No journalists, lawyers or UNHCR allowed.
Australian politicians, media and human rights groups continue to ignore refugees on Nauru - as well as the actual findings of the UN report on torture - preferring to play partisan political games.
“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”
Leonardo da Vinci
Nauru refugee women celebrate International Women’s Day with protest [Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney – 10/3/15]:
Nauruan refugees and children of all nationalities celebrated International Women’s Day, yesterday, 9 March, with a protest at the Ijuw compound.
The protest comes less than a week after scores of women and children were arrested and mistreated by Nauruan police on 4 March.
Like other refugees, the women refugees had money and mobile phones stolen by police.
Women refugees were also subjected to religiously motivated abuse.
Police removed the headscarves of all the Muslim women in custody and verbally abused the women; telling them, “There are no Muslims here [ie Nauru].”
One Somali woman was forced to strip to her underwear.
“The massive operation to stifle peaceful protests last week has not deterred the Nauruan refugees,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.
“Yesterday’s protest has sent a clear message to the Nauruan and Australian governments – that the abuse has to stop and the discrimination has to stop.
“Nauru will not resettle the refugees, but is taking tens of millions of dollars a year to warehouse refugees for Australia, for up to five years.”
The police repression only adds to the oppressive physical and social conditions on Nauru.
As more refugees are released, the accommodation has got worse. Families are in converted, windowless shipping containers that are intolerable in the heat and humidity.
They are forced to boil the water used for toilets and washing because drinking water is too expensive given the tiny allowances given to refugees.
PNG's Prime Minister calls on pacific nations to take Australia's tortured, exiled refugees
PNG Loop [10/3/15]:
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea has called for other countries in the Asia region to also shoulder the responsibility of "resettling" asylum seekers, as refugees from Manus Island are moved into the local Manus community.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the few refugees who have been "resettled" in PNG have been “well accepted” into the community.
“Despite some of the negative reporting, the Manus Island detention centre is going very well,” he told Fairfax Media.
“The processing of the genuine asylum seekers is going quite well.”
Until this year, asylum seekers being held in the Manus Island detention centre were waiting longer than a year to have their asylum status processed.
Mr O’Neill blamed the delay on the asylum seekers, saying they did not offer enough proof to verify whether they were genuinely seeking asylum.
“The asylum seekers did not provide enough information to our officers to say whether they were genuine refugees or not and as a result of that, trying to get information verified through the other governments and the country of origin and our dealings with the Australian government took a bit of time,” he said.
“But we are very much on track now.”
Despite the resettlement program’s progress, Mr O’Neill appealed to other Pacific islands to help resettle refugees in September.
“We would like to resettle as many as possible and we are hoping that some of the other countries in the region can also participate in the resettlement exercise as well,” he said.
“I will be directly discussing this issue with the other Pacific island countries in September for the Pacific Island Forum.”
Mr O’Neill said PNG had not been in contact with Cambodia, which has yet to resettle any refugees despite agreeing to do so.
When asked which country was ultimately responsible for the running of the centre, Mr O’Neill said it was an issue that both the Australian government and his government have to manage.
Domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty speaks on Sunshine Coast
Sunshine Coast Daily [10/3/15]:
A crowd of 360 people gathered at the Caloundra Events Centre this morning to hear the Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty speak.
The Sunshine Coast Business Women's Network event was held to mark International Women's Day.
This year's theme was 'Make it Happen'.
Ms Batty is widely known for raising awareness of domestic violence in Australia.
The Pride of Australia's National Courage Medal recipient and family violence campaigner spoke about her extraordinary efforts to stop domestic violence following her own devastating tragedy.
In February 2014, Rosie's 11-year-old son Luke was murdered by his father after cricket practice at a Melbourne cricket ground.
His father was shot dead by police.
Just 24 hours later, Rosie both shocked and inspired Australians by speaking out amid her grief to confront a widespread problem.
Soon after she established the Luke Batty Foundation to help others in her situation.
Since then Ms Batty has worked to encourage Australia to talk openly and honestly about family violence, calling on Australians to recognise that it can happen to anyone, no matter what circumstances or history.
During her talk, Ms Batty told the crowd she wasn't just a victim.
She said she managed to speak to the media about her story so soon because she was "informed and knew what to say."
"I was lucky," she said.
She said she was told by police following her son's death that she couldn't have predicted what happened to her family. They told her she wasn't to blame.
"Violence is a gender issue, it's a choice by men who want power and control," she said.
Top Australian surgeon advises female doctors to comply with abuse
Tweed Daily News [10/3/15]:
A senior surgeon has triggered controversy after telling junior female doctors to go along with sexual abuse at work for the sake of their careers.
Australian vascular surgeon Dr Gabrielle McMullin drew criticism for comments made at the launch of her book - Pathways to Gender Equality.
Speaking in an ABC radio interview after the event, she said she encouraged women in her field to protect their climb up the professional ladder by "complying with requests" for sex.
The Sydney-based surgeon said sexism is so rife among her colleagues, young women should probably just accept unwanted sexual advances because speaking out would tarnish their reputations.
Dr McMullin, who studied medicine in Dublin, Ireland, said she stands by the comments she made on Friday but that her advice was "irony".
"What I tell my trainees is that, if you are approached for sex, probably the safest thing to do in terms of your career is to comply with the request," she said after the launch.
