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

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.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Turnbull was out and about in an orgy of self-praise in the days following Australian Parliament vote for same-sex marriage


“I've personally delivered the marriage bill to the Governor-General. Same sex marriage will be the law of the land at midnight!” [Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Twitter, 8 December 2017]

Coffs Coast Advocate, 8 December 2017:

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has hailed the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in Canberra as a "huge success" in a "day of joy".

"What a day. What a day. What a day in history. What a day for love," the Prime Minister said on The Project.

"What a day to put our arms around same-sex couples and say we love you, we respect you, you have all the rights that everyone else has had for so long - now we're all at one."

While he acknowledged the postal survey had a "few critics", Turnbull said it allowed the country to have their say and he was "so proud" to be the country's leader "when we have made this big decision."

When shown comments from same-sex marriage advocate Magda Szubanski accusing him of "gloating and taking credit" for what has been a painful and divisive few months for many, the PM was unrepentant.

"We have delivered this. But we've delivered this in a way that is respected all Australians and it's now the law of the land," he said.

Speaking to Leigh Sales on 7.30, Mr Turnbull expressed similar sentiments.

"I am so proud this has occurred while I'm prime minister, while the Liberal and National parties are in government," he said.

"Surely you would also like to acknowledge that the Labor Party has played a role in getting this legislation through," Ms Sales shot back.

"Well, look Leigh, this is not the time to do the usual tit-for-tat. I mean, Labor certainly supported it, and that's good. They had six years in office and did nothing about it. That's not so good.
And of course they did everything they could to stop every Australian from having their say."

That is not exactly how I remember it, Mr. Turnbull……….

On 3 December 2011, Australian Labor Party’s policy platform was amended to include support for same-sex marriage, with Labor parliamentarians allowed a conscience vote on the issue.

Then on 19 September 2012  Marriage Amendment Bill 2012, A Bill for an Act to amend the Marriage Act 1961 to establish marriage equality for same-sex couples, and for related purposes, introduced by Labor MP for Throsby Stephen Jones on 13 February 2012, voted down in Division on 19 September, Aye votes included – Shorten, WR, Noe votes included - Turnbull, MB.

It took until 8 August 2016 before the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey was announced and, as a voluntary, national non-binding postal survey on the question of same-sex marriage it did not require a vote in the Australian Parliament in order for this survey to be conducted.

By 10 August 2017 Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten had delivered the Matter of Public Importance – Marriage speech in the House of Representatives supporting same-sex marriage survey:

But we cannot let illegitimate tactics deter us; we cannot sit on the sidelines. I can understand LGBTI Australians' sense of frustration and of betrayal by the parliament. But the most powerful act of resistance is to vote yes for equality. Maintain your hope, maintain your enthusiasm and vote yes. And make sure your friends, relatives, colleague, classmates and teammates vote yes too. Get your name on the electoral roll today; make your voice heard. Voting yes is not about endorsing this illegitimate process, it's about refusing to walk past our fellow Australians when they need us. This is my message for business leaders, sporting clubs, the union movement and community groups: it's time to get involved; it's time to organise and fight for equality……I will be voting yes. I will be campaigning for a yes vote. I will do my bit, and I encourage people to join the movement for marriage equality, because no true leader is ever too busy to fight for the fair go in this country.  

Australian Marriage Law Survey forms began to be posted out to eligible voters on 12 September 2017.

However, the only person stopping the tabling of a new bill amending the C'wealth Marriage Act 1961 between August 2015 and September 2017 was you, Prime Minister Turnbull and your personal fear of the far-right in your own government.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Tweet To Remind Us All


Thursday, 7 December 2017

Marriage Equality finally arrives in Australia



Thursday, 30 November 2017

Human Rights Law Centre & OECD Watch lodge international complaint over Australia's failure to investigate abuses by Manus Island contractor


Human Rights Law Centre, 27 November 2017:

Australian companies need to be held to account for human rights abuses they commit overseas, but Australia’s complaints system is woefully inadequate and in desperate need of reform.

