Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Miranda's IPA inspired rant


This was the News Corp mouthpiece for that far-right pressure group the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), Miranda Devine, in full rant (though sticking closely to IPA's wish list) and under multiple mastheads on 18 April 2018:

Malcolm Turnbull has a rare opportunity to put a stop to the Left’s long march when the Race Discrimination Commissioner’s term expires in August
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane’s term expires in August and the Turnbull government cannot afford to miss this opportunity to stake out its ground in the culture wars.

Conservatives are sick of ­Coalition governments that ­appease the Left, curl into a ball and try not to cause outrage while Labor-Green governments remake the culture in their own image.

The country always takes two steps to the Left with a Labor government and not much better than one step to the Right or even staying in place with the Coalition, which puts us on a very bad trajectory indeed…..

So government gets bigger and more intrusive, the ABC continues unimpeded, destructive quangos such as the Australian Human Rights Commission proliferate and the cancer of identity politics takes hold. Little by little, our remarkable nation is transformed, and division takes root. The self-reliance and entrepreneurial spirit of Australians is sapped and the bonds of mateship are eroded.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The only way to arrest this dispiriting drift to the left is for Coalition governments to stop pretending there are no culture wars and get into the trenches and fight.

With a one-seat majority, a prime minister with fashionably progressive views and an election in the next year, we can’t expect bold actions by the Turnbull government that were beyond the Howard and Abbott governments. Such as closing down the Human Rights Commission.

But Malcolm Turnbull cannot ­afford to keep making mistakes like he did at the ABC when he appointed as chairman a man who is such a leftie he said he couldn’t see any bias.

The symbolic value cannot be over-estimated of replacing Soutphommasane with a commissioner who doesn’t want to use race to divide us.

That’s all this pesky 36-year-old French-born son of Laotian refugees has done since he was appointed to a five-year term by Kevin Rudd in 2013, a month before the Abbott government was elected. Despite the fact Australia gave Soutphommasane’s family a home, a free education at Hursltone Agricultural High and the University of Sydney, and a Commonwealth scholarship to Oxford University, he preaches that this is a racist country.

Despite the fact this is the most successful immigrant country in the world, which has mostly harmoniously absorbed as many as 200,000 new people each year from around the world, Soutphommasane tells us that the culture is toxic.

The former freelance journalist has bought the identity politics agenda, hook, line and sinker. He saw the great honours bestowed on him, such as membership of the board of the National Australia Day Council and the $340,000 gig at the Australian Human Rights Commission, as proof, not that this was a country that offered equality of opportunity to all comers, regardless of the colour of their skin. No, he saw it as more evidence of anti-white racism that needed to be set straight with social engineering.

He will never be forgiven for soliciting racial complaints against a cartoon by the late and much missed Bill Leak, whose persecution under Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act only really ended with his ­untimely death last year of a heart ­attack at 61.

Soutphommasane’s latest obsession is to impose ethnic diversity quotas on corporate Australia. He declared last year that there were too many white people running Australian companies.

In his five years he has just ­libelled Australia, created race-based social divisions and helped fuel a backlash against immigration.

So it’s not good enough for the government to appoint, as is mooted, an innocuous replacement who just avoids the headlines. Restitution is needed. If we must have a racial commissioner, then let it be a clear-eyed patriot who loves this country. Warren Mundine is the best person for the job. Well-respected, brimming with common sense and optimism, he has a proven track ­record as a businessman, and as an Aboriginal and political leader. He would unite us around what’s best about Australia.

This was a restrained Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane in rebuttal the following day:




Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Liberals continue to behave badly in 2018 - Part Four


Just five months after Australian voters signalled their widespread acceptance of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) members of the community by voting for the introduction of same sex marriage, a number people in the Victorian Liberal Party want to turn back the clock in the name of sheer bigotry.

The Age, 14 April 2018:

A motion by a conservative Liberal branch linked to Federal MP Kevin Andrews has called for state legislation allowing health practitioners “to offer counselling out of same sex attraction or gender transitioning to patients who request it''.

With seven months before the Victorian election, it also urges Mr Guy to advocate for laws ensuring “parents and young people are all given full information about the psychological harms of social, medical and surgical gender transitioning”.