Her shocking comments triggered angry reactions from sex abuse and domestic violence campaigners, who claimed her remarks were "appalling" and "irresponsible".
Dr McMullin told ABC's AM program the story of Dr Caroline Tan, a young doctor who won a sexual harassment case in 2008 against a surgeon who forced himself on her while she was training at a Melbourne Hospital.
Dr Tan didn't tell anyone what had happened until the surgeon started giving her reports that were so bad they threatened the career she had worked so hard for.
But McMullin warns complaining to the supervising body is the 'worst thing' trainees could do.
"Despite that victory, she has never been appointed to a public position in a hospital in Australasia," she said.
"Her career was ruined by this one guy asking for sex on this night.
"And realistically, she would have been much better to have given him a b----job on that night."
Dr McMullin's comments have been roundly criticised by others in the medical profession and in women's rights groups.
But she said many people had thanked her for speaking out and some had come forward with more appalling stories of their experiences.
She said her critics had misunderstood her stance.
"Of course I don't condone any form of sexual harassment and the advice that I gave to potential surgical trainees was irony, but unfortunately that is the truth at the moment, that women do not get supported if they make a complaint," she told the ABC.
"And that's where the problem is, so what I'm suggesting is that we need a solution for that problem not to condone that behaviour.
"It's not dealt with properly, women still feel that their careers are compromised if they complain, just like rape victims are victimised if they complain," she said.
One victim, who did not want to be identified for fear of losing her job, told the ABC she experienced years of sexual harassment from a senior surgeon.
The victim said if she revealed her identify, she would not be considered a safe person to work with.
"If you complain you'll be exposed, you'll be hung up to dry, you won't be able to work," she said.
"You'd be seen as a liability, that's my opinion. You absolutely would be seen as a liability moving forward.
"It's well and good that the legislation and laws say x, y and z but that wouldn't happen in practise. It would be unlikely to."
Kate Drummond, chair of the Women in Surgery committee at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, disagreed with this suggestion.
"I think we have robust processes, not only through the college for the trainees but also through the workplace," she told the ABC'S The World Today's program.
"I mean, these are people who work in hospitals and there are clear workplace processes to deal with these kinds of problems.
"And so I think there are parallel processes that we would encourage people to use and also to take the support of people like those of us in the Women in Surgery committee and we're very happy to strongly support these people."
Ms Drummond said there had been less than one complaint per year to the Women in Surgery committee regarding sexual harassment.
... Lee Lakeman, one of Canada’s most important radicals, and several members of the Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, met with me one morning in their storefront office in Vancouver. Lakeman in the 1970s opened her home in Ontario to abused women and their children.
By 1977 she was in Vancouver working with the Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, founded in 1973 and now the oldest rape crisis center in Canada. She has been at the forefront of the fight in Canada against the abuse of women, building alliances with groups such as the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network and the Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution.
Lakeman and the shelter refused to give the provincial government access to victims’ files in order to protect the anonymity of the women. They also denied this information to the courts, in which, Lakeman said, “defense attorneys try to discredit or bully women complainants in criminal cases of male violence against women.”
This defiance saw the shelter lose government funding.
“It is still impossible to work effectively in a rape crisis center or a transition house and not be breaking the Canadian law on a regular basis,” said Lakeman, who describes herself as being increasingly radical.
Lakeman, along with the radical feminists allied with the shelter, is the bête noire not only of the state but of feckless liberals who think physical abuse of a woman is abhorrent if it occurs in a sweatshop but somehow is acceptable in a rented room, an alley, a brothel, a massage parlor or a car. Lakeman is fighting a world that has gone numb, a world that has banished empathy, a world where solidarity with the oppressed is a foreign concept. And, with upheavals ahead caused by climate change and the breakdown of global capitalism, she fears that if mechanisms are not in place to protect poor women the exploitation and abuse will increase. … Chris Hedges, [The Whoredom of the Left - TruthDig - 8/3/15]
Deputy parliamentary clerk suspended after late-night arrest
West Australian [10/3/15]:
The Deputy Clerk of the Legislative Council was stopped by police allegedly in possession of a baseball bat and a balaclava and police are investigating whether he was tracking the vehicle of his immediate superior, the Clerk of the Legislative Council.
Nigel Lake, one of WA's most senior parliamentary staff, has been suspended from his $166,216-a-year job after he was arrested by police late on Tuesday, February 17, in Drabble Road, City Beach, allegedly wearing a black hoodie, latex gloves, black tracksuit pants and black shoes.
Mr Lake was on foot and arrested within a kilometre of the home of the Clerk of the Legislative Council, Nigel Pratt.
Police yesterday confirmed they had charged a 49-year-old North Fremantle man with possessing a controlled weapon, possessing a disguise intending to use it in connection with committing an offence and the use and installation of a tracking device.
Mr Lake is due to appear in the Perth Magistrate's Court on March 18.
The Legislative Council was in session on the evening of February 17 until about 9.45pm.
Legislative Council President Barry House yesterday wrote to all MPs and parliamentary staff to tell them he had suspended Mr Lake from work or attending Parliament House immediately after he learnt about the police investigation on February 18.
"This was to allow the police to complete their investigation," he wrote. "I consider any behaviour which results in criminal charges being laid against a parliamentary officer as very serious.
"The Legislative Council and the Parliament has fully co-operated with police.