The Human Rights Law Centre and OECD Watch have today requested the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to investigate the Australian Government’s handling of a complaint against its former security contractor G4S in relation to alleged abuse of refugees on Manus Island.

Keren Adams, Director of Legal Advocacy at the HRLC, said Australia’s OECD National Contact Point, managed by Treasury, has a history of rejecting complaints against companies on spurious grounds.

“When accountability mechanisms fail, injustices flourish. The National Contact Point is a toothless tiger that rarely investigates and has never made a finding against a company. It needs a total overhaul,” said Ms Adams.

The OECD appeal centres around an earlier complaint brought in 2014 against G4S for its role in the violence on Manus in which Reza Berati was killed and 77 other men were injured. A G4S security guard was one of two men subsequently convicted of the murder.

The Australian National Contact Point declined to investigate the complaint, stating that it was not its role to comment on Australian government policy. It also concluded that G4S had limited ability to influence the safety and security of the men in detention, given control of the facility was the responsibility of PNG.

“The handling of the G4S complaint was appalling. We are talking about an incident in which a company’s employees are known to have beaten a man in their care to death and attacked others with crowbars and machetes. For the National Contact Point to have found the matter didn’t even warrant investigating raises serious questions about its credibility,” said Ms Adams.

The appeal challenges these findings as a direct breach of Australia’s international responsibilities under the OECD’s Guidelines. It is the first time a country’s handling of a complaint of this kind has been appealed to the OECD.

Ms Adams said she hoped the OECD would compel Australia to lift its game in its handling of future complaints.

“We are asking the OECD Investment Committee to find that the National Contact Point failed in its obligation to operate accessibly and without bias. Even more importantly though we are asking them to make recommendations as to how Australia can improve this complaints body going forwards,” said Ms Adams.

The appeal coincides with the start of the United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights in Geneva, where experts from around the world will gather to discuss how governments can better address human rights abuses by business.

Download the HRLC's original complaint here: OECD Guidelines-specific instance-G4S

Monday, 20 November 2017

The depths to which xenophobia and bigotry has reduced Australia


Australia began to ignore its obligations under international law in 1992 and its determination to turn back asylum seeker boats and reduce the number of refugees accepted into this country grew apace until this is the situation in November 2017.

The New York Times, 18 November 2017:

Veteran United Nations officials said this month they had never seen a wealthy democracy go to such extremes to punish asylum seekers and push them away.

Papua New Guinea officials and local leaders, enraged at how the camp’s closure was handled, have demanded to know why Australia is not doing more to help the men.

HuffPost, 18 November 2017:

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's main medical association called on Saturday for the government to allow independent doctors and other health experts to help more than 400 asylum seekers languishing inside a recently closed detention center in Papua New Guinea.

The asylum seekers have shut themselves inside the Australian-run Manus Island Centre for the past 18 days, defying attempts by Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) to close it in a standoff the United Nations describes as a "looming humanitarian crisis".

Australia has shut access to the center, and staff, including doctors, have left, leaving the men without sufficient food, clean water, power or medical care.

Members of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) voted unanimously on Saturday to call on the government to grant access to the center so doctors could assess the men's health, wellbeing and living conditions.

"The AMA has made many representations on this matter, both publicly and in private but, with a worsening and more dangerous situation emerging on Manus, the federal council strongly believes that urgent action and answers are needed," AMA President Michael Gannon said.

The Australian, 17 November 2017:

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has warned New Zealand it may damage its relationship with the government if it chooses to take Manus Island refugees without the approval of Australia.

Mr Dutton said New Zealand and Papua New Guinea “would have to think through” the impact it would have on their relationship with Australia if they made a unilateral agreement to resettle refugees from the offshore detention centre.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has put pressure on the Turnbull government to accept its offer to resettle 150 refugees from Manus Island. The PNG Supreme Court ruled last week the asylum-seekers and refugees were probably the responsibility of PNG, opening the door for an agreement to resettle refugees without permission from Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 November 2017:

As the Manus Island detention centre stand-off entered its fifth day, Mr Turnbull held talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Sydney, where she formally extended to Mr Turnbull the offer to take in 150 people. "The offer is very genuine and remains on the table," she said.

