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It’s time to stop blaming the poor

By The Say NO Seven

OPED: Originally part of a letter to the Editor, Australian Financial Review.

Everyone seems to talk about the cost of Centrelink payments. Very few consider the cost of not having them or the price of having them forcibly funnelled into the coffers of a select few corporates and their vested interests. It’s time to end that ignorance.

There are over 5 million Australians receiving government payments of one kind or another and we think it would be interesting and refreshing to see just one media outlet in Australia do the simple maths on the benefit of welfare recipients’ spending in the wider community and its relationship to the stability of local markets and the national economy at large.

Where does the money go? To whom? What does it do once it gets there?

Outside of the social cohesion and stability paying income support payments provide us all, what is the actual fiscal return on the 160 billion dollar welfare spend to the Australian public at large? Donuts and a kinetic massage for any reporter willing to take these questions on!

We would also like to see the costings and forcecasts, were this multi billion dollar spending suddenly curtailed or reduced through welfare austerity measures.

We would like to know what the dollar cost to the average working person and to Australia’s fiscal bottom line of the added fees and charges would be, were this bulk of local capital suddenly funnelled through a single corporation, like the one currently earmarked by the LNP to manage it all for us, at their profit?

We are also compelled to ask, just where is the ‘great fiscal burden and loss’ to the national economy the politicians are lamenting about and Murdoch media are constantly harping on about? What burden? What cost? Where is the strain or burden these dillitants say is created or being borne by the Australian public?

Isn’t it the case that the national welfare budget is not just supporting those families receiving welfare payments directly – rather that they are also supporting the recipients’ landlords, local farmers, shopping centres, remedial agencies, doctors, clinics, day care centres, social welfare workers, mental health nurses and services, car park operators, small businesses and so, actually supporting the lives of regular working people all across Australia to whom this money is ultimately being given, and given back to?

When viewed in this perspective, social security [welfare] recipients are in fact just third-party distributors of the welfare budget, they don’t keep payments, they spend them.

And unlike tax frauds and tax avoiding corporations, people receiving benefits actually pay their taxes. They contribute to the tax pool every day. A majority of recipients are also in part time or casualised work and so contribute to the economy via income taxes as well.

Yet all we see in media and LNP government rhetoric, is more one-eyed marginalisation, assaulting people on welfare payments as social burdens, without recognising the job they do, the role they play or the purpose they innately have in balancing Australia’s luxuries with its necessities. These people are not including them in the larger picture of Australian economy or viewing them outside the undignified view of ‘dependants’ upon it.

In media this week, the phrase ‘long term welfare dependency’ is being used as a slogan and slur yet again, when actual longer term dependency upon income support is simply an inevitable and unavoidable reality for many people with disabilities, for the aged or very young or anyone unemployable or whose life circumstances simply do not allow a scope for a life in paid employment. How is it their fault? How is this “damaging’ us when they remain, suppliers of the cash income we depend on too?

Our stay-at-home child and disability carers as well, are saving Australia a living fortune in costs that could and would otherwise be imposed upon taxpayers directly without benefit. So how much more do you expect of them? What is it exactly that you expect from recipients in general? Flagellating verbal gratitude stands on every street corner? Recipients bowing to you for the simple privilege of not living in a cardboard box and contributing to your social stability, welfare and social security?

It is also fact, that the majority of our national welfare spending budget heads to the aged and disabled. Often the most experienced and disciplined in need and in spending habits.

If we are to rein in their payments or place them onto CDC and enforce payments 30% below the poverty line, what are we going to do next? Do we make soylent green of them all in order to buy into the LNP ruse and lie that we will all somehow save a few dollars by doing so?

Surely it will cost us more as a nation financially morally and socially to allow living conditions of our most needy to deteriorate any further than they already have or worse; cost us more than money can pay in our abandonment of our principles and our people. Abject poverty is expensive!

Like most, we are very much in support of fraud reduction and accountability of all services – however this is true only for us, when and where the same is balanced with equal and active focus and recognition of the need to target the issues of corporate welfare, ministerial entitlements rorting and wider tax avoidance scams our lax tax law permit. Issues that, when it comes to the real dollars and cents count, cost this country far more in capital loss and moral fortitude than any welfare recipient or welfare program ever could.

What’s good for one section of the community is good for all … or its not good..at all.

The simple fact is income support recipients are fellow and equal human beings, and a such, have an intrinsic value in and worth to this country – every single person from every single walk of life; every different need set. For people on welfare payments, this is also true as it relates to the wider community and taxation. We pay taxes on everything and we are basically just the middle men in the distribution of a portion of the collective taxes. We make daily decisions about spending of those taxes we receive in benefits, decisions that the government cannot or would not trust itself to address – and ought not to! In the main, we do that exceedingly well, despite the hype.

It is clear after months and years of intentional targeting and media and government bullying, that the LNP simply want to end that role and purpose Centrelink recipients have held for so long. They want to remove our value and usefulness to society as anonymous distributors, and as their own reports conclude will occur under forced income management, they want to create dependants, a generation of people incapable of self regulation, decision making and self management.

They wish to alter or to end the policy of our fair and relatively anonymous tax distribution system, and instead seek to control it and the cash economy in Australia and are willing to do or say anything to anyone standing in their way.

They are using the media and the manipulation of people’s prejudices against welfare recipients as a mask and scapegoat to do it.

Don’t let them.

Time to wake up.

So informed, you are responsible.

This article was originally published on The Say No Seven Facebook page.

Family secrets and economic growth

Most families have secrets that have been kept behind closed doors for generations. It could be that your grandparents lived happily together for 50 years or more, brought up their children extremely well (careful – it’s your parents you are judging here!) and contributed to society to the day they died but were never married. The ‘shame’ of being not married would have removed any respectability that the family had managed to gain should the secret have ‘come out’ when they were young. In other families, it could have been that Nana was a few years older than Gramps, that either of your grandparents had been in trouble with the law before marriage or horror of horrors, that your grandparents conceived a child before they were married. In the ‘good ol’ days’, it was assumed that two people of the same gender were living together for years were doing so for economic reasons as they couldn’t find a partner. In 2018 it doesn’t matter if they are together for economic reasons, are partners or married for that matter. Apart from the elimination of adverse psychological effects because people don’t have to hide information that really is no one else’s business but their own, it is a demonstration that times move on and social norms change over the years.

So far the change in society’s norms in terms of personal relationships over the last 100 or so years has not lead to war, famine or pestilence. Your local community continues to function despite the number of people who aren’t living in the ‘traditional’ environment of years past. Your local community is probably better for the skills and diversity different lifestyles bring to it.

Earlier this year a small group of the usual conservative political culprits formed a ‘group’ to promote the use of coal in Australia. They decided to call themselves the ‘Monash Group’, in memory of Sir John Monash who was a General in World War 1, known for alternative solutions to seemingly intractable problems while looking after the people in his charge. Following the war, he produced a lot of the intellectual wherewithal that ensured Victoria was a manufacturing powerhouse in Australia for most of the 20th century. Monash led the development of coal power stations in Victoria, which at the time was innovative.

While there is probably no concern for most of us, it’s a shame that the names of people like Monash don’t have some form of trademark protection as

Seven members of the Monash family wrote to ask them to stop using the title. It was not just impolite, they wrote, but inappropriate and incorrect for a forward-thinking intellectual and scientific general and engineer such as Sir John to be associated with the group’s plans. Such a man, they explained, would not have favoured propping up old technologies that science would not support, and which could require substantial subsidisation to profit.

“At the very least,” they said, “it was discourteous to use it without informing us. More than that, we disassociate ourselves specifically from the forum’s use of the Monash name to give their anti-science and anti-intellectual argument an air of authority and we ask that they withdraw the name.”

They continued: “While Monash himself was no left-wing radical in his personal politics, he was intellectual and scientific. He certainly led the development of coal for power generation in Victoria for the benefit of the community, but that was in the context of the time almost a century ago, when coal-fired electrical generation was the leading technology.

“We are sure that, today, he would be a proponent of the new technologies, eg: wind and solar generation, rather than revert to the horse-and-buggy era.

Would Monash support the use of brown coal in 2018? We’ll never know, but chances are his family have a better idea than Abbott and his pressure group’s version of reality.

Business is no better than politics. As politicians and business have told us over the years, business in general is there for the good of society and won’t do harm if left alone. As a result, there has been an ongoing and gradual reduction in regulation of business and the gradual building of the attitude that the business must maximise short term profit at all costs. Let’s look at a couple of examples.

There is a small shopping centre close to my house. It has a mid-sized Coles Supermarket, a butcher, bakery, chemist, medical centre, dentist, a couple of cafes as well as some other services. There is a major shopping centre about five minutes’ drive away and one of Brisbane’s behemoth shopping centres about 10 minutes further away (depending on traffic). Until recently, the local centre had a nice ‘feel’ where the small store owners seemed happy, staff and customers seemed to genuinely prefer to go there and while it didn’t have the ‘wizz-bang’ features you would expect to attract customers, it seemed to be well supported.

Recently, the ownership of the local shopping centre changed hands. The first sign of change was the installation of ‘3 Hour’ parking signs to, it is claimed, reduce commuter parking. Now while there are a few bus routes that stop outside the centre, it is by no means one of Brisbane’s ‘every 15 minutes or better’ services and there is no advantage in parking at the shopping centre to catch the bus, as each bus that will stop at the centre continues down the main road to the terminal a few kilometres away.

Also claimed on various social media groups is that shop rents will go up as soon as the lease is renegotiated and the new owners have made various demands that change long standing practices of some of the tenants at the centre. While social media is not necessarily all that accurate, some of the shop owners have suggested to me that they will have to seriously consider the economics of renewing their lease due to financial considerations. So it seems that if the new owners continue to attempt to ‘sweat’ the last dollar possible out of the local shopping centre, gradually the quality and quantity of services offered will fail and reduce the number of customers, reducing the incomes and financial viability of those that are left.

