Showing posts with label royal commission. Show all posts
Showing posts with label royal commission. Show all posts

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

"Which Bank?" Allegations of est. 1,610 suspect financial transactions possibly involving money laundering or terrorism funding

Calls for a royal commission into banks and banking practices will probably grow louder.......
ABC News, 3 August 2017:
The Australian Transactions Reports & Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) today launched civil proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that the Commonwealth Bank failed to comply with the law on 53,700 occasions.
The allegations follow an AUSTRAC investigation into the CBA's use of intelligent deposit machines (IDMs) between November 2012 and September 2015.
The maximum penalty for each of the 53,700 contraventions is up to $18 million.
The potentially massive penalties would dwarf a $45-million fine imposed on Tabcorp earlier this year for failing to comply with anti money laundering and terror financing laws…..
The transactions in question had a total value of around $624.7 million.
ABC News, 7 August 2017:
The Commonwealth's allegations about the extent of the breakdown of CBA's legal obligations are breathtaking.
Reading between the lines in the statement of claim, it would appear Australian Federal Police (AFP) investigating at least four money-laundering syndicates discovered Austrac had no transaction records on those they had under surveillance.
In August 2015, CBA provided authorities with details on two of those missing transactions. Clearly, that caused panic within the bank. For just a month later, it sent Austrac details of a further 53,504 transactions dating back three years where $10,000 or more had taken place.
At least 1,604 of those late filings related to criminal gangs. Even more alarming, a further six filings related to five customers the bank itself had identified as posing a terrorism risk. But, incredibly, it didn't report them.
That is not the end of it. According to the statement of claim, the bank continued to facilitate transactions for drug syndicates even after being alerted by the AFP.
Even as late as January this year, 18 months after the breaches were first discovered, it is accused of failing to report suspicious transfers totalling $320,000 over five days.
The calamity is being sheeted home to the installation of whiz-bang new machines, intelligent deposit machines.
These accept cash or shares, count the money and then deposit it into a CBA account. From there, it can be sent almost instantly to anywhere in the world. And the neat thing, from a criminal or terrorist viewpoint, is that you do not have to be a CBA customer to do it.
Not only that, they would take up to $20,000 at a time. The machines may be intelligent but, sadly, no-one at the bank seemed to give a second thought to the reporting duties, either around the $10,000 limit or to look out for "structured" transactions — those attempting to fly just under the radar with slightly smaller amounts.
When they were first introduced in 2012, they proved popular. Almost $90 million went through in the first six months. That has since risen to around $1 billion a month.
As the debacle unfolded last week, the other banks — all of which have introduced similar machines — were keen to distance themselves from the drama, even if ANZ boss Shayne Elliott lamented that all would suffer.
Each said they had removed "non-compliant machines", whatever that means. For it is not the machines that are at fault. It is the oversight that has failed.
Interestingly, each of the CBA's three main rivals were keen to emphasise that their machines would accept a maximum of $5,000. In effect, that means no single transaction would ever come close to the reporting limit, thereby letting them off the hook……
The odds on a royal commission have now shortened dramatically, for the Turnbull Government's resolve to resist one must now be spent.
Not only that, the banks have lost any moral ground they may have thought they had in opposing the Federal Government levy.
If recent history is anything to go by, the bank and its leaders merely will attempt to pretend it is all a media beat-up and it is business as usual.
There will be the usual contrite statements, the promises of improving systems to ensure there is no repeat, an internal inquiry no less, most likely as early as this week when Mr Narev unveils a $9.8 billion profit.
This time, however, the attack will not be so simply to parry. It is not an angry but disorganised customer base baying for blood. These are issues of national security and the prospect of a concerted legal assault by the Australian Government solicitor.
Hold the bonuses? The fallout is likely to be somewhat larger.
Commonwealth Bank, ASX announcement, 4 August 2017:

Commonwealth Bank response to media reports regarding AUSTRAC civil proceedings

Friday, 4 August 2017 (Sydney):

Commonwealth Bank of Australia notes the media coverage of the civil penalty proceedings initiated yesterday by AUSTRAC for alleged non-compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Finance Act 2006. The matter is subject to court proceedings. We are currently reviewing AUSTRAC’s claim and will file a statement of defence. We will keep the market informed of any updates in compliance with our disclosure obligations.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Tendered exhibits about child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions investigated by Catholic Church Insurance (CCI) and the Society of St Gerard Majella published by Royal Commission

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, media release:

10 July, 2017

The Royal Commission has published documents relating to Catholic Church Insurance (CCI) and the Society of St Gerard Majella that were tendered during the public hearing into Catholic Church authorities in Australia (Case Study 50).

The public hearing was held in Sydney in February 2017.

The CCI documents relate to investigations conducted by CCI into child sexual abuse claims to establish whether an insured Catholic Church authority had prior knowledge of an alleged perpetrator’s propensity to abuse.

The Royal Commission has published CCI documents relating to 22 alleged perpetrators.

The Society of St Gerard Majella was a Catholic religious institute founded in the 1960s. It was suppressed by the Vatican at the request of the Bishop of Parramatta in 1996, which had the effect of closing down the Society.