It further states that any claims supporting prescribing puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and gender re-assignment surgery as safe and reversible, are in fact "both false and harmful".

The motion was drafted by the Victorian Liberal Party’s Menzies-Warrandyte branch and will be one of dozens debated when rank-and-file delegates meet on April 28 and 29 for the party’s annual state council meeting….

Other motions to be debated at state council include:

* Calls for the Commonwealth Sex Discrimination Act to re-insert "man" and "woman" in the place of "sexual orientation" and "gender identity". The aim is that a person will define their gender as either male or female, according to their biological and reproductive function.

* Calls to ban the Safe Schools program from Victorian schools and any other curriculum teaching a person's gender may be different from their biological sex or that people can transition.

On 16 April 2018 it was reported that the 'gay conversion therapy' motion along with those other nasty motions were removed from the agenda for the Liberal's annual state council meeting - apparently the party's state president didn't like the negative publicity these motions was gathering ahead of the November 2018 Victorian state election.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

When it comes to human rights and civil liberties is it ever safe to trust the junkyard dog or its political masters?



On 18 July 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull announced the establishment of a Home Affairs portfolio that would comprise immigration, border protection, domestic security and law enforcement agencies, as well as reforms to the Attorney-General’s oversight of Australia’s intelligence community and agencies in the Home Affairs portfolio.

 On 7 December 2017, the Prime Minister introduced the Home Affairs and Integrity Agencies Legislation Amendment Bill2017 into the House of Representatives.

This bill amends the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006, the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Act 2010, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1986 and the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

The bill was referred to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security which tabled its report and recommendations on 26 February 2018.

This new government department on steroids will be headed by millionaire former Queensland Police detective and far-right Liberal MP for Dickson, Peter Craig Dutton.

His 'front man' selling this change is Abbott protégéformer Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and current Secretary of the new Department of Home Affairs, Michael Pezzullo. 

The question every Australian needs to ask themselves is, can this current federal government, the ministers responsible for and department heads managing this extremely powerful department, be trusted not to dismantle a raft of human and civil rights during the full departmental implementation.

It looks suspiciously as though former Australian attorney-general George Brandis does not think so - he is said to fear political overreach.

The Saturday Paper, 3-9 March 2018:

On Friday last week, former attorney-general George Brandis went to see Michael Pezzullo, the secretary of the new Department of Home Affairs.

The meeting was a scheduled consultation ahead of Brandis’s departure for London to take up his post as Australia’s new high commissioner. It was cordial, even friendly. But what the soon-to-be diplomat Brandis did not tell Pezzullo during the pre-posting briefing was that he had singled him out in a private farewell speech he had given to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on the eve of his retirement from parliament two weeks earlier.

As revealed in The Saturday Paper last week, the then senator Brandis used the ASIO speech to raise concerns about the power and scope of the new department and the ambitions of its secretary. Brandis effectively endorsed the private concerns of some within ASIO that the new security structure could expose the domestic spy agency to ministerial or bureaucratic pressure.

In a regular Senate estimates committee hearing this week, Pezzullo described his meeting with Brandis – on the day before The Saturday Paper article appeared – as Opposition senators asked him for assurances that ASIO would retain its statutory independence once it moves from the attorney-general’s portfolio to become part of Home Affairs.

“I had a very good discussion on Friday,” Pezzullo told the committee, of his meeting with Brandis.

“He’s seeking instructions and guidance on performing the role of high commissioner. None of those issues came up, so I find that of interest. If he has concerns, I’m sure that he would himself raise those publicly.”

Labor senator Murray Watt pressed: “So he raised them with ASIO but not with you?”
“I don’t know what he raised with ASIO,” Pezzullo responded. “… You should ask the former attorney-general if he’s willing to state any of those concerns … He’s a high commissioner now, so he may not choose to edify your question with a response, but that’s a matter for him. As I said, he didn’t raise any of those concerns with me when we met on Friday.”

The Saturday Paper contacted George Brandis but he had no comment.