"The Corruption and Crime Commission were notified on 18 February, 2015, given that this matter involves a public officer.
"We have made alternative arrangements to cover Mr Lake's workload to ensure the important work of the Legislative Council can continue without interruption.
"I am unable to comment or speculate any further on matters before the court."
It is understood police have searched parliamentary computers as part of their investigation.
Mr Pratt was appointed to the $216,138-a-year position in November 2013. He had previously been the deputy clerk of the Tasmanian Parliament since 2007.
Mr Lake was deputy clerk of the Council under the previous clerk Malcolm Peacock and acted in his position when Mr Peacock suffered an illness in his final two years in the job.
Hopeland wants CSG safety assurance
Residents of a Queensland town being tested for noxious soil gases say they want scientific proof that coal seam gas mining in the area is not to blame.
Gases were detected in soil on private properties at Hopeland, about 300km west of Brisbane, late last month.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection has not ruled out an underground fire as testing continues to find the cause.
"EHP is working hard on a range of techniques and sampling, such as thermal imagery and micro seismic testing, to narrow down the potential causes," a spokesman told AAP.
The EHP has also carried out water testing in the Condamine River and Chinchilla weir, but says the results were within the expected range.
Preliminary air quality tests were also within guidelines, but more testing is still being done.
It says there is no risk to human health, and that effects on grazing animal and stock are "very unlikely".
However, Hopeland residents, who now have to contact the EHP before carrying out excavation works, are not convinced.
They say they believe coal seam gas mining in the area is to blame, despite assurances from the government that it is not.
"One of our questions is what is the science behind you categorically saying that CSG is not complicit or contributing to this problem?" said Shay Dougall, from the Hopeland Community Sustainability Group.
She said the EHP had agreed to meet community members about the gas testing but had not yet set a date to do so.
Cyclone Pam halts Vanuatu shipping
All vessels in Vanuatu have been ordered to stay in port and people in Fiji are being warned not to go to sea this week as Cyclone Pam moves closer to the islands.
The cyclone developed in eastern Solomon Islands and is moving in a southeasterly direction to waters between Vanuatu and Fiji.
The category one cyclone was situated about 280 kilometres northnortheast of Anuta early this morning.
The east of Solomon Islands is being warned to expect heavy rain, gales and high seas in the next 24 hours.
Although the weather is reportedly calm in Port Vila, sailings from the town and from Luganville in Santo are on hold until further notice.
People in Fiji are being warned not to go to sea this week as Pam moves closer to their islands.
Fiji's weather authorities say the system does not pose a direct threat to Fiji but from tomorrow until Friday there will be heavy rain and thunderstorms as well as moderate to rough seas.
People in flood prone areas are also being warned of flash flooding.
Pam is expected to lie about 1200 kilometres northwest of Nadi this afternoon.
Cyclones expected to form off Western Australia and Queensland coasts [ABC – 10/3/15]
The number of cases of mosquito-borne dengue fever in Queensland's tropical north has risen to 50.
Queensland Health says 14 people have been infected in Cairns and 36 in Tully, Innisfail and El Arish this wet season. ... [Yahoo - 10/3/15]
A bloom of jellyfish has invaded Coolum Beach, leaving surfers and swimmers in hot water.
Thousands of Catostylus mosaicus, aka "blue blubbers", are speckling the water like blue and white polka dots.
Coolum lifeguard Michael Daly said about 20 to 30 people had been stung in the last week. ... [Sunshine Coast Daily - 10/3/15]
JBS Australia Rockhampton Meatworks to open in four weeks
Morning Bulletin [10/3/15]:
Despite rumours that it will be closed for six months, JBS Australia yesterday announced that it hopes to re-open its Rockhampton facility four weeks from Monday.
Rockhampton plant manager Bill Sauer revealed the timeline to staff in a meeting at the Frenchville Sports Club after two weeks of uncertainty over the state of the facility.
There are 538 employees at the local plant, with 40 so far redeployed to other JBS centres as far away as Longford in Tasmania.
Mr Sauer said the company hoped to temporarily move each staff member who indicated at the last meeting that they were willing to relocate, and JBS had been paying for transport and accommodation for them.
So far, it hasn't been able to relocate everyone due to issues with accommodation, particularly in the Dinmore facility near Ipswich which is celebrating its annual show.
JBS Rockhampton sustained a lot of damage to the roof and windows, as well as structural damage which brought down large chunks of asbestos at the plant.
It also lost all of the 700 carcasses that had been slaughtered the day before. Mr Sauer said based on the current market price, they were worth about $1000 each.
At this stage, it was still unsure how much money in total the cyclone had cost the business.
Mr Sauer said it was important to JBS that it communicated with staff face-to-face during this time, and he said they were doing their best to provide financial support to those who wouldn't be relocating.
At the meeting, there were booths set up from its HR department, Red Cross and Centrelink. Coles and Woolworth vouchers were also available.
"First of all we had to scope the damage and the work we had to do to get the plant going," Mr Sauer said.
"Second we had to get decent, good engineering and principal contractors in place. They've been working 24/7 to get a plan in place to get the plant running again."
Mr Sauer said that in the next four weeks, JBS would complete the things required to re-open, and in the months after finish the rest of the work.
"It'll be safe, that's our number one priority,"
At least five workers were killed and 14 others injured after the roof of an hangar, which was under construction, collapsed at Hasanuddin International Airport in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on Monday.