At the moment we are being given graphic detail on a daily basis of the various misdemeanours or worse perpetrated over the past decade or so by the banking and finance industry. Years ago, banks had a reputation for looking after their customers and while at times it was hard to accept that the bank wouldn’t lend you money for some investment that probably didn’t stack up financially, sometime after the event most customers could see the reason for the decision. Bank staff used to have some prestige in the community as fair and ethical dealers as a result. While generalisations are dangerous, the Royal Commission seems to be discovering that in more recent times, that at least in some banks, management expects the staff to promote the investment that doesn’t stack up financially.

While misappropriation of Sir John Monash’s name for something he would probably attempt to distance himself from is sadly almost expected from politicians, why is business seemingly tarred with the same brush?

Surely, retention of a customer who is happy with your service is a far easier task and has the prospect of greater profitability to you than continually needing to attract new customers to retain your customer base. A few weeks ago in passing, we discussed Johnson & Johnson’s ‘Credo’, which has been hanging on walls in company offices and factories since 1943. As their website suggests, the ‘Credo’ was written

long before anyone ever heard the term “corporate social responsibility.” Our Credo is more than just a moral compass. We believe it’s a recipe for business success. The fact that Johnson & Johnson is one of only a handful of companies that have flourished through more than a century of change is proof of that.

Yes, there is a requirement for the business to make a profit in a responsible manner – the alternative is to go out of business, however in the words of Johnson & Johnson

We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services. In meeting their needs everything we do must be of high quality. We must constantly strive to reduce our costs in order to maintain reasonable prices. Customers’ orders must be serviced promptly and accurately. Our suppliers and distributors must have an opportunity to make a fair profit.

Think about it for a minute. That is the blueprint of a successful business, not getting every cent they can in the short term with no regard for the morals of their actions or the long-term profitability of the concern. A successful business doesn’t have to continually attract new consumers because they don’t annoy their existing customers to the extent that alternatives are found. At times Johnson & Johnson products may not have been the cheapest or best fit for the consumers but their reputation for good and honest products would ensure that there are repeat sales anyway. You could argue Toyota works on the same principle. Their vehicles may not be the best or have the latest advances in technology, but they offer an honest product that ‘does what it says on the box’ without apparently fleecing the consumer during the initial purchase process or after the initial sale.

Years ago, this seemed to be far better understood than it is now. Even in the days before “consumer rights’, most industries had some government department or external body that regulated the operation of business. While regulation of business does cost money for both the business and the (usually) government agency that was tasked to oversee the industry, it is also clearly obvious that the morals of a lot of business have also changed for the worse since the regulatory oversight bodies were either disbanded or reduced to a minority role. You could say the changes for the good in our society when it comes to acceptance of individuals in ‘unconventional’ relationships (anything but the family where the male partner is a year or two older than the female partner) have not been reflected in the changes in corporate and political morality. And the same corporate entities have successfully run the case they do care about the consumer so they don’t need regulating!

Johnson & Johnson claim on their website they were cognisant of corporate social responsibility before the term was invented. In other words, a long time ago one of their senior management realised that sustainable profit will enable the company to continue long into the future. Sustainable profit is not trying to win every last cent from the consumer or trying to run the opposition into the ground but making enough for a reasonable return to the shareholders after the payment of all the costs involved in running a business. While a lot of Australian business operate on this basis, the Royal Commission into banks and finance is a demonstration that some in the finance industry don’t. The example of the local shopping centre demonstrates that the finance industry is not the only offender. The recent successes of the ACCagainst Ford and Telstra also illustrate the point.

While the social norms of our society have changed for the better and people can now generally live their lives without fear of continual discovery of ‘dark secrets’, it’s a shame that corporate and political norms appear to be heading the other way. For each voter who is angry that the promises are not matched by the reality, each tenant that leaves the local shopping centre or customer that moves to a smaller (and seemingly less corrosive) financial institution, the management have to find two new customers to deliver the conventional economic reasons for the political party, shopping centre or bank to exist – increased popularity and growth.

Perhaps sustainability is more than an environmental term. Sustainable economic growth (or in the politicians’ case, presenting a rational argument rather than tearing the opponent down) where everyone in the supply chain is rewarded appropriately will lead to greater prosperity in the future.

What do you think?

This article by 2353NM was originally published on The Political Sword.

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A New Definition – Pork-barrelling in the Cashless Debit Card Trial Zones

By The Say NO Seven

Most Australians have a basic understanding and uncomfortable acceptance that a certain amount of pork barrelling goes on within political circles.

To define the term, “pork barrel” is “… a metaphor for the appropriation of government spending for localised projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district. This form of political device helps attract campaign contributions and the support of local voters.”

Essentially, the pork barrel is considered the primary means for securing voter patronage, which in turn is the most effective strategy to win elections.

What happens though, when pork-barrelling moves beyond this electioneering context and is utilized instead as a strategic method for securing support for government policies and programs anathema to social justice and the national interest?

In our investigation into the implementation processes of the Indue LTD Cashless Debit Card Trial [CDCT] in Ceduna South Australia, this was one of the first questions raised as we noted the abundance of new grants and other funding that had suddenly materialized in the area in the lead up to the card trial that began in March 2016. This conveniently timed funding boom was distinct from those funds allocated to local area service groups under the trial legislation’s ‘wrap around services’ package designed to support the cards implementation processes.

To date we have been able to trace amounts that exceed 50 million dollars, in Federal, State and other funding arriving into the Ceduna region following the decision by Ceduna District Council to take on the Indue LTD Card Trial.

During the period of negotiations between government CDC teams and Ceduna officials as early as April 2015, concerns were raised by local residents and some service groups that threats were being made by officials to the effect that funding reductions could be a possibility should agreement to the demands for a card trial not be forthcoming. Complaints were also made regarding several obvious conflicts of interests this funding was creating as regards the investments of Ceduna council friendly groups and businesses.

The issue of threats to reduce already skeletal funding to local services was never investigated and consumer complaints were dismissed out of hand by Council itself or brushed aside as the petty concerns of angry alcoholics and “welfare bludgers” in local and national media. Worse, given the federal Governments media mantra that the card’s primary purpose was to stop violence and alcoholism, those who rejected the imposition of this trial locally and raised legitimate concerns nationally, were further labelled as being closet supporters of child abuse, domestic violence and addiction.

As an example of early funding boosts, among the many projects we investigated, was a December 2015 decision by the Federal Government to fund a fish unloading facility in Ceduna, which had for eight years, recorded multiple unsuccessful attempts to gain Federal or State funding support.

Speaking shortly after the 2013 denial of this same funding, somewhat ironically, the District Council of Ceduna Mayor Allan Suter remarked to media “It appears funding was taken from the regional process and put into campaigning in the Sydney Metro areas, which is another case of Government pork barrelling.

This facility development project grant was conveniently granted $10 million dollars in funding in December 2015, $4.3 million of which extends from Round Two of the Australian Government’s National Stronger Regions Fund.

We also examined over $8 million in grant funding given to the community of Yalata, a primary card trial site in the Ceduna catchment following Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit in November 2016.

Yalata Anangu School principal Bob Sim ecstatic at receiving a much needed $2.5 million share of the new funding pool, stated that this grant money would be used to build an early learning centre for children up to the age of five, on the existing school grounds. The remainder of Yalata grant pool to be utilised on upgrades to infrastructure in the area including money for a caravan park, roadhouse and the area’s rubbish tip. As Mr Sim rightly declared in media, “The effects from the grant would be felt throughout the community “.

Next we compared Ceduna’s funding experience, with that of the community of Halls Creek, and as this article demonstrates, immediately on refusal of the card trial by the Hall’s Creek community, government negotiation teams employed strong arm tactics in attempts to manipulate the community, including the threat to leave the community out of state-wide reform funding.

Speaking to WA Today, (Shire President Mr Edwards) said, “… regional development minister Terry Redman then flew in “out of the blue” and “made it clear that opposition to a trial … would strongly influence the level of investment made under WA’s largest ever redistribution of state and federal funding in the Kimberly and Pilbera – a funding pool worth $4.5 billion annually.” Mr Edwards further notes; “We took it from that discussion that unless the Shire accepted and supported a trial of the cashless debit card there would be a negative impact on service provision under the regional reform program.

In reply on questioning and in classic ‘newspeak’ Minister Redman said “… there was no plan to “take money away” from the shire, but when making funding decisions in relation to regional services reform, the government would focus on “investing in communities looking to move into a positive future.

We must be clear at this point, that we do not decry any remote or rural community taking all it can from variable funding opportunities, especially those 274 regional communities that were facing closure under the current government only weeks before card trial negotiations began in Ceduna. We are more than aware that these communities have quite literally been starved of services, resources and attention under the current government to the extent that ongoing viability of their towns and communities is in question.

In this regard, Ceduna is not a special case nor was it even a high priority case for federal funding, as other remote and rural communities across the nation were. Communities such as Whitegate, having had even their access to drinking water switched off, such has been the overall contempt, lack of interest and care for remote community health and the overt government neglect of the remote regions communities as whole.

We do empathise greatly and can comprehend the urgency of need in some communities for access to Federal and State grant money, this is a given for us as a social justice group. What we cannot abide however, is the current sacrifice by some, of the lives, Human Rights and essential liberties of their fellow community members in order to achieve personal interest inspired funding objectives – expressively in Ceduna, given its comparatively healthy local economy, location and social demographic, which means it had considerably less social problems than other locations and less need for Federal funding than any other remote area at the time of card trial negotiations.