But Mr Turnbull said Australia remained focused on the US refugee resettlement deal, which has so far resulted in 54 people being resettled. The US deal covers up to 1250 people but US President Donald Trump dislikes it and vetting is taking a long time.

"In the wake of that deal obviously we can consider other ones," Mr Turnbull said. "We thank New Zealand for making an offer – we are not taking it up at this time."

New Zealand first made its offer to Julia Gillard's government in 2013 but it has been rejected by both Labor and the Coalition. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has now called on Mr Turnbull to accept it, saying it is similar to the US deal.

Sky News, 4 November 2017:

The United Nations human rights office has called on Australia to restore food, water and health services to about 600 interned refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea, which Canberra cut off three days ago.

The detainees in the Manus Island Centre have defied attempts by the governments of Australia and PNG to close the camp, saying they fear violent reprisals from the local community if they are moved to other 'transit centres'.

'We call on the Australian government ... who interned the men in the first place to immediately provide protection, food, water and other basic services,' UN rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing on Friday.

Australia has an obligation to do so under international human rights law and the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, he said.

There was no immediate comment from Australia or its representatives in Geneva. Its government has said the camp had been ruled illegal by PNG authorities and it had committed to supply other sites for 12 months.

Colville joined the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in warning of an 'unfolding humanitarian emergency' in the centre where asylum seekers began digging wells on Thursday to try to find water as their food supplies dwindled.

The remote Manus Island centre has been a key part of Australia's disputed immigration policy under which it refuses to allow asylum seekers arriving by boat to reach its shores, detaining them instead in PNG and Nauru in the South Pacific.

'We repeat our overall concerns about Australian offshore processing centres which are unsustainable, inhumane and contradictory to its human rights obligations,' Colville said.

Around 500 of the men have still not had their asylum claims processed, he said.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

How the NSW North Coast voted in the national same-sex marriage postal survey


Across Australia 12,691,234 registered voters responded to the Australian Marriage Law Postal  Survey with 61.6% of respondents answering YES and 38.4% answering NO to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?

In NSW, 81.3% (2,147,973) of eligible females and 77.5% (1,947,546) of eligible males responded to the survey.

By NSW North Coast federal electorate:

Richmond – 67.9% of survey respondents answered YES and 32.1% answered NO
Page -  59.7% of survey respondents answered YES and 40.3% answered NO
Cowper – 60% of survey respondents answered YES and 40% answered NO

For a full breakdown of survey results go to https://marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au/results/

On 15 November 2017 the far-right of both Coalition parties are going to attempt to scuttle genuine marriage equality in Australia


“Liberal senator James Paterson’s private members bill to “protect religious freedoms” would enshrine exceptionalism discriminating against gays. Gays would be allowed to marry, but anyone and everyone who wanted to deny them service would be legally allowed to do so. We don’t tolerate such discrimination based on race or ethnicity.” [Professor of Politics, University of Western Australia, Peter van Onselen writing in The Australian, 13 November 2017]


It comes as no surprise that this bill is being sponsored by that chinless wonder, former Institute of Public Affairs member and Liberal Senator for Victoria James William Paterson (pictured left).


The Australian, 13 November 2017:

A conservative-backed same-sex marriage bill enshrining wide-reaching shield laws for celebrants, businesses, educators, charities and parents opposed to gay marriage will be taken to the Coalition partyroom in a looming showdown over freedom of speech and religious protections.

The 34-page bill, obtained by The Australian and to be released today by conservative Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson, would override state and territory anti-discrimination and freedom-of-speech laws to extend protections beyond religious affiliation to anyone who holds a “conscientious belief” in traditional marriage.

Significantly, the bill also ­includes a “safe schools” clause to confer rights to parents who want to remove their children from classes if they believe the values being taught do not accord with a traditional view of marriage.

