Showing posts with label law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label law. Show all posts

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.


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, 20 February 2018

US Dept of Justice-FBI investigation of Russian links to Donald Trump's election campaign inexorably rolls on

On 17 May 2017 the probe into Russian influence on US political processes and collusion between the Russian Government and individuals associated with the election campaign of President Donald J Trump became an investigation which would inevitably lead to charges being laid.

To date both President Trump's former campaign manager and campaign deputy-director have been indicted, along with thirteen Russian nationals and three corporations.

Trump's former security adviser, along with a former member of his foreign policy advisory team and an individual who unlawfully supplied US bank accounts to Russians associated with the alleged political interference, have plead guilty to charges.

Current State of Play according to US Dept. of Justice

U.S. v. Internet Research Agency, et al (1:18-cr-32, District of Columbia)
A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment on Feb. 16, 2018, against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes. The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.

U.S. v. Richard Pinedo, et al (1:18-cr-24, District of Columbia)
Richard Pinedo, of Santa Paula, Calif., pleaded guilty on Feb. 12, 2018, to identity fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1028.

U.S. v. Michael T. Flynn (1:17-cr-232, District of Columbia)
Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn (Ret.), of Alexandria, Va., pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to making false statements to FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001.

U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)
Paul J. Manafort, Jr., of Alexandria, Va., and Richard W. Gates III, of Richmond, Va., have been indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 27, 2017, in the District of Columbia. The indictment contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts. The case was unsealed on Oct. 30, 2017, after the defendants were permitted to surrender themselves to the custody of the FBI.

U.S. v. George Papadopoulos (1:17-cr-182, District of Columbia)
George Papadopoulos, of Chicago, Illinois, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2017, to making false statements to FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001. The case was unsealed on Oct. 30, 2017.


U.S. v. Alex van der Zwaan (1:18-cr-31, District of Columbia)
Alex van der Zwaan, of London, pleaded guilty on Feb. 20, 2018, to making false statements to FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001.
Statement of the Offense

U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr., and Richard W. Gates III (1:18-cr-83, Eastern District of Virginia)
Paul J. Manafort, Jr., of Alexandria, Va., and Richard W. Gates III, of Richmond, Va., were indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 22, 2018, in the Eastern District of Virginia. The indictment contains 32 counts: 16 counts related to false individual income tax returns, seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, five counts of bank fraud conspiracy, and four counts of bank fraud.

U.S. v. Paul J. Manafort, Jr. (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)
A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned a superseding indictment on Feb. 23, 2018, against Paul J. Manafort, Jr., 68, of Alexandria, Va. The superseding indictment contains five counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading FARA statements, and false statements.

U.S. v. Richard W. Gates III (1:17-cr-201, District of Columbia)
Richard W. Gates III, 45, of Richmond, Va., pleaded guilty on Feb. 23, 2018, to a superseding criminal information that includes: count one of the indictment, which charges conspiracy against the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 (which includes conspiracy to violate 26 U.S.C. 7206(1), 31 U.S.C. 5312 and 5322(b), and 22 U.S.C. 612, 618(a)(1), and 618(a)(2)), and a charge of making false statements to the Special Counsel’s Office and FBI agents, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001. A status report with regard to sentencing was scheduled for May 14, 2018.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Failed coal seam gas mining company Linc Energy's 9 week trial underway in Queensland, Australia

As the story unfolded.........

ABC News, 16 April 2016:

Oil and gas company Linc Energy has been placed into administration in a bid to avoid penalties for polluting the environment, a Queensland green group says.

It was announced late Friday that administrators PPB Advisory had been called in to work with Linc's management on options including a possible restructure.

In a statement to the ASX, the company said after receiving legal and financial advice and considering commercial prospects the board decided it was in the best interests of the company to make the move.

It comes one month after the company was committed to stand trial on five charges relating to breaches in Queensland's environmental laws at its underground coal gasification site.

The state's environment department accused the company of wilfully causing serious harm at its trial site near Chinchilla on the Darling Downs.

Drew Hutton from the Lock the Gate Alliance said the company could face up to $56 million in fines if found guilty, but the penalty might never be paid.

"It is going to be difficult to get any money out of this company now that it is in administration," he said.

Mr Hutton said going into administration was a common legal manoeuvre to dodge fines and costly clean-ups......

Queensland Government, Dept. of Environment and Heritage Protection, 29 January 2018:

Environmental Protection Order directed to Linc

Prior to Linc entering liquidation, DES issued Linc with an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) which required it to retain critical infrastructure on-site, conduct a site audit and undertake basic environmental monitoring to characterise the current status of the site.

Linc’s liquidators launched a legal challenge associated with this EPO in the Supreme Court seeking orders that they were justified in not causing Linc to comply with the EPO (or any future EPO). DES opposed this application.

