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
The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced today that he is planning to resign before a Conservative Party conference in October.
His statement follows the failure of a referendum he promoted to keep Britain in the European Union, which it joined 43 years ago.
The loss sent global currency and share markets into chaos and pushed the British pound to its lowest point in 25 years.
The BBC put the number of votes urging Britain to leave the EU at 17,410,742 or 51.9 per cent of the total cast.
It said, too, that 16,141,241 votes were cast, by those who want Britain to stay in the EU.
This was 48.1 per cent of the total vote.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said: “ This is a momentous and historic decision and we respect the wishes of the British people, expressed through this referendum“
However he added: “I want to say that Australians….will be concerned by the uncertainty and instability in global markets, falls in currencies, including the Australian dollar and in equity markets.”
But Mr Turnbull said, too, that: “it is important to remember that the Australian economy is strong and resilient and has weathered global shocks before and weathered them well.”
“So there is no cause for Australians to be alarmed by these developments,” Mr Turnbull said.
But he said there would be a “… a period of uncertainty and some instability in global markets.”
“ I’ve no doubt that European leaders will provide reassurance and leadership that will in due course, settle many if not all of those uncertainties,” Mr Turnbull said.
However he added: “…now more than ever Australia needs a stable majority Coalition Government .”
He said the nation also needed a strong economic plan that sets Australia up for a prosperous future.
This would enable Australia to take advantage of new opportunities and resiliently meet the challenges and the headwinds “that we cannot always anticipate and that we cannot always influence.”
“But but they will always be there,” Mr Turnbull said.
by Alan Thornhill
Chris Bowen said today that “the Australian people had a right to be disappointed” at the language Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison chose to attack Labor over proposed company tax cuts.
Stepping up their attacks, over the past few days, the Prime Minister and his Treasurer have repeatedly resorted to talk of war.
They did so as the bodies of Australian soldiers, killed in the Vietnam war, were flown back to their homeland.
Mr Bowen is Labor’s shadow treasurer.
Speaking of the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten Mr Turnbull had said: “Bill Shorten has declared war on business.
And he added ” the first casualties of Shorten’s war on business are Australian jobs.”
Asked today, if he would continue to use such provocative words, Mr Turnbull replied: “You have just heard me use them.”
Mr Morrison also accused Mr Shorten of declaring “war on business” and added:-
” “…and using “tax as their bullets.”
These comments were made as the first two RAAF planes carrying the remains of the Australian soldiers touched down on home soil.
Vietnam veterans were not impressed.
The national president of the Vietnam Veterans Association, Ken Foster, said war metaphors shouldn’t be used and “certainly not on a day like today”.
Mr Bowen responded carefully, when a reporter asked him to comment on Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison’s words.
He said: “I think the Prime Minister and Treasurer might want to reflect on the use of that language today.
“ Especially today.
“They might want to reflect on that.
“ I think the Australian people have a right to be disappointed in the Prime Minister’s language.
“ I don’t intend to add anything further to that. I think they might want to just reflect about the use of that language on a day when we are considering war in another context.”
by Alan Thornhill
Trend employment growth in Australia has eased.
The Bureau of Statistics reported today that this indicator, which the Bureau regards as the most reliable it produces, fell to just 2.2 percent in March.
That was down from 2.6 per cent in December last year.
On its more commonly used seasonally adjusted measure, the Bureau reported that the number of Australians with jobs rose by 26,100 in March.
That left the nation’s seasonally adjusted labour force participation rate for March at 64.9 per cent.
The Bureau said too that – on the same basis – the number of people unemployed fell by 7,300 during the month
This left Australia with a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.7 per cent for the month, 0.1 percentage points below the February level.
by Alan Thornhill
Australian scientists are urging the Turnbull government to take a lead at the world climate change talks which open in Paris this week.
The Australian Academy of Science says this – and global co-operation – will be essential if we are to avoid the worst effects of global climate change.
Delegates from more than 190 countries are heading to Paris this week in an attempt to reach an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming.
In a statement today, the Academy’s President Professor Andrew Holmes urged world governments to take note of the scientific evidence and the implications of inaction.
“The science is clear, we need to move to net zero carbon emissions by the second half of this century to avoid serious impacts on our health, our economies and on our environment.