Please note that the documents in both exhibits (Exhibit 50-0012 and Exhibit 50-0013) contain redactions of names and identifying information that are subject to directions not to publish.

Visit Case Study 50 and go to exhibits to find the documents.


Friday, 30 June 2017

Update on Australian Cardinal George Pell: charged with mulitiple sexual offences by Victoria Police

Australian Cardinal George Pell, currently living and working in the Vatican, has been charged on summons by Victoria Police with multiple serious historical sexual offences.
 The Australian, 29 June 2017:

No-one with credibility in the church underestimates the damage caused by clergy abuse, a stain that could still be decades from being rubbed out.
This is the broader challenge facing the Catholic hierarchy.
An 18-month or two year court battle, regardless of whether or not it finds in favour of Pell, will mark more lost time as the church tries to deal with the aftermath of the abuse scandal.
This negative publicity will be compounded by the ongoing reporting of the child sex abuse royal commission, which is still to hand down major reports into the Melbourne and Ballarat case studies.
Pell, being the divisive figure that he is and has been, is receiving support from many of his senior peers but the church is also home to many who believe the institution can only move forward when it sees the cardinal’s back.
Perhaps a fairer perspective is to withhold judgment until the evidence is presented to the court.
It’s often been said but it is worth repeating; the least the victims deserve is the truth, which has been in short supply for too long.


Further to Cardinal George Pell’s evidence given to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse1.

The Australian, 16 May 2017:
Lawyers representing George Pell have demanded an apology and retraction from Fairfax and The Guardian over articles ­repeating child sexual abuse alle­gations made in a new book ­described by the cardinal as a “character assassination”.

The legal demands were sent to the media outlets at the weekend after a book made a series of allegations against Cardinal Pell over his role in the sex abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic Church…..

MUP chief executive Louise Adler said the publishing house had received letters from Cardinal Pell’s representatives but no legal action had been threatened.

Crikey, 23 May 2017:

George Pell, both the man and his troubles with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, might be affecting Australia’s representation in the highest council of the Catholic Church, the College of Cardinals — which elects the Pope — given Sydney (and Melbourne) once more missed out in the latest, very eclectic list from Pope Francis.

Seven News, 20 June 2017:

Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton told ABC radio Cardinal Pell's lawyers will be told first, once a decision is made whether to charge him.

"A decision is imminent," Mr Ashton told ABC this morning.

"There is a great deal of public interest in it [the George Pell case].

"We'll get something out soon."

It's the third time Mr Ashton has promised an "imminent" decision on the allegations after police got advice from the state's Director of Public Prosecutions on May 16.

On May 18 Mr Ashton said the process wouldn't take too long, and a decision would be reached within a few weeks.

A week later he told 3AW the decision was not too far off.

"The decision is imminent on that," Mr Ashton said on May 25.

On June 1 he described it as "fairly imminent".

The Australian, 24 June 2017:

Those closest to George Pell are increasingly pessimistic about his chances of avoiding charges over historical child sex abuse ­allegations.

The Weekend Australian has been told by multiple sources that — despite his vehement ­denial of wrongdoing — there is a growing resignation that ­charges will almost certainly be laid, plunging the church into what would be an unprecedented scandal.

The Rule Of Law Institute Of Australia Incorporated (a somewhat obscure not-for-profit organisation registered in June 2010) also offered its mite on the subject in The Australian on 25 June 2017:

Victoria Police has been warned not to charge Cardinal George Pell over alleged child sexual abuse to clear the air, or to stage a show trial in response to intense public interest and anger over clerical sex abuse in general.

Lawyer Robin Speed, president of the Rule of Law Institute of Australia said prosecutors should act against Cardinal Pell only if they were fully satisfied about the quality of the evidence.

“They should not act in response to the baying of a section of the mob,’’ he said…..

Mr Speed said that if the cardinal was charged and found innocent the drawn out conduct of the investigation over two years could warrant a judicial inquiry.


1. Cardinal George Pell gave evidence from 29 February 2016 by video link from Rome concerning Case Study 35: Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and Case Study 28: Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat. Reports on Case Study 28 (Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat) and Case Study 35 (Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne) are yet to be published. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse comes to an end after three and a half years of hearings

The long journey was harrowing for the victims, heartbreaking for their families and friends. It shocked and appalled a nation which up to that point had never turned to face the true scale of child sexual abuse within religious and state institutions.

With 57 case studies completed, an est. 5,000 alleged perpetrators revealed in previously reported/unreported claims of child sexual abuse, more than 6,500 victims or their representatives interviewed and 1,950 referrals to authorities (including police), this journey has completed its first stage.

What comes next will depend in some measure on the resolve of ordinary Australians to continue to publicly hold federal and state governments as well as religious administrations to the undertakings they have given to the Royal Commission, to completely eradicate child sexual abuse within their institutions and cease protecting the criminals in their ranks who perpetrate such abuse.

