“We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow.”
Robert H. Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States - Opening Statement before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg [21 November 1945]
Sydney Morning Herald [8/4/15]:
... Maybe we take the murder of desperate people under our protection a little too seriously?
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has been having a colourful time of it lately.
First he was been crowing about how that wimp Saeed Hassanloo didn't even starve himself to death in his 44 day hunger strike and, therefore, should be ready to follow up almost five years in detention by being sent back to Iran, the country he fled.
See, ol' Dutto's not going to give into "emotional blackmail".
"The clear advice from my department is that I would have hundreds or thousands of people go on hunger strikes tomorrow," he explained, confirming that the Department of Immigration's biggest concern is the nefarious influence of peer pressure.
But that's not to suggest that the Department has been ignoring other things, mind.
For a start, they're posting up pictures of The Guardian's Ben Doherty and warning detainees not to speak with him under any circumstances, and letting Transfield Services personnel know that they can be sacked for having Facebook friends or Twitter followers that oppose mandatory detention.
Membership of political organisations that aren't pro-detention are also out - so no Greens members, obviously, and definitely better not sign up to Amnesty International or the Human Rights Commission. After all, don't want to start looking at these people as human beings, obviously.
Oh, and that they'd better not go joining a church that welcomes asylum seekers either, because that's a sackable offence. After all, a lot of them churches go on about that Jesus fellow and his whole "love thy neighbour" schtick. Transfield are more Old Testament, really.
The government are also of the opinion that all these current restrictions on the amount of force they can use on their detainees is really cramping their style.
That's why they're working on a bill - the Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015 - that would see officials and contractors immune from prosecution if they happen to, say, use so much force on a detainee that they died - you know, as Reza Berati did on Manus Island last year?
Under the current laws the guards responsible to smashing Berati's skull with a lump of wood would be considered to have "committed" a "murder" for some reason, and a trial would potentially set the precedent that a security officer contracted by our government shouldn't beat an unarmed man to death, even if they really, really wanted to.
In a not-unrelated story: a group of current and former workers in detention centres have written an open letter, claiming that the government has been completely aware of the epidemic of sexual and physical violence meted out on detainees for at least 17 months before calling for the Moss Review, and had simply ignored it until it threatened to become a PR disaster.
Just a reminder, by the way, that Peter Dutton was voted the worst Health Minister in living memory before he was shoved into this new role - so it's great to see he's bringing the same level of care, respect, consultation and all-round clear-sighted wisdom to the Immigration portfolio.
Since "Labor for Refugees" was established (around 2001) they have achieved nothing.
Refugee policy in Australia is now worse.
"Labor for Refugees" is a contradiction in terms. Its purpose is to co-opt an activist movement and do PR for the ALP. [The refugee rights movement and the ALP - Direct Action - February/April 2012]
Are you for refugees or the ALP?
Canberra Times [3/4/15]:
The ACT is helping lead the charge to ensure asylum seeker policy is front and centre at the Labor Party national conference in three months.
And a new element has been injected into this dynamic with the appointment to the Senate of Katy Gallagher to represent the ACT. ...
ABC, AM [16/9/14]:
... CHRIS UHLMANN: Now some of the same people in the left are concerned about your border protection policies. Is there any likelihood you'll abandon your commitment to offshore processing?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
CHRIS UHLMANN: That's a firm rolled gold commitment; you're not going to abandon it?
BILL SHORTEN: No.
CHRIS UHLMANN: Will it be changed in any way?
BILL SHORTEN: No, we support regional resettlement. And we support the offshore processing.
The Saturday Paper [27/9/14]:
... [Melissa] Parke plays a different role, as Labor navigates an awkward environment in which its options for criticising the government are circumscribed by its desire to be part of Team Australia.
She provides an alibi for Labor to avoid a loss of votes to the Greens as it joins the government in backing tougher terror laws and military action in the Middle East and continues to offer bipartisan support for offshore processing of asylum seekers. Some Coalition MPs argue Bernardi plays a similar role in placating those Liberal supporters who were disappointed that Abbott abandoned the 18C changes.
As Labor leader Bill Shorten stresses that he is “working very well together” with Abbott on national security, it doesn’t hurt to have at least one opposition MP putting an alternative view. It’s a fine line, though, as left-wing Labor senator Sue Lines discovered late last month when Shorten rebuked her for accusing the government of using the threat of terrorism to deflect attention from the budget.
Back in May when Parke and Burke first raised their intention to pursue a caucus motion on ending offshore detention, there was frustration among Labor MPs at the timing, distracting as it did from the backlash to the budget. The motion was destined to fail.
Some also feared that, by reopening the debate, Parke was risking exposing Labor to attack over whether it was strong enough to manage the electorally sensitive issue.
But Parke is not a loose cannon and her recent statements have been carefully worded. Even dissent in modern Labor is often tightly scripted.
Although Dastyari’s remarks on refugee policy earlier this year were reported as pitting him against Shorten, his speech had in fact been vetted by the party’s leadership.
Australia deliberately facilitates pedophilia in order to punish refugees. [Guardian - 8/4/15]:
… Vibhakar said children were still not safe on Nauru without adequate child protection laws, a reliable criminal justice system or checks on those working with children.
She said she was constantly frustrated in her efforts to protect children there better or to remove them from harmful situations.
“When we were concerned children were being groomed for sexual abuse and were allegedly being abused, we reported these issues up the chain of command, we wrote incident reports, we documented harm in case notes and other client documentation, and we raised these issues in meetings,” she said.
“But all of this was absolutely ignored by department of immigration. Save the Children was not allowed to remove children who in our professional judgment were unsafe.”
She said one asylum seeker girl, aged younger than six, was constantly targeted by men inside the camp.
“She went from trying to squirm out of adults’ company and touching, to trying to initiate sexual contact with adult males. She would go into another person’s tent and ask them to touch her inside her vagina.
“The government was aware of this behaviour, because it was detailed in her case notes, but allowed her to stay in Nauru for months and months and months.”
Speaking at rally on a cold Melb day for justice for refugees and asylum seekers
Image: @AdamBandt - Deputy Leader, Greens [8/4/15]
@bradcoath : 6 hours for 6 years vigil for ASIO refugees in indefinite detention ...
Wed Apr 8 12-6pm - 6 Hours for 6 Years: Free the ASIO Refugees!
Full list of legalised corruption to be made public
Queensland Police Service sponsorship details will now be made public after an edict from Police Minister Jo-Ann Miller.
Yesterday, the ABC revealed the QPS received almost $700,000 in sponsorship arrangements in the last 18 months.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said it was not necessary to publicly release the names of the donors, which included mining companies, banks and media organisations.
But Ms Miller said from now on the information would be freely available.
"I think it's very important that any sponsorship with the Queensland Police Service should be available for everyone to see," she said.
"So every quarter, any sponsorships will be put on the QPS website for anyone to see - it's about being open."
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers welcomed the change in policy.
"It's a great decision - I am glad the Police Minister has listened and now the Commissioner has changed his point of view and now we'll see openness, accountability and transparency take place, as it should do," he said.