“ANY SUGGESTION THAT WE IN THE PORTFOLIO ARE SOMEHOW EMBARKED ON THE SECRET DECONSTRUCTION OF THE SUPERVISORY CONTROLS WHICH ENVELOP AND CHECK EXECUTIVE POWER ARE NOTHING MORE THAN FLIGHTS OF CONSPIRATORIAL FANCY…”

Watt asked Pezzullo for assurance there would be no change to the longstanding provisions in the ASIO Act that kept the agency under its director-general’s control and not subject to instruction from the departmental secretary. The minister representing Home Affairs in the Senate, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, said: “It is not proposed that there be a change to that effect.”

The new Department of Home Affairs takes in Immigration and Border Protection, the Australian Federal Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, known as AUSTRAC, and ASIO.
ASIO does not move until legislation is passed to authorise the shift, and will retain its status as a statutory agency.

Pezzullo addressed the fears of those questioning his department’s reach. He said some commentary mischaracterised the arrangements as “being either a layer of overly bureaucratic oversight of otherwise well-functioning operational arrangements or, worse, a sinister concentration of executive power that will not be able to be supervised and checked”.

“Both of these criticisms are completely wrong,” he said.

Pezzullo had already described his plans, both to the committee and in a speech he made in October last year, in which he spoke of exploiting the in-built capabilities in digital technology to expand Australia’s capacity to detect criminal and terrorist activity in daily life online and on the so-called “dark web”.

But the language he used, referring to embedding “the state” invisibly in global networks “increasingly at super scale and at very high volumes”, left his audiences uncertain about exactly what he meant.

Watt asked if there would be increased surveillance of the Australian people. “Any surveillance of citizens is always strictly done in accordance with the laws passed by this parliament,” Pezzullo replied.

In his February 7 speech to ASIO, George Brandis described Pezzullo’s October remarks as an “urtext”, or blueprint, for a manifesto that would rewrite how Australia’s security apparatus operates.

Pezzullo hit back on Monday. “Any suggestion that we in the portfolio are somehow embarked on the secret deconstruction of the supervisory controls which envelop and check executive power are nothing more than flights of conspiratorial fancy that read into all relevant utterances the master blueprint of a new ideology of undemocratic surveillance and social control,” Pezzullo said.

As for day to day human resources, financial management and transparent accountable governance, media reports are not inspiring confidence in Messrs. Turnbull, Dutton and Pezzullo.

The Canberra Times, 2 March 2018:

Home Affairs head Mike Pezzullo was one of the first to front Senate estimates on Monday.

It's been up and running for only weeks, but his new department is part of one of the largest government portfolios.

Having brought several security agencies into its fold, and if legislation passes letting ASIO join, the Home Affairs portfolio will be home to 23,000 public servants. 
Mr Pezzullo was also quizzed on the investigation into Roman Quaedvlieg, the head of the Australian Border Force who has been on leave since May last year, following claims he helped his girlfriend - an ABF staff member - get a job at Sydney Airport.

It was revealed the Prime Minister's department has had a corruption watchdog's report into abuse of power allegations for at least five months while Mr Quaedvlieg has been on full pay earning hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Is Australian welfare reform in 2018 a step back into a dark past?


Last year saw the completion of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which revealed generational abuse within the Australian education and child welfare systems. 

That year also revealed the ongoing failure of the Dept. of Human Services and Centrelink to fix its faulty national debt collection scheme, which possibly led to the deaths of up to eleven welfare recipients after they were issued debt advice letters.

The first quarter of 2018 brought a scathing United Nations report on Australia's contemporary human rights record titled Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on his mission to Australia.

Along with a report into elder abuse in Oakden Older Persons Mental Health Service in South Australia and the release of a detailed Human Rights Watch investigation of 14 prisons in Western Australia and Queensland which revealed the neglect and physical/sexual abuse of prisoners with disabilities, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme represents yet another crisis. The Productivity Commission has warned there is now no carer of last resort for patients in an emergency, care provider agencies are reportedly owed up to $300 million and disabled people are often receiving inadequate care via untrained staff or sometimes no care at all, as government disability care services are being closed in favour of the new privatised service delivery scheme.

None of these instances stand in isolation and apart from either Australian society generally or government policies more specifically.

