by Alan Thornhill
Australian lawyers are leading a campaign to protect people held in detention centres like Nauru from abuse.
This follows the leaking, earlier this week, of documents apparently detailing more than 2,000 cases of abuse on Nauru.
The lawyers are being supported, in their campaign, by social service workers and international human rights activists.
They launched their latest action by issuing a two page statement calling for Independent oversight of immigration detention and border protection laws.
In its statement, the Law Council of Australia said it had consistently stated that Australia retains responsibility for the health and safety of asylum seekers transferred to other countries for offshore processing and assessment under the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
The council is calling for the appointment of an Independent Inspector of Immigration Detention and an Independent Monitor for Migration Laws.
The Council’s President, Stuart Clark, said both Offices are necessary to monitor the integrity of Australia’s national security framework and ensure confidence in the safety and integrity of its border protection.
He added that: “making these key appointments could limit the risk of future harm to asylum seekers held in detention without undermining Australia’s border protection policies.”
Meanwhile the Australian Council of Social Service, the Human Rights Law Centre and the Australian Council for International Development added their voices to calls for better treatment of detainees.
I a joint statement they said: “the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has the power to examine the response of the Australian Government and its contractors to child sexual abuse on Nauru.”
They said this had been confirmed today by legal advice received from the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC).
by Alan Thornhill
Labor has renewed its call for a children’s commissioner to investigate allegations of child abuse on Nauru and in other detention centres.
The shadow minister for immigration and border protection, Shane Neumann, urged greater transparency on the issue, when he appeared in a late night ABC television program last night.
He said: “We need action now.
“An independent children’s advocate would act on each case individual case, dealing with each case as it does in any court we deal with where there’s an independent children’s lawyer engaged.
“ That independent advocate would be able to deal with children, deal with those people engaged in mental health assistance and also advocate and report to Parliament,” Mr Neumann said.
This follows The Guardian’s publication of material from an 8,000 page leaked document, detailing some 2,000 incidents of alleged abuse on the island, including a “disproportionate” number of child abuse cases.
The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed calls by the Greens for a Royal Commission into the allegations.
However he has promised an investigation
Human rights advocates are also calling for more transparency into Australia’s offshore detention system.
Hugh de Kretser of the Humn Rights Law Centre said: “ We desperately need to open up this system to scrutinise it.
“That’s a secondary issue to the humanitarian issue which is upon us now which is acting now to bring them here to Australia,” he added.
by Alan Thornhill
Lawyers are urging the Federal government to proceed cautiously with its plan to keep dangerous terrorists in jail after their sentences have expired.
The plan is to be discussed by the Federal and Sate governments this week.
The Law Council President, Stuart Clark, acknowledged that the Federal Government has a clear responsibility to ensure the nation is safe and secure.
However he added: “.. it is crucial we do not compromise Australia’s commitment to the rule of law in the process.”
Mr Clark said “… if Australia abandons its rule of law principles then the forces of global terrorism will have secured a significant victory over our nation.”
He warned that the appropriate balance must be struck between ensuring national security on one hand and safeguarding the fundamental legal rights that are central to our democracy on the other.
“Applications for post-sentence controls must always be put before a court, and orders but must only be made by a judge exercising his or her own discretion.
“There must be a proper hearing before the court where the person who is the subject of the application is given the opportunity to answer the material on which the application is based.
“Any order must be periodically reviewed and the scheme monitored by those responsible for its administration, the Parliament and the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor,” Mr Clark said.
“The person who is the subject of the order must also be able to apply to the court to have their case reviewed should their circumstances change,” he added.
“The legislation itself should also be reviewed within three years of its commencement.”
The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the proposed scheme would: “… of course only apply to individuals who as they approach the end of a sentence of imprisonment, continue to pose an unacceptably high risk to the community because of the failure to – their failure to be rehabilitated as a result of a penal sentence.”
He said : “this system will enable a continuing period of imprisonment for high risk terrorist offenders.
“It will be supervised by the courts similarly to the arrangements that apply in a number of our jurisdictions for sex offenders and extremely violent individuals.”
The Shadow Attorney General, Mark Dreyfus, offered Labor’s support for the plan.
He said: “Labor’s approach on matters of national security, as it has always been, is to work in a bipartisan fashion with the government to keep Australians safe.