Case Study 57
The Hon Justice Peter McClellan AM
Chair, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Today brings the last of our case study hearings to an end. There is an unfinished matter which has been delayed because a trial is listed in April. We will consider the future course of that matter at a directions hearing at a later date.
As I indicated on Monday we have been conducting public hearings since September 2013. The hearings have heard from many survivors and have allowed the intensive scrutiny of the actions of individuals within institutions. We have also looked at how institutions were managed at the time of the abuse and how, once the abuse became known, the institution responded. We have been told by many people that the public hearings have had a profound effect on the community’s understanding of the nature and impact of the sexual abuse of children in Australia. This is primarily due to the courage and determination of the survivors who have given evidence. Although a relatively small number they have given voice to the suffering of the tens of thousands who have been abused in an institutional context in Australia.
There are many people who must be acknowledged for their contribution to our program of public hearings. The starting point for a public hearing is the
work undertaken by the Commission’s legal and investigation teams. They have worked with great dedication, and often under great stress and for long days to bring together witnesses and documents for the hearing. We thank each of them for their efforts on the many case studies. We have also valued the contribution from our policy staff who, of course, have a fundamental role in the preparation of our final report.
The technical expertise required to ensure our hearings are available to the internet has been complex. Without question this process has contributed greatly to the community’s knowledge of the work we have been doing. Going forward I suggest the usual position should be for the live streaming of the hearings of any public inquiry. Our thanks go to the team of technicians and operators who have made this possible.
The Royal Commission has travelled across the entire country to conduct public hearings. This has been a challenging and, at times, complex logistical task. The Commissioners are grateful to the staff who have contributed to the smooth running of our public hearing program.
We owe a special debt to the dedicated team of stenographers who have produced our transcripts. A real time transcript is a valuable tool for a Royal Commission but we appreciate it imposes considerable burdens on those who prepare it. We greatly appreciate their efforts. They have our thanks.
The Commissioners thanks are also due to the many people in institutions who have assisted by producing documents, identifying witnesses, and in almost all cases, participating in our public hearings with the purpose of assisting the Commissioners to understand the story from their institution.
For the care and support that our counselling team and community engagement staff have given to witnesses appearing before the Commission, especially survivors, the Commissioners express our gratitude. Their task has been complex but of fundamental importance to ensure that a survivor’s engagement is both positive, but more importantly, safe. These teams have the admiration of all the Commissioners for the skill and care they give to their task.
We also express today our gratitude to the media for the comprehensive and effective reporting of our work. Television has provided live coverage of the opening of many hearings. I appreciate the limits of column space and the demands of deadlines. But within these limits many media outlets have given prime news or current affairs space to our work. Both the Commissioners and, I am sure, the entire community are grateful for their efforts.
Our thanks also go to all counsel, both those who have assisted the Commission and those who have appeared for survivors and institutions. But above all our thanks are due to Gail Furness. She came to us with the insight gained from an inquiry in the child protection area. She has long ago mastered the inquiry process and the management of a public hearing. But beyond those matters Gail has remarkable abilities of forensic analysis and advocacy. Few people would appreciate the enormous burdens she has carried throughout the hearings. Scrupulously fair, without Gail’s efforts we simply could not have completed our task.
Finally we extend both our recognition and thanks to survivors who gave evidence. Without them our public hearings would be a hollow attempt to tell their story. Without them the realities of child sexual abuse and the extent of institutional failure could not be recognised. Given with difficulty but great courage the telling of each of your personal stories has enabled the Commission and the general community to gain a real understanding of your suffering. It will assist the Royal Commission in the preparation of recommendations in our final report to which we now must turn.

Monday, 13 February 2017

The shocking truth about historic institutional child sexual abuse in Australia

A Child’s Morning Prayer
Lord, I awake and see your light,
For You have kept me through the night,
To You I lift my hands and pray,
Keep me from sin throughout this day,
And if I die before it's done,
Save me through Jesus Christ, Your Son.

A Child’s Night Prayer
Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
to whom His love commits me here,
ever this night be at my side,
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.
Origin unknown

The Commonwealth of Australia Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse held its first public hearing in Sydney from Monday 16 to Thursday 19 September 2013. The Royal Commission's first public hearing into the Catholic Church in Australia and child sexual abuse began on Monday, 9 December 2013 and multiple hearings relating to Catholic institutions and specific clergy followed over the next four years. 

Excerpts from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Public Hearing into Catholic Church Authorities, Case Study 50, transcript, 6 February 2017:

1. This is the Royal Commission’s 50th public hearing…..

7. It was plain that hearings were needed to examine the responses of faith-based institutions, given that, as at the end of 2016, 60% of survivors attending a private session reported abuse in those institutions. Of those survivors, nearly two thirds reported abuse in Catholic institutions. While the percentage has varied over time, at present over 37% of all private session attendees reported sexual abuse in a Catholic institution. Consequently Catholic institutions were a key part of the Royal Commission’s public hearings. …….

26. Between January 1980 and February 2015, 4,444 people alleged incidents of child sexual abuse made to 93 Catholic Church authorities. These claims related to over 1000 separate institutions.

27. The claims survey sought information about the people who made claims of child sexual abuse. Where the gender of people making a claim was reported, 78% were male and 22% were female. Of those people who made claims of child sexual abuse received by religious orders with only religious brother members, 97% were male.