They all represent the frequently meagre nature of community compassion and the real level of care governments have been willing to organise and fund for vulnerable citizens. In reality the ideal level of support and care for the vulnerable - that politicians spout assurances about from campaign hustings every three years - is just so much political hot air unless ordinary voters insist that it be otherwise. 

As the Turnbull Coalition Government clearly intends to push forward with the full gamut of its punitive welfare reforms perhaps now it the time to consider if we have made any great strides towards a genuinely fair and egalitarian society in the last two hundred years or if we are only dressing up old cruelties in new clothes and calling this "looking after our fellow Australians”, "an exercise in practical love"an exercise in compassion and in love".


Over the last two decades, commissions and reports on institutional care across the western world have highlighted widespread physical, sexual, emotional and economic violence within caring systems, often targeted at society’s most vulnerable people, not least children, the disabled and the elderly. These have often come at significant cost not just to the individual, but the nation. As Maxwell has shown, national apologies, that require the nation to render itself shamed by such practices, and financial redress to victims, have impacted on political reputation, trust in state organisations, and finances. As each report is released and stories of suffering fill newspapers and are quantified for official redress, both scholars and the public have asked ‘how was this allowed to happen?’ At the same time, and particularly in the last few years as many countries have turned towards conservative fiscal policies, newspapers also highlight the wrongs of current systems.

In the UK, numerous reports have uncovered abuses within welfare systems, as people are sanctioned to meet targets, as welfare staff are encouraged to withhold information about services or grants to reduce demand, and through systematic rejection of first-try benefit applications to discourage service use. Often excused as ‘isolated incidents’ on investigation, such accounts are nonetheless increasingly widespread. They are accompanied by a measurable reduction in investment in welfare and health systems, that have required a significant withdrawal in services, and have been accompanied with policies of ‘making work pay’ that have required that benefits be brought in line, not with need, but with low working incomes. The impact of these policies and associated staff behaviour have been connected to increasing child and adult povertydeclining life expectancygrowing homelessness, and the rise in foodbank use.

Importantly, public commentators on this situation have described this situation as ‘cruel’. One headline saw a benefits advisor commenting ‘I get brownie points for cruelty’; another noted ‘Welfare reform is not only cruel but chaotic’. The system depicted in Ken Loach’s I Daniel Blake (2016), described by reviewers as a Kafka-esque nightmare, a ‘humiliating and spirit-sapping holding pattern of enforced uselessness’, and a  ‘comprehensive [system of] neglect and indifference’, was confirmed by many as an accurate depiction. Whether or not this representation of the current welfare system is held to be true, such reporting raises significant questions about when and how systems designed to provide help and support move from care to abuse. A focus on ‘isolated incidents’ today can be compared to the blaming of ‘isolated perpetrators’ in historic cases of abuse, an account that is now held by scholars to ignore the important role of systems of welfare in enabling certain types of cruelty to happen…..

The capacity of welfare systems to support individuals is shaped by cultural beliefs and political ideologies around the relationship between work, human nature, and welfare. Here late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Ireland provides a productive example. Ireland in this period was marked by significant levels of poverty amongst its lower orders, particularly those that worked in agriculture. The capacity to manage that poverty on an individual level was hindered by several economic downturns and harvest failure, that pushed people to starvation. As a nation without a poor law (welfare) system until 1838, the poor relied on charity, whether from individuals or institutions for relief. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the ‘state’ (usually local corporations) introduced more direct welfare, sometimes in the form of relief payments but more usually access to workhouses. 
After 1838 and until the crisis of the 1847 famine, relief payments were removed and all welfare recipients had to enter the workhouse. Accompanied by a growth in institutional charitable services, the success and ‘care’ of the system could vary enormously between areas and organisations. What it did not do is significantly reduce poverty levels in the population.

Indeed, it was important that the poverty levels of welfare recipients were not reduced by the workhouse system. Like current ‘make work pay’ policies, poverty relief measures were designed so that those in the workhouse or receiving charity elsewhere did not have a significantly higher standard of living than those who provided for themselves. This principle was determined based on the wage of an independent labourer, one of the poorest but also largest categories of worker. The problem for the system was that independent labourers earned so poorly that they barely managed a subsistence diet. Their living conditions were extremely poor; many slept on hay in darkened huts with little furnishings or personal property.