In April 2017, the Supreme Court directed that Linc’s liquidators are not justified in causing Linc not to comply with the EPO. The Court accepted DES’ argument that the relevant provisions of the EP Act prevail over the Commonwealth Corporations Act and that Linc’s liquidators are executive officers of the company. Subject to any appeal decision, this confirms DES’s ability to enforce compliance with environmental obligations owed by resource companies who have gone into administration or liquidation.

Linc’s liquidators have since appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal. This appeal was heard in September 2017 and the decision was reserved.

Environmental Protection Order directed to a related person of Linc

DES used the ‘chain of responsibility’ amendments to the EP Act to issue an EPO to a ‘related person’ of Linc. The EPO requires the recipient to take steps to decommission most of the site’s dams and provide a bank guarantee of $5.5 million to secure compliance with the order.

The recipient of the EPO has appealed to the Planning and Environment Court and that litigation is ongoing.

The recipient of the EPO also applied for an order that the appeal be allowed and the EPO be set aside on the basis that DES denied him procedural fairness. The Planning and Environment Court dismissed that application. The recipient of the EPO appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal. That appeal was heard in March 2017 and judgment in favour of DES was delivered in August 2017. Subject to any further appeal, this decision confirms that the recipient was not denied procedural fairness and that DES’ interpretation of the EP Act was correct.

The earlier appeal in relation to the EPO (regarding the substance of the document) is yet to be heard by the Planning and Environment Court.

Investigation and prosecution of Linc and former executives

Linc Energy Limited will stand trial in the Brisbane District Court, commencing 29 January 2018, on five counts of wilfully causing serious environmental harm, in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

All counts relate to operations at the Linc Energy underground coal gasification site near Chinchilla, from approximately 2007 to 2013, and allege that contaminants were allowed to escape as a result of the operation.

In addition, the Queensland Government has charged five former Linc Energy executives over the operation of the UCG site in Chinchilla. A committal hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court is expected to take place in mid-2018.

As these matters remain before the courts, DES is unable to comment further on the legal proceedings.

Media releases

ABC News, 30 January 2018:

A landmark case described by a District Court judge as "unusual" will hear how gas company Linc Energy allegedly contaminated strategic cropping land causing serious environmental damage to parts of Queensland's Western Downs.

Linc Energy is charged with five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing environmental harm between 2007 and 2013 at Chinchilla.

The charges relate to alleged contamination at Linc Energy's Hopeland underground coal gasification (UCG) plant.

The trial will enter its second day today in the District Court in Brisbane, with crown prosecutor Ralph Devlin QC expected to begin his opening address to the empanelled jury later this morning.

Former Linc Energy scientists, geologists, and engineers as well as several investigators from the Queensland Environment Department are among those expected to give evidence.

Echo NetDaily, 30 January 2018:

BRISBANE, AAP – A failed energy company accused of knowingly and illegally polluting a significant part of Queensland’s Darling Downs has faced trial in a landmark criminal case in Brisbane.

Linc Energy is charged with five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing environmental harm between 2007 and 2013 after allegedly allowing toxic gas to leak from its operations.

The Brisbane District Court trial has heard Linc’s four underground coal gasification (UCG) sites and water were polluted to the point it was unfit for stock to consume but the company kept operating.

Crown prosecutor Ralph Devlin QC told the jury the company allowed hazardous contaminants to spread even after scientists and workers warned about gases bubbling from the ground.

Linc operated four UCG sites in Chinchilla where it burnt coal underground at very high temperatures to create gas.

In his opening address on Tuesday, Mr Devlin said scientists warned senior managers about the risk environmental harm was being caused throughout the operation…..

 ‘Bond prioritised Linc’s commercial interests over the requirements of operating its mining activity in an environmentally safe manner,’ Mr Devlin said.

‘Linc did nothing to stop, mitigate or rehabilitate the state of affairs that Linc itself had caused.’

As part of the UCG process, Linc injected air into the ground, which created and enlarged fractures.

It tried to concrete surface cracks and use wells to control pressure but they didn’t sufficiently reduce risks or damage, the court heard.

‘Linc kept going, even knowing the measures weren’t working,’ Mr Devlin said.

Scientists who visited the site are due to give evidence during the nine-week trial, but no senior managers from the company, which is in liquidation, will take the stand.

The trial continues.

ABC News, 8 February 2018:

Workers at an underground coal gasification plant on Queensland's Western Darling Downs were told to drink milk and eat yoghurt to protect their stomachs from acid, a court has heard.

The gas company has pleaded not guilty to five counts of causing serious environmental harmfrom its underground coal gasification operations between 2007 and 2013 in Chinchilla.

The corporation is not defending itself as it is in liquidation so there is no-one in the dock or at the bar table representing the defence.