“Paris will be a critical turning point along the path to a carbon neutral world,” Professor Holmes said.
“Australia has an important responsibility, as one of the world’s biggest per capita emitters, to show leadership at this important moment in history.
“As the world’s twelfth largest economy, we also have the capacity to do our fair share.
“Australia has some of the best climate scientists in the world and a wealth of expertise in clean energy; we have the opportunity to play a leading role,” Professor Holmes added.
“The national commitments so far are promising and Australia’s own post-2030 targets are an important start but now is not the time for complacency.
“We must understand that the only sustainable long-term goal is net zero-emissions and the risks are too great to keep on our current high emissions path.”
In a submission to the Australian government in May, the Academy recommended cuts in greenhouse gas emissions 30 to 40 per cent below 2000 levels by 2030.
An attempt by Australia to take a lead at the Paris talks would be likely to have high impact.
That’s because of the record of previous Australian leaders, including Tony Abbott, of dismissing climate change science.
The Coalition’s approach to tackling climate change, by subsidising big polluters, in an attempt to persuade them to change their ways, hasn’t impressed climate change scientists either.
Nor has the willingness of government MPs to speak up for the coal lobby in parliament.
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.
by Alan Thornhill
Tony Abbott can’t expect a heroes’ welcome in Port Moresby today, like that John Howard received in Honiara a few years ago.
Mr Howard, who was then Prime Minister, had just launched the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) which was to restore peace there, after years of low level civil war.
His reward, from the local people, was a greeting so rapturous that Mr Howard was forced to confess, on his return, that he was glad it did not happen everywhere he went.
He admitted that he would not have been able to restrain his ego, if it did.
Mr Abbott is in no such danger in Papua New Guinea, where he is attending a Pacific Islands Forum meeting.
Indeed, his policies on climate change, have already brought about a fundamental reassessment of Australia’s once high standing throughout Melanesia.
So much so, in fact, that the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, has taken to calling the Abbott Government the “bad brother” of the Pacific.
And there has even been talk of a walkout, by Pacific Island nations, from this year’s Forum meeting, over the issue.
What’s behind all this?
People in the Solomons,for example, know that their low lying island homes could be flooded, if the Antarctic ice shelf melts, as a result of global warming.
Scientists admit that ambient temperatures, around the world, may not have risen quite as much yet – as their research had led them to expect.
But they also say there are indications that some of the extra heat – generated by climate change – is being absorbed by the sea.
That does not provide a lot of comfort to some one who lives with his family on, say, San Cristobal, or one of the other 800 or so islands in the Solomons.
And – although education levels throughout Melanesia are not high – at least by Western standards – awareness of this danger is.
Indeed, as one who has recently returned, from a two year assignment in the Solomons, your author can assure readers that the people of that young nation carry a low-simmering anger, that is readily directed towards anyone who might be called a climate change sceptic.
And Mr Abbott, who once dismissed the entire issue as “absolute crap” is still seen in that way, in the Pacific.
The government’s Labor opponents, at home, say little progress has been made, over recent months, in talks designed to secure a rapprochement on this issue.
Indeed Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, says it is understood negotiations between the Abbott Government and other members of the 16 nation forum have served only to anger some of the Pacific nations.
And, she says, they are now demanding Mr Abbott make meaningful concessions at the forum in Papua New Guinea.
In a joint statement with her colleague, Matt Thistlewaite, the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration, Ms Plibersek also said Mr Abbott has managed to threaten the Forum’s very existence, through his intransigence on climate change.
Critics are urging Mr Abbott to remember that Australia, too, has a big stake in this issue.
For if the worst does, indeed, happen – and sea levels in the area do rise catastrophically – it could well be facing another refugee crisis.
Just when current experience suggests that one is enough.
by Alan Thornhill
The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has announced that Australia will accept an extra 12,000 refugees from the conflict in the Syria and Iraq.
He said these would be additional, permanent places, under Australia’s humanitarian arrangements.
The usual health and other checks would be made.
Mr Abbott also told reporters in Canberra that the government would give the UNHCR an extra $44 million to buy blankets and other urgently needed relief items for displaced people in the area.
He said this relief would go mainly to women, children and other vulnerable people.
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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