Workers were reportedly about to continue with the 25 x 90 meter roof installation, when a central supporting structure became dislodged, causing the entire roof to collapse at around 9:30 a.m. local time. ... [Jakarta Post - 10/3/15]
NZ Prime Minister says he won't quit if mass collection of Kiwis' communications proved
Prime Minister John Key says he would not resign if it is proved that the GCSB carries out mass collection of New Zealanders' communications.
Mr Key has always insisted he would quit if it was proved that New Zealanders were subject to mass surveillance.
He insists the GCSB has told him that it is not capable of doing mass surveillance and is not legally allowed to do it.
Late last week former GCSB boss Sir Bruce Ferguson told Radio New Zealand that there was mass collection of New Zealanders' data as part of spying operations in the Pacific.
Sir Bruce also maintained however that it was legal as it was collected inadvertently and that the information on Kiwis was not used.
When asked today about whether there was a difference between the terms "collection" and "surveillance", Mr Key responded by saying he was "sure the lawyers would tell you there is a difference".
When pressed further, he refused to comment, saying he wasn't going to go into the GCSB's operational details.
New Zealand Prime Minister Retracts Vow To Resign if Mass Surveillance Is Shown [The Intercept - 9/3/15]
Venezuelan President Responds to Latest US Accusations
The Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro responded late Monday to the United States government declaring his country a “national security threat.”
Maduro rejected President Barack Obama's measure and explained the executive order signed by the U.S. president coincided with a failed coup attempt in Venezuela last month, which had links to U.S. citizens.
“After we dismantled the coup attempt the U.S. and President Barack Obama decided to personally fulfill the task of ousting my government,” Maduro said.
The Venezuelan head of state said that, according to intelligence reports he had received recently, over the last nine days, “many meetings were held between the Department of State and the White House,” to discuss measures to be taken against his government.
Highlighting the hypocrisy of Obama’s executive order, Maduro called the statement “a Frankenstein, a monster,” as on the one hand it heavily criticizes Venezuela, and on the other it ends with Obama vowing to build a better relationship with the South American country.
Speaking from the Miraflores Palace, the president described the U.S. measure as the most aggressive step taken yet, largely inspired by Washington's frustration and desperation.
Maduro further criticized Washington's announcement by pointing out that the U.S. is a bigger threat to the world.
“You are the real threat, who trained and created Osama Bin Laden you are the people who created al-Qaida,” said Maduro.
Bin Laden was trained by the CIA during the late 1970s to fight the Soviet army in Afghanistan.
He said that it was a double standard that the U.S President is focused on the human rights of Venezuelans: “Defend the human rights of the black U.S. citizens being killed in U.S. cities every day, Mr. Obama,” he added.
Maduro pointed out that the U.S. has issued 105 statements on Venezuela over the past year, of which half were explicitly supporting opposition politicians.
The Venezuelan president reiterated previous calls he had publicly made to his U.S. counterpart, urging him not to take the path of intervention that his predecessors took in Latin America.
“I've told Mr. Obama, how do you want to be remembered? Like Richard Nixon, who ousted Salvador Allende in Chile? Like President Bush, responsible for ousting President Chavez? Well President Obama, you already made your choice you will be remembered like President Nixon”.
According to Venezuela's intelligence sources, Maduro explained, a politcal agreement was brokered in December last year, between opposition lawmakers and the government, which marked the beginning of the coup plot that was thwarted last month.
The opposition lawmakers broke the agreement after they received a phone call, which Maduro revealed Monday came from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.
By then, the president said, “we knew who had called and from where they had called, and in what language they spoke.,”
The Venezuelan authorities were also monitoring a group of rogue officials, who they had tracked as a result of intelligence obtained from anonymous sources in contact with the U.S. government officials.
“They were trying to re-edit the April 11, 2002 events,” said Maduro, highlighting the similarities between recent actions carried by the opposition with events leading to the brief coup attempt on President Hugo Chavez in 2002.
The president also referred to the role of Carlos Osuna, believed to be the mastermind and financier of the coup. Osuna “is in New York, under protection of the U.S. government,” he said.
Venezuela is due to begin installing about 20,000 fingerprint scanners at supermarkets across the country, as part of its introduction of rationing.
President Nicolas Maduro said the system would reduce food hoarding and panic buying.
Over the last year there have been long queues at supermarkets because of widespread shortages of basic goods.
Mr Maduro said the shortages were due to manipulation of the food supply and prices.
The president announced that seven major retailers have agreed to install the scanners in stores.
The government first introduced the plans for compulsory biometric cards in August 2014. This followed the failure of a voluntary card system earlier in the year.
Last month the owners of several chains of supermarkets and drugstores were arrested for allegedly artificially creating long queues by not opening enough tills.
Mr Maduro has also accused Colombian food smugglers of buying up price-controlled goods in state-run supermarkets along the border.
Critics argue that the scanners will make little difference as the state policy of control pricing incentivises cross-border smuggling.
In January the hashtag #AnaquelesVaciosEnVenezuela ("Empty shelves in Venezuela") became a worldwide Twitter trend, with over 200,000 tweets as Venezuelans tweeted pictures of empty supermarket shelves around the country.
Last week South American foreign ministers said the region would help Venezuela address the shortages.
The lack of staple foods and medicines has contributed to discontent and to frequent large, often violent anti-government demonstrations.