28. The average age of people who made claims of child sexual abuse, at the time of the alleged abuse, was 10.5 for girls and 11.6 for boys. The average time between the alleged abuse and the date a claim was made was 33 years.

29. The claims survey sought information about alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse. A total of 1,880 alleged perpetrators were identified in claims of child sexual abuse. Over 500 unknown people were identified as alleged perpetrators. It cannot be determined whether any of those people whose identities are unknown were identified by another claimant in a separate claim.

30. Of the 1,880 identified alleged perpetrators:

a. 597 or 32% were religious brothers
b. 572 or 30% were priests
c. 543 or 29% were lay people
d. 96 or 5% were religious sisters.

31. Of all alleged perpetrators, 90% were male and 10% were female.

32. The Royal Commission surveyed 75 Catholic Church authorities with priest members, including archdioceses, dioceses and religious orders about the number of their members who ministered in Australia between 1 January 1950 and 31 December 2010. Ten Catholic religious orders with religious brother or sister members provided the same information about their members.

33. This information, when analysed in conjunction with the claims data, enabled calculation of the proportion of priests and religious brother and sister members of these Catholic Church authorities who ministered in this period and who were alleged perpetrators.

34. Of priests from the 75 Catholic Church authorities with priest members surveyed, who ministered in Australia between 1950 and 2010, 7.9% of diocesan priests were alleged perpetrators and 5.7% of religious priests were alleged perpetrators. Overall, 7% of priests were alleged perpetrators.

35. The Archdiocese of Adelaide and the Dominican Friars had the lowest overall proportion of priests who ministered in the period 1950 to 2010 and were alleged perpetrators, at 2.4% and 2.1% respectively.

36. The following five archdioceses or dioceses with priest members which had the highest overall proportion of priests who ministered in the period 1950 to 2010 and who were alleged perpetrators:

a. 11.7% of priests from the Diocese of Wollongong were alleged perpetrators
b. 13.9% of priests from the Diocese of Lismore were alleged perpetrators
c. 14.1% of priests from the Diocese of Port Pirie were alleged perpetrators
d. 14.7% of priests from the Diocese of Sandhurst were alleged perpetrators
e. 15.1% of priests from the Diocese of Sale were alleged perpetrators.

37. The following five religious orders with priest members had the highest overall proportion of priests who ministered in the period 1950 to 2010 and who were alleged perpetrators:

a. 8.0% of priests from the Vincentians – The Congregation of the Mission were alleged perpetrators
b. 13.7% of priests from the Pallottines – Society of the Catholic Apostolate were alleged perpetrators
d. 17.2% of priests from the Salesians of Don Bosco were alleged perpetrators
e. 21.5% of priests from the Benedictine Community of New Norcia were alleged perpetrators.

38. In relation to religious orders with religious brother and sister members, the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart and the Sisters of Mercy (Brisbane) had the lowest overall proportions of members who were alleged perpetrators, at 0.6% and 0.3% respectively.

39. The following five religious orders with only religious brother members had the highest overall proportion of religious brothers who ministered in the period 1950 to 2010 and who were alleged perpetrators:

a. 13.8% of De La Salle Brothers were alleged perpetrators
b. 20.4% of Marist Brothers were alleged perpetrators
c. 21.9% of Salesians of Don Bosco brothers were alleged perpetrators
d. 22.0% of Christian Brothers were alleged perpetrators
e. 40.4% of St John of God Brothers were alleged perpetrators.
c. 13.9% of priests from the Marist Fathers – Society of Mary were alleged perpetrators, as distinct from the Marist Brothers.

The St. John of God Brothers were established in Australia in the 1940s by eight men, six of whom were believed to be paedophiles. Brothers Kilian Herbert and Laurence Hartley arrived in Sydney from Ireland on 11 August 1947 to head this small group.

Previous North Coast Voices posts on child sexual abuse can be found here., 6 February 2017:

A brief of evidence concerning historical claims of sexual abuse at the hands of Cardinal George Pell has been delivered to prosecutors for consideration.

Victoria Police confirmed with AAP on Monday night that investigators had delivered the brief to the Office of Public Prosecutions.

It's a significant development in the case since three police travelled to Rome in October to speak with the former Ballarat priest and Melbourne archbishop.

Cardinal Pell now resides full-time at the Vatican. He cited ill-health as a reason he could not travel back to Australia to give evidence in last year's royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse, appearing instead via video link.

Allegations emerged in 2015 from two men who said they were groped as children by Cardinal Pell when he was a priest in Ballarat during the 1970s.

Another man claimed he saw the priest expose himself to young boys in the late 1980s.

Cardinal Pell previously released a statement rejecting "all and every allegation of sexual abuse" and would continue co-operating with Victoria Police until the investigation was finalised.

The Northern Star, 7 February 2017:

WEDNESDAY 4.30pm: NEARLY 14% of Lismore's most experienced Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing children by 2010 but the diocese's spokesman, the Most Reverend Geoffrey Jarrett, has reserved comment.

Between 52 and 64 priests have served in the Diocese of Lismore in each decade since 1950, with 129 priests having served in the area by 2010, detailed data presented to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shown.