Serious assault charges, Dalby
QPS Media [8/4/15]:
Police have charged four people following a disturbance that occurred on April 5 in Dalby.
Around 1am police attended a hotel on Patrick Street following reports of a disturbance and upon arrival, police witnessed a group of people engaged in a verbal altercation.
As police attempted to intervene, it will be alleged an officer was struck on the forehead from behind by a man. It will further be alleged two officers were punched by three men before an officer was assaulted by a woman.
A 50-year-old Newtown man has been charged with serious assault police, obstruct police and creating a disturbance. He is due to face the Dalby magistrates Court on April 28.
A 21-year-old Newtown man has been charged with serious assault police, obstruct police and creating a disturbance. He is due to face the Dalby magistrates Court on May 12.
A 19-year-old Newtown man has been charged with two counts of serious assault police, two counts of obstruct police and one count of creating a disturbance. He is due to face the Dalby magistrates Court on April 21.
A22-year-old Coolum Beach woman has been charged with assault police, obstruct police and public nuisance. She is scheduled to appear before the Dalby Magistrates Court on April 24.
Investigations into the incident are ongoing.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
QPS Media [8/4/15]:
Police are investigating an alleged robbery of a service station that occurred at Wurtulla this morning.
It will be alleged at about 1.50am a man entered the store with a mask covering his face.
He produced a knife and demanded two packets of cigarettes.
After receiving the two packets of cigarettes the man left the store and ran away.
The console operator was not injured.
The man is described as wearing a white and black hoodie, black tracksuit pants and a white hockey style mask.
Members of the public with information that may assist in this investigation are asked to contact Crime Stoppers or their local police station.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Robbery charge, Booval
QPS Media [8/4/15]:
A Bellbird Park man has been charged after an alleged robbery at Booval last night.
It will be alleged at about 9.20pm a man entered a service station on Brisbane Road demanding money and cigarettes. The man kicked a glass security door smashing it but was unable to gain entry behind the counter.
The man was provided an undisclosed sum of cash and cigarettes.
The man became further agitated when he was not provided a specific brand of cigarettes and attempted to strike the console operator who was not injured.
The man left on foot.
A 19-year-old man has been charged with one count of robbery and one count of obstruct police.
He was bailed to appear in the Ipswich Magistrates Court on May 6.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Armed robbery, Nudgee
QPS Media [8/4/15]:
Police are investigating an armed robbery at Nudgee last night.
Around 8.35pm a dual cab utility reported stolen from a Virginia address earlier, entered a drive through liquor store on Nudgee Road.
Two male passengers, one armed with a screwdriver and one with a hammer, got out of the vehicle and threatened the employee.
The two men then removed a cash register and placed it into the vehicle. They then attempted to remove a second cash register, however were unsuccessful.
The men got back into the stolen vehicle which was driven away by a third person.
One man is described as Caucasian in appearance, approximately 177cm tall, thin build, wearing dark clothing with a scarf covering his face.
The second man is described as Caucasian in appearance, approximately 183cm tall, broad build, wearing dark clothing and an aqua coloured shirt.
No one was physically injured during the incident.
Members of the public who may have information relating to this incident are asked to contact Crimestoppers or their local police station.
Moranbah community rallies around Hemi's family
Daily Mercury [8/4/15]:
A fundraising page set up after a recent tragedy has surpassed its $10,000 target.
Hearts out for Hemi was established following the death of Moranbah toddler Hemi Les Burke late in March.
Late yesterday the tally stood at more than $12,000.
Comments on the fundraising page reflected the community's outpouring of grief and love for Hemi and his family.
"You are in our hearts Burke family during this difficult time. We wish there was much more we could do for you, but we are holding you close in our thoughts," one comment says.
"Love and prayers to the Burke family at this devastating time. May your gorgeous little man Hemi rest in paradise. Thinking of you all and wish I could take some pain away," another says.
"My thoughts and prayers are with you. To lose someone so young. I was driving home today and thinking about you and your family and a song come on the radio, 'Forever Young'. It brought tears to my eyes. Hemi will always be forever young in your hearts. Angels will be looking down from above," someone else wrote.
"What can I say: little Hemi Burke you and your cheeky smile have entered the lives of so many people in the last few days for all the wrong reasons. You were taken from this world way too soon. Everyone is going to miss you so much. You fly high little man you will never be forgotten," said another comment.
A memorial service for Hemi will be held on Friday and community members are invited to attend.
The service will be at Moranbah Community Centre from 2-3pm. Following that, everyone is invited to join the family from 4pm at the Miners Leagues Club for light refreshments.
In lieu of flowers, people are asked to donate to the memorial fund.
Matthew James Ireland, 29, has been charged with the murder of Hemi Les Burke.
Donations - Hearts out for Hemi, raising money to build a new children's playground in Moranbah.
Mackay man jailed for attacking fiance
Daily Mercury [8/4/15]:
A man was jailed for a brutal attack against his fiance after she called him by a former lover's name.
Her error sparked a fight about money that turned violent and he hurled a money box at her chest.
However, she introduced a knife to the already violent situation occurring in their bedroom, the District Court in Mackay was told.
Crown prosecutor Susan Hedge said the man, then 48, disarmed her, injuring her in the process, but instead of walking away slammed her head against a wall and held her by the throat.
He punched her multiple times in the face, resulting in two black eyes, then held the knife to her throat, cutting her chin.
He then left the room and she called 000 but didn't say anything.
He walked back into the room and prodded her leg with the tip of the knife, causing a one centimetre cut.
He also threatened to kill her or cut her throat if she left the room and she believed him.
Ms Hedge described it as a "protracted assault" where "a weapon was used".
"In my submission, your honour would find it was brutal," she said.
The man, 50, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to deprivation of liberty and two counts of assault occasioning bodily harm while armed.
"It is abundantly clear in cases such as this that deterrence looms large," Judge Richard Jones said.
"This sort of offending against women... will not be tolerated."
The pair had been out and drinking, and had continued to drink when they returned home, the court was told. The man was on parole when he committed the offences.
While he had a "significant criminal history" there were no other instances of offending against women, the court was told.
Defence barrister Scott McLennon, for Morton Lawyers, said the woman used the name of her ex-lover when she called the man to join her in bed.
"My client is ashamed of his behaviour (and) certainly is remorseful."
In the man's favour was that he didn't introduce the knife to the fight, but he accepted he should have stopped after he disarmed her, Mr McLennon said.
The assault had ended by the time police arrived.
Judge Jones said the maximum penalty for assault occasioning bodily harm while armed was 10 years imprisonment. He accepted it was not a case where the defendant came armed to an assault.
None of the injuries associated with the man disarming the women were associated with the assault charges.
The man was jailed for two and a half years.
Parole eligibility was set for February 18, 2016.
Teenage boys charged with Hope Dell's death face court
Sunshine Coast Daily [8/4/15]:
Two teenage boys charged with the death of their friend after a car crash in December last year have had their matters heard in court this morning.