Those who managed the system believed that a generous welfare system would encourage people to claim benefits and so could potentially bankrupt those paying into the system. This encouraged an active policy of ‘cruelty’. Not only were benefit recipients given meagre food and poor living conditions, but families were routinely broken up, the sexes housed in different wings and prohibited from seeing each other. Welfare recipients were often ‘badged’ or given uniforms to mark their ‘shame’, and workhouse labour was designed to be particularly physically challenging.  

It was a system underpinned by several interlocking beliefs about the Irish, the value of work and the economy. Hard work was viewed as a moral characteristic, something to be encouraged from childhood and promoted as ethical behaviour. Certain groups, notably the Irish poor but also the British lower orders and non-Europeans more generally, were viewed as lacking this moral characteristic and required it to be instilled by their social betters. Welfare systems that were not carefully designed to be ‘less eligible’ (i.e. a harsher experience than ‘normal; life for the working poor), were understood to indulge an innate laziness…..

Throughout history, welfare services have required considerable economic investment. Unsurprisingly, this has required those who run institutions of care for people also to keep a careful eye on their financial bottom line. More broadly, it has also required a monitoring of services to ensure value for money for the state and its taxpayers and to protect the interests of the service users. As has been seen recently in discussions of targets placed on staff providing welfare provision in the UK, such measuring systems can come to shape the nature and ethos of the service in damaging ways.

A relevant historical example of this is from the Australian laundry system in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. Young women were placed in youth homes and registered as delinquent for a wide range of reasons from petty criminal behaviour to perceived immorality (ranging from flirting with the opposite sex to premarital pregnancy), to having been neglected by parents. These homes, often run by religious organisations, were designed to ‘reform’ young (and occasionally older) women, preventing them from entering prostitution or other criminal pursuits. The main mechanism for ‘reform’ was through a moral discipline of work, which in many of these organisations revolved around a professional laundry service. Work was often unpaid or paid at very nominal sums, given to women on their release. The service, which catered to the general public, kept institutions financially afloat, and many became significant-sized businesses. They required women to work very long hours, in challenging conditions. Accidents, particularly burns, were not unusual. As businesses grew, other ‘reform’ efforts that ran alongside, such as education, became rarer.

The laundry became the driving focus of the institution. The women were cheap labour, and managing that machine became not just a means to an end, but shaped the logic and functioning of the care service. It is an example of how an economic imperative can come to adversely impact on care, by disrupting the purposes and functions of the service. It was also a process that significantly reduced the level of ‘care’ that such institutions provided, not only through a physical job that wore on the body but one reinforced with physical punishment, which came to include emotional and sexual abuse, and poor food and living conditions……

There are significant variations between the institutional care described here for the nineteenth century and a contemporary welfare state that encourages users, as much as possible, to remain outside ‘the system’. The capacity for ‘the state’ to control every dimension of a person’s life today is significantly reduced; conversely, the ability of those in need to fall into service ‘gaps’ as they cannot access services or negotiate bureaucratic systems, is in some ways increased. Nonetheless, there are parallels in the operation of both systems that should give contemporary policymakers pause. Abusive care does not just emerge from individual perpetrators, from the institutional model, or even a lack of policies on staff-client relationships, but also from the wider values and beliefs that shape the production of welfare systems; from the financial and emotional investments that we place in institutions; and from the corruption or occlusion of institutional targets and goals.


Ensuring that the ‘cruel’ practices reported of current systems do not become systematic issues on the scale of previous institutional abuses therefore requires not just monitoring a few rogue individuals, but a clear goal about what our welfare systems should achieve. The needs and interests of service users should be placed at their heart, coupled with a significant social, cultural and political investment in ensuring that goal is achieved. All other goals and targets for welfare service providers, especially their frontline staff, should be secondary to that and carefully designed so as not to interfere with that end. With rising rates of poverty, homelessness and illness, welfare systems look to continue to hold a central role in society for the foreseeable future. It is imperative that the abusive practices of previous ‘caring’ regimes are left firmly in the past.