In what will become a potentially critical test of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, the bill will be taken to the Liberals’ partyroom when it next meets in two weeks and presented as an alternative model to that favoured by moderates and sponsored by ­Liberal ­senator Dean Smith, which offers only limited protection.

However, it is believed there are plans to table the bill in the Senate as early as Wednesday if needed following a likely Yes ­result in the gay marriage postal plebiscite.

The release of the draft Marriage Amendment (Definition and Protection of Freedoms) bill 2017 will blindside moderate Liberal MPs who last week were demanding the release of any proposed conservative-backed model.

The bill is expected to receive qualified support today from the majority of the conservative bloc and will present a challenge to moderate MPs, with Senator ­Paterson being an open supporter of gay marriage.

Some conservative MPs, however, are likely to argue that the bill does not go far enough with new polling revealing overwhelming public support for laws to protect freedom of speech, religion and parental rights.

The bill requires not only amendments to the Marriage Act but an amendment to the federal Sex Discrimination Act. It would also override prevailing state and territory anti-discrimination laws that offer no protection for people with a traditional view of marriage.

The protections to shield proponents of traditional marriage from civil law suits, however, will be limited to only those goods and services directly related to the solemnisation of a same-sex marriage or the provision of a wedding. This includes goods and ser­vices provided by florists, bakers, hotels or function centres but only so far as they relate to a same-sex ­wedding.

Senator Paterson, who sat with Senator Smith on the Senate committee ­inquiry into same-sex ­marriage, said the bill better reflected the recommendations on preserving human rights and the protections of a diversity of views.

“If the parliament opts for a narrower bill with fewer protections, I fear we will see some Australians seek to impose their values on others, with court cases and other legal mechanisms. No one should want to see the messy court cases that have occurred after same-sex marriage was legalised in other countries,” Senator Paterson said

The potential clash with Liberal moderates was foreshadowed yesterday with North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman telling Sky News the debate over religious freedoms was a separate issue to same-sex marriage.

“If Australians vote for marriage equality and then ... the parliament for any reason delays or seeks to obfuscate or seeks to thwart the wishes of the Australian people, then I think the view of our parliament, the view of this process will be significantly diminished,” he said. “We should have it resolved before Christmas, I don’t think Australians will tolerate delay.”

“What we’ve seen during this debate is the conflation of a whole range of issues which frankly have nothing to do with the Marriage Act. And they can be debated. Protecting religious freedoms is something that Liberals feel very strongly about. But they shouldn’t be confused with this bill which is designed to deliver marriage equality.”

While the bill being proposed by conservatives gives effect to changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples, it proposes more than 80 amendments covering six key protection provisions that Senator Paterson insists would ensure Australia’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The most contested amendment is likely to arise from a new definition of “conscientious objection” which offers protection to anyone from being forced to participate in a same-sex wedding “against their sincerely held ­beliefs”.

Anti-detriment laws would also be applied to prevent government agencies taking adverse action against a person who holds a ­traditional marriage belief and ­extend that shield protection to professions that are licensed, such as doctors and lawyers. Businesses and individuals would, however, not be included, preserving freedom of association.

Charities that held a belief in traditional marriage could not be stripped of their charitable status, as has occurred in other countries, while Christian schools and institutions would be protected in teaching traditional marriage.

Most critical to the case put by MPs, is parents’ rights to choose to remove their children from school classes that conflict with their values, providing a safeguard for parents who object to the controversial Safe Schools program.

The Private Member's Bill:

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Coalition senators cut and ran from their own Ensuring Integrity bill



Amends the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 to: include certain serious criminal offences as a new category of ‘prescribed offence’ for the purposes of the automatic disqualification regime in relation to registered organisations; establish an offence for a disqualified person to continue to act as an official or in a way that influences the affairs of an organisation; allow the Federal Court to prohibit officials from holding office in certain circumstances or if they are otherwise not a fit and proper person; allow the Federal Court to cancel the registration of an organisation on a range of grounds; allow applications to be made to the Federal Court for a range of other orders; expand the grounds on which the Federal Court may order remedial action to deal with governance issues in an organisation; expressly provide that the Federal Court may appoint an administrator to an organisation or part of an organisation as part of a remedial scheme; introduce a public interest test for amalgamations of registered organisations; and make minor and technical amendments.