Courtroom 3 of the Maroochydore Magistrates Court was packed with friends and supporters of Hope Dell and her family.
Hope was killed on December 11 when the car she was a passenger in, crashed on Caloundra Rd and struck a tree.
Police will allege the driver, Jameson Mark Routledge, was taking part in an illegal street race moments before the smash.
He has been charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, causing death while excessively speeding while taking part in an unlawful race.
The second driver- Luke Evan Chesher-who was also travelling in the westbound lanes of Caloundra Rd- was charged with the same offences.
The pair have been accused of street racing moments before the crash.
Hope's mother Faye Read attended court yesterday, held up by a large group of family and friends.
At her funeral, Hope was remembered as a joy to be around, a bright, confident, funny young woman with the world at her feet.
Mr Routledge did not appear in court, however his lawyer sough an adjournment for a full committal mention on May 25.
Mr Chesher appeared, with the support of his family, and his matter was also adjourned until May 25.
Cattle loose after crash between road train, ute and car at busy Darwin intersection
A collision between a road train and two other vehicles has caused chaos on a busy intersection south of Darwin, with cows running free from the scene.
The cattle truck collided with a ute and another car on the corner of Tiger Brennan Drive and Berrimah Road just after 1:00pm.
When asked how he would describe the scene, NT Police Superintendent Bob Rennie said: "Chaotic would be an understatement, with live cattle running all over the place."
Despite a ute being severely damaged in the accident, the driver escaped with only minor injuries.
"One of the vehicles has been stuck under the trailer but I'm happy to say that no-one was injured in the crash, apart form a couple of minor bruises," Superintendent Rennie said.
But he said there were still cattle on the loose in the area.
"Twenty-four have managed to get away, unfortunately three of those have had to be destroyed due to their injuries and the other three have been saved," he said.
"You may hear quad bikes around the place from the cattle company, and I believe they are bringing in a mustering chopper to try to locate those [cattle] as well."
It is understood a number of the animals were hurt, with some needing to be destroyed.
Fatal traffic crash, Booubyjan
QPS Media [7/4/15]:
Police are currently at the scene of a fatal truck crash at Booubyjan.
Initial investigations suggest at about 8.30pm two trucks collided at the intersection of the Burnett Highway and Murgon-Gayndah Road.
One truck driver was pronounced deceased at the scene and the other has been transported to hospital by helicopter with unknown injuries.
The Burnett Highway is currently closed and is expected to remain closed for some time.
The Forensic Crash Unit is investigating.
Union members rally as health jobs could face the axe
Morning Bulletin [8/4/15]:
A number of Rockhampton Hospital workers took a united front this afternoon as possible job cuts to health services were announced.
Together Union President Vivienne Doogan said members had very serious concerns about their job security.
"There was a staff meeting last Wednesday where executives announced there would be a reduction to full time equivalents of staff but that frontline workers wouldn't be impacted," Ms Doogan said.
Ms Doogan said the potential cuts were a result of an estimated $20 million debt.
CQHHS ACTING Chief Executive Nik Fokas confirmed there would be some impact on temporary positions at Rockhampton Hospital.
Treasurer Joe Hockey approves John Holland takeover by CCCC
The Treasurer Joe Hockey has granted approval for China's CCCC International to buy out Australian construction firm John Holland.
China Communications Construction Company subsidiary CCCC International last December made a bid of around $1.15 billion to buy engineering construction firm John Holland from Spanish-controlled Australian-listed building giant Leighton Holdings.
The deal was subject to Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) approval, which has today been granted by the Treasurer Joe Hockey.
"The Government welcomes foreign investment where it is not contrary to our national interest," said Mr Hockey in a statement.
"Foreign investment has helped build Australia's economy and will continue to enhance the wellbeing of Australians by supporting economic growth and prosperity."
China Communications Construction Company is the world's fourth-largest construction company by revenue, with a presence in more than 80 countries.
The Treasurer noted media reports about the company having been barred from participating in World Bank projects until 2017 due to concerns about collusion over project bidding by a related entity.
However, Mr Hockey said those concerns had been taken into account in the decision to let the takeover proceed.
"I have sought advice and action on these and other issues in relation to CCCC," he said.
"As a result, appropriate arrangements have been put in place to mitigate any concerns in relation to this issue and I am satisfied that this investment is not contrary to our national interest."
John Holland is one of Australia's largest engineering and construction firms with over 5,600 employees in eight countries, around 4,100 of which will transfer along with the business to the new owner.
Shell offers 50 percent premium to buy BG for $70 billion
Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) agreed to buy smaller rival BG Group (BG.L) for $70 billion in the first major oil industry merger in more than a decade, closing the gap on market leader U.S. ExxonMobil (XOM.N) after a plunge in prices.
Anglo-Dutch Shell will pay a mix of cash and shares that values each BG share at around 1,350 pence ($20), the energy companies said on Wednesday. This is a hefty premium of around 52 percent to the 90-day trading average for BG, setting the bar high for any potential rival bidders.
The biggest merger this year will give Shell access to BG's multi-billion-dollar operations in Brazil, East Africa, Australia, Kazakhstan and Egypt. These include some of the world's most ambitious liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.
Stitched together by Shell CEO Ben van Beurden and BG Chairman Andrew Gould, the deal comes after oil prices halved since last June, putting a premium on access to proven assets rather than costly exploration.
"We have been scanning quite a few opportunities, with BG always being at the top of the list of the prospects to combine with," Shell's Van Beurden told a conference call.
"We have two very strong portfolios combining globally in deep water and integrated gas".
Shell said the deal would boost its proven oil and gas reserves by 25 percent. The firm also plans to increase asset sales to $30 billion between 2016-2018 on the back of the deal.
Britain's BG had a market capitalization of $46 billion as of Tuesday close, Shell was worth $202 billion while Exxon, the world's largest oil company by market value, was worth $360 billion.
BG shares leapt 37 percent for 1,250 pence, while Shell's were down 2.2 percent at 2048 pence by 0905 GMT. BG shares have tumbled nearly 28 percent since mid-June, when the slump in global oil prices started.
Melbourne man pleads guilty to inciting Indonesian hackers to attack Australian spy agencies' websites
A Melbourne man has pleaded guilty to inciting Indonesian hackers to attack the websites of the ASIO, ASIS and the Australian Signals Directorate.
Mathew John Hutchison pleaded guilty to one count of inciting to commit an unauthorised impairment to electronic communications in the Melbourne Magistrates Court today.
The court heard the 21-year-old, from Melbourne's western suburbs, made contact with Indonesian hackers who were angered by information released by Edward Snowden which suggested that the Australian embassy in Jakarta had allegedly been used for spying.
Indonesian hackers operating under of the banner of Anonymous Indonesia, attacked the websites of 170 private Australian businesses and organisations in what is known as a denial of service attack in retaliation for the alleged espionage activities.
Denial of service attacks flood a website with traffic and make them inaccessible for a period of time.
According to the prosecution's statement of facts, four days after the Anonymous Indonesia denial of service attacks began on Australian businesses, Hutchison had an online discussion with a person using the online moniker 'Absantos'.