We hold that to barter away the human rights of selected members of any community, for money, is as repugnant as the government that would demand community leaders do so. To underscore this abuse, and attempt to achieve ideological or funding goals under the guise of supporting victims of crime, addiction or poverty when alternatives and documented evidentiary support exists to counter the current proposals, is simply abhorrent and an abuse not just of power and position, but of public trust in the process of our entire representative democracy.

The next thing our investigations noted, was that these card trial negotiations in Ceduna were invisible i.e.: they were not independently overseen and were undertaken without community consultation or involvement. According to the transcript noted below, this consultation process continued for well over nine months and existed “on many levels”. According to Mayor Suter’s own statement, they also took place with no involvement at all by the 950 targeted residents. [See: Community Affairs Legislation Committee Friday 11th September 2015 pages 60-65].

On the one hand Australians nationwide were hearing from Alan Tudge in media about the ‘extensive community engagement and consultation processes underway’ in Ceduna, yet from the documented evidence presented to the Senate Estimates Committee via On Notice questions – many of which are still as yet unanswered, it is clear that no such community consultation or decision-making process ever took place.

It was only much later after the decision had already been made by Council to host the trial, that this consultative circle widened to include selected community groups now known as “regional leadership groups” whose inclusion was contingent on their approval of the card trial program. One example of this being the Ceduna Aboriginal Corporation [CAC], whom we are informed, had exhausted funding just prior to its selection for “community engagement” and subsequently has now had funding renewed. According to State Parliamentary committee records, two more groups selected for inclusion at this stage also reported that they had no ongoing funding as July 1st, 2015. The CAC itself, an organisation essential to maintaining any appearance of community support for the card trial in Ceduna, is still one of Alan Tudge’s most oft utilised star community consultant groups in press releases and speeches today.

Needless to say, groups or organisations opposed to the trial card, were not given any democratic access to decision making facilitators. They were given no representation, media voice or community placement in negotiations whatsoever. No general consultation meetings were held, nothing resembling a community vote on the card trial was taken and submissions that were given to council that reflected opposition viewpoints or alternatives, while remaining on record, have in effect been ignored or negated to irrelevancy.

As regards the few public information meetings available to income recipients, residents were simply informed of the fait accompli and what this would mean for them. Therefore, it is no surprise that this was not seen as an authentic consultative process by them, rather a soapbox or stage for Ceduna Councils decisions. These meetings were duly rejected by the majority of income support recipients as “useless” as all the exceedingly important negotiations regarding choice, recipient concerns, alternatives, local funding choices, viable projects, community needs assessments, risks assessments, card trial perimeters – essentially all decision making and deficit recording did not include them, or indeed any community groups or services from the get go.


The recently released Orima Research Interim Report* provides the following statistics, that cover a 12-month period from March 2016 to March 2-17 inclusive:

Of Participants: 49% said the Cashless Debit Card Trial [CDCT]  had made their lives worse, 22% that it had made it better.
Of Family members of trial participants gave a similar pattern of answers 37%  and 27% respectively.
Of Non-participants: 46% said that the CDCT had made  life in their community better and 18% that it had made life worse.
Across both trial locations, just 25% of CDCT participants and 13% of their family members reported drinking alcohol less frequently since the Trial commenced.

In the Overview of Findings against KPIs section, the report makes the qualifying statement that “All community leaders (members of regional leadership groups) who participated in the Wave 1 qualitative research were supportive of the CDCT”. Yet on page 6, the report also states that no community leadership groups participated in the trial evaluation – an evaluation which we would assume would have included Wave 1 qualitative research? This apparent contradiction and other such ambiguities left unattended, had us a little perturbed to say the least.

Statistics also provided on page 6 under the ‘Alcohol’ subheading, provided that 24% of CDCT participants and 28% of CDCT participants’ family members reported that they had noticed a reduction in the drinking of alcohol in their community since the Trial started. If you look again and the note the asterisk’s, you will also note one important feature. That while these figures themselves are quantitatively organised, it remains they are just a statistical representation, of anecdotal evidence.  This same device is utilised throughout the report that when examined, make up a majority of the reported “data”.

It remains, that these statistics are simply a record of perceptions and observations, recorded in scientific-like fashion, and as such, are not applicable as authentic data sets when it comes to the deterministic evaluation of quantitative changes to literal consumption habits of individuals nor are they indicative of actual reductions of alcohol consumption in the community. They tell us nothing other than what people think they might or do see, with no way for any researcher to externally verify those observations whatsoever. They’re data-non-data. Graph fillers.

We found similar structural concerns and shortcuts or absences of data throughout the report, on every key issue, gambling**, crime***, sexual assault, and family violence. On gambling observations, where state trends & tourist season fluctuations impact variability extensively, these conditions were ignored and again, actual trial participant behaviors were either not recorded, or were recorded by third parties with no way to proof validity.

More concerning were effusive statements made regarding crime statistics that for two paragraphs completely ignored the South Australian Police’s own expert data, to emotionally assert that crime had dropped in the Ceduna region, where it has already been irrefutably proven that this is simply not the case. **

This in itself sets a very dangerous precedent given the stated independence of this evaluation process, not just the use of effusive language in a deterministic trial evaluation report, but that expert data, as readily available to Orima research teams as it is to us, is in such conflict with the report findings yet is in no conflict at all with the government’s own press statements making the same unfounded statements regarding the extent of local crime.

If the intention of this trial evaluation, was to report on forced income management’s capacity to make non CDCT participants happy or to record people’s observations of the CDCT process, then we might take no issue with what has been reported as data.
However, the stated aims of the CDCT, is to document actual data regarding the actual habits of actual participants and to supply this information to the Australian Government and people, for comparative analysis.

As was the case in the Ceduna Progress report released Oct 2016, instead we have found  a disturbing lack of critical evidence; we find intentionally obtuse and misleading statements regarding the information that was collected and again, a lack of authoritative essential data and objective reporting on that data as regards the actual outcomes and activity of actual CDCT participants themselves.

Importantly, less than one full page in this report speaks to negative impacts of the CDCT on the lives of trial participants and even now, despite complaints, the label ‘participant’ is still being utilised without any qualifier. This term which implies a choice existed where none in actuality did, remains offensive to those forced through no fault of their own to comply with government demands to engage in the trial process under significant duress, for many, simply in order to continue to eat and live.

Yet despite evident research failures and the imbalance between the qualitative and quantitative data supplied; despite the abundant contradictions existent throughout the report and a general failure rate of 49-52% to improve quality of life for trial participants;  and in light of such a high stake holder and participant non-participation rate across the board, the Orima report concluding statement still states:

“Given the absence of material changes in other influential factors and conditions, the positive short term impacts reported since the commencement of the CDCT appear likely to be largely attributable to the Trial.“

And therein lies the problem.

Firstly this statement makes a judgement inconsistent with evaluation findings, and  ignores other  as-likely potential contributors to the stated outcomes, such as the dozen or so easily envisaged reasons why a person may not drink or use their usual toxin of choice for a period of time,  or any other reason they may feel compelled to lie to a researcher, such as embarrassment or familial and social pressures being applied in situ. The latter has been noted as a serious concern in these very small and tight knit communities where threats have been made (sources verified) against individuals opposing the card publicly and privately to the extent people have had to leave trial regions in fear of their personal safety.

More importantly, this ignores the extent to which Government manipulation in the trial process, via “pork-barrelling” grants to and for services and the alterations to the power balance of communities due to selective funding of certain interest groups has already impacted the community. It also ignores how this funding has influenced the qualitative research data being supplied by key stakeholders i.e.: local businesses, social services and organizations dependent on trial associated funding themselves. As key Stakeholders are compelled only to provide qualitative data for this evaluation, the opportunity for attribution error, for bias if not outright abuse of data reporting, is substantial and yet remains innominate within the reports concluding statements.

As you can see by the statements in our own opening paragraphs, the impact of this parallel funding is being felt throughout the entire community and region akin to rain breaking a long drought. This funding is now addressing many basic social needs that have until now, gone unmet. There is simply no way given this intrusion of government funding to distinguish between benefits gained through restriction of capacity to purchase alcohol and gambling products, and the benefits accrued that may be owed to a more congenial social environment within the communities affected, owing to selective funding effects.

If Alan Tudge and the CDCT teams thought that by narrowing the definition of this card trial and subsequent evaluation focus to an equation of one i.e.: ‘does restricting access to alcohol restrict alcohol purchases’, was in any way clever, they were wrong.

If we were to take your car away, we can guarantee that if you have legs, you must then walk to your next destination, that is not evidence of success, that is merely statement of fact. Further, this does not prove we were correct to take your car away or had the right to take it in the first place or that taking away your vehicle was useful to you. All it does prove is that we could take it and did.

This equation of one will not provide nearly enough information or hard data for wider community consideration in regard to determining the effectiveness of the card itself or when considering the wider implications of the imposition of this card program on larger communities or on a national scale. It will not begin to address the potential range of impacts of cash restricted Social Security payments much less their efficacy in addressing the consequences of alcohol over-consumption and violence in our communities.

What is very clear on examination of the KPI’s and trial framework alone, is that the purpose of this trial and the current evaluation in process appear designed for one thing only – to manufacture consent, and in doing so, to ensure the national roll out of corporatised health and welfare in Australia, starting from the bottom up. The Texas sharpshooter fallacy at work in this entire process, is obvious, insulting and severely underestimates the intelligence of the Australian community at large. ****

Throughout our investigations we have discussed the trials and card life reality on the ground with many Ceduna and Kununurra residents. One of the more frequent statements we have heard is that ‘there is so much pork-barrelling going on’. Hence our investigations began, and this article was initiated.

Today, and with respect to those residents, we must reject this statement outright, as what we have seen in the record and in investigations of the actions taken by the current government so far towards expediting this card pogrom, go well beyond this simply defined wheel greasing idiom and artefact of national governance.