Monday, 5 March 2018

The Turnbull Government’s anti-democratic slide has been noted by UN



Human Rights Law Centre, 1 March 2018:

The Turnbull Government’s anti-democratic slide has been criticised at the United Nations Human Rights Council tonight, with the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders delivering a major report on Australian democracy.

In an at times scathing report, the Special Rapporteur told the Human Rights Council that:

* he is “astonished” to observe “mounting evidence of regressive measures” being pursued by the Government;
* he was “astounded to observe frequent public vilification by senior public officials” of charities, community groups and democratic institutions who hold the Government to account “in what appears to be an attempt to discredit, intimidate and discourage them from their legitimate work”; and
* that there is an “increasing discrepancy and incoherence” between the Turnbull  Government’s statements on the world stage and its actions at home.

Dr Aruna Sathanapally, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said it was deeply disappointing that the pressure being placed on Australia’s democratic institutions and freedoms had reached this point.

“The Special Rapporteur’s report is careful, but unflinching, in his scrutiny of our democracy in recent years. The picture is one of sustained pressure on the people and institutions that hold our government accountable here, in Australia.”

“To get a seat on the UN Human Rights Council the Turnbull Government promised the world to “promote good governance and stronger democratic institutions” and “protect freedom of expression”.  But scrutiny and criticism of government are vital to a healthy democracy, even if governments find it inconvenient or annoying” said Dr Sathanapally.

“Right now, our government is pushing for new laws that would make it much harder for community groups, charities, academics if they want to speak publicly about government policies, let alone criticise government.  The Prime Minister is doing so even though these laws may well be struck down as unconstitutional on the grounds of the freedom of political communication,” said Dr Sathanapally.

“At the same time, the government is proposing sweeping new laws to keep government information secret, and punish whistle-blowers, that have been widely recognised as going too far in a democratic country. The government must move quickly to withdraw or fix these Bills if it is genuinely committed to democracy, and being accountable to the people,” said Dr Sathanapally.

Daniel Webb, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, who is in Geneva for the Council session, will deliver a statement to the Council in response to the Special Rapporteur's report. Mr Webb will advise the Council that the regressive and undemocratic trend was continuing and urge the Turnbull Government to accept the UN’s recommendations in full.

Mr Webb said that the report showed that the Turnbull Government needed to dramatically improve its own human rights performance if it wanted to have strong influence on the Council, especially on democratic freedoms and its treatment of refugees and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“Victims of cruelty and injustice all over the world desperately need Governments like ours to be part of the UN’s principled spine, not to gnaw away at the foundations of human rights with hollow words and unprincipled actions,” said Mr Webb.

“But while our Government can blow its own trumpet on the world stage all it likes, its credibility and moral authority on human rights will be limited until it stops violating them,” said Mr Webb.


Wednesday, 7 February 2018

As a new member of the UN Human Rights Council is Australia continuing to act the hypocrite?


For the second time in three months the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights has written to the Turnbull Coalition Government concerning its welfare policies.

Australian-born Professor Alston has been Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights since June 2014.

The Commonwealth of Australia was elected on 16 October 2017 as a member of the UN Human Rights Council 2018-2020.

So the following news item is more than a little embarrassing with what it reveals about government policies.

ABC Radio RN Breakfast, 1 February 2018:

A top UN official has delivered a scathing assessment of Australia's welfare policies describing them as 'punitive' and harmful to women.

Australian Philip Alston is the UN's Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty. He accuses the government of pursuing policies that 'stigmatise' and 'marginalise' poorer sections of society.

In a letter sent to the government this week, Philip raised concerns about the planned expansion of cashless welfare cards, and their impact on indigenous communities.

The first letter dated 17 October 2017 addressed the Social Services Legislation Amendment Act 2017 (Cth) (No. 33 of 2017) and concerns that it may have a negative impact on the human rights of persons living in poverty, particularly single parents and their children, as well as expressing concerns about proposed drug testing of young people on unemployment benefits.