Some 18 of those priests, or 13.9%, have been accused of sexually abusing children throughout their careers, marking Lismore as one of the nation's top five worst dioceses for child sex accusations against the Church.

Too soon to comment: Diocese of Lismore

But Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese Bishop Jarrett, standing in while Bishop-elect Father Gregory Homeming prepares for his ordination, said it was too early to comment publicly on findings.

"My response is that we are in the early days of the Royal Commission's present three week hearing, and until it completes its investigation, it would be premature to comment on the first release of statistics," Bishop Jarrett said via email to The Northern Star.

"We would expect to have a fuller picture and a wider range of issues as time goes on and I will be available for comment at the end of the hearing."

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Are We Any Closer To Having A Banking Royal Commission?

In Do we need a Royal Commission into the banks?  (North Coast Voices 21st April 2016) I wrote: “What is very obvious is that there is a need to shine a very strong light on the banking/ finance industry in order to force the changes that are required to make it fairer and more responsive to customer needs.  Moreover there is an ongoing need to ensure proper compensation for consumers who have been hurt by unscrupulous behaviour over recent years.  And the “bad apples” in the sector need to be identified and removed.  This would lead to a marked improvement in public confidence in the banking/finance system.”
What has changed in the six months since then?
Very  little of substance.  The returned Coalition Government continues to reject holding a Royal Commission into the banking/finance system while the ALP Opposition and the Greens continue to call for one.  However, the Government has obviously been feeling under pressure on this matter. Although it still continues to rail contemptuously about the Opposition’s “populist” Royal Commission policy, it has abandoned its “do nothing” stance to take some limited action which it obviously hopes will neutralise Labor’s calls.
The first of these was a brief inquiry conducted by the ten member House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics on October 4th -6th.  (The composition of this Committee is: five Liberal MPs, one National, three Labor and one Green.) It was called by Prime Minister Turnbull after the major banks failed to pass on in full the Reserve Bank’s 0.25% rate cut to mortgage holders. Mr Turnbull said that it was an opportunity for the banks to explain how they deal with their customers, and why they make interest rate decisions and be open and accountable about it. It is significant that it was interest rates, not the many other really appalling actions of the banks over many years that produced this tepid inquiry.
The CEOs of the four major banks (Commonwealth, ANZ, National and Westpac) each spent three hours answering questions on matters such as bank policies, past mistakes, how these had been remedied and the action taken on those responsible for mistakes and illegal activities. 
Some committee members were concerned about the very limited time available (around 20 minutes with each CEO for each member) which led to the question of whether CEOs would be willing to return for a further session. Deputy Chair of the Committee Matt Thistlethwaite (Labor) remarked that the twenty minutes he would be getting was farcical because he had two days’ worth of questions to put to the CEOs.  Apparently those asked about returning expressed a willingness to do so – quite understandably given that this “inquiry” was obviously very preferable to a Royal Commission.
All CEOs were contrite about their banks’ past performances but claimed that the problems had been investigated (or were still being reviewed) and were (or would be) fixed. Obviously they believe that the Australian community should accept promises that the banks will put their own houses in order – something they have obviously not felt compelled to do in the past. The fact that many (if not most) of those responsible for the bad behaviour are still employed by the banks raises serious questions about bank culture and doubts about the banks’ commitment to improvement.  There are many other issues which need more than vague promises about “doing better in future”.  These include the lack of transparency, the lack of competition in the sector, the incentives which have encouraged predatory and illegal behaviour, and the inflated salaries rewarding the CEOs who are ultimately responsible for the culture and the bad behaviour.
The inadequacy of this brief and tepid inquiry was obvious even to the Government.  Although still anxious to shield the banks from a really sweeping and effective inquiry, it has recently announced a further inquiry – a banking tribunal which it is claimed will be a low-cost way for victims of the banks to seek justice.
The Opposition has predictably seen it as yet another way to avoid a Royal Commission with Shadow Financial Services Minister Katy Gallagher claiming it was “all pre-determined and pre-agreed with the banks.” 
What must be worrying the Government is that there is considerable public support for a Royal Commission and the paltry measures so far undertaken by the Government are unlikely to weaken this support. A national poll conducted by the Australia Institute in the second half of September found 68% supported a Royal Commission or similar inquiry and only 16% opposed it.  Furthermore 52% of those surveyed believed that Prime Minister Turnbull was protecting the banks in refusing to call a Royal Commission. Only 21% disagreed.
This issue is not going to go away. The more the Government tries to defuse the situation with ad hoc measures such as the recent ineffective Parliamentary Committee inquiry and the promise of a banking tribunal, the more it is going to be seen as being out of touch with a very substantial part of the electorate.
Northern Rivers

GuestSpeak is a feature of North Coast Voices allowing Northern Rivers residents to make satirical or serious comment on issues that concern them. Posts of 250-300 words or less can be submitted to ncvguestspeak AT for consideration. Longer posts will be considered on topical subjects.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Looking back on the Abbott-Heydon politically motivated fizzer

Professor John Quiggin writing at, 10 September 2016:

When Dyson Heydon delivered the report of the Royal Commissioner into Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, he claimed that his findings represented “the tip of the iceberg”. At the time, I commented that, given nearly $50 million of public money and lengthy hearings with the exceptional powers of a Royal Commission, the Australian public was entitled to expect the whole iceberg.