A witness statement by former gas operator Timothy Ford was read to the court, which he prepared in 2015 before his death.

The court was not told how Mr Ford died.

He said the gas burnt his eyes and nose and he would need to leave the plant after work to get fresh air because it made him feel sick.

"We were told to drink milk in the mornings and at the start of shift… we were also told to eat yoghurt," he said.

"The purpose of this was to line our guts so the acid wouldn't burn our guts.

"We were not allowed to drink the tank water and were given bottled water."

Mr Ford said he always felt lethargic, suffered infections and had shortness of breath.

"During my time at the Linc site, would be the sickest I have been," he said.

"It is my belief that workplace was causing my sickness.

"I strongly feel that the Linc site was not being run properly due to failures of the wells and gas releases.".....

Sunshine Coast Daily, 9 February 2018:

A CONCRETE pumper says he saw 'black tar' seeping up at a Linc Energy site and raised concerns with the company.

Robert Arnold has told a court he noticed some odd occurrences when he went to the Chinchilla site in late 2007……

On Thursday, Mr Arnold told jurors he noticed several phenomena at the site.
"We saw bubbles coming up ... and a black tar substance. We commented back to Linc about it."

"A few of us went over and had a look ... basically it just looked like a heavy black oil ... it was in the puddles as well, in the same area," Mr Arnold added.

"We couldn't place our equipment close to the well because of these overhead pipes ... it was dripping out of the joints."

Prosecutor Ralph Devlin earlier claimed a "bubbling" event happened on the ground after rainfall at the coal gasification site.

Mr Arnold told jurors that after discussing the oozing substance, concrete trucks turned up and he pumped the concrete into a well.

Mr Arnold said he felt the concrete used that time was "very light" but the on-site supervisor made that decision.

Prosecutors previously told the court concerns were raised at various times with Linc leadership about the quality of cement and geological data used at the site.

The Crown has also claimed Linc used its underground wells in a way that made them fail, and allowed contaminants to escape far way, to places Linc could not remove them.

Wikipedia, 5 February 2018:

Linc started its Chinchilla Demonstration Facility in July 1999. First gas was produced in that very same year. Initially Linc Energy used the underground coal gasification technology worked out by Ergo Exergy Technologies, Inc, of Canada. 

However, in 2006 the cooperation with Ergo Exergy was terminated and the cooperation agreement for technology usage, consultation and engineering services was signed with the Skochinsky Institute of Mining and the Scientific-Technical Mining Association of Russia.[2]

In 2005, Linc signed a memorandum with Syntroleum granting a licence to use the Syntroleum's proprietary gas-to-liquid technology and started to build a GTL pilot plant in November 2007 at the Chinchilla facility. The plant was commissioned in August 2008. The first synthetic crude was produced in October 2008.[3]

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Another how low can they go moment courtesy of the Catholic Church in Australia

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 February 2018:

The Catholic Church in Australia is worth tens of billions of dollars, making it one of the country’s biggest non-government property owners, and massively wealthier than it has claimed in evidence to major inquiries into child sexual abuse.

A six-month investigation by The Sydney Morning Herald has found that the church misled the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse by grossly undervaluing its property treasures in both NSW and Victoria while claiming that increased payments to abuse victims would require cuts to its social programs.
The investigation was based on intricate data from local councils that allowed more than 1860 valuations of church-owned property in Victoria. That showed that across 36 municipalities - including nearly all of metropolitan Melbourne - the church had land and buildings worth almost $7 billion in 2016.

Extrapolated nationally, using conservative assumptions, the church owns property worth more than $30 billion Australia-wide.

This put the Catholic church among the largest non-government property owners, by value, in NSW and Australia, rivalling Westfield’s network of shopping centres and other assets. It dwarfs all other large property owners.

"These figures confirm what we have known; there is huge inequity between the Catholic Church’s wealth and their responses to survivors," said Helen Last, chief executive of the In Good Faith Foundation.

"The 600 survivors registered for our Foundation’s services continue to experience minimal compensation and lack of comprehensive care in relation to their Church abuses. They say their needs are the lowest of church priorities.’’…..

Monetary payments to abuse survivors have averaged just $49,000 under Towards Healing, the national compensation system established by the church in 1996……

The church also has extensive non-property assets including Catholic Church Insurance and its own internal banks - often known as Catholic Development Funds - with nearly $1 billion in assets in Sydney alone.