When an entire class of Australian taxpaying citizen is utilized to circumvent due democratic processes for the benefit of a corporate agenda;

When the Privacy, Economic, Civil and Human Rights of forced participants are considered secondary concerns;

When Anti-Discrimination legislation that applies to all other classes of citizen in the nation is nullified through policy without question or challenge;

When the lives of our most vulnerable citizens are manipulated in order to establish a foundation for citizenship teiring and used as a fulcrum for ideological bastardry;

When entire communities and their duly elected officials can be held hostage and manipulated via grant hoarding or releases;

When fiscal apartheid is considered an acceptable means of budget containment;
And when the lives of five ‘participants’ lost due to suicide in despair at forced detoxification and loss of personal autonomy don’t even rate a mention in the only national report that concerns them; then it’s time we found a new word, because ‘pork barrel’ no longer suffices.

We need a new idiom, one that encapsulates exactly what it is that this government is doing, and we need it now.

* Orima Wave 1 Interim Evaluation Report

** The gambling data in Ceduna that shows that recorded observations of Ceduna gambling declines attributed in the Orima Interim Report seem to be in line with state-wide reductions in gambling.

Gambling revenue has fallen by 15% in SA over the 12 months to June.
It seems to have been falling over the past five years as well (take a look at the reports here). In Ceduna, it has been on a downward trend at least since 2011/12 (could be longer, just haven’t checked the other years).

*** No Welfare Card Australia Police Crime Data tracking:

**** The Texas sharpshooter fallacy

This article was originally published on saynoseven.wordpress.com


Much law, scarce justice (Part 2)

Part Thirty-two of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

To be sure that there is no doubt about the intellectual infamy of terra nullius, the Declaration makes clear that:

“1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired. 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired. 3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.” (Art. 26)

As to the preservation of Indigenous traditional laws, Art. 27 provides that “States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the rights of indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in this process.”

There is an explicit provision for reparation, in Art. 28, whereby “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent. 2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.”

Against the vandalism which followed the occupation, Art. 29 guarantees that “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources. States shall establish and implement assistance programmes for Indigenous peoples for such conservation and protection, without discrimination. 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that no storage or disposal of hazardous materials shall take place in the lands or territories of Indigenous peoples without their free, prior and informed consent. 3. States shall also take effective measures to ensure, as needed, that programmes for monitoring, maintaining and restoring the health of Indigenous peoples, as developed and implemented by the peoples affected by such materials, are duly implemented.”

And the following article commands that:

“1. Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of Indigenous peoples, unless justified by a relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the indigenous peoples concerned. 2. States shall undertake effective consultations with the Indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories for military activities.”

Indigenous peoples will “1.  … have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. 2. In conjunction with indigenous peoples, States shall take effective measures to recognize and protect the exercise of these rights.” (Art. 31)

“Article 32 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources. 2. States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources. 3. States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.”

Art. 33 provides that “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the States in which they live. 2. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the structures and to select the membership of their institutions in accordance with their own procedures.”

And, by Art. 34, “Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and maintain their institutional structures and their distinctive customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, practices and, in the cases where they exist, juridical systems or customs, in accordance with international human rights standards.”

“Article 35 Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the responsibilities of individuals to their communities.”

Most importantly, “1. Indigenous peoples, in particular those divided by international borders, have the right to maintain and develop contacts, relations and cooperation, including activities for spiritual, cultural, political, economic and social purposes, with their own members as well as other peoples across borders. 2. States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take effective measures to facilitate the exercise and ensure the implementation of this right. (Art. 1 and 2)

Equally important is Art. 37, whereby, “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements. 2. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as diminishing or eliminating the rights of indigenous peoples contained in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.”

Finally, by

“Article 38 States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take the appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration.”,

pursuant to Article 39 “Indigenous peoples have the right to have access to financial and technical assistance from States and through international cooperation, for the enjoyment of the rights contained in this Declaration,” and by the operation of Art. 40

“Indigenous peoples have the right to access to and prompt decision through just and fair procedures for the resolution of conflicts and disputes with States or other parties, as well as to effective remedies for all infringements of their individual and collective rights. Such a decision shall give due consideration to the customs, traditions, rules and legal systems of the indigenous peoples concerned and international human rights.”

“Article 41 The Declaration charges the organs and specialised agencies of the United Nations system and other intergovernmental organisations to contribute to the full realisation of the provisions through the mobilisation, inter alia, of financial cooperation and technical assistance – the ways and means of ensuring participation of Indigenous peoples on issues affecting them to be established.

Article 42 The United Nations, its bodies, including the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and specialised agencies, including at the country level, and States are to promote respect for and full application of the provisions and to follow up the effectiveness of the Declaration.”

The rights recognised by the Declaration constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world. (Art. 43) and such rights and freedoms recognised herein are equally guaranteed to male and female indigenous individuals. (Art. 44)

By Article 45 Nothing in the Declaration may be construed as diminishing or extinguishing the rights that Indigenous peoples have or may acquire in the future.

Finally, by Art. 46, nothing in the Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorising or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States. In the exercise of the rights enunciated in the Declaration, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all shall be respected. The exercise of the rights set forth in the Declaration shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law and in accordance with international human rights obligations. Any such limitations shall be non-discriminatory and strictly necessary solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for meeting the just and most compelling requirements of a democratic society. The provisions set forth in the Declaration shall be interpreted in accordance with the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith. (Art. 46, 1, 2 and 3).

Just about every single article of the Declaration clashes with the theory and practice of the Commonwealth and every State of Australia for the past two hundred and twenty-nine years! No Indigenous person who reads the articles of the Declaration could be satisfied with the moving cris de coeur of Noel Pearson: “Breaking the heart”, The Saturday Paper, 28 October-3 November 2017, at 14 and/or the unforgiving, razor-like criticism by Megan Davis: “In bad faith”, The Saturday Paper, 4-10 November 2017, at 7.

Talking that way to Englanders such as those who represent the Westminster System Australian-style is a total waste of time.

But there is something, quite a lot actually, which can be said. It comes from what is known as the International Bill of Human Rights, which is made up of:

1) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

2) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)

3) the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), with the

4) the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and

5) the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Australia agreed to be bound by the I.C.C.P.R. on 13 August 1980, subject to certain reservations. The Covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial. As of February 2017, the Covenant had 169 parties and six more signatories without ratification.  Article 2(2) of the I.C.C.P.R. requires Australia to take all necessary legislative and other measures to give effect to the rights in the Convention.

The I.C.C.P.R. has two Optional Protocols. An optional protocol supplements the original convention with additional obligations.

On 25 September 1991 Australia agreed to be bound by the First Optional Protocol to the I.C.C.P.R. This means that the United Nations Human Rights Committee can hear complaints from individuals who allege that the Australian Government has violated their rights under the I.C.C.P.R. However, the findings of the Human Rights Committee are not enforceable.

On 2 October 1990 Australia agreed to be bound by the Second Optional Protocol to the I.C.C.P.R. The purpose of this protocol is for States to eliminate the death penalty.

Economic, social and cultural rights include the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to education, the right to fair wages and the right to safe working conditions.

Article 2(1) of the I.C.E.S.C.R. requires States to take steps, including legislative measures, to achieve the ‘progressive realisation’ of I.C.E.S.C.R. rights. This requires that States only demonstrate in good faith the fulfillment of the rights over time within their capacities. For example, it is assumed that where States have inadequate resources to ensure free education is provided, they will work towards achieving this goal.

The United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights monitors compliance with the I.C.E.S.C.R. and provides guidance on how countries should interpret the I.C.E.S.C.R.

An increasing number of countries, across all continents and legal systems, have incorporated judicial review of economic, social and cultural rights. These include Argentina, Bangladesh, Canada, South Africa, Finland, France, India, Latvia, Mauritius, Nigeria, and most countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

On 10 December 1975 Australia agreed to be bound by the I.C.E.S.C.R. The I.C.E.S.C.R. does not, however, form part of Australia’s domestic law. The Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 gives the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner specific statutory functions in relating to protecting and promoting the human rights of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders. In the performance of these functions the Social Justice Commissioner must have regard to a number of international declarations and conventions, including the I.C.E.S.C.R. (Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 s. 46C(1) and s. 46C(4)(a).) (Human Rights Explained: Fact sheet 7:Australia and Human Rights Treaties).

Australia is also a party to other major human rights instruments, including:

1) the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

2) the Convention on the Political Rights of Women

3) the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination

4) the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women

5) the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment

6) the Convention on the Rights of the Child

7) the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness

8) the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons

9) the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

10) the Slavery Convention of 1926

11) the Supplementary Convention on Slavery

12) the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

There are problems, of course. To begin with, Australia does not generally agree to be bound by a human rights treaty unless it is satisfied that its domestic laws comply with the terms of the treaty.

While Australia has agreed to be bound by these major international human rights treaties, they do not form part of Australia’s domestic law unless the treaties have been specifically incorporated into Australian law through legislation. Some provisions of a treaty may however already exist in national legislation. For instance, many of the provisions contained in the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities are mirrored in Australian law through the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

This principle reflects the fact that agreeing to be bound by a treaty is the responsibility of the Executive in the exercise of its prerogative power, whereas law making is the responsibility of the Parliament.

Section 51(xxix) of the Australian Constitution, the ‘external affairs’ power, gives the Commonwealth Parliament the power to enact legislation which implements the terms of those international agreements to which Australia is a party.

A long presentation was necessary, if for no other reason, to show that the most solemn proclamations have been available for seventy years, comes 2018.

During that time – three generations – Australian governments have been ‘Liberals’ in anti-workers Coalitions, or Neo-liberal – except of course the two tormented Whitlam Governments.

Words of liberation have been recited on occasions by people who were more interested in the echo of their voice than in the voice of the people. On one side is the process of liberation of the world, meaning by that something wider than ‘the Anglo-sphere’, more human than ‘the free world’ – as defined by the crude interests of Wall Street and S.W.1 which seem to be the only worthy consideration on the other side.