It turns out that I was too charitable. In the months since the Commission reported, a string of the charges he recommended have been thrown out or withdrawn In fact, six months later, there has only been one conviction, resulting in a suspended sentence. The only big fish to be caught since the establishment of Heydon’s star chamber has been the Commission’s own star witness, Kathy Jackson.

And the bills keep coming in. The last budget allocated $6 million more for the AFP-Victorian Police taskforce, which currently has outstanding cases against a grand total of six unionists. By contrast, taskforce Argo in Queensland, focused on child exploitation, has a budget of $3 million.

For another contrast, here are a few of the cases of alleged wage fraud, misappropriation of worker entitlements and so on that have emerged since Heydon’s Commission was launched: 7-11 ( million underpayment), Queensland NickelPizza HutMyers and Spotless, and lots of small employers in the agricultural sector. That’s on top of the general run of sharp practiceenvironmental vandalism, market rigging, and dubious practices of all kinds.

It would be absurd to deny the existence of corrupt union officials and, though it is much rarer, systemic corruption, as in the case of the Health Services Union. But the continued failure of a massively expensive, politically motivated inquisition to turn up more than a handful of cases suggests that the problems are isolated, and that the real drive is to attack unions for doing the job of representing workers.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Faith-based institutions involved in 62 per cent of sexual abuse allegations reported to Royal Commission in private session


The Hon Justice Peter McClellan AM
Chair, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

It is now almost three years since the Commission held it first public hearing. In that time we have been able to complete the hearings and provide reports to the Governor-General and Governors in 26 case studies. Twenty two of those reports have been publicly released and four await publication by government. A further 13 case studies have been conducted and are at various stages of completion. Reports in those case studies will be provided to government in due course.

I have previously indicated that it is not possible for the Royal Commission to conduct a public hearing in relation to every institution about which we have received allegations of the sexual abuse of children. The Commission has received information about over 4,000 institutions. Because of the impossibility of conducting a public hearing in relation to each of these institutions we have carefully selected the institutions we have publicly investigated with a view to providing the government, the institutions and the public with an understanding of the nature of the problems which we have identified. The case studies have been selected to ensure an appropriate geographical spread and also an appropriate reflection of the type of institution where survivors were abused.

A breakdown of the institutions examined in our public hearings reveals the following. 29 case studies have examined at least one state institution (70% of all case studies). In 11 case studies state institutions were examined as a primary institution. Faith based institutions have been examined in 26 of our case studies (63% of all case studies). Catholic institutions have been examined in 14 case studies (34% of all case studies) and Anglican institutions have been examined in 5 case studies (12% of all case studies).

Today we commence a further hearing in relation to issues in the Catholic Church in NSW. This will be our last hearing dealing with Catholic institutions apart from the final review hearing which will occur next year.

As you will be aware the Commission is closing registrations for private sessions on 30 September this year. The Commissioners have now met with survivors in 5,866 private sessions and a further 1,616 people have been approved for a private session. We expect that by the time the Commission completes its work at the end of next year we will have held more than 7,200 private sessions.

The current breakdown of institutions in which survivors in private sessions state that they have been abused is as follows. 62% of attendees reported abuse in a faith-based institution. Around 27% reported abuse at government-run institutions. Abuse in Catholic institutions was reported by 40% of all private session attendees, abuse in Anglican institutions by 8% of attendees and abuse in Salvation Army institutions by 4% of attendees.

Apart from our work in public hearings and private sessions we have commissioned research across a broad range of issues relevant to the sexual abuse of children in an institutional context. The primary focus of our research has been to identify and document the changes that should be made to the way institutions are structured and governed to ensure so far as possible that children are not abused in the future. As required by our terms of reference we have also been concerned to ensure that the need for a redress response has been considered together with the response of the civil and criminal justice systems to allegations of the abuse of children. We have already published 27 research reports and a further 34 will be published in the near future. Apart from providing a valuable resource for the Commission these reports will be an authoritative source for other research and policy work long after the Commission has completed its final report.

I have previously mentioned that the Commission has worked co-operatively with police. Section 6P of the Royal Commissions Act 1902 authorises a Royal Commission to provide information to the police with respect to possible criminal offences. The Royal Commission has now referred 1,659 matters to police to consider for further investigation with a view to prosecution. Because of the volume of references the resources of the various police forces have been placed under significant pressure. Although I understand a great many references are awaiting investigation. So far prosecutions have been brought against 71 people.

After the present case study has been completed the Commission will turn its attention in a public hearing to harmful sexual behaviours of children within schools. There may be a limited number of future case studies. These will be followed by a series of review hearings in relation to various institutions and selected topics. I anticipate that our final hearing which has been given the working title ‘Nature, Cause and Impact of Child Sexual Abuse’ will focus amongst other matters on the ‘why’ question, and will take place in March 2017.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and those 111 bankers, planners and advisers

Opposition Leader and MP for Maribyrnong Bill Shorten in Hansard on 31 August 2016:

No less than eight members of this cowardly government have previously called for a royal commission, and I am confident that there are many more who now support this move.