“This is an approach which has worked very successfully through the last Parliament and I hope will work equally successfully during the 45th Parliament. Labor is committed to the thorough scrutiny of any new legislation that is proposed by the Government through the processes of the Parliament and in particular of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to ensure that the balance between security and our precious freedoms and liberties is maintained.”
by Alan Thornhill
The investment watchdog has launched court proceedings against Macquarie Investment Management.
In a statement today, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission said Macquarie had been the responsible entity of the van Eyk Blueprint International Shares Fund (VBI Fund).
ASIC said the proceedings involve investments of $30 million made by the VBI Fund in 2012 into a Cayman Islands based fund.
It said that fund was known as Artefact Partners Global Opportunities Fund (Artefact).
ASIC also said the VBI Fund was one of the Blueprint series of funds of which van Eyk Research Pty Limited (now in liquidation) was investment manager.
And MIML was responsible entity, the commission added.
It said: “MIML has admitted to five contraventions of the Corporations Act and the parties have filed an Agreed Statement of Facts.”
Commissioner Greg Tanzer said, ‘The Corporations Act places important obligations on responsible entities which protect the interests of investors.”
He said: “Those obligations require responsible entities to have a supervisory and monitoring role in relation to funds, even where external investment managers have been appointed.
“ ASIC will take action against responsible entities when they fail to meet their obligations,” he added.
The Supreme Court of New South Wales will be asked to set apropriate penalties.
An early hearing is expected.
by Alan Thornhill
That was quite a trick.
The Australian economy grew by 1.1 per cent in the first three months of this year.
And by 3.1 per cent over the year to the end of March.
What is particularly remarkable about these seasonally adjusted figures, produced by the Statistician today is that this growth, which was boosted by our exports, was achieved, as the prices we were getting for them were falling.
Quite sharply, in fact.
Indeed the Statistician also reports that our terms of trade dropped by 11.5 per cent over the year, including a 1.9 per cent fall in the March quarter itself.
So how did we do it?
Overwhelmingly, by selling quite a lot more of the stuff that we do produce well.
Mining products, for example.
The Bureau notes that their value rose by 6.2 per cent in the quarter.
And our household consumption spending rose by 0.4 percentage points in that time.
Impressive figures, certainly.
Especially for uncertain times, like the present.
But we shouldn’t read too much into them.
And they can bounce around quite around quite a bit.
So we shouldn’t be too surprised if we find our political leaders differing a little in their views of these developments.
by Alan Thornhill
Serious and organised crime is costing Australia $36 billion a year.
This was confirmed in research published by the Australian Crime Commission.
The Federal Justice Minister, Michael Keenan, said this is double previous estimates.
He described organised crime as “an ongoing threat to this country.”
Speaking of the criminals responsible he said:” they are violent predators who profit from the misery of evil trades.’
Mr Kennan also said:”Modern technologies are enabling organised criminals to expand their reach globally and inject themselves beyond traditional business models into new markets – increasing the misery being peddled and generating greater proceeds from crime.”
This had meant:”Australia has become a target for organised criminals from all around the world because Australians are paying top dollar for the misery these crooks peddle like the drug ice.”
Mr Keenan warned that users are not only bankrolling the criminals that who are infiltrating and destroying our communities with their dangerous drugs.
“… they are ensuring our nation remains a lucrative market for international crime syndicates.
“New analysis by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has revealed that serious and organised crime is costing the Australian economy $36 billion per year – more than double previous estimates.
Mr Keenan said:”There is a perception among some people who take drugs that their illegal activities hurts no one.”
“But it’s actually costing every Australian more than $1500 – and sadly for some Australians, it has cost them their lives.”
“Our law enforcement agencies are going as hard as they can with all the tools we have provided, “ he added.
“But these efforts will always be challenged by organised gangs and their criminal business models if there is a lucrative market to exploit.”
That is why since coming to Government we have invested heavily in our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to boost their efforts to detect, disrupt and undermine the business models of organised criminals.”
“This is boosting our international cooperation to crack down on organised criminal syndicates responsible for the exportation of ice to Australia, including through Taskforce Blaze – a joint agency taskforce between the Australian Federal Police and the Chinese National Narcotics Control Commission focussed on investigating organised criminal syndicates responsible for the exportation of ice to Australia.
This is the first ever joint agency taskforce of its kind.”
He said:”The $36 billion figure takes into account the costs of serious and organised criminal activity ($21 billion) and the cost of prevention and response initiatives ($16 billion). “
He said, too, that:”Prevention and response costs include the costs incurred by law enforcement, the criminal justice system and other government agencies, the private sector and the general community in responding to, and preventing organised criminal activity.”