In this conversation he outlined his plans to contact the Indonesian hackers and urge them stop their attacks on the Australian websites.
Shortly after the conversation, Hutchison uploaded a 59-second video to YouTube that urged the Indonesian hackers to focus their attention on the Australian government and its intelligence agencies.
"We are all bound together in an effort to bring down our tyrant governments to shape our world as a better place," the video said, under the brand of Anonymous Australia.
"We bid you, as fellow brother, to focus on your main target - government and spy agencies."
The court heard that on November 7, 2013 Hutchison had another online conversation with a person using the name 'xCrotz' who identified himself as the leader of the Indonesian hackers.
During this conversation Hutchison discussed the vulnerabilities of the ASIO website and urged the Indonesian hackers to attack the site, along with other government sites.
A day later a number of DFAT websites were attacked and made temporarily unavailable as a result of a distributed denial of service attack.
The sites affected included the Smart Traveller website, the Foreign Minister's official website and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) site.
DFAT's email system was also interrupted for a period of time.
As a result of the attack, DFAT's internet connectivity was so badly degraded that all of the department's public websites were taken offline for a period of about an hour.
According to a statement of facts tendered in court, this outage prevented the department from issuing travel alerts to Australian travellers using the Smart Traveller service.
The attack on the ASIS website did not lead to the unauthorised access of classified or sensitive information.
The attack on DFAT's websites continued for four days.
On the evening of November 9, 2013 Hutchison produced and uploaded a second video to YouTube with a final warning to the Anonymous Indonesia hackers to stop their attacks on Australian businesses.
The video description contained the web addresses for ASIO, ASIS and the Australian Signals Directorate and identified those sites as the ones the Indonesian hackers should target.
A third video, uploaded a week later, showed a man wearing a white Guy Fawkes mask standing in front of a green flag with the Anonymous symbol on it.
In the video, the masked man said that "once Anonymous Indonesia listened, ASIS was taken offline for a few days through multiple denial of service attacks."
During a search of Hutchison's Brookfield home in June 2014, the Australian Federal Police found a white Guy Fawkes mask and a green flag with the Anonymous symbol on it.
Forensic officers recovered deleted chat logs on Hutchison's computer which showed him discussing his role in producing the YouTube videos.
An external drive was also found to contain the audio from the second and third YouTube videos created by Hutchison.
In interviews with police following his arrest Hutchison admitted to producing the three YouTube videos and said that he knew what he was doing was wrong.
Hutchison will be sentenced in June and faces up to five years in prison.
Charges dropped against first woman charged under Queensland's draconian, anti-rights legislation
A library assistant who was the first woman charged under Queensland's anti-bikie laws has had a charge against her dropped, alongside two co-accused.
Sally Kuether was arrested after meeting Ronald Germain and Phillip Parmer wearing club colours at the Dayboro Hotel north-west of Brisbane in December 2013.
Kuether was charged as being a "participant" in the meeting between Germain and Parmer, who were members of the Life And Death motorcycle club.
They were charged with knowingly participating in a criminal gang in public and for remaining in a licensed premises while wearing bikie club vests, which are declared prohibited items.
They had faced a mandatory six-months in jail if they were convicted, however the association charges were dropped in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today.
Kuether was fined $150 for breaching the Liquor Act by wearing a bikie vest in a licensed premises, but no conviction against her was recorded.
The mother of three is a library assistant who received a Lord Mayor's award for her work after the 2011 floods.
She suffers from multiple sclerosis and spent six days in the Pine Rivers Police watch house after being arrested.
Her lawyer Angus Edwards told the court she was not aware that wearing the vest and meeting Palmer and Germain in the pub was against the state's anti-bikie laws, which were only two months old at the time.
"She simply did know she was committing a criminal offence," he said.
Mr Edwards said the charges and associated publicity had affected Kuether's health and her work, telling the court her multiple sclerosis had recurred, and that she had been forced to use a different door at her workplace and answer the phone with a different name.
Kuether's boyfriend Phillip "Crow" Parmer was convicted for the Liquor Act offence and for possessing and producing cannabis, after police found plants and drug utensils at his home.
He also pleaded guilty to possessing a carpet python without a licence and had to forfeit the snake.
He was fined $500 for all the offences and had a conviction recorded.
His lawyer Debbie Kilroy read a statement from Parmer outside the court, which said he had been badly affected by the charges and the 14 days he spent in custody.
"I have suffered severe stress and anxiety while waiting to finalise these matters," the statement said.
"Today the police have offered no evidence on the association charge that carried a six-month mandatory prison term.
"I am relieved and I did not set out to break the law on the 19th of December 2013."
Parmer also called on the new State Government to repeal the anti-bikie laws enacted under the LNP.
"It's clear today that the association laws enacted under the LNP are nothing more than a fundamental failure by the former attorney-general Bleijie and the LNP Government," he said.
"As citizens of Queensland, we should be allowed to go out in public without fear of arrest by police and mandatory prison terms.
"We call on the ALP and the now Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath to repeal these draconian laws known as 'bikie laws' as a matter of urgency."
The 25-year Army veteran was fined $300 for the Liquor Act offence and for possessing a flick knife.
"I've only ever belonged to a bike club, not a criminal organisation," he said outside court.
"I hope this is a precedent for other bikers in the same trouble as we were."
Under Queensland's anti-bikie laws, introduced by the former Liberal National Party Government [and supported by the ALP], it is illegal for three or more participants of a criminal organisation to gather in public.
New Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has said a taskforce would review the laws.
Queensland MP Billy Gordon's statement
The statement issued by former Queensland Labor MP Billy Gordon:
Last week I resigned from the Australian Labor Party. I will not resign from Parliament.
My decision is based on advice from the Clerk of Parliament, who gave detailed reasons why I did not have to resign over past events and allegations. I am also determined to honour my commitments to my constituents.
During the election campaign I committed to tackling entrenched social and economic problems in Cook, and helping communities seize economic development opportunities.
I am determined to honour those commitments, and am humbled by and grateful for the steadfast belief shown in me over the last week by my supporters in Cook.
It is time to turn my attention and energy to the needs of my electorate. Youth unemployment is at 22% in regional far north Queensland; major infrastructure projects like the Peninsula Development Road need championing; and communities are suffering unacceptable cost-of-living pressures.
I believe Queenslanders also need stable government. As such, I will support the Palaszczuk Government according to the aspirations of my constituents, and my conscience.
I will sit on the cross benches with members of Katter's Australian Party, and will play a constructive role in allowing the Palaszczuk government to govern with confidence, while at all times ensuring that I represent my constituents.
The Premier's response upon learning of my juvenile convictions was her prerogative; however under the law of Queensland, those convictions had been expunged and I was not obliged to disclose them.
This is a difficulty for anyone who has rehabilitated from juvenile wrongdoing who seeks public office: does one make a disclosure that the law does not require one to make? I put myself forward as a candidate for election, relying upon the law that says people like me are entitled to a second chance in life.
The leaking of juvenile and spent records for political ends is deeply disturbing in our democracy.