What is the case for the royal commission? We just cannot leave it to ASIC, despite what the government said. We need a royal commission. Let me go through the scandal. Whilst one does not presume to be a predictor of the future, let me describe the last few scandals and let's have a guess if it will happen again. The journalists and whistleblowers expose the scandal and there is a public outcry that follows. Maybe even some of the brave hearts opposite are outraged, with their crocodile tears. But then it is characterised as an isolated incident—mid-tier rogue sort of gunmen going off on their own—and not the conduct of the whole bank. There are heartfelt promises that it will never happen again. Perhaps there might even be a special inquiry by ASIC, APRA or a government appointed panel. And do you know what happens a few months later, Mr Speaker? We do it all again because the banks do not respect the government. They are not worried by the government's calls for action because they know that with this mob in power nothing will ever happen.

What we need is real action. Australians are sick and tired of the scandals being investigated after the harm and the damage is done. They are sick of the phoney apologies and they are sick of the speeding fines that this government issues to the banks. We need public scrutiny. The systemic problems of a royal commission require public scrutiny. Since 2009 at least 111 bankers, planners and advisers have been quietly sacked from their companies or reported to ASIC for misconduct. That is more than one a month. Australians do not know what led to these sackings or what any internal investigations uncovered afterwards.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Australian child sexual abuse royal commission choosing its words carefully

Statement on immigration detention centres
15 August, 2016

The Royal Commission does not ordinarily comment upon operational matters. However, because of the level of public discussion in relation to immigration detention centres the Commission indicates the following.

The Royal Commission has an ongoing investigation in relation to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s response to allegations of child sexual abuse in detention centres. Whether or not a public hearing is warranted has not been determined.

The Royal Commission is conscious that a Child Protection Panel was established by the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in May 2015. The Panel’s terms of reference indicate that ‘a final report will be provided to the Secretary by mid-2016 covering both better practice and a comprehensive sample of reviews.’ The Royal Commission anticipates that the report will deal with the Department’s response to, among other matters, allegations of child abuse in detention centres. The Royal Commission will have regard to that report in the course of its investigation into immigration detention issues.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Royal Commission into the Detention of Children in the NT: will it be tears before bedtime For Prime Minister Turnbull?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's choice of a former NT chief justice (2004-2010) as Royal Commissioner is shaping up to be as problematic as his predecessor Abbott's choice of Dyson Heydon to head the royal commission into unions.

Royal Commission into the Detention of Children in the Northern Territory

29 July 2016
Statement by the Royal Commissioner, the Hon Brian Ross Martin AO QC
I have become aware of media reports today concerning my daughter’s employment by the former Northern Territory Labor Government during a period covered by the Letters Patent issued to me yesterday.
My daughter was employed as a Justice Adviser to the Hon Delia Lawrie, Attorney-General of the Northern Territory, from late 2009 to March 2011.  It is my daughter’s memory that during the period of her employment with the Northern Territory Government, she had no involvement in the Northern Territory child protection or child detention systems.  I am advised that Ministerial responsibility for those matters was held by the Hon Gerald McCarthy, who served as Minister for Correctional Services, and the Hon Malarndirri McCarthy and the Hon Konstantine Vatskalis, who served as Ministers for Child Protection during that period.
I am unable to discern any possibility that my daughter could be a witness before the Royal Commission.
I disclosed this matter to the Attorney-General prior to my appointment as Commissioner and we were both satisfied that it would not compromise the independence or appearance of independence of the Royal Commission.

Media contact: 
AGD Media  02 6141 2500 / 0408 778 909

New Matilda, 28 July 2016:

The man who will lead the Royal Commission into the abuse of children in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory needs no introduction. At least not to Aboriginal people. Chris Graham explains.

Brian Martin, the former NT Supreme Court Chief Justice, achieved infamy among Aboriginal communities in April 2010 when he described five white youths who bashed an Aboriginal man to death in a racially charged drunken rampage as “of otherwise good character”.

The youths – Scott Doody, Timothy Hird, Anton Kloeden, Joshua Spears and Glen Swain – spent the night getting drunk at the local casino, before driving up and down the dry bed of the Todd River, where homeless Aboriginal people sleep.

They abused campers, fired a replica pistol at them, and ran over at least one swag with their vehicle.

Eventually, the boys stopped and kicked to death Kwementyaye Ryder, aged 33, after he threw a bottle at their car as they drove at him.

The killing remains infamous in Alice Springs to this day, in part for the racial motivation behind the attack…..

But the killing is most infamous for the amount of time the five young men ending up serving.

Chief Justice Martin sentenced one of the men to as little as 12 months. The longest time served was four years.

One of Justice Martin’s justifications for the light sentences was that the youths would be caused ‘additional hardship’ in prison, given the overwhelming majority of inmates are Aboriginal.