On one side are the Vietnam-lies by Menzies, perhaps better remembered for his rhetoric about ‘the forgotten people’ and the Iraq-lies by Howard with his pedestrian ‘comfortable and relaxed’ exhortation; on the other the fire-in-the-belly of those liberating declarations – from the Universal of 1948 to the ‘No-more-like-before’ of 2007. And, incidentally, Howard lied yet again, in extremis, offering some form of “lasting recognition in our constitution of the first Australians” (Howard’s speech, delivered at Brisbane, Qld, 12 November 2007) having sent an Australian delegate to vote against the Declaration on 13 September 2007!

The voice of ‘reasonableness’ was heard once again recently. The other ‘Voice’ – the one of the Uluru Statement, expressed in lyric cris de coeur by Noel Pearson and lashing precision by Megan Davis (there are others, of course: “Coalition contempt for our first peoples”, The (Melbourne) Age, 5 November 2017, at 34) – will not be silenced if ‘the wretched of the Earth’ take their chance.

In the process they could draw comfort from Professor Patience’s view of the issues and of the state of the joint. And the joint is occupied by characters usually very comfortable and relaxed, sporty types (don’t you know?), always ready to compete for the World Doormat Cup.

“It is surely ironic – noted Patience – that soon after Australia secured a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council the Turnbull government rejected a proposal for an advisory body that could help address the appalling Indigenous human rights record of successive governments in this country. Turnbull’s limp excuse for rejecting the idea was that it would not win the necessary support it would need at a referendum to provide the appropriate constitutional framework for the advisory body.”

This is not the sole problem, but a fundamental one. It comes with others.

“Politics in contemporary Australia displays ever-congealing levels of moral backwardness. In addition to our cruelty to asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru, we have pig-ignorant vested interests blocking the need for a coherent national energy policy, the reactionary stupidity of the same-sex marriage postal survey, mindless support for tax-payers to underwrite the monster Adani coal mine, persistent ideological obsessions with neo-liberal economic policies confecting the worst social inequality ever, indifference to the dying of the Great Barrier Reef, and a foreign policy framed by Australia being “joined at the hip” with the United States.

But the over-riding moral backwardness of contemporary Australian politics is glaringly evident in the country’s failure first to understand, and then to sensitively and effectively address this country’s disastrous human rights record on Indigenous affairs.”

“The on-going treatment of Indigenous Australia by white Australia is a deep evil in the heart of this country’s politics. The one measure against which Australia should be – and is – being judged regionally and internationally is the way we so callously disregard the human right of First Australians.”

“The Turnbull government’s rejection of this historically unprecedented proposal is evidence of its moral backwardness. Turnbull should have seized on this idea and made it a signal policy defining his prime ministership.”

“This country urgently needs to come to grips with the human rights issues affecting our Indigenous peoples.”

And in one last savaging sentence Patience concluded:

“It’s time for this country to awake in fright from its moral backwardness. And the first thing we need to act on is fully restoring the human rights of every Indigenous Australian, forever.” (Allan Patience, Is Australia a morally backward society?, 30 October 2017, John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations).

Continued Friday with: Much law, scarce justice (Part 3)

Previous instalment: Much law, scarce justice (Part 1)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.


Vote for Sophie (or else!)

By Terence Mills

The Benalla Ensign, not exactly my idea of a national purveyor of influence but still a worthy little local newspaper for its region, attended a function in April 2016 for the opening of a new wing of the Cooinda Retirement Village in Benalla.

Also in attendance were Cathy McGowan who had taken the federal seat of Indi from previous incumbent Sophie Mirabella, and Liberal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt. Mirabella was still pretty upset at having lost the seat in 2013 and, being a Liberal, she considered that she had a God given right to hold that seat for as long as it suited her.

During the formalities at Cooinda it was alleged that Mirabella had pushed McGowan out of the way so that she wouldn’t be photographed with the hapless Wyatt. In fact, it seems that Mirabella had pushed Wyatt out of the way so that he wouldn’t be photographed with McGowan. Even so, the Benalla Ensign reported that it was Mirabella who pushed McGowan. Subsequently and belatedly the Benalla Ensign published an apology to Mirabella:

“In our April 20 edition our article ‘‘Awkward encounter’’ referred to Mrs Sophie Mirabella pushing Ms Cathy McGowan out of the way in order to obstruct a photo being taken.

We take this opportunity to clarify that this reference was a mistake.

There was no physical contact that occurred at the time and Ms McGowan was not pushed.

We apologise to Mrs Mirabella for the mistake and for any hurt or embarrassment this may have caused.”

That you may think would be the end of this rather trivial encounter, but our Sophie is no shrinking violet and is not one to let sleeping dogs lie, so she decided to sue the Benalla Ensign in defamation. The basic idea of defamation law is simple. It is an attempt to balance the private right to protect one’s reputation with the public right to freedom of speech. Defamation law allows people to sue those who say or publish false and malicious comments. Anything that injures a person’s reputation or standing in the community can be defamatory and it is for the complainant to establish that the publication of the alleged defamation caused economic loss or other damage. We saw this principle in operation recently with the action taken by Rebel Wilson against Bauer Media where Wilson was awarded a record payout of $4.5 million and costs in excess of one million dollars for defamatory and malicious articles published by Bauer about Wilson.

Sophie had not had a good run with the local electorate having publicly stated to a live television audience that the voters (of Indi) had ‘cost’ themselves a multi-million upgrade to the Wangaratta Hospital by not re-electing her.

“I had a commitment for a $10 million allocation to the Wangaratta hospital that if elected I was going to announce a week after the election.”

“That is $10m that Wangaratta hasn’t had because Cathy (McGowan) got elected.”

This it seems is the way that the Liberals do business. The decision on whether to provide proper hospital services is not based on need but on whether the Liberal candidate in your area gets up: the voters of Indi thought they lived in a democracy and they voted for the person best equipped to represent them in Canberra. But that, sadly, is not the way to get health funding into your community under a Liberal government.

So, Sophie was off to court to sue the newspaper over what had been acknowledged as a mistake by the newspaper and for which they had belatedly apologised. McGowan told the court that she had not been pushed, but maintained that she had witnessed Mirabella pushing Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt to prevent him appearing in a photo with her and, in McGowan’s estimation, the substance of the newspaper story was true just the details of who pushed whom were in doubt. Mr Wyatt told the trial Mrs Mirabellamoved around in front of me, put her hands on my chest and asked that I don’t [allow the photo] because it would legitimise an alliance to the Liberal party”.

Never one to miss an opportunity to utilise the veiled insult, our Sophie was reported as saying:

“I’m not a sensitive, delicate wallflower,” she said through tears. “I’ve put up with a lot of stuff that hasn’t been true being published … but this, this was the last straw”.

This was accusing me of pushing an older woman, an older womanwho’s old enough to be an elderly citizen, a grandmother,” said the 49-year-old Mirabella of her adversary, the 63-year-old McGowan.

So, the jury sat through five days of evidence and arguments in the Wangaratta County Court trial, taking just 45 minutes to find that Ms Mirabella had, on the balance of probabilities, been defamed. Damages will now be assessed by the judge and will be made known next week. A judge in assessing any damages will take into account the economic loss suffered by the plaintiff and can be mitigated recognising that the newspaper has made an apology to the plaintiff. So, it could be a pyrrhic victory for Sophie who, since leaving office was appointed to the board of the Australian Submarines Corporation Ltd by the Liberal party and in more recent times has been hired by mining magnate Gina Rinehart as a lobbyist, for her mining interests, in Canberra. So the damages could be just nominal as her economic loss is probably not significant and she is now probably making more money than she could have in her political career. We shall see.

Generally speaking it is not considered good form for politicians to sue other people or institutions for defamation or insults largely because our democratic arrangements and wherever the Westminster system of government adheres, grants politicians open slather to lie, mislead, defame, insult and ridicule within the confines of the parliament under the shroud of parliamentary privilege with absolute protection from legal redress or from being sued. For a politician then to seek to sue when they are defamed or insulted tends to tip the balance of what is fair and reasonable very much in their favour.

Custodians in Training

By Cally Jetta

I came across a short film clip the other day featuring some of the prominent community members of the Bunbury region in the South West and the great work they’re doing to revive Noongar language and culture and integrate this learning into our young people’s lives.

It was one Elder’s comments about learning to care for country however that really got me thinking. It was a topic I hadn’t dedicated enough thought to until quite recently. It makes absolute sense that learning about country and how to care for it should be an essential focus and priority for our youth.

The other week when addressing an Aboriginal student assembly, I asked the group to remember and respect their traditional and rightful role as custodians. I posed the following scenarios and questions:

“Raise your hand high if you are proud to be Aboriginal and have respect for your ancestors and your traditional culture. (All students raise a hand in response).

Noongar culture is about knowing and living in harmony with the environment. That is what allowed Noongar people to continue living in a sustainable way for tens of thousands of years. Knowledge of country and dutifully caring for it was vital for survival. Aboriginal people have fought and died for country; endured years of legal turmoil to reclaim it and watched the sacred, native and rare be robbed from it. Our culture promotes importance of country and this has been the basis of land rights cases and protests against development.

So, just consider for a moment what thoughts may run through the minds of non-Aboriginal and also some Aboriginal people, as they drive past our school and see our Aboriginal students, for example, throwing litter onto the ground, snapping tree branches for the sake of it or throwing rocks at birds. Are they behaviours that convey our people as the custodians and conservationists we are known as? What does it say to others about the importance of country and culture to today’s Aboriginal youth? How do you think our ancestors might feel seeing young people behave like this?

A few hands go up right away, more join over the next minute. I listen to their responses;

“They will think we don’t care about land anymore and that it’s OK to keep taking it or destroying it.”