I will now do what is necessary to shield my family and children from further public duress. With my conscience and the law as my guide, I will address issues that have been raised. I will not do so in the media, as others have sought to do.
My focus now is on demonstrating to my family, my children and my community that I am a good man and that I will honour their vote for me. Some people, even MPs, may think they have a perfect past. Mine has not been. I have remorse for past events, but I have learned many lessons since I was a young man.
My experiences have given me deep empathy and insight into the many troubling issues facing my community, and the understanding to represent them in the parliament.
I vow to work with leaders from all communities in the seat of Cook to support individuals and families caught in a cycle of social crisis, and assist them to turn their lives around.
I know what it is to turn your life around and take a second chance.
There are those in the community who doubt that redemption and rehabilitation are possible. However forgiveness is one of humankind's healing touchstones. Our political system is the worse for politicians who, for their own ends, seek to exploit another's past troubles.
I will make no other statement in the media on these matters at this time."
Billy Gordon: The people of Cook will decide my political future [NIRS – 8/4/15]
United States, "allies" continue bombing Iraq and Syria
U.S.-led forces targeted Islamic State militants with 12 air strikes in Iraq and three air strikes in Syria, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.
In Iraq, the air strikes, conducted since Monday morning, hit Islamic State positions near Bayji, Mosul and Fallujah, among other places, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement.
In Syria, the air strikes hit Islamic State targets near Aleppo and Kobani, it said.
New mass graves for Speicher victims found in Salahuddin [IraqiNews.com – 7/4/15]
Yemen says Saudi airstrikes hit school, injuring students [CNN – 7/4/15]:
Yemeni officials said Saudi airstrikes targeting a military base on Tuesday hit a nearby school, injuring at least a half dozen students.
The information came from two officials with the governor's office in Ibb province, where the school is located, as well as Houthi sources from the rebel group that is fighting for control of the country.
A third source, with the Education Ministry in Ibb, said three students had been killed at the Al Bastain School in Maitam, in southwestern Yemen, as a result of an airstrike.
The officials from Ibb's governor's office said the Al Hamza military base was targeted because Houthis have been sending reinforcements from Ibb to nearby provinces. There were no casualties on the base, the officials said, but it was heavily damaged.
The school, which is about 500 meters (one-third of a mile) from the base, was not the main target, the officials said. Schoolchildren were heading to their lunch break when the attacks took place, the officials said.
The incident was another example of what has become evident in recent days: The chaos in Yemen, now the scene of some of the most chaotic fighting in the Middle East, has left civilians -- noncombatants, both locals and foreigners -- caught in the crossfire.
Those trying to escape the violence, either by leaving their homes or by leaving the country altogether, have been flung into a vortex of fear, fatigue, flight and death.
At least 74 children are known to have been killed and 44 children maimed since the fighting began on March 26, UNICEF said Monday in a statement. That did not include the children reportedly killed Tuesday in Maitam.
Separately, Saudi airstrikes wiped out about a fifth of the armored vehicles recently captured by southern separatists opposing the Houthis near Aden, according to a senior official in the separatist movement.
The official expressed frustration about the lack of coordination between the Saudi military and friendly forces in the region, including the anti-Houthi southern separatists. (The Houthis are also sometimes referred to as southern separatists).
"The Saudis have no one on the ground in Aden," he said, calling for the military to work out a means of coordination. "There is very little coordination."
The group had recently captured about 100 pieces of mixed armor. Among the captured weaponry, the official said, were tanks, armored personnel carriers, and some large artillery. About 20 pieces were destroyed in the Saudi attack that took place near an old oil refinery.
UN: 100,000 new displaced in Yemen since strikes began [Al Jazeera – 7/4/15]
US expediting arms supplies'to Saudi-led coalition [Al Jazeera – 7/4/15]
Defense Secretary Ash Carter spoke by telephone with Saudi Arabian Defense Minister Prince Mohammed bin Salman Monday and praised the countries' strategic relationship, Pentagon officials said in a written statement. ... [Centcom - 7/4/15]
Somalia has approved the use of its airspace, territorial waters and land for Saudi-led air strikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
According to security sources in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, gave his consent to the military action during last month’s Arab League summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. ... [Midnimo - 7/4/15]
Elders in Gedo Says Kenya Planes Are Killing Livestock [Goobjong.com – 7/4/15]
Somaliland: State Confirms Influx of Yemeni Refugees [Somaliland Sun – 6/4/15]
Refugees and journalism - the enemies of empire. [Nation - 6/4/15]:
Leaders from the northeastern region say they want the Dadaab refugee camp shut down as part of efforts to tame the Al-Shabaab menace.
The leaders, led by Garissa Township MP and National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale on Monday said the camps were being used to plan attacks against Kenya.
“The camps have been the centres where the training, coordination and the assembly of terror networks is done. We want the refugees to be relocated, across the border.
“They come from Somalia and the people of Kenya need to be protected. They can go across the border. UNHCR can still facilitate.
“They have been with us for the last 20 years. I think time has come when the national security of our people becomes paramount than the international obligations that we have.” said Mr Duale.
Somali journalists arrested over Garissa massacre coverage [RFI – 4/4/15]:
Somali press freedom advocates lashed out at Somalia government officials on Saturday after news 25 staff members at two radio stations were arrested over their coverage of the Garissa, Kenya, massacre on Thursday.
“The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) in Mogadishu “expressed alarm” regarding the media arrests in statement that was issued on Saturday.
The journalists and two staff members were arrested by the National Security and Intelligence Agency after they reportedly broadcast a statement by Al-Shebab leader Ali Dere claiming that the movement carried out the Garissa attack.
The government feels otherwise, according to Mohamed Yusuf, a spokesperson for Somalia’s security ministry.
“The people of Mogadishu don’t need to hear” this, Yusuf told RFI. “It’s terror. Always they send a wrong message.”
Yusuf said that Radio Shabelle and SkyFM were requested, along with the 40 other local radio stations, not to broadcast threats or speeches by Al-Shebab leaders.
He added that Radio Shabelle are most likely “sympathisers” of the group because they address Shebab leaders as “His Excellency”.
“This is another heavy-handed assault on media freedom. It is part of a trend by security authorities to silence independent media,” said Abdirisak Omar Ismail, the president of NUSOJ Supreme Council.
New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade say any citizens still in Yemen should quit the country because there is extreme risk to their security, with major threats of terrorism or kidnapping. … [RNZI – 7/4/15]
African Union-UN mission condemns bombings in central Darfur
UN Media Release [7/4/15]:
The Joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has confirmed the dropping of 10 bombs which led to the killing of 14 civilians and the wounding of 18 others in Rowata, Central Darfur, on 1 April.
According to a UN spokesperson, yesterday, a verification patrol was dispatched to Rowata. While at the village, the team witnessed another aerial bombardment, consisting of five bombs dropped close to where they were standing.
“The UN Mission strongly condemns such aerial bombings, which cause widespread death, destruction and displacement of populations,” the spokesperson said.