Following is a story I wrote for the ABC’s Drum site in 2010, while staying in Alice Springs for several months. It should give New Matilda readers some insight to how Brian Martin’s stewardship of the Royal Commission is likely to be greeted by black Territorians.

One of Justice Martin's judgments was also considered in Scott v Northern Territory [2003] HCATrans 405 (3 October 2003):

MR TAYLOR: No. On 22 July, your Honours – I mean, Mrs Scott’s application into the Supreme Court was dismissed in No 118 of 1992 on 22 September 1999 by Justice Martin . Mrs Scott was in London on a phone hook-up, and Justice Martin  took no account of the affidavit of Rodney Selwyn Lewis of 25 September 1998 - - -
KIRBY J: Why was there not an application for leave to appeal or an appeal to the Court of Appeal?
MR TAYLOR: Mrs Scott was obtaining at the time forensic specialists and when she obtained those specialists she sought to have the matter - Douglas’s body exhumed in Townsville, Queensland and she spent quite some time arranging for that.
KIRBY J: But I am talking about after  Justice Martin’s orders there was then about a three year delay.
MR TAYLOR: There is also the fact that the law as stated by Justice Martin, seemed to be quite fixed; that is Lackersteen v Jones, and it was only when Justice Madgwick advised Mrs Scott in paragraph 64 of his judgment that actually she can have an action for murder and that Justice Martin is in fact wrong that Mrs Scott immediately appealed to this High Court. In fact, Justice Madgwick said that Mrs Scott has to pursue the action in the Northern Territory and further advised her that she should amend her application up there, the remaining application which was the compensation to relatives, fatal injuries action, which is - - -
KIRBY J: There was an inquest originally, was there not?
MR TAYLOR: There was an inquest, your Honours, but witnesses were not brought and neither did the prison officers attend; they told the coronial that they would not attend. It took some two years - - -
KIRBY J: The matter was investigated by the Royal Commissioner, I think.
MR TAYLOR: The Royal Commission did not bring the witnesses either, your Honour. They alleged that they took notes of what people told them over the phone or in conversations or certain things and evidence of murder was given to one the Royal Commission staff, namely Geoffrey Barbaro, and this was not brought to the Royal Commission, so there was not a genuine bona fides enquiry. This evidence was kept from Mrs Scott. The witness was an illiterate Aboriginal man, who was flown all the way from Kununurra in Western Australia or taken to Darwin during the Royal Commission and taken to a secret room and had a false statement placed in front of him and told to sign it and he was not brought before the Royal Commission.
KIRBY J: You can move, at least in New South Wales, for the reopening of an inquest. I have sat in the Court of Appeal in such matters.
MR TAYLOR: There has been a recent change to the law in the Northern Territory and Mrs Scott has taken advantage of that recent change to the law under section 44A of - - -
KIRBY J: That can be done in the Northern Territory, can it?

For Doug, she continued her campaign despite harassment. In 2005 she succeeded in getting his remains exhumed in Townsville. An independent pathologist from Brazil, Professor Jorge Vanrell, said that lesions to the body were "consistent with torture procedures".

Letty had confirmation of what she had always believed. "I feel vindicated by God," she said. "[However] I can see that Douglas died a brutal death and it's very distressing for my husband and I." A solicitor speaking on behalf of the territory government pointed out that two pathologists' reports did not support Dr Vanrell.

Letty called for a new inquiry, supported by the Indigenous Social Justice Association. With her son, Nathan, she took out private criminal and civil proceedings against four prison officers. One of those, Bill Dowden, had died of cancer, so the action was against three: Barry Medley, Michael Lawson and Harold Robertson.

In the civil proceedings, the territory Supreme Court judge David Angel found that it was "unable to be satisfied that the deceased took his own life", but he added: "The plaintiff has not established to my satisfaction that the deceased was murdered by the defendant prison officers" and also said that the evidence of Bindai and Percy "cannot be dismissed out-of-hand".

Daniel Taylor, who assisted her campaign and became her husband, said: "After the civil proceedings result we found it would be too hard to continue with the criminal proceedings, so we dropped them." Robert Dow, a former territory police officer who had helped Letty, told the Herald: "She uncovered the truth and she put the truth in the hands of authorities and asked them to deal honestly with it."


The Australian, 1 August 2016 12:16 pm:

Royal Commissioner Brian Ross Martin has resigned less than 100 hours after being “swiftly and decisively” appointed by Malcolm Turnbull last Thursday.
Mr Martin said his resignation was required to ensure “full confidence” in the royal commission among Aboriginal Australians following “disingenuous and ill-informed” commentary about his perceived conflicts of interest......


ABC News, 1 August 2016:

Less than a week after initiating the royal commission into the Northern Territory's youth detention centres, the Federal Government has been forced to replace the head of the inquiry.
Former NT chief justice Brian Martin has resigned from the post just days after being appointed and will be replaced by two co-commissioners: Indigenous leader Mick Gooda, and former Supreme Court judge Margaret White.
Mr Gooda is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner with the Human Rights Commission, and his appointment follows increasing community and political pressure to appoint an Indigenous representative.
Ms White was the first woman to be made a justice of the Queensland Supreme Court and also appeared in the Mabo versus Queensland case.