It would appear that the Turnbull Government’s welfare reforms make nonsense of Australia’s voluntary undertakings lodged with the United Nations on 14 July 2014 as part of its candidature for a vacancy on the UN Human Rights Council.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Quote of the Week 20 Jan 18


“Like it or not, Aboriginal Australians are the most disadvantaged, ostracised, criticised and victimised group in society. We experience racism pretty much on a daily basis. I speak from experience. This is Aboriginal life.” [Tauto Sansbury writing in The Advertiser, 31 December 2017]

Friday, 19 January 2018

The growing cost of Australian Government policy concerning asylum seekers


Its asylum seeker policy is costing Australia more than a loss of international reputation......

Financial Review, 5 January 2018:

Maintaining Australia's hardline immigration and border policies cost taxpayers more than $4 billion last financial year, including nearly $1.6 billion on compliance and detention.

Treasury figures provided to a Senate estimates committee showed in 2017, the largest spending component for immigration and border protection activities was onshore compliance and detention, followed by $1.083 billion for the management of irregular boat arrivals and $1.059 billion on border enforcement……

a near $5 billion price tag for five years of Australia's offshore immigration detention program, including the total operational and infrastructure costs for Australia's detention facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, peaking in 2015-16.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Australian Politics 2018: and you foolishly thought things might get better this year


Well the democracy canary in the political coal mine fell senseless to the bottom of its cage this month when the Turnbull Government admitted that a high level of secrecy would surround its extra-parliamentary review of religious freedom in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 December 2017:

Public submissions to the Turnbull government's review of religious freedom in Australia will be kept secret, in a marked departure from normal processes, according to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's department.

The department, which has control of the inquiry, said it would not publish the submissions, which is in stark contrast to ordinary parliamentary inquiries, in which most submissions are automatically released.

"Submissions to the Expert Panel will not be published online," a department spokesman said in an emailed statement. "However, where individuals provide consent, submission extracts may be included in public materials."

Late on Tuesday, however, Mr Turnbull's media team sought to intervene by suggesting inquiry chairman Philip Ruddock would decide if submissions were published. The PM's office then instructed his own department to issue a new statement to that effect.

An hour later, the department said decisions on releasing submissions would rest on "whether individuals have provided consent", but that appears impossible, because the online consent form assures people their submission "will not be published in its entirety".

It is expected the high-profile inquiry - prompted by fears about the impact of same-sex marriage on religious practice - will attract submissions from Australia's biggest churches, including the Catholic and Anglican archdioceses of Sydney and Melbourne. It presents an opportunity for religious organisations and other advocates to spell out the exact changes to the law they believe are necessary.

Mr Ruddock said when contacted on Tuesday that the panel had not discussed the publication of submissions and ultimately it was a matter for the PM's department…..

The expert panel - which also includes Australian Human Rights Commission president Rosalind Croucher, Catholic priest Frank Brennan and retired judge Annabelle Bennett - is expected to meet for the first time next Wednesday. 

However, the negative response in mainstream and social media saw the democracy canary revived and placed on life support as the secrecy provisions in the online Consent form have been changed and now only apply to all those submissions received to date.

"The Expert Panel has not yet determined a final approach to publication of submissions. Submissions already provided will not be published without the agreement of the author" 

Which given that the majority of submissions would have been received by now means that it is highly unlikely that submissions made on behalf of religious institutions will ever be published by the Expert Panel.

NOTE

The submission period for the Religious Freedom Review commenced in December 2017 and ends on 31 January 2018 with the Expert Panel to deliver its findings by 31 March 2018.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

President Trump still doesn't have outright victory for his policy of banning Muslim entry to USA and the legal fight opposing these bans enters its second year


The legal fight against President Donald J. Trump’s Muslim travel bans ended 2017 with another victory for the State of Hawaii et al and the fight now enters its second year on 3 February 2018.


For the third time, we are called upon to assess the legality of the President’s efforts to bar over 150 million nationals of six designated countries1 from entering the United States or being issued immigrant visas that they would ordinarily be qualified to receive. To do so, we must consider the statutory and constitutional limits of the President’s power to curtail entry of foreign nationals in this appeal of the district court’s order preliminarily enjoining portions of § 2 of Proclamation 9645 entitled “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public-Safety Threats” (the “Proclamation”).