Israel Admits Its Fire Killed Spanish UNIFIL Peacekeeper [Naharnet – 7/4/15]
Ministry of Health: Gazan lives at risk if siege continues
As millions around the world mark April 7th as World Health Day, the health situation in Gaza continues to worsen as the joint Israeli-Egyptian siege of Gaza continues in its eight year.
Gaza Strip Ministry of Health spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra told Ma'an that there are hundreds of patients in the besieged coastal enclave who require immediate treatment abroad and whose lives will be at risk if the siege continues amid the increasing need for medical supplies.
The Gaza Strip has been under severe blockade by Israel on three sides and Egypt on one side since 2007. The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip, leading to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.
The secretary of the Ministry Yusif Abu al-Reesh called for the necessity to raise awareness of both health concerns and food security that arise specifically among "the difficulties suffered in Gaza Strip and the continued siege."
The head of the World Health Organization's Gaza branch, Mahmoud Daher, said that maintenance of health safety faces serious obstacles due to the Israeli siege.
Israel's offensive on Gaza last summer left over 10,000 Gazans injured, according to UNWRA, many of which are still struggling to live with their injuries. Al-Insan Center for Democracy and Human Rights called for immediate intervention to help evacuate hundreds of patients out of Gaza Strip to receive treatment, and pressure Israel to adhere to the Geneva convention.
Last summer's war also caused lasting and extensive damage to water, sanitation, and energy infrastructure in Gaza, according to a recent report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, making basic sanitation and access to clean water a near impossibility.
In addition to physical complications, UNRWA’s school-based counselors reported in March 2015 that many refugee children in Gaza exhibit emotional and behavioral problems, and struggle with their academic performance in correlation with continuing conflict.
Children aged six or older have endured three wars in their lifetimes. Israel and Hamas fought a devastating 50-day war in the coastal enclave that killed more than 2,200 people and left 100,000 Gazans homeless.
It was their third conflict in less than five years, following an eight-day bombardment in 2012 and a 22-day war in late 2008 and early 2009.
In the same report, James Rawley, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Palestine stated that movement and access restrictions continued to fragment the occupied territory, undermining Palestinians’ livelihoods and impeding their access to basic services.
"Continued occupation undermines the ability of Palestinians to live normal lives. Were these factors removed and related policies changed, international humanitarian assistance would not be necessary here," Rawley concluded.
Afghanistan: NDS say all abducted passengers safe
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) rejected reports that one of the 31 abducted passengers was killed in captivity.
Some media reports on Monday said militants belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) had killed one abducted man.
A video clip showed two rebels killing a captive after reading a script, but a statement from the NDS said individual appeared in a video clip was an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier and had no links with abducted passengers.
It said the spy service officials had started investigations into the brutal killing of ANA soldier. The statement termed the act as inhumane and unIslamic.
US military logisticians busy in Afghanistan [Centcom – 7/4/15]
Are Obama’s Record Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq Fueling Unrest in Middle East? [Democracy Now – 7/4/15]:
As Saudi Arabia continues U.S.-backed strikes in Yemen and Washington lifts its freeze on military to aid to Egypt, new figures show President Obama has overseen a major increase in weapons sales since taking office.
The majority of weapons exports under Obama have gone to the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia tops the list at $46 billion in new agreements.
We are joined by William Hartung, who says that even after adjusting for inflation, "the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II."
Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and author of "Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex."
UN relief wing spotlights deteriorating health situation for conflict-affected Ukrainians [Media Release – 7/4/15]
A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting and killing an apparently unarmed black man in the back while he ran away.
The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, had said he feared for his life because the man took his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday.
A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man fled. The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening. ... [New York Times - 7/4/15]
Black teen shot dead by Illinois police shot in back: newspaper [Yahoo - 7/4/15]
Chinese extend more post-cyclone relief to Vanuatu
China's Ambassador in Vanuatu, Xie Bohau, has officially handed over five million US dollars in post-cyclone relief assistance to the local government.
The Chinese relief supplies, including food and tents and other materials have been collected at the headquarters of the Vanuatu Mobile Force, now ready to be dispatched.
The package, which follows earlier Chinese relief assistance for Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam struck last month, is to go towards the second stage of emergency relief.
Mr Xie says China stands ready to assist Vanuatu until it recovers from Cyclone Pam.
"We are awaiting the assessment by Vanuatu government on the reconstruction my government will continue to provide assistance to Vanuatu in the future, especially on the reconstruction of the country."
Vanuatu's government has already indicated that reconstruction of school buildings is the priority.
'Between Worlds' Opera: A British Eulogy on 9/11 Attacks
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks shook the world almost 14 years ago, classical composers have set out to commemorate the tragedy through various musical forms – choral pieces, string quartets, orchestral works and a requiem.
Now, in what might be the most ambitious tribute to date, British composer Tansy Davies memorializes the 9/11 attacks in her first opera, Between Worlds.
Davies collaborates with librettist Nick Drake and director Deborah Warner for the highly touted opera, which premieres this week at the Barbican as a co-commission with English National Opera.
In what Warner calls "an epic piece," Between Worlds tells the story of a group of six people trapped in the North Tower on the day of the tragedy. According to Davies, much of Drake’s libretto was inspired by pager messages from 9/11 victims which were released by WikiLeaks after the attacks.
Between Worlds follows a long line of (sometimes fraught) musical responses to the 9/11 attacks that have come out in the past decade or so, most of which have been American compositions.
For the first anniversary of the tragedy, the New York Philharmonic commissioned On the Transmigration of Souls, a composition for which John Adams received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize in music. Nine years later, the Philharmonic called upon John Corigliano to write One Sweet Morning, which it premiered in Sept. 2011 with Alan Gilbert conducting.
Another notable commemoration of the tragedy is Steve Reich’s 2010 composition WTC 911, which was performed by Kronos Quartet (below). Reich’s piece includes FDNY voice recordings from 9/11, as well as interview segments from witnesses. These compositions, among many others, have entered into the growing canon of musical representations of the tragedy.
Featuring a mainly British cast, the forthcoming premiere of the ENO-Barbican commission reveals the international voices that have joined these musical 9/11 commemorations. And in this manner, Between Worlds illustrates the enduring international impact of the 9/11 attacks.
Although the original idea of the opera was the more narrowly focused story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit – who walked a wire between the Twin Towers in 1974 – the project gradually shifted to reflect the universal themes that surrounded 9/11: life and death, heaven and earth, among other striking juxtapositions.
In a video released by ENO, Davies describes her ambitious goal of turning “something very complex and difficult into something healing and beautiful.”
Despite the darkness of the theme, Davies told The Independent that she and her co-collaborators hoped to surround the darkness with “a sort of spirituality that is all about love and connection.”
9/11 tragedy pager intercepts [WikiLeaks]
US secretly tracked billions of calls for decades
USA Today [7/4/15]:
The U.S. government started keeping secret records of Americans' international telephone calls nearly a decade before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, harvesting billions of calls in a program that provided a blueprint for the far broader National Security Agency surveillance that followed.