“This is the first time the ACC has estimated the cost of serious and organised crime on the economy,.” Mr Keenan said.
“ It does not represent an explosion in crime, rather an improved understanding of the cost impacts to government, the community and the private sector.
“This will assist Government and our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to make an informed response to tackling this evolving market,” he added.
The project was led by an independent expert economist and criminologist, and was subject to review by a range of experts including law enforcement officers, criminologists and economists.
Mr Keenan said the ACC’s public summary could be seen at www.crimecommission.gov.au.
by Alan Thornhill
A Sydney chef bas been caught cooking the books.
Her crime was exposed by the corporate watchdog, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
In a statement today ASIC said:“Sydney-based chef Nicole Annette McIlwaine has been convicted of dishonestly using her position as director with the intention of causing detriment to a company.”
It added:”An ASIC investigation found that Ms McIlwaine dishonestly obtained $62,151.68 from the sale of a leasehold held by her company Stockmarket Cafe Pty Limited, at a time when she had stated she was aware that the company would be liquidated and that the money should be used to pay company creditors.
“ As a result no funds were recovered by the liquidator and no funds were returned to the principal creditor, the Australian Tax Office.
“Ms McIlwaine was convicted ex-parte of the offence and on 17 November 2015 the conviction was confirmed and she was sentenced to a $500 two year good behaviour bond.
“As a result of the conviction Ms McIlwaine is automatically disqualified from managing corporations until 16 November 2020.
‘The Court found that Ms McIlwaine had quite clearly dishonestly obtained and spent company money,” ASIC Commissioner Greg Tanzer said.
‘The action against her shows how serious ASIC is about cracking down on this type of behaviour from company directors.”
he matter was prosecuted by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.
by Alan Thornhill
It is easy – and tempting – to blame Muslims for the fatal shooting outside the Parramatta police station last Friday.
What – after all – are they teaching their children – that a 15 year old boy should be doing something like this?
Well I’m no expert, but as an old reporter I do know the value of checking original sources.
And I do know that Mahomet once said that “The religion most like ours is Christianity.”
And it was Christ who said:“Judge not, lest ye also be judged.”
None of that excuses what was the apparently cold-blooded killing of a police accountant.
But that ugly event, which has still to be examined by Australian courts, does suggest that terrorism has arrived in this country.
So, even at this stage, two things are in order.
Firstly, a close look at the facts, as they are known so far.
Secondly, a preliminary assessment of our advantages and disadvantages, as far as we know them, at this point.
That has already started with reports in the Fairfax press and other media.
One notes that the boy charged attended high school just 300 metres from where the attack took place.
It also reports that he visited the nearby Parramatta mosque, just hours before the attack took place.
The report also says:“Police executed a search warrant at Paramatta Mosque on Saturday night as part of their investigations…”
It also quotes the chairman of the Parramatta Mosque, Neil El-Kadomi, saying they walked away empty-handed half an hour later.
“I don’t see him in the mosque very often,” he added.
Friday’s tragedy had nothing to do with the mosque, Mr El-Kadomi said.
“He died and his secret died with him.
“I don’t know if it’s terrorism.
“What the boy’s motive is we don’t know,” he said.
Mr El-Kadomi’s words, though, do reflect sorrow, restraint, and perhaps a desire to know more.
Here is a man who, apparently at least, is reflective about this terrible event.
Could this – Muslim – man be a good example to us all, in this respect?
Have you spoken to a Muslim about it?
Could they be Australia’s biggest asset, in the battle against home-grown terrorism?
That question seems reasonable, as reflection suggests that Muslims Australians have more than most to lose, by allowing terrorist sympathies to take hold.
Other questions also spring quickly to mind.
We might wonder, for example, where the boy got his gun?
After all, as his former flack, David Gazard, reminded us on Facebook this weekend, his long-time boss, John Howard, tried hard to tighten Australia’s gun control laws.
Mr Gazard said this was the thought that brought him most pride, as he reflected on his time in public life.
Then there’s Nauru, Christmas Island, and Australia’s refugee policies.
All have deep black marks.
Nothing that would come close to justifying what happened outside the Parramatta police station last Friday, of course.
But worth some thought, nevertheless.
Weathercoast by Alan Thornhill
A novel on the murder of seven young Anglican Christian Brothers in the Solomon Islands.
Available now on the iTunes store.
Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
Private Briefing is updated daily with Australian personal finance news, analysis, and commentary.
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