“They would think we are disrespectful to our own culture and people.”

“They will think we have lost our Aboriginal culture and we don’t care about it anymore.”

“They will think land rights and all that is a joke and not take it seriously.”

“Our ancestors would be so disappointed and let down.”

“Our ancestors would probably think we are selfish for not continuing what they did for so long.”

“I think our ancestors would be heartbroken to see the land now and how we aren’t in harmony with it like then.”

I thank them all for their great answers and continue …

Our country, as our people once walked it, has changed rapidly since British arrival but that does not mean you are no longer custodians, that you should dismiss and disrespect the thousands of years of attentive care and the many sacrifices made by our ancestors to sustain an environment for future generations. Our generations included. It is still our responsibility. Below the buildings and roads are the remnants of ancient campfires, corroboree grounds and traditional burials sites. Dreaming and ancestral spirits still inhabit the earth, air and water surrounding us. Between the introduced weeds and animals, native species still exist, hidden and forgotten like the many ways they were once used. Used to eat, heal, make, provide and link culture and spirituality to land through story. They require your care now more than ever. We need to focus on what is left, fight for the protection of it and teach the significance of it.

I really hope that you can all just be a bit more mindful and respectful when it comes to the environment. Even if you do not have much interest in learning about and conserving it, at least make the self-commitment that you won’t further harm or disrespect it.”

Post assembly thoughts:

We cannot expect our children to just automatically inherit knowledge and responsibility of country on the basis of being Aboriginal alone. Our community elders and leaders need to encourage our young people to view and respect themselves as custodians and pass on the knowledge and skills of country needed for them to understand the significance of their role and take pride in doing it.

Learning about country – its plants, trees, animals, sacred sites and sustainable practices – needs to be embedded right alongside learning about culture and language as the three entities are intrinsically linked and inseparable.

We need to think ahead and create job opportunities that support environmental conservation and cultural preservation. That allow our people the opportunity to stay on country and earn a living without detriment and disconnect.

Bottom line is: We can’t expect our young people to respect and care for country unless they are taught the value and benefit in doing so; and, given the knowledge and skills to follow through.

As a parent I am determined to raise my sons as custodians by teaching them all I can about country and encouraging them to look after it with understanding, respect and pride.

LNP Traditions: Stay with the Market in Volatile Times Ahead

By Denis Bright

This week’s State of the States Report from the CommSec Division of the Commonwealth Bank was well publicized in the mainstream media. The full State of the States Report is readily available online. Judge the full report for yourself and evaluate its contribution to a better understanding of Australia in a volatile global economy.

The ripples of this volatility extend to constant fluctuations in the value of superannuation assets. Wall Street trends today are often Australian trends in the next couple of days on superannuation web sites. None of these global dynamics make it into the State of the States Report. Yet the graphics in the State of the States Report were highly newsworthy.

There are connotations of State of Origin matches. Good economic ratings for the NSW economy were of course stoked up by unaffordable housing prices. As US interest rates rise relative to Australia, the current State of the States performances are not likely to be too enduring particularly on the Sydney property market.

Business Insider Online (5 April 2018) does suggest that the time for a correction in the housing market is overdue. Six minor corrections in the housing market have been noted since 1970:

Overcoming this financial parochialism in financial markets was one reason for the formation of the Commonwealth Bank in 1912. As the former Reserve Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank went on to finance the Trans Australian Railway. It helped to maintain the stability of John Curtin’s wartime economy against the challenges of demand and supply pressures.

But is the current banking system up to speed in handling the volatility ahead as President Trump charts a Far-Right America First Agenda?

The federal LNP is always steadfast in its commitment to Market Ideology for troubled times. Commitment to short-term gain is a hall-mark of the current banking system and is closely in sync with current federal LNP priorities and to current global financial markets.

Wall Street gyrations are influenced by computerized buying and selling systems so that falls are offset by a robotized rush for bargains. Fortunes can be made on falling markets until the overall trend-line becomes apparent for the days trading. This is happening as I type. As Noon approaches on Wall Street on Thursday 3 May, the market is down by 1.5 per cent. This could easily be reversed in the next four hours of trading as the falls plateau out. If the plateau fractures, it might be a bad afternoon on Wall Street (Yahoo Trading 02.00 EAT, Australia):


The Regression to a Market Oriented Banking System in Australia

Greg Jericho in the Guardian Online (5 April 2018) explained that such market gyrations are being compounded by institutional failures in Australia’s banking sector. Banking institutions are particularly tough in withholding interest rate relief to loans for owner-occupied dwellings:


More systemic failures of banking institutions have just been released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA):

In its final report into governance, accountability and culture at the CBA, APRA said the bank’s “continued financial success dulled the senses of the institution”.

The report found the CBA had a “widespread sense of complacency, a reactive stance in dealing with risks, being insular and not learning from experience and mistakes.”

APRA also pointed to an “overly-collegial and collaborative working environment” which lessened the opportunity for constructive criticism.

While emphasising the soundness of CBA’s financial position, Mr Morrison said the APRA report was a damning rap sheet and called it “required reading” for every financial institution in Australia.

“It found there was a complacent culture, dismissive of regulators, an ineffective board that lacked zeal and failed to provide oversight, a lack of accountability and ownership of key risks by senior executives, a remuneration framework that had no bite and they were reactive, slow and had under-resourced systems and processes internally,” he told reporters.

In this new era of institutional repentance, the federal LNP must be commended for its blunt assessment of our national economic priorities.

The federal LNP Government should be keen to iron out these national inequalities in economic performance as revealed in the State of the States Report. Many variations in state and territory indicators relate to differing levels of dependence on food export and resources prices and have little to do with the political leadership skills of state and territory governments.

In Queensland, LNP Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington offered a State of Origin Assessment of the State of the States Report:

Queensland state LNP leader Deb Frecklington said the State of the States Report was damning for the Queensland government.

“Labor can spin this as much as they like but Queensland is in sixth position, that says everything,” she said.

“We should be fighting with NSW and Victoria for top spot, not languishing down the bottom with the likes of the Northern Territory.”

Although tourism is one of Queensland’s major industries, the state LNP stays with the Unlock the Land Traditions of the Old National Party. It opposes Vegetation Management Laws which assist in essential catchment management (Opposition Leader’s Media Release 2 May 2018):

“The laws we are fighting against will lock up nearly a million hectares of agricultural land from routine practices of vegetation management that keep land in production.

“They will shut down the ability to open up any new agricultural land, killing off thousands of potential jobs and denying billions of dollars in export income for our state.

“These laws reduce farmers to criminals on their own land by reactivating and giving more power to Labor’s dreaded tree police. These laws tie up rural producers in reams of red tape including costly bureaucratic development application processes that see these landholders charged thousands of dollars just to manage their own thickened vegetation—and all at a time when Queensland desperately needs to grow this important agricultural sector,” Deb said.

“I would really like to applaud all the primary producers right across Queensland and here in the Nanango Electorate who put so much time into fighting these changes. From the producers who travelled to Brisbane for the rally, to those who held virtual rallies and took to social media to spread the word.”

In far-off New York, Federal Minister Steven Ciobo was also frank in his G’Day USA Economic Outlook Address as Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment (Media Release 30 April 2018):

We stand for rules that encourage growth and point the way to sound international cooperation. Rules that reinforce market principles, with sovereign nations playing their important, clearly demarcated role.

Today, I will seek to outline how 200 years of economic relations between Australia and the United States have culminated in today’s economic partnership – one that is making a real contribution to our region’s peace and prosperity. As a result, we are well positioned to shape the international rules for sustained growth for our two economies and our region.

Australia, as proudly stated by Minister Ciobo, had become one of the stalwarts of old time capitalism. What’s happening in New York trading apparently has some positive outcomes for the people of PNG, Vanuatu or the Solomon Islands, Minister Ciobo appears to be saying.

The evidence from the Banking Royal Commission on the economic and social costs of market ideology seems to come from another planet. After each Royal Commission hearing, the shortcomings of the banking system become more outrageous:

Not even death stopped some Commonwealth Bank customers being hit with fees for financial advice they did not receive, the banking royal commission has heard.

The commission has been told advisers at a CBA financial planning business continued to charge fees to customers they knew had died, including one instance where fees were charged for more than a decade.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Michael Hodge QC, outlined several instances of advisers working for CBA subsidiary Count Financial billing customers for ongoing service after their deaths.

The latest revelations involve the loss of the 20 million personal bank statements through irresponsible outsourcing of data (ABC News Online 3 May 2018).

Solutions Compatible with Contemporary Globalization

Critical comments on Australia’s market ideology must be focused on achievable remedial solutions. Mainstream US financial institutions offer some of the most responsible criticisms of market ideology as espoused by Minister Ciobo.

The US McKinsey Global Institute has also severely challenged the Thatcherite economics which is preached by LNP leaders at international forums like the G’Day USA Economic Outlook Forum.

The exciting evidence from the McKinsey Global Institute comes free of charge in this working paper: The New Dynamics of Financial Globalization-August 2017.

Global capital flows have simply not recovered to their pre-GFC levels. The LNP ideal of welcoming more corporate influence in public policy is already a dated version of Thatcherism. This is inappropriate for Australia as a resource-rich economy which is around 20th in global ranking in purchasing power parity terms (PPP). Cutting company tax, containing government spending and deregulating the labour market is no real solution to current underemployment levels.

The Challenge of Reduced Post-GFC Capital Flows

A sustainable financial future for Australia requires a commitment to a stronger and more internationalized business sector. Some responsible risk-taking must be made by both commercial investment banks and public institutions.

In a world of global financial volatility with negative ripple effects on the superannuation assets of most Australian families, there is a strong case for publicly owned Investment Funds that tap global capital flows for investment in national and state projects. These Investment Funds at national and state levels would earn income for corporate investors from market delivery projects as varied as providing affordable housing, expanding transport infrastructure or sustainable health programmes.

