contain’ the discussion which means those outside the 2 km are not deemed worthy of consideration. This is a damning indictment of Metgasco’s attitude to the broader community and environment,”
“Metgasco’s CEO Peter Henderson has said previously that it needs a ‘social licence’ to operate and that it would not go where it has no community support. The thousands of people who attended the Bentley Blockade, as well as previous blockades at Glenugie and Doubtful Creek, clearly demonstrate that Metgasco has no social licence. The fact that Metgasco’s licence to drill at Bentley was suspended by the government on the grounds of ‘inadequate community consultation’ attests to this fact,”
“I’d be delighted to speak to the Metgasco board and explain what authentic community engagement looks like. As an expert in this field, I can only reiterate that Metgasco’s dreaming if it thinks it can force itself into the Northern Rivers without genuinely engaging with the community,” concluded Dr Sarkissian.
Wendy Sarkissian 0402 966 284

Thursday 24 July 2014

Pottsville-Black Rocks koala habitat faces new fire risk?

Letter to the editor in The Northern Star on 23 July 2014:

Koalas threatened

Our Pottsville wetlands koalas may have lost a unique opportunity to survive the relentless stressors that have put them on the brink of extinction.
At the recent council meeting councillors voted in favour of supporting the construction and operation of a men's shed on the Black Rocks sports field, which is surrounded by primary koala habitat, at the junction of three koala/wildlife corridors, is a recognised koala breeding hub, and is one of three koala hotspots on the coast.
I commend the invaluable service that men's sheds provide to the community, but believe that it is not appropriate to have a mini-workshop in the middle of such an environmentally sensitive area.
One of the activities proposed is metalwork. This requires the use and storage of such flammable materials as oxy acetylene and LP gas.
The Black Rocks sports field and infrastructure has an established history of vandalism, break and enter, and fire-lighting. As the sports field is situated 300m inside bushland in an isolated location, the men's shed would be an easy target for vandals, with a high risk of fire, explosion and subsequent harm to people, the bushland and the koalas.
I believe that a men's shed belongs within a community hub similar to Tweed Heads, where a men's shed is currently under construction in close proximity to the PCYC, a childcare centre and a bridge club, with a shared security regime in place to protect all facilities.
Let's hope that commonsense prevails and the Pottsville men's shed pursue a more suitable site in the best interests of their members and the koalas (I have identified four possible alternative locations).
Such a decision could pave the way for revegetation of the Black Rocks sports field with koala habitat trees, as recommended by four renowned ecologists.

David Norris

"We now also know that long-suffering NSW taxpayers were going to be footing the bill to keep this industry alive, with no plans for Metgasco to be charged"

The Northern Star 23 July 2014:

Government documents have revealed up to 800 police officers were to be sent to Bentley from May 19 to "ensure public safety" and enable Metgasco to move its drill rig on to the site.
And Metgasco wouldn't have been charged for the police operation, scheduled to continue until June 7....

Senior government officials warned the safety risk to the public and police during the installation of the drill rig would be "high to extreme".
The situation was described as an "unprecedented public order challenge" requiring a "significant deployment of police officers".
The information was released under the Government Information (Public Access) Act….

A NSW Police Force briefing also identified "many risks", including a "catastrophic" risk of litigation.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the documents showed the NSW Police force was to be "used as an exceptionally powerful and expensive private security operation for a resources company".
"Any accountable democratic government would take that as a sign the industry should not go ahead," he said.
"We now also know that long-suffering NSW taxpayers were going to be footing the bill to keep this industry alive, with no plans for Metgasco to be charged."