The Australian Senate refused to support this bill on 17 October 2017 so the Turnbull Government read the bill a second time, had a short speech read into Hansard and immediately adjourned the debate.

The Senate next sits on 13 November 2017 and one suspects that attempts to swing the cross benchers towards supporting this bill has ratcheted up more than a few notches.

If you don’t agree with this almost constant attack on the existence of unions in Australia then your state senators can be contacted here.

Asylum seekers in Australia forbidden to have 'unauthorised' pets. Sound familiar?

 
Department of Immigration and Border Protection Directive – Australia 2017

SBS News, 19 October 2017:

People [asylum seekers] receiving government payments while they wait to see if they will be granted protection have been told they must seek permission from the immigration department and their landlords before buying an animal.

ABC News, 20 October 2017:

The policy change specifies taxpayer money cannot be spent on pets or their "vaccination, equipment, toys and bedding"



Jan. Collection of fur coats or any furs from Jews. Also any woollen clothing or shoes.
Feb. 17 Jews may no longer subscribe to newspapers or magazines.
March 26 Jews must mark the entrance doors to their apartments with a black “Jewish Star”.
April 24 Jews forbidden the use of public transportation.
May 15 Jews forbidden to have dogs, cats and birds. [my yellow highlighting]
May 29 Jews are no longer permitted to visit barber shops.
June 9 Jews must surrender all dispensable clothing.
June 11 Jews no longer receive smoking coupons.
June 20 All Jewish schools closed.
July 17 Blind and deaf Jews may no longer wear armbands identifying their condition in traffic.
Aug. 24 Jews forbidden to perform religious services during Jewish High Holidays.
Sept. 18 Jews can no long buy meat, eggs or milk.
Oct. 4 All Jews still in concentration camps in Germany are to be transferred to extermination camps.
Dec. 24 Economics Ministry orders the confiscation of all metal from Jewish cemeteries (including graves, fences, and gates).

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Horse's Rear of the Year


Anthony John ‘Tony’ Abbott
Liberal Member for Warringah & sacked former Australian Prime Minister
On the subject of the 2017 Same Sex Marriage national voluntary survey

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Australian Human Rights Commission does not support expansion of the Cashless Debit Card Trial


Excerpts from Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs Senate Inquiry into Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017:

Human rights concerns
As a form of income management, the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 raises a number of human rights concerns, specifically around the right to social security, the right to a private life and the right to equality and non-discrimination. [my yellow highlighting]
The Commission has previously reported its concerns about the cashless debit card (also known as the Healthy Welfare Card) in our submission to the Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015 and in the Social Justice and Native Title reports for 2015 and 2016. 2
The Commission has particularly been concerned about the effects of these income management measures in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, whom we have previously identified to be a group that are disproportionately impacted by such measures.3 As at September 2016, 75% of trial participants in Ceduna and 82% of trial participants in the East Kimberley were Indigenous.4
Whilst the Explanatory Memorandum acknowledges that trials of the cashless debit card are already underway in areas with high Indigenous populations, it proposes that future sites will give priority to locations with lower proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.5
The Commission remains concerned that the measures will continue to disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not just in the existing locations of the East Kimberley and Ceduna where Indigenous populations are high, but also in future locations.
This is the case because the measures proposed in the Bill target a section of the population who are receiving income support payments.
Hence, whilst the measures may not directly target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their practical effect will unduly impact upon them, as government pensions and allowances are a main source of income for approximately 46.9% of this group.6
There are therefore concerns about whether the measures are inconsistent with the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) and guarantee Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples equality before the law.
The Commission considers that the measures are not proportionate to the benefits sought by the Bill because their purpose could be achieved through other, less restrictive means and emphasises what it considers to be the preferred features of a system of income management:
* an approach that enables participants to voluntarily opt-in, rather than an automatic quarantining model (which then relies upon individual applications for exemptions)
* an approach that utilises income management as a ‘last resort’, particularly for targeted risk areas such as child protection (that is supported by case management and support services), similar to the Family Responsibilities Commission model in Queensland
* measures that are applied for a defined period and in a manner proportionate to the context.7
The Commission does not accept the arguments in the Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights that the measures justifiably limit the right to social security, privacy and non-discrimination and equality in pursuit of the objectives of Part 3D of the Act.8
As non-voluntary measures, they are applied to all income support recipients of working age in the trial areas,9 including those who do not have any issues with drugs, alcohol or gambling.
For the reasons outlined above and in the Commission’s previous submissions, the Commission does not agree with the assessment that the Bill or existing cashless debit card measures are compatible with human rights standards.10……
It is difficult to attribute the reported positive effects to the current trials as distinct from other factors such as increased support services, and other policy interventions.15 This is further exacerbated by the self-reporting nature of the report’s findings, which the evaluation itself states should be interpreted with caution and are subject to desirability bias.16
However, it is important to consider that where people have experienced modest benefits as a result of income management, when compared to its stated objectives,17 that these need to be weighed against its significant drawbacks.
The Commission does not accept that it is appropriate to extend these measures to additional sites in order to “build on these positive findings, and offer an opportunity to continue to test the card’s effectiveness in different settings and on a larger scale”.18 There is limited evidence to demonstrate that previous income management efforts have been effective and this is confirmed by the findings from the Orima report.
The Commission is therefore of the view that these measures unjustifiably impinge on the rights of trial participants, for little substantive benefit…..
Conclusion
Human rights protections are inadequately addressed in the Bill, the Explanatory Memorandum and in the Statement of Compatibility. The Commission is particularly concerned about the non-voluntary nature of the measures, and the disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and those income support recipients who do not have drug, alcohol or gambling concerns.  [my yellow highlighting]
The Commission is of the view that income management measures which are imposed and not community-driven lack efficacy.
The Commission is of the view that less intrusive measures aimed at changing behaviour rather than limiting access to and use of income will be more effective. It is for this reason that the Commission welcomes the investment of support services into these communities, but hopes that the appropriateness and level of engagement with such services improves.19
In light of these views, the Commission does not support the expansion of these measures as outlined in the Bill.
_______________________________________________________________________
2 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015, 6 October 2015, At http://www.aph.gov.au/DocumentStore.ashx?id=14a9925c-245c-4a2e-9bfa-eeb6c843e505&subId=403485; Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2016, 88-97, At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/AHRC_SJNTR_2016.pdf; Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2015, 55-58, At http://www.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/document/publication/SJRNTR2015.pdf.
3 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Bill 2015, 6 October 2015, 5.
4 Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Social Justice and Native Title Report 2016, 91-92. See also Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’ (Department of Social Services, 2017), 38, showing similar proportions as at June 2017.
5 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 4, 7. 
7 Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission No 76 to Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs, Inquiry into the Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act Bill 2009 and other Bills (10 February 2010), 26.
8 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 7-8.
9 Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 3.
10 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 8. 
16 Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 118.
17 Department of Social Services, Guide to Social Security Law [11.1.1.30] http://guides.dss.gov.au/guide-social-security-law/11/1/1/30
18 Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, Statement of compatibility with human rights, 3.
19 According to the Orima report, only 19% of those surveyed indicated that they used the drug and alcohol support services provided. Orima Research, ‘Cashless debit card trial evaluation: final evaluation report’, (Department of Social Services, 2017) 8. 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Political Tweets of the Week




Tuesday, 10 October 2017

National ID Database: so you think if you do nothing wrong you'll have nothing to fear?