The economic crisis has been made worse by falling oil prices, with crude oil making up 95% of the country's exports.
Venezuela's plummeting currency rates and the falling price of oil by nearly half since November has diminished its supply of dollars to buy imported food.
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the announcement that the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act will be implemented. ... [Media Release - 9/3/15]
Senator Menendez Denies Criminal Corruption Charges [Pan Am Post - 9/3/15]
Greece, creditors to start technical talks in Brussels
Representatives of the Greek government and the country’s international creditors are to start “technical level” talks in Brussels Wednesday, it was decided Monday following a summit of eurozone finance ministers where the government submitted a set of seven proposals for economic reforms.
“We agreed there is no further time to lose,” Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, told a news conference.
The Eurogroup chief said he aimed for an agreement “as soon as possible” but underlined that no funding would be disbursed “if there is no agreement or no implementation.” He said talks would begin in Brussels Wednesday, adding that international experts would also “work together” in Athens.
In comments at a separate briefing later Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said technical teams would discuss the government’s first seven proposals Wednesday and “another batch of seven or eight” next week.
He noted that Athens would welcome members of the “institutions” for talks but opposed the idea of “a cabal of technocrats” visiting the capital together to impose austerity and insisted that the old troika was a thing of the past.
He added that the meeting was “a decisive step towards implementing” last month’s deal with the Eurogroup.
Varoufakis also ruled out the prospect of a referendum, saying his comments in a recent interview had been distorted.
After the meeting Monday, a government official indicated that Greece’s reform proposals, which include a controversial idea for tourists and students being hired as tax spies, had been “accepted on a political level.”
The same sources indicated that creditors had expressed their willingness to solve Greece’s funding problem without delay.
However, sources indicated that the atmosphere in Brussels was far from cordial. In a sign of the tense climate and lack of communication between Greece and its creditors, Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan told reporters in Brussels before the Eurogroup that negotiations would continue under the leadership of “the office of Greece’s deputy prime minister,” referring to the alleged change as “significant logistic progress.”
Yiannis Dragasakis’s office was quick to react, saying that there had been “no change of plan” as regards negotiations and that “the Greek government is represented at the Eurogroup by Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.”
Earlier in the day, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe faced a significant challenge in reaching an agreement to keep Greece in the eurozone.
“I have said time and time again, and I can say it again here, our political goal is to keep Greece in the eurozone. We have been working on this for many years,” she said.
“But it’s also true that there are two sides to this coin – on the one hand solidarity from European partners, and on the other the readiness to implement reforms and other commitments at home. On this, we clearly have a very difficult path ahead of us.”
Ireland's national broadcaster 'Failing to act in public interest' [RT - 6/3/15]:
... Campaigners say RTE’s representation is failing the wider Irish populace, and has concealed some of the darkest manifestations of austerity to have befallen the Irish state since 2008.
They accuse the station of portraying Ireland as a nation in recovery when in reality unemployment remains stubbornly high, suicide rates are soaring, and families who have bailed out corrupt bankers are being evicted from their homes and forced onto the street.
They also warn of political policing in Ireland, whereby anti-austerity activists are being arrested for exercising their democratic right to protest. ...
Ireland: RTE Protest [VIDEO - 7/3/15]
Council is offering a sweetener to lure developers to build in the Toowoomba CBD.
It has designed a policy to apply discounts of up to $1m in council infrastructure charges for developments that meet qualifying criteria. ... [Chronicle - 10/3/15]
Handouts to car industry stay [West Australian - 11/3/15]
It is not only governments that are powerful, the press are powerful, judge tells jury
Hacking Inquiry [10/31/15]:
“It is not only governments that are powerful, the press are powerful” a judge has told an Old Bailey jury considering charges against employees of The Sun newspaper.
Summing up the case, which began on 6th January, Mr Justice Saunders said that while a free press was vital it “still had to obey the law of the land”.
The trial is over charges relating to alleged illegal payments to a Ministry of Defence civil servant, Bettina Jordan-Barber, and John Hardy, a former instructor at the Sandhurst Royal Military College. In total the civil servant received £100,000 and the instructor received £42,000 for information, much of it about Princes William and Harry while they were military cadets.
The prosecution say that the selling of the information led to the offence of “misconduct in a public office”, while the defence argue the material covered did not impact on national security and was in the “public interest” as it exposed failings in the armed forces, such as bullying or shortages of equipment.
Justice Saunders told the jury it was not for them to decide if the law on misconduct in a public office is a good law or not and directed them to ignore any claims that the defendants were unaware of the legislation. The judge noted that “ignorance of the law was no defence”, adding “you can’t kill your wife and come to court and say you didn’t know it was a crime”.
He said that it was the journalist’s responsibility to know what the law was. “We hear a lot about [newspapers having] in-house lawyers” he said “but there is no evidence they were ever asked about paying public officials.”
In the dock at the eight week trial have been Sun executive editor Fergus Shanahan, Royal editor Duncan Larcombe, deputy editor Geoffrey Webster, former chief reporter John Kay, ex-soldier John Hardy and his wife Claire.
The jury have three counts of the indictment to consider, the first against Kay, Shanahan and Webster over payments to the civil servant. The second against Webster over the alleged purchase of a picture of a female army officer from a person only known as “X” and the third against Larcombe and the Hardy’s over Sandhurst information.