The Proclamation, like its predecessor executive orders, relies on the premise that the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq., vests the President with broad powers to regulate the entry of aliens. Those powers, however, are not without limit. We conclude that the President’s issuance of the Proclamation once again exceeds the scope of his delegated authority. The Government’s interpretation of 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f) not only upends the carefully crafted immigration scheme Congress has enacted through the INA, but it deviates from the text of the statute, legislative history, and prior executive practice as well.

Further, the President did not satisfy the critical prerequisite Congress attached to his suspension authority: before blocking entry, he must first make a legally sufficient finding that the entry of the specified individuals would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” 8 U.S.C. § 1182(f). The Proclamation once again conflicts with the INA’s prohibition on nationality-based discrimination in the issuance of immigrant visas. Lastly, the President is without a separate source of constitutional authority to issue the Proclamation.

On these statutory bases, we affirm the district court’s order enjoining enforcement of the Proclamation’s §§ 2(a), (b), (c), (e), (g), and (h). We limit the scope of the preliminary injunction, however, to foreign nationals who have a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States…..

For all of these reasons, we affirm in part and vacate in part the district court’s preliminary injunction order. We narrow the scope of the injunction to give relief only to those with a credible bona fide relationship with the United States, pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in IRAP, 137 S. Ct. at 2088. In light of the Supreme Court’s order staying this injunction pending “disposition of the Government’s petition for a writ of certiorari, if such writ is sought,” we stay our decision today pending Supreme Court review. Trump v. Hawai‘i, No. 17A550, — S. Ct. —, 2017 WL 5987406 (Dec. 4, 2017). Because we conclude that Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their statutory claims, we need not reach their constitutional claims.

Video of closing argument on behalf of Plaintiffs-Appellees:

The matter is ongoing in 2018.

Background can be found at University of Michigan Law School, Civil Rights Litigation Clearing House.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

A professed 'Christian' man named in at least one human rights complaint to the International Criminal Court vows to defend Christianity in 2018


The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 December 2017:

Scott Morrison says he will fight back against discrimination and mockery of Christians and other religious groups in 2018, in comments that position him as one of the leading religious conservatives in the Turnbull government. 

Mr Morrison also promised to play a leading role next year in the debate about enshrining further "protections" for religious freedom in law, which will be informed by a review currently being led by former Attorney-General Philip Ruddock.

For overseas readers who may not know this man, he is enthusiastic Hill Song Church devotee, Liberal MP for Cook, former Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, former Minister for Social Security and current Australian Treasurer Scott John Morrison.

On his ministerial watch alleged human rights abuses occurred in overseas detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru. These incidents included deaths of asylum seekers such as that of Reza Berati.

Alleged abuses continue to be reported to this day.

In a 2016 communique to the International Criminal CourtScott Morrison, along with Malcolm TurnbullTony AbbottKevin RuddJulia GillardJohn HowardPeter DuttonTony BurkeBrendan O’ConnorChris BowenChris EvansKevin AndrewsAmanda VanstonePhillip RuddockBaron Waqa and Rimbink Pato, was named as administrating authority having responsibility in relation to the offence of unlawful confinement.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Five Australian Prime Ministers & Nine Immigration Ministers Named In Communique To The International Criminal Court in 2016


“Perpetrators – Individual responsibility
40. On the basis of the brief factual outline provided above, there are a number of persons who have, or would have had whilst elected, knowledge of the relevant facts outlined in the elements detailed below, and played a considerable role in the implementation and enforcement of the Immigration Policies. Further, these people have, or would have had whilst elected, the requisite intent to cause a particular consequence or were aware that the consequence would occur in the ordinary course of events (for example, that the implementation and enforcement of the Immigration Policies would result in Immigration Detention, or deportation and Immigration Detention, of boat people).” [In The Matter Of A Prosecution Of The Australian Government In Relation To Indefinite Detention And Forcible Removal Of Asylum Seekers (2016), p.]

In a communique to the International Criminal Court, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, John Howard, Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison, Tony Burke, Brendan O’Connor, Chris Bowen, Chris Evans, Kevin Andrews, Amanda Vanstone, Phillip Ruddock, Baron Waqa and Rimbink Pato were all named as administrating authorities in relation to the offence of unlawful confinement.