For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking, current and former officials involved with the operation said. The targeted countries changed over time but included Canada, Mexico and most of Central and South America.
Federal investigators used the call records to track drug cartels' distribution networks in the USA, allowing agents to detect previously unknown trafficking rings and money handlers. They also used the records to help rule out foreign ties to the bombing in 1995 of a federal building in Oklahoma City and to identify U.S. suspects in a wide range of other investigations.
The Justice Department revealed in January that the DEA had collected data about calls to "designated foreign countries." But the history and vast scale of that operation have not been disclosed until now.
The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA's intelligence arm, was the government's first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. It was a model for the massive phone surveillance system the NSA launched to identify terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. That dragnet drew sharp criticism that the government had intruded too deeply into Americans' privacy after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked it to the news media two years ago.
More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials described the details of the Justice Department operation to USA TODAY. Most did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the intelligence program, part of which remains classified.
The DEA program did not intercept the content of Americans' calls, but the records — which numbers were dialed and when — allowed agents to map suspects' communications and link them to troves of other police and intelligence data. At first, the drug agency did so with help from military computers and intelligence analysts.
That data collection was "one of the most important and effective Federal drug law enforcement initiatives," the Justice Department said in a 1998 letter to Sprint asking the telecom giant to turn over its call records. The previously undisclosed letter was signed by the head of the department's Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section, Mary Lee Warren, who wrote that the operation had "been approved at the highest levels of Federal law enforcement authority," including then-Attorney General Janet Reno and her deputy, Eric Holder.
iiNet ordered to hand over customer details to Dallas Buyers Club
IT News [7/4/15]:
iiNet has been ordered to hand over the customer details of almost 5000 people the owners of the film Dallas Buyers Club claim have shared the movie online without authorisation.
In Sydney's federal court today, Justice Nye Perram ruled that so-called preliminary discovery should be granted to the rights holder, with certain conditions.
To protect customer privacy, DBC LLC will be restricted from disclosing the names and addresses of any alleged infringers iiNet hands over.
The rights holder will only be able to use the information to seek to identify people using BitTorrent to share the film; to sue end-users for infringement; or to negotiate with end-users over liability for infringement.
Perram also ordered that any letter sent to an iiNet customer alleged to have infringed copyright be sent to himself first for approval.
DBC LLC has been ordered to pay the cost of the proceedings, and also the ISP's costs for handing over the customer details.
The company will now be able to access the names and residential addresses of around 4700 alleged copyright infringers. However, Perram said he did not authorise the court to order the production of email addresses.
One of iiNet's arguments against the granting of preliminary discovery had been around the potential for threatening letters to be sent to its customers, an approach DBC LLC has taken in the US.
"There is no doubt that [DBC owner] Voltage has [engaged in speculative invoicing] in the past," Perram wrote in his judgment.
"There were a number of instances put before me of Voltage having written, in the United States, very aggressive letters indicating to the identified account holder a liability for substantial damages and offering to settle for a smaller (but still large) sum.
"[Royalties vice president at Voltage, Michael Wickstrom] gave evidence that this would not be happening in Australia.
"My impression was that Mr Wickstrom would act as aggressively as he was legally permitted, a proposition from which counsel for the applicants, Mr Pike SC, did not dissent."
The Australian Greens said today that the government's metadata regime would make it easier for companies to embark on speculative invoicing attacks against Australians who are suspected of downloading movies in breach of copyright. … [Media Release – 7/4/15]
Syrian Imam Sheihk Abdul Hadi Arwani shot dead in London [Independent – 7/4/15]
Greens statement on the Reclaim Australia rallies
Media Release [7/4/15]:
Australian Greens spokesperson on multiculturalism, Dr Richard Di Natale, together with Victorian Greens spokesperson on multiculturalism, Nina Springle MLC, today condemned the Reclaim Australia rallies and reaffirmed the Greens support for a multicultural Australia.
“Multiculturalism is one of Australia’s enduring successes and it should be protected.”
“The Australian story is one of many diverse people and backgrounds coming together to enrich our shared experience. Census data tells us that nearly a quarter of Australians were born overseas and nearly half have one parent born overseas.”
“The Reclaim Australia rallies on the weekend are a sad reminder that racism and fear of difference still exist among some members of the community. And that suffering racial vilification is still very much part of the migrant experience.”
“It is incumbent on all politicians and public figures to try to protect communities from vilification and isolation and to help redress the misplaced fear that some people hold towards other cultures and religions.”
“It is worth reflecting on the leadership shown by the late Malcolm Fraser in this regard. Unfortunately that kind of leadership and decency has been rarely seen in recent years and if anything the toxic debate around asylum seekers and the way in which the Prime Minister has chosen to talk about terrorism have only served to enhance fear and misunderstanding.”
“Today the Greens reaffirm our commitment to multiculturalism and celebrate the contribution many generations of migrants have made to Australia and continue to make.”
The CIA, the MSM and the politics of drugs, guns, money and the news, Greg Maybury [Online Opinion - 7/10/14]:
... In his iconic three-part exposé called "Dark Alliance," originally published in 1996 in the San Jose Mercury News, [Gary] Webb ignited a firestorm by alleging that Nicaraguan Contras, trained and supported by the CIA to fight that country's leftist Sandinistas, were funded by the traffickers directly responsible for the explosion of crack cocaine in America's inner cities.
Although Webb did not claim that the CIA were directly involved, he left open the possibility that the Agency at least knew about it and turned a blind eye.
The big questions were whether the CIA directly and knowingly facilitated the trade itself and if so, to what ends. Were such "ends" simply to finance their own and the Contras' operations, or as some have suggested, was there some other nefarious purpose such as a deliberate attempt to undermine then destroy the social fabric of black and Latino communities in urban America?
Few would argue the Agency was oblivious to the trade or could lay claim to not being aware of the domestic legal, social and political blowback of doing so. Either way, such revelations as those made by Webb and the questions his exposé posed presented the Agency arguably with its biggest public relations blowback since the Bay of Pigs disaster.
Such is the nature of this story that we need to ransack history a little more in order to appreciate the context of Webb's revelations and to give us additional perspective.
The revelations of CIA involvement in the active, albeit covert, proliferation of drugs – marijuana, cocaine, heroin in particular – are well documented, albeit not so much on the Agency's official website. And along with that aspect of its under-the-radar operational "brief" are the illegal arms dealing and money laundering that frequently – and by necessity – accompany such criminal enterprise. All this not to mention the odd murder or three along the way.
Even in my country of Australia we were not immune from the CIA's drug-smuggling, money laundering and gun-running enterprises, as anyone vaguely familiar with the Nugan-Hand Bank Scandal would be aware. The full story behind Nugan-Hand would arguably qualify as Australia's most complex, and as yet unresolved, mysteries in our criminal and political narrative. But there is little doubt that Nugan-Hand throughout most of the 1970s was up to its dirty spook armpits both in Australia and elsewhere in the very enterprises at the heart of the Webb exposé.