All of the defendants deny all of the charges and the jury are now considering their verdicts.
Barnett Plays 'Abuse Card' To Defend Closure Of Remote West Australian Communities
New Matilda [10/3/15]:
Just months after using the tragic suicide of a 12-year-old Aboriginal boy as justification for moving people off their homelands, WA Premier Colin Barnett has tried to justify his government’s plans to close down up to 150 remote communities by claiming a review will uncover cases of child abuse and domestic violence.
In an interview with [Murdoch's] PerthNow last week, Premier Barnett said reviews were already being undertaken into which communities could face closure, following on from his controversial announcement late last year.
He told the website the review is being undertaken with “myself as Premier and the senior Ministers in the area of which involves health, Aboriginal affairs, regional development, education”.
According to Mr Barnett, it is “already underway”.
The announcement of the policy followed the WA government’s claims the Commonwealth forced them to sign up to an agreement which offloads responsibility for infrastructure and municipal services in remote communities back to the states.
The WA government was given a one-off $90 million payment in the transition.
Its response was to announce the closure of up to 150 of the state’s 282 remote Aboriginal communities. Premier Barnett has repeatedly claimed many of these communities were economically unviable, saying some only have 10 people living in them.
Last year he claimed the closure of communities would help reduce the devastating suicide crisis afflicting Aboriginal communities, after a 12-year-old Aboriginal boy committed suicide in Geraldton.
Now he is also blaming Aboriginal people for their poverty, by claiming that he expects a review will uncover child abuse and domestic violence. When questioned on what evidence he had of this, he said it was something he anticipated.
“People can still go and visit their traditional lands, there is no barrier to people going out there and living if they wish to. The issue is will the taxpayer provide municipal services - power, water, cleaning, waste disposal. We’re not going to do it across 282 communities,” he told PerthNow.
“Up until now those services had been jointly funded by the State and Commonwealth Government, the Commonwealth Government has now said ‘we’re not going to do it anymore’.
“I think it brings to head the viability of those communities in terms of education for children, health standards, safety of children, domestic violence — all those issues. We are taking a very comprehensive view of it. We want to see Aboriginal people succeed, we want to see their children have a safe life and a fair chance at life through a good education. That cannot happen in remote tiny communities, it cannot.
“This is going to be a very difficult issue. I won’t walk away from this issue, I will probably get criticised, but there will be evidence come about appalling mistreatment of little kids. I as a Premier cannot sit by and let that happen.”
But his comments were slammed by Amnesty International’s Indigenous rights campaigner Tammy Solenec who said it raised alarm bells given what happened under the NT intervention.
“The alarm bells seem to go off when these reasons are given for justifying the abuse of Aboriginal rights,” Ms Solenec told New Matilda.
“We had the Stolen Generations, which is the best example – they were told it was for the good of the children, and done to prevent them from neglect – but yet we are still dealing with the consequences.
“We had the NT intervention [with] the army sent in, which demonised Aboriginal men and communities. It was a hard-handed approach and it seems that when people want to do something drastic and abusive, they wheel out this card about child abuse. It’s fearmongering.
“If this is what Premier Barnett is saying he needs to prove, then he needs to show the evidence of this occurring.”
The comments were also slammed by Noongar activist Marianne McKay, from the new Refugee Camp set up in Heirisson Island, off Perth.
The refugee camp was set up in protest at Premier Barnett’s plans, and the Noongar warriors are opening it up to any Aboriginal people who are dispossessed of their land as a consequence of these proposed closures.
“(Premier Barnett)’s comments are just disgusting and degrading Aboriginal people. They are dehumanising our people,” Ms McKay told New Matilda from the refugee camp yesterday.
“We feel that he’s done a backward turn. It’s like Mal Brough before the NT intervention which fabricated evidence in the first place about child abuse in Mutitjulu.
“All of that has been exposed.”
She says the refugee camp will show the world what is happening throughout Western Australia, and also will be a safe place for people removed from their land.
There are concerns the remote community closures will only force already disadvantaged people into bigger centers, which are not equipped to deal with it the influx.
“That’s how we feel as Aboriginal people. We feel like refugees in our own country,” Ms McKay says.
A brother and sister removed from their natural parents in the 1960s who say they were sexually abused while in foster care are set to attend hearings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. The inquiry will question government and non-government groups about the recruitment, assessment and training of carers, the oversight of children in out-of-home care, and the support given to any children who were sexually abused. ... [ABC - 10/3/15]
Where are the refugees these letters were addressed to?
Have they been deported?
Are they dead?
New Zealand media follow up on British media's report ----- > [RNZI - 10/3/15]
... There are also a number of letters which have arrived for transferees who have departed Nauru. Where forwarding addresses are available, they will be forwarded on.”
However, replies from detainees were still not being received. This was considered unusual, as in the past asylum seekers had been responsive to messages of support. ...
Amid their ongoing blackout of Nauru, the Australian media
continues to ignore the actual findings of the UN Human Rights Committee report
The United States soldier filmed in the WikiLeaks ‘Collateral Murder’ video defying orders and helping to save the life of two Iraqi children needs your help. Chris Graham explains. ... [New Matilda - 9/3/15]
The Supreme Court on Monday spurned two appeals involving U.S. treatment of Guantanamo Bay detainees, barring a Syrian man from suing the United States over alleged torture and blocking the release of images purported to show evidence of a Saudi man's mistreatment.