And it has other investments, including in superannuation, telecommunications and in the stock-market. A Church-owned fund manager has more than $1.4 billion under management.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Falling biodiversity, degradation of productive rural land, intensification of coastal & city development, and the threat of climate change require Australia to produce blueprint for a new generation of environment laws

“The next generation of environmental laws will need to recognise explicitly the role of humanity as a trustee of the environment and its common resources, requiring both care and engagement on behalf of future generations.”  [APEEL, Blueprint for the Next Generation of Environmental Law, August 2017]

The Guardian, 6 February 2018:
Environmental lawyers and academics have called for a comprehensive rethink on how Australia's natural landscapes are protected, warning that short-term politics is infecting decision-making and suggesting that the public be given a greater say on development plans.
The Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law has launched a blueprint for a new generation of environment laws and the creation of independent agencies with the power and authority to ensure they are enforced. The panel of 14 senior legal figures says this is motivated by the need to systematically address ecological challenges including falling biodiversity, the degradation of productive rural land, the intensification of coastal and city development and the threat of climate change.
Murray Wilcox QC, a former federal court judge, said the blueprint was a serious attempt to improve a system that was shutting the public out of the decision-making process and failing to properly assess the impact of large-scale development proposals.
"We found the standard of management of the environment is poor because everything is made into a political issue," Wilcox said. "Nothing happens until it becomes desperate.
"We need a non-political body of significant prestige to report on what is happening and have the discretion to act."
The legal review, developed over several years and quietly released in 2017, resulted in 57 recommendations. It was suggested by the Places You Love alliance, a collection of about 40 environmental groups that was created to counter a failed bid to set up a "one-stop shop" for environmental approvals by leaving it to the states. The panel undertook the work on the understanding it would be independent and not a piece of activism.
Review report can be found here.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The American Resistance has many faces and these are just some of them (19)

Successful resistance at state level.....

Chicago Tribune, 4 December 2018:
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order disbanding his voter fraud commission.
A White House statement is blaming the decision on numerous states that have refused to provide voter information to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that, "Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense," Trump has signed an order to dissolve the commission and asked the Department of Homeland Security to determine the administration's next steps.
Critics saw the commission as part of a conservative campaign to strip minority voters and poor people from the voter rolls, and to justify unfounded claims made by Trump that voter fraud cost him the popular vote in 2016.
Past studies have found voter fraud to be exceptionally rare. [my yellow highlighting]

The Hill, 3 January 2018:

It was established months after Trump claimed without citing evidence that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, depriving him of a popular-vote victory against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a vocal supporter of voter ID laws, led the commission. It was made up of Republicans and Democrats.

The panel met twice, but was quickly bogged down amid states’ unwillingness to comply with its requests and lawsuits alleging it did not follow federal record-keeping laws.

The Government Accountability Office announced last October it was opening an investigation into the commission at the request of three Democratic senators who said the panel did not properly disclose its work.

Democrats and civil-rights groups described the commission as part of a broader conservative effort to deprive minorities of voting rights and a cover to back up the president’s claims.

"The claim of widespread voter fraud in the United States is in fact, fraud. The demise of this commission should put this issue to rest," Michael Waldman, president of the liberal Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) celebrated the panel's end, calling it a "front to suppress the vote, perpetrate dangerous and baseless claims" that "was ridiculed from one end of the country to the other."

Some leading Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), also urged Trump last year to drop his claims of widespread fraud.

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.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

NSW Environmental Defender's Office has served irrigator and Nationals donor Peter Harris a summons demanding he return more than five billion litres of water he is alleged to have illegally taken from the Barwon-Darling River

The Australian, 14 November 2017:

The NSW Environmental Defender’s Office has served irrigator and Nationals donor Peter Harris a summons demanding he return more than five billion litres of water he is alleged to have ­illegally taken from the Barwon-Darling River.

The incidents of alleged water theft are the subject of ICAC, Ombudsman and Office of Water inquiries, which follow the standing down and resignation of former senior NSW water bureaucrat Gavin Hanlon.

It has also been revealed that NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair benefited Mr ­Harris, a cotton farmer, and other irrigators by changing the laws to pardon Mr Harris retrospectively for illegal flood works and that Mr Blair lobbied Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton to change the law to justify a decision to give Mr Harris more water trading rights.

In their action in the Land and Environment Court, the plaintiffs demand “the return of water, up to the equivalent of the total volume ... (to) occur immediately after the water is extracted from the water source and has passed through metering equipment” to measure it, but before it is stored.

Alternatively, the defender’s office is seeking orders so that Mr Harris forfeits his entitlement to the equivalent amount of water in ­future to replenish the river.

The summons was served on Peter James Harris and Jane Maree Harris and the matter is listed for December 8.

The amount of water allegedly taken would fill more than 2000 Olympic swimming pools.

Office chief executive David Morris said the action was being taken because the NSW government was not moving quickly enough to penalise Mr Harris.

“On two occasions EDO NSW has written to the NSW government outlining concerns about potential breaches of the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW) and informing the government of intention to commence civil enforcement proceedings,” he said.

“No adequate response has been received from the government. In the face of government inaction, our client (the Inland Rivers Network) has seen no other choice but to commence proceedings in the Land and Environment Court.”