Although a story for another time, suffice it to say that despite there being no less than four official investigations into the murky machinations of this notorious CIA front that operated up until the murder in Sydney of Frank Nugan in 1980, there is still much we don't know about what went down. And a big part of the reason why we don't know is because the CIA – with the collusion of its mates in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) – didn't want us to know. Which is to say the Nugan-Hand "Thing" serves to remind us that the Langley Lads do not like having their dirty linen aired in public, and will resort to any means necessary to prevent this. Frank Nugan's demise is ample evidence of that.
''Australia's really set the world back by creating a different model which we're trying to retreat from, but it's difficult to retreat from it once it was entrenched.''
Sydney Morning Herald [26/1/10]:
The newly crowned Australian of the Year, Patrick McGorry, has taken the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to task over the detention of asylum seekers, which he described as ''an absolute disaster that we must not repeat''.
But Deputy Prime Julia Gillard said today that asylum seekers would continue to be held in Australian detention centres.
Speaking in Melbourne, Ms Gillard said it was good that Professor McGorry's comments had sparked "a conversation" about mental health but the Federal Government was not always going to agree with his opinion.
"Obviously, Mr [sic] McGorry has got his views on immigration and mandatory detention," she told reporters in Melton following an Australia Day citizenship ceremony.
"The views of the Government are clear. We believe mandatory detention is necessary when people arrive unauthorised, for security reasons, in order to do health checks and in order to check identity, and we will continue to have a mandatory detention policy.
"Mr McGorry, as Australian of the Year, is there in a very special role which enables him to engage in community debate, and so he should.
"We're not necessarily going to all have the same views at every part of that conversation."
Professor McGorry, a psychiatrist, yesterday called for asylum seekers to be allowed to live in the community, instead of being sent to detention facilities on Christmas Island.
But today he said the Federal Government was digging the nation out of a hole created by past leaders when it come to the handling of asylum seekers.
Only moments after receiving his award from Mr Rudd, Professor McGorry promised to confront the Prime Minister over his border protection policies, which provide for asylum seekers to be detained in facilities that he said were ''factories for producing mental illness and mental disorder''.
Professor McGorry, a long-time critic of Australia's detention policies, said he formed his views on the issue while working with asylum seekers in the 1990s.
''They've experienced severe torture and trauma,'' he said. ''What we have been doing is adding to those mental health problems.''
Professor McGorry said that research had made clear the consequences of immigration detention.
He said asylum seekers should have their claims processed as quickly as possible while they lived in the community.
''That's what other countries do,'' he said. ''Australia's really set the world back by creating a different model which we're trying to retreat from, but it's difficult to retreat from it once it was entrenched.''
Professor McGorry, from Melbourne, won the award for his work in campaigning for better treatment for mentally ill young people. He runs the Orygen Youth Health service and is the director of Headspace, Australia's National Youth Mental Health Foundation.
Professor McGorry said mental health had suffered from ''a lack of oxygen'' but awareness was growing.
''A psychiatrist as Australian of the Year - that's what I call climate change,'' he told the crowd in front of Parliament House as he accepted his award.
He said he would use his position to push for more funding for mental health care and radical changes to how mentally ill people were treated.
Mr Rudd said the value of Professor McGorry's contribution to the nation could not ''ever fully be measured''.
A distress call from Manus Island [Al Jazeera [7/4/15]:
On the radio when I woke this morning was some good news, from a hospital in Western Australia. An asylum seeker who’s been on hunger strike for weeks has, finally, agreed to drink some water.
But now his death is less imminent, it’s likely the media interest in the case will disappear entirely.
I'm part of that media. So here’s my conundrum. Should I write about a distressing call about a different case I received last night? I’ve been trying to decide all day.
Writing, I’ve decided, is the lesser of two evils:
Samar Elzeiny was crying on the phone: "What can I do, Andrew? What should I do? Help me, Andrew, help me."
Elzeiny said she'd had a phone call yesterday from her brother, Faisal, who is a detainee at the Manus Island detention centre.
He’d said that existing health conditions - concerning his head, eyes and legs - were getting worse.
He said he saw a doctor on Monday (on Manus Island, his sister thinks) but the doctor would not refer him for specialist treatment.
Faisal told the doctor that if he did not receive proper medical treatment by 3.30pm Tuesday he would swallow 20 razor blades.
He showed the doctor 20 empty plastic packets to prove he had the blades. It would be the second time he's swallowed razors.
I first met Samar in January when her brother had done something similar.
Should I be writing this?
So a second-hand threat of suicide by a detainee at a detention centre established and paid for by Australia, but in Papua New Guinea and under their jurisdiction. A place where it is very hard to get accurate information from; where there is very little accountability.
I have no way of knowing how serious Elzeiny's health conditions are; nor how serious his threat of suicide is. It may be his mental health is worse than his physical health; maybe neither is as bad as his sister is making out. Maybe what he - and she - really want is attention. And here am I, giving it.
Should I be writing this at all? Media attention piqued when suicide threats are mentioned might encourage more threats - or worse.
But with an absence of information and the inability to do more than the most basic of fact-checking, keeping quiet about potential issues when they come to me seems worse than writing about them; writing seems the lesser of two evils.
I sincerely hope Faisal’s threat isn’t serious. But I also wish he didn’t have to make it to get any attention at all.
I contacted the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Canberra about Faisal Elzeiny. They would not comment on his case specifically but did give me the following statement:
"Transferees at the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (RPC) have access to clinically recommended care that is broadly comparable with health services available within the Australian community.
General practitioner, nursing and mental health care clinics are open at the Manus Island RPC seven days per week. There is also after-hours medical staffing to respond to any after-hours medical emergencies.
Medical specialists visit the RPC as required. Specialist services are supplemented by a tele-health service.
Decisions on medical transfers are based on clinical advice from the contracted health service provider, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS).
Any transferee who threatens or undertakes self-harming behaviour receives clinically guided support. The higher the assessed risk of self-harm, the higher the level of engagement and support.
Threats or actual incidents of self-harming behaviour will not influence the outcome of an individual’s immigration case."
Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [8/4/15]:
Hundreds of refugees on Nauru have staged a protest against offshore processing in defiance of a new law that requires protesters to give seven days notice of any protest and gives the police commissioner sole power to allow a protest, or not.
A representative of the Nauruan government has toured refugee camps on the island declaring that protests even in refugee camps are now banned. Astonishingly the penalty for taking part in an unauthorised assembly is a fine of $3000 or two year’s jail or both!
The law also seems to require every participant in a protest (if one was allowed) to have a permit or risk being arrested.
The new laws come less than a month since the arrests of almost 200 refugees, including children on 4 March. Eleven of those arrested are due to appear in court on Wednesday 8 April.
The protest ban was first announced last Saturday (4 April) following a Good Friday protest in solidarity with Saeed Hansonloo, the Iranian hunger striker, then close to death in a Perth hospital.
On Tuesday (7 April), afternoon, police even came to the Anibare family camp to declare the ban over a loudspeaker system.
The Australian media are lying by omission: We immediately ask for the transfer of all asylum seekers in the Nauru detention camp to Australia.
8 April 2015