Separately, the court handed a victory to the CIA by declining to take up a case in which a Washington-based civil liberties group, the Center for Constitutional Rights, was seeking access to videos and photographs of another detainee, Saudi citizen Mohammed al-Qahtani. ... [Reuters - 9/3/15]
Awaiting a response from Transfield Services and Wilson Security re UN findings that refugees in their care are being tortured.
The National [10/3/15]:
Papua New Guinea has been accused with Australia of breaching the international convention against torture in regards to asylum seekers on Manus.
The report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture found that Australia’s asylum seeker policies had breached the international convention against torture.
The report tabled in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council yesterday was into offshore detention on Manus prepared by UN special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Rimbink Pato were in Australia yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
But a spokesman said the PNG Government “has, and will continue to do everything to ensure the asylum seekers on Manus receive the best care possible”.
“The Government does not condone torture or any human rights violation anywhere.”
Coast guards rescue 51 Syrian refugees off Turkey’s western Aegean coast
EURO News [9/3/15]:
Coast guards have rescued at least 51 Syrian migrants after their boat sank off Turkey’s western Aegean coast, Turkish officials say.
The governor of Izmir says the group comprised 38 men, two women and 11 children.
In 2014, 12,621 people were rescued in more than 500 incidents in that particular stretch of sea.
US air strike on “Islamic State-run” refinery in Syria kills 30: monitor [Yahoo – 9/3/15]
Students from University of Wisconsin-Madison and local high and middle schools staged a walkout Monday and marched to the state Capitol, where about 1,500 protested the fatal police shooting of Tony Robinson.
Protesters largely had cleared out of the Capitol by 1 p.m. and began marching on nearby streets. Mayor Paul Soglin spoke to the crowd shortly afterward.
As he took the megaphone, protesters shouted, "Mayor, we're here to hold you accountable for the murder of our brother. What are you going to do?" ... [Journal-Sentinel - 9/3/15]
Afghanistan: 72 “suspects” rounded up, arrested in Nangarhar [Khaama - 9/3/15]
Myanmar is sliding towards conflict as the government backtracks on pledges to protect human rights and "fear, distrust and hostility" spread, a UN investigator has said in a report published on Monday.
Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, saw "no improvement" for displaced Rohingya Muslims since her previous visit last July to investigate allegations of mistreatment of them by the Buddhist majority in Rakhine state.
She observed "a growing atmosphere of fear, distrust and hostility" during her latest visit in January, when she was publicly denounced as a "whore" and a "bitch" by a prominent Buddhist monk.
Lee witnessed "abysmal" conditions at a camp where displaced Muslims were being held "for their own security", Rakhine's chief minister told her.
"Many people told the Special Rapporteur that they had two options: to stay and die or to leave by boat," said Lee's report to the UN Human Rights Council. ... [Al Jazeera - 9/3/15]
"Stop The Boats" = lie.
"Australia tortures refugees" = truth.
Which Australian politicians and human rights organisations will call for an end to the torture of refugees?
New Zealand politician condemns Australia's torture of refugees [New Zealand Greens Media Release - 10/3/15]:
John Key must categorically tell New Zealanders and the world whether he will send refugees to Manus Island, in the wake of a damning UN report on Australia’s main detention centre, the Green Party said today.
The UN says Australia is breaching parts of the international Convention against Torture with its treatment of asylum seekers on Manus.
“Manus Island is hell on Earth. The UN is not mincing its words on this – people are being tortured there under Australia’s watch,” said Green Party immigration spokesperson Denise Roche.
“John Key said in 2013 that he had an agreement with the then-Australian government to send any so-called ‘boat people’ who arrive on our shores to Manus Island.
“He’s yet to publicly renounce that position, but there’s no way New Zealand should be sending its refugees to a UN-condemned torture camp.
“He needs to tell his close mate Tony Abbott that New Zealanders are appalled by what’s happening on Manus Island, that the detention centre should be condemned and closed down, and that we don’t want any part of Australia’s despicable refugee policy,” said Ms Roche.
Julian Burnside QC [The Age - 9/3/15]:
... "Stop the boats" originally meant: stop boats from leaving Indonesia with refugees on board, because the voyage is dangerous. Mr Abbott has not stopped the boats from setting out for Australia. He knows that.
To say "we have stopped the boats" is a lie.
The Australian navy has breached Indonesian territorial waters a number of times as it pushes refugee boats back. We have bought large numbers of life boats in which to send asylum seekers back to Indonesia after their boats have been intercepted. Just last week, we were told that boats will be bought in Vietnam and asylum seekers will be put on those boats in order to send them back to Indonesia.
We are not told how many people have drowned in the boats that have set out, presumably because that is an "on-water" matter.
But apart from Mr Abbott's lies and bullying, there is another point about his "Stop the boats" rhetoric. The harsh treatment of people in offshore detention amounts simply to this: Because we are concerned about people drowning, we punish the survivors. And now the UN has pointed out that our treatment of the survivors constitutes torture, contrary to our solemn promise made when we signed the Torture Convention 30 years ago. ...
Theresienstadt: 1,000s of letters sent by Australians to refugees incarcerated on Nauru have been returned unopened. [Guardian - 9/3/15]:
Thousands of goodwill letters sent by Australians to immigration detainees held on Nauru have been returned unopened.