Stephen Smyth of the CFMEU in Brisbane presented the case for an Energy Transition Authority to assist with the transition to a cleaner energy future that offers affordable and reliable electricity as well as fair working conditions for union members and their families. The Forum was organized by Environmental Labor (LEAN).

Federal Labor could use the benefits of global financialisation to revitalise sustainable transport, housing, tourism, disability services and sustainable health for all ages. Policy input is invited to the new National Policy Draft by 18 May 2018.

The federal LNP no longer pokes fun at Bill Shorten’s commitment to a Royal Commission into Australian Banking as promised at the 2016 federal election.

If Bill Shorten makes it to the Lodge next time, his case for change was clearly from Opposition in 2016 with commitments to defend Medicare and the now current Royal Commission into Australian Banks.

More such political risks must be taken to reawaken the electorate from its current slumbers generated by repetitive news bulletins and recurrent nightmares brought on by President Trump’s latest militaristic ventures on behalf of global military industrial complexes.

Denis Bright (pictured) is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in advancing pragmatic public policies compatible with contemporary globalization. Denis will be absent on a short overseas trip to China and Hong Kong in late May.


Much law, scarce justice (Part 1)

Part Thirty-one of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

Much law, scarce justice

On the frontispiece of the foundation building of the University of Queensland there is sculpted a maxim. It reads: Juris præcepta sunt hæc: honeste vivere, neminem laedere, suum cuique tribuere.

It comes from the Corpus Iuris CivilisBody of Civil Law, (Institutes, Book 1, title 1). The Corpus is a compendium of Roman law, issued between 529 and 534 c.e. by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I. It forms the ultimate basis of the civil law of most European jurisdictions.

The maxim means: “These are the precepts of the Law: to live honestly, to injure no one, and to give to each one that which belongs to her/him.”

Not many students may ask about it, most likely many teachers could not help, even fewer local as well as national politicians would care about the meaning. It is there, incongruous and most likely un-noticed.

Englanders would not know what to do with it, although they crave the ‘distinctive’ yet meaningless appellation from Oxford: Doctor of Civil Law – or the equivalent from Cambridge.

Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander People, the oldest civilisation on Earth, have no need for such ‘masks’, To place their position before the entire world they have their chart.

On 13 September 2007 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 144 members voted in favour, 4 voted against: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and there were 11 abstentions:  Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine.

The Declaration sets out the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues. It also “emphasizes the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions, and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.” It “prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples”, and it “promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.” The goal of the Declaration is to encourage countries to work alongside Indigenous Peoples to solve global issues, like development, multicultural democracy and decentralisation. According to Article 31, there is a major emphasis that the Indigenous Peoples will be able to protect their cultural heritage and other aspects of their culture and tradition, which is extremely important in preserving their heritage.

The Declaration is structured as a United Nations resolution, with 23 preambular clauses and 46 articles. Articles 1 to 40 concern particular individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples; many of them include state obligations to protect or fulfil those rights. Article 31 concerns the right to protect cultural heritage as well as manifestations of their cultures including human and genetic resources.

Articles 41 and 42 concern the role of the United Nations. Articles 43 to 45 indicate that the rights in the Declaration apply without distinction to Indigenous men and women, and that the rights in the Declaration are “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world,” and do not in any way limit greater rights. Article 46 discusses the Declaration’s consistency with other internationally agreed goals, and the framework for interpreting the rights declared within it.

The opening and Article 2 of the Declaration provide that “indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples,” guaranteeing them the right of existence, of living free of discrimination, and entitling them as peoples to self-determination under international law.

In Art. 1 the Declaration proclaims that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.”

Interestingly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the common effort of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr Herbert Vere Evatt, Q.C. K.St.J., commonly referred to in Australia as Bert Evatt, and often as ‘Doc’ Evatt. The distinguished jurist was President of the United Nations General Assembly from 1948 to 1949.

Art. 2 guarantees that “Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity.”

Art. 3 recognises the Indigenous Peoples’ “right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

In the exercise of that right, Indigenous Peoples “have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions.” (Art. 4)

Furthermore, “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.” (Art.5)

Every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality. (Art. 6)

Further, “Indigenous individuals have the rights to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person. … the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.” (Art. 7.1)

By the Declaration, “Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.” And the “States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for: (a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities; (b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources; (c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights; (d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration; (e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.” (Art. 8)

Article 9 provides that “Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right to belong to an indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right.”

Most importantly, according to Art. 10, “Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.

Furthermore, by “Article 11 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artefacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.” And “2. States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.”

Indigenous Peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains. 2. States shall seek to enable the access and/or repatriation of ceremonial objects and human remains in their possession through fair, transparent and effective mechanisms developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples concerned. (Art. 12 1 and 2)

“Article 13 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons. 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that this right is protected and also to ensure that indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings, where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means.”

By Art.14, “1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning. 2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination. 3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.”

“Article 15 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information. 2. States shall take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.

Article 16 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish their own media in their own languages and to have access to all forms of non-indigenous media without discrimination. 2. States shall take effective measures to ensure that State-owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity. States, without prejudice to ensuring full freedom of expression, should encourage privately owned media to adequately reflect indigenous cultural diversity.

Article 17 1. Indigenous individuals and peoples have the right to enjoy fully all rights established under applicable international and domestic labour law. 2. States shall in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples take specific measures to protect indigenous children from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development, taking into account their special vulnerability and the importance of education for their empowerment. 3. Indigenous individuals have the right not to be subjected to any discriminatory conditions of labour and, inter alia, employment or salary.”’

There is room for a defence of the proposed, and so ignominiously rejected, ‘Voice to Parliament’ in the following

“Article 18 Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision- making institutions.

Article 19 States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”

In furtherance of their politico-social aspirations, Arts. 20 and 21 provide that

“1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities. 2. Indigenous peoples deprived of their means of subsistence and development are entitled to just and fair redress.

Article 21 1. Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security. 2. States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.”

Particular attention shall be paid to “the rights and special needs of Indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of the Declaration. 2. States shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.” (Art. 22 1 and 2)

By Art. 23 “Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, Indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.”

“Article 24 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services. 2. Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.”

Pursuant to Art. 25, “Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.”

Continued Monday with: Much law, scarce justice (Part 2)

Previous instalment: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 5)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.


Don’t say the ‘P’ word

By Cally Jetta

Now and then it can feel as though even those close to you can sometimes use you as a measuring stick or venting point when it comes to current and controversial Aboriginal issues and/or headlines. They ask for your opinion or knowledge as an icebreaker and then proceed with their actual intent – to voice their own opinion and disagreement about it. A few assumptions are made here. The first being that every Aboriginal person keeps up to date with the news reports and is just awaiting the chance to discuss these complex matters with others. The second assumption is that we as the questioned ones are unwise to the undertones and attitudes of such questions. The third could well be the assumption that all Aboriginal people think and feel the same and therefore can speak for one another and relay non-Aboriginal views and frustrations back to the entire mob.

Whatever the motive and approach, I do my upmost to remain patient and respond in a way that provokes thought and learning rather than defensive communication. It can be really difficult and quite emotional when it’s someone you love and consider close with an attitude or opinion of Aboriginal people/issues that you strongly oppose.

One such incident occurred just last week when a very dear and long-term friend randomly mentioned an article she had read the previous day at a BBQ lunch. “Have you heard that nurses now have to announce their white privilege to Aboriginal mothers giving birth?” she scoffed.

I think I responded with a confused expression, then some laughter and finally the question ‘where on earth did you read that?’

I thought it sounded like another one of those yarns that non-Aboriginal people know about us that we somehow don’t know ourselves – you know, like free cars and no university fees.

I said it sounded ridiculous in theory and practice. I explained that yes, white privilege is an actual ‘thing’ and that in the not so distant past people dressed as nurses and policemen were feared and loathed for the control they held over Aboriginal people and their often abysmal treatment of those in their so-called ‘care’. I explained that hospitals used to refuse Aboriginal patients care and that despite much change since then, they are still daunting and uncomfortable places for many. I said I could understand a hospital training its staff with this knowledge for better understanding or possibly even displaying a plaque, artwork or similar acknowledging this history and legacy. But I couldn’t imagine how this would work, between nurse and Aboriginal patient – during or following labour!

It may not even be an Aboriginal idea or initiative I told her, too often Aboriginal people feel the harsh judgement and scathing of wider society over affairs or decisions we actually had no part or say in. I went on to say that I couldn’t imagine that any Aboriginal woman in the throws of labour, or recovering from the ordeal, is really going to appreciate a nurse announcing his or her white privilege at that moment. In fact it’s just plain silly and until my friend actually returned a positive search result on the article, I honestly thought it had to be some kind of joke, misunderstanding or satire.

Turns out, one particular hospital’s board members – I think in NSW – brainstormed this genius idea and were attempting to implement it against a wave of backlash and outrage. The type of outrage my friend was trying hard to swallow. I agreed it was a terrible idea – if not in sentiment, then definitely in practice and one of those isolated incidents the media will pounce on as a means of discrediting Aboriginal people and making us the subject of other people’s criticisms and complaints. But she was not satisfied with my agreement and explanation. She was offended by the use of the term ‘white privilege’ and I could predict her next few comments to follow. I was ready as it’s a very common reaction to the term and I have well-prepared and practiced comments myself. ‘You couldn’t call my upbringing or home-life privileged, we were dirt poor,’ she reasoned. I told her to try and not think of privilege as being in the sense of wealth, luck or possessions and that in this context the word ‘privilege’ could be better replaced perhaps by words such as ‘normality’, ‘standard’ or ‘invisibility.’ Every person in this world has the potential to experience being poor, unlucky, hard done by and of ill health. Spiritual beliefs, gender and race do not automatically prevent or cause misfortune for an individual. In fact you can have a wealthy, happy, healthy Aboriginal businessman and a struggling, single white mother with a disability and white privilege still exists even then, because when you strip away all the other factors and circumstances and bring it down to race or colour, white is considered the norm. The majority, the usual, the standard against which all others are compared to and expected to conform too. The society and culture whose religious beliefs, language and institutions dominate every aspect of life. I told her that I’d often heard white people say how ‘they don’t see colour’ or don’t really identify with any cultural or racial groups and in a nutshell, that’s what white privilege refers to.