“There is also a tendency for technologies to converge, allowing for the creation of devices with increased surveillance capabilities. CCTV, for example, may be combined with facial recognition technology….to identify individuals from their images. Another example is modern mobile phones, which combine telephonic services with GPS tracking software, digital visual and sound recording capabilities, and connection to the internet. A consequence of the convergence of surveillance technologies is the greater ability of surveillance users to compile detailed pictures of members of the public, making it increasingly difficult for individuals to maintain their privacy and anonymity.” [Victorian Law Reform Commission – Surveillance in Public Places: Final Report 18, 2010]

This month the Turnbull Government, state and territory governments have agreed to add the photo IDs of all registered drivers to the Facial Biometric Matching Capability (FBMC) database (est. 16 November 2016) which already has access to passport photographs, visa application photos, airport surveillance images and arrest ID images from the criminal justice system.

Additional images will probably be harvested from social media and added to this database which is to be used with CCTV footage of the general population going about their daily lives when considered necessary by police and security services. The biometric 'map' of an individual's face created by FBMC being easily applied to searches of video footage from public venue, shopping centre, street and road cameras as CCTV technology is now capable of recognising faces of people, vehicles, animals and bags automatically.

FBMC will involve using a Face Verification Service , Face Identification Service, One Person One Licence Service and Facial Recognition Analysis Utility Service in identity matching, along with a the Document Verification Service, Identity Data Sharing Service and/or any other government identity matching or data sharing service and, of course one of the areas it will be used is in so-called crime prevention.

Use of this facial recognition database will also be available to authorised private sector agencies and, like many new tools it is likely there will be function creep so that photo IDs will be required by more government agencies and private businesses when interacting with individuals in the future.

The Facial Biometric Matching Capability database will function alongside the Biometric Identification Services (BIS) which features national identification capability using fingerprints, palm prints, foot prints and facial recognition, person identity and evidence image case management, image enhancement tools and record auditing, matching services of one to one, one to few, one to many, and many to many, as well as photobook, photo line-up and witness viewing services.

But what’s the worry? After all if you are an ordinary person not committing a crime you have nothing to fear. Right?

Well there is this on the horizon…………..


Criminologists at Monash undertake cutting edge research in the areas of risk and security that is theoretically sophisticated, innovative and highly relevant to areas of pressing national and international concern. The discipline hosts two recipients of the Australian government’s prestigious Future Fellowship Award, Professor Sharon Pickering and Associate Professor Weber, both undertaking programs of research on border policing. Their jointly authored book Globalization and Borders: Death at the Global Frontier was awarded Australia’s most significant criminology publication award in 2013. The Border Crossing Observatory is the online repository of all border-related research undertaken by Monash Criminology and our national and international partners. Criminologists at Monash have received multiple highly competitive Australian Research Council grants to investigate a host of risk and security related topics, amongst them, counter terrorism laws and policing, immigration and exploitive labour practices, deportation, regional security, and the gendered nature of border crossing and transnational law enforcement. Our risk and security research expertise includes the interrelated topics of borders, counter terrorism, state crime, transnational crime, irregular migration, human trafficking, risk and disability, and pre-crime. [my yellow bolding]

What is “pre-crime”?

Put simply, “pre-crime” activity is a crime not yet committed – it is the suspicion that an individual might be capable of breaking an unidentified law at some unspecified time in the future.

Such suspicion does not mean there is a need to charge, prosecute or convict for a specific crime. Intervention at “pre-crime” stage is supposedly risk containment.

You don’t have to be researching bomb-building or Googling how to buy a weapon online to commit a “pre-crime” activity - it can be your thoughts and political opinions spoken aloud or written down, as well as your actions at a public meeting or protest rally.

It can even be allegedly ‘guilty knowledge’ in that you knew the time and place a small environmental activist group was going to confront their local MP or you saw a person painting an anti-government picket sign ahead of a planned street march.

Going to the media – social or mainstream – with a genuine complaint against a government department might be considered a “pre-crime” if you visibly persist in seeking answers, redress or apology. You could easily be labelled "fixated" by police if a government minister takes offence and decides to complain.

If you make a small donation to a group the police or government consider problematic, troublesome or obstructive of the aims of government or big business you may at some time in the future be considered politically partisan and displaying “pre-crime” tendencies.