The letters of comfort and support were organised by the Melbourne barrister Julian Burnside. He did the same in 2001 after asylum seekers on the Tampa were detained for long periods.
Last year, with the support of advocacy and social justice groups, he organised for almost 2,000 letters from Australians to be sent to detainees on Nauru. A similar number were sent to people at the processing centre on Manus Island.
The letters were directed to people whose identity and boat number are known to Burnside. Each letter contained a self-addressed stamped envelope so the detainees could reply to the sender if they wished.
The letters were designed to let the detainees know that Australians were thinking of them, that they were not alone and that not everyone is hostile to refugees.
By the middle of last year it was apparent that the letter writers had not received any replies from Nauru.
Canberra Times [10/3/15]:
… Mr Mendez [United Nations special rapporteur Juan Mendez] is a human rights lawyer who survived torture under Argentina's military junta in the 1970s.
In 1975 he was blindfolded and shoved in a car and taken for nearly three days of questioning by Argentinian intelligence officials.
Interrogators gave him electric shocks and at one point put a gun in his mouth to try to force him to reveal information about his work and associates.
He presented his report examining cases of torture and mistreatment by governments to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday.
Of the 200 cases in the report involving 68 different countries, four refer to Australia and each of those examines claims of torture or cruel or degrading treatment in immigration detention.
Among the concerns raised by the report was that escalating violence on Manus Island, and the "intimidation and ill-treatment of two asylum seekers" who gave statements about last year's violent clashes [attacks on refugees] at the centre was in breach of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The report also found that recent changes to the Maritime Powers Act to give the government the power to detain asylum seekers at sea and return them violated the convention.
"I think people who are detained in the high seas and subject to prolonged detention on the basis of their status and not given a fair opportunity to make their case that they should not be sent back to a country where they might face torture," Mr Mendez said on Tuesday.
"I think it is my duty to tell Australia that, at least in that respect and in respect of keeping children in detention, that policy needs to be corrected."
He added that the government's response to concerns he had raised about the alleged mistreatment of two asylum seekers on Manus Island had been "insufficient".
"I called on the authorities to investigate and see if someone is being mistreated," Mr Mendez said.
"The government just said it's going through the courts. I think that is insufficient. What I want to know is if the investigation has singled anybody out for investigation or prosecution for torture."
Mr Mendez was appointed the UN special rapporteur on torture in 2010.
Prior to his appointment, he was a special advisor on crime prevention to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court and co-chair of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute.
Refugee Action Collective (Victoria) [10/3/15]:
NEW UPDATE: Forced removal successfully halted!
Well done everyone who took part in today's actions.
The Tamil asylum seeker was unable to be boarded onto a flight to Darwin today.
We should however be prepared for them to try again in the coming days.
Refugee supporters have locked on outside MIDC to stop forced transfer of a Tamil asylum seeker. If you can get there to help please go ASAP! 53 Hampstead Rd Maidstone Vic.
19-year-old Tamil man being forcibly transferred from Maribyrnong Detention Centre (MIDC) to Darwin at 6am tomorrow morning, almost certainly to be deported back to Sri Lanka from there. If you are able to be at Maribyrnong Detention Centre before 6am, there will be a small number of us protesting this removal and doing our best to halt it.
More leading voices join UNHCR #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness
UNHCR Media Release [8/3/15]:
This international women's day, the UN refugee agency wants to remind the world that women in 27 countries are still not allowed to pass their nationality on to their children on an equal basis with men, creating a cruel cycle of statelessness.
On Tuesday March 10th, UNHCR will co-host an event at UN Headquarters in New York to shine a light on this issue in order to encourage states to reform their nationality laws. Reform of nationality laws is a key element in UNHCR's #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness.
To help spur action on this situation and on statelessness in general, UNHCR is honored to announce another group of high level supporters who have signed up to its #IBelong Campaign Open Letter which encourages world leaders to end statelessness by 2024.
Around the world at least ten million people have no nationality – a situation that often deprives them of access to the most basic rights: education, health care, social services, the ability to open a bank account, buy a house or even get married.
The new supporters to the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness include*:
Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights defender from Yemen
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and human rights defender from Ireland
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity, and former Prime Minister of the Republic of Tanzania
Rokia Traoré singer songwriter from Mali
Angelique Kidjo, singer songwriter from Benin
Zainab Salbi, author and founder, Women for Women International,
Peter Capaldi, British actor
Neil Gaiman, writer, and author
Malian singer songwriter Rokia Traoré said: 'As a mother it seems inconceivable that I would not be able to pass my nationality on to my children. We need to make sure that all mothers and their children can say #IBelong.'
The high-level side event on March 10 coincides with the Beijing +20 conference on women's rights at UN Headquarters in New York. The event, on Equal Nationality Rights aims to encourage countries to change their nationality laws.
UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk will lead the call for countries to reform their nationality laws.
"When a woman cannot pass on her nationality to her children, the effect can be crippling. Without a nationality, mothers and their children are often deprived of education and medical care and can be more vulnerable to exploitation, early marriage, violence or even human trafficking,"
In the past 10 years, a dozen countries have reformed their laws to enable women to pass their nationality to their children equally with men. The New York event will build momentum towards a September UN pledging conference, where it is hoped that more governments will commit to reform their laws to ensure gender parity in nationality matters.
10 March 2015