  • If you live your life without much or any thought of your skin colour or racial identity
  • If you do not feel like a minority or that you are overly visible most places you go
  • If you do not feel targeted or fearful of police based only on your racial appearance
  • If you have access to your history, culture and knowledge at school
  • If your colour and appearance doesn’t automatically attribute negative stereotypes to you
  • If hailing a taxi is never a difficult task for you
  • If security doesn’t eyeball and follow you in every store you enter.
  • If you have never felt excluded or discriminated against due to your colour or race …

… Well then you benefit from what is known as white privilege. Yes, I said it!!

That doesn’t mean that in all aspects of life you are free from discrimination, suffering or bias. You may be white and also identify as lesbian, thus benefiting from white privilege and being discriminated against by heterosexual privilege simultaneously. A white person with a disability making them wheelchair bound still has white privilege, but would notice and have to struggle with all types of obstacles that come from able-bodied privilege. You see the pattern here? If you’re a white, Christian, male in a heterosexual relationship and free of any physical or mental disability then you are considered the norm, standard, desired and accepted in our society. In fact, our society is made for you, by you. Anyone that differs from that ‘ideal’ is somehow tainted as being different or less valuable. White privilege is real and it does exist here in Australia along with other forms of socially constructed privilege that the average Australian is conditioned to and often unaware of.

As a fair-skinned Aboriginal person I experience white privilege myself in many ways, but it’s along with the hassle of constantly having to prove my identity and validate my knowledge and intentions.

If we can’t acknowledge that white privilege, or any form of privilege for that matter, is real and exists then how can we even begin to talk about it and understand it better? And if we don’t understand it we are in no position at all to challenge or change it. The ‘P’ word is not a personal dig or assumption about you or your life, or something to be insulted and offended by. It’s a construct of history, time and society that can be deconstructed with understanding and changing modes of thought.

Well … that’s it, then

By Tony Andrews

28 years of working on the seas around Australia and beyond are over.

As John Howard proudly boasted, “we’re going to destroy the livelihoods of Australian seafarers”. That’s not an exact quote, but I don’t really care, it’s done and it’s all been done because of ideology.

Because of an aversion to unions and the supposed political necessity of removing the ability of working people to bargain collectively with their employers, our elected representatives in government, our government, have overseen the destruction of my career and the careers of thousands of other tax paying voters.


Why have they allowed, actually, not just allowed, openly conspired with the giant, profit-driven overseas interests to condone the removal of our participation in this industry.

A highly profitable industry. An industry that until recently was considered vital to the economic security of our nation.

Our taxpayer roads are being destroyed daily by big business using thousands more trucks than are necessary to carry goods between Australian states, all to destroy Australian shipping.

There is no other reason.

It’s not cheaper to haul goods by road. It’s not more economical or safer.

It’s all about profit … and revenge.

The destruction of my industry has taken years. Years of planning. Years of removing, incrementally, the abilities of our representative unions to negotiate “in good faith” on behalf of the workforce.

Millions of dollars in contributions from workers spent fighting our own governments from legislation passed to increase the profit of overseas interests at the expense of their own tax paying citizens.

When the workforce defeats these changes, often all the way to the high court, “ministerial determinations” are enacted so the legal requirements and enforcement of the rulings can be ignored.

The worker cannot win.

All the years of training and certification, now useless.

All the experience on different types of commercial vessels, now of no practical use whatsoever.

What am I going to do? What are my mates going to do? How are we all meant to feed, clothe, and continue to provide a home for our families?

No one even seems to care …

It’s the sneakiness of it that really appals me.

Over time, our government removed their oversight of the industry. Once upon a time they controlled the labour, then forced everyone into company employment.

It was going to be better for all of us, more efficient for the industry and would also provide “job security” …

That worked out well.

Now no one has work, but the ships still keep coming in. We’ve been replaced with overseas labour on $2 an hour …

In our own country.

Our qualifications were for life, just like university degrees … except for registered nurses, their degree now has a 5-year expiry date, just like ours.

We went from having official, federal government issued, certificates of proficiency, with no expiration date and that carried a status similar to a passport, to a 5-year high risk style licence.

They even looked similar, with the Australian crest proudly displayed on the cover.

And we only needed the one certificate … it took 6 years of college and on the job training to acquire though. This allowed us to work on any ship and operate any machinery necessary for our operations.

Now we need shore-based certificates as well. Each one with a 5-year expiry.

We need 4 yearly security checks from the federal police and ASIO, we need 2 medicals every 2 years, if you’re over 55, you need 2 medicals every year.

Was it to increase safety?


It was a long-term plan to remove the participation of Australian workers from the lucrative offshore oil and gas industry and coastal shipping trade.

That is the only reason.

This is not some sort of conspiracy theory, big government and big business acting in concert with evil intent …

It’s commercial reality. Good or evil don’t come into it, only profit and the pursuit of free market ideology.

Many of my friends have been “on the beach”, that is, unemployed, for a few years now. I’m to follow them just before Christmas.

With no income, many highly skilled and highly qualified Australian men and women have been forced to allow their certificates to expire, with no hope of ever getting them back because, without current “sea time” you cannot renew them.

That, my fellow Australians, is the long-term plan.

With no qualified Australian seafarers left, the importation of foreign labour will be considered of vital importance to ensure our offshore resource industries and their economic importance are not compromised.

Our livelihoods and economic contributions (in taxes, skill set and experience) are not considered important.

My family is not considered important.

I’m a 50-year-old man with a young healthy family, a blessing in itself, after many years of waiting, but what now?

The way things are going it will be 20 years before I can draw on my superannuation.

After entering the workforce full-time at 16, my options for pursuing higher education are limited, and not just by time or money.

How has this been allowed to happen?

Who exactly do our elected representatives in government represent?

It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s me.

Our main adversary

By Tony Andrews

First, I’d like to clearly state the obvious, that I’m no expert in this or any other field … unless opening tins with that little triangular blade on a Swiss Army knife counts as expertise.

I’m pretty good at that.

Islamic terrorism, in my opinion, is less a problem of religious fundamentalism than it is a fear of the inevitable decline of male dominated society and an overreaction to its effect on the world by everyone, whichever side of the debate we are on …

The last gasp of a dying male chauvinist world.

Unfortunately, our perspective on this and many other issues, is blinded because most humans are adversarial by nature …

“You’re either with us or against us.”

Why are there only two sides in a debate?

We are always on one side or the other, we dismiss or deride those that would rather see things from both sides and put forward solutions based on compromise, we so rarely hear from them that it’s almost as if they don’t exist.

We call them names like “fence sitters” and assume that they are undecided or uninformed, that their thoughts are not worth listening to.

Well, we would ignore them, if we ever got to hear their opinions, we don’t though, because that’s not how the world works.

The biggest issue and, I believe, the most damaging, that pervades all aspects of our societies, is that we appear to have no neutrals, only those for or against.

Even in sport that is not one side against the other, sports with multiple competitors, we still naturally pick a favourite and cheer them on, also mentally picking out someone we hope loses.

The rest, well, we don’t really even notice them … unless they do something dramatic.

Almost everyone is, by nature, an “extremist”.

Without trying to oversimplify a complex issue, personally, I think that we’re so focused on the religious aspect of Islamic terrorism that we can’t see the forest for the trees …

It’s my belief that we don’t really need to fear terrorism so personally or spend so many billions of taxpayer funded dollars to radically change our laws and society in order to protect us from harm, it’s a temporary situation and, although I’m not suggesting we should just ignore it either, what we should all really fear …

Is ourselves.

Our tendency to overreact, sometimes violently, to situations and information we don’t really understand.

Our tendency to rely on our emotions, instead of our intellect, focusing on blame and ignoring solutions or examples that don’t fit with our preconceived ideas.

Our tendency to not really think things through before reaching conclusions and deciding on a course of action.

Unfortunately, our judgement in most situations where the answer isn’t obvious is often influenced by what we think we know and generalisations about the things we don’t.

Our fear in the case of terrorism is harm to ourselves or our property from people that, we believe, hate us and our “way of life”.

Some of them do, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s not our big screen TVs, our cars, weapons or our other technological and industrial achievements that they despise, they need these things to wage the “jihad” just as much as we do to fight against it, what they really fear, is redundancy.

Women worldwide are finally being educated at similar levels to men and this has brought with it many changes to our societies. Has there ever been a female dominated society in history? I can’t even think of one where women were on an equal footing with men … the Celts maybe … or was it the Picts?

The women will change the men that wish to remain in the past, no one else.

Some will also, and have already, joined the men in their battle against change.

That choice, somewhat ironically, is theirs.

No one is forcing them to fight, they have made the decision themselves.

Muslim women have dreams and minds that work in the same chemical/electrical ways as other women, right?

That’s not to say that all women are the same, but their similarities and differences are not so easily controlled anymore by men, religion or ethnic heritage, they are as individual in thought as anyone else.

And they will change the future …

For Muslim women, in some cases quite recently educated and informed, their influence will force their men to share and plan their futures together or they won’t marry them. It’s simple. It just takes time.

For the Muslims we call “moderates”, it’s already happened.

We ignore them though, the hundreds of millions of