These are just some of the groups that are already complained about by big business and politicians: Environment Victoria, Wilderness Society (Australia, Victoria & Queensland), Friends of the Earth, Victorian National Parks Association, Australian Conservation Foundation, Lock the Gate Alliance, 350.org Australia, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth Australia, Politics in the Pub and GetUp! as well as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd.

Just belonging to a group or community association which speaks up on matters of social, economic, environmental or political concern could see you being eyed off as part of a potential conspiracy in the making.

In at least one Western country pre-crime can also manifest itself as a suspicion that you have come into a city centre with the intention of having a drink or two and you will be given a 48 hour direction-to-leave order.

With the notion of “pre-crime” there is no presumption of innocence and little more than lip service to due process if any arm of state or federal government decides you are a person of interest.

So how will pre-crime activity be monitored by police and security services? Well one of the methods used will be surveillance and this surveillance may involve use of the Facial Biometric Matching Capability database created by the Turnbull Government.

Surely this couldn’t possibly happen in Australia? you say. Think again. 

We already keep individuals in gaol long after their court-imposed sentence has been fully completed under continuing detention legislation, have preventative detention without charge and control orders which can be applied to both minors and adults, police are known to use spyware to enter, monitor and control home computers and, in certain circumstances your home can be entered and searched without your knowledge by police and security services.

And here in Australia we have a history of unwarranted surveillance based on an individual's political association (1950s Cold War era) and political dissent (1960s & early 1970s Viet Nam War era) as well as virtually unchallenged unlawful use of coercive powers (Border Force 2014 to 2017).

Police and security agencies are constantly pushing for more legislation which would allow amongst other matters the creation of a raft of pre-emptive, punitive measures based solely on suspicion and an individual’s “pre-crime” tendencies.

Right now in Australia governments are all about political and physical control of the population - they are not about human rights, 'civil liberties' or a free, open and democratic society.

As a society Australia has been sliding down that slippery slope towards an authoritarian destination for years now and in 2017 we appear to have reached the bottom of the slope.

“For years, there’s been ample evidence that authoritarian governments around the world are relying on technology produced by American, Canadian, and European companies to facilitate human rights abuses.  From software that enables the filtering and blocking of online content to tools that help governments spy on their citizens, many such companies are actively serving autocratic governments as "repression’s little helper."
The reach of these technologies is astonishingly broad: governments can listen in on cell phone calls, use voice recognition to scan mobile networks, read emails and text messages, censor web pages, track a citizen’s every movement using GPS, and can even change email contents while en route to a recipient. Some tools are installed using the same type of malicious malware and spyware used by online criminals to steal credit card and banking information. They can secretly turn on webcams built into personal laptops and microphones in cell phones not being used. And all of this information is filtered and organized on such a massive scale that it can be used to spy on every person in an entire country.” [Electronic Frontiers Foundation, accessed 7 October 2017]

“Australia’s leading privacy and civil liberties organisations condemn the decision by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to provide all images from state and territory driver’s licence databases to the federal National Facial Biometric Matching Capability.
The creation of such a comprehensive national facial database is an unnecessary and disproportionate invasion of the privacy rights of all Australians, is the foundation for suspicionless, warrantless mass surveillance and is fundamentally incompatible with a free and open society.

David Vaile, Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation said, “This government has proven it is blind and deaf to privacy and personal information security threats. Make no mistake – this database will affect all Australians, even the most conscientious and law-abiding. It will likely generate massive ‘false positive’ lists that will flood our very effective police and security services with useless distractions. We’ve already seen calls for ‘scope creep’ to cover welfare enforcement, and there’s every reason to expect this capability will come to be used to identify people with unpaid fines and other minor issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” [Electronic Frontiers Australia, 6 October 2017]

“Every single portion of human rights activism overlaps, manifests or is exercised with the use of technology. That alone caused attackers and adversaries to recognize that technology itself is a good vehicle to get to these people and interfere with them or cause them harm.” [Claudio Guarnieri of Amnesty International quoted in Threat Post at Kapersky Lab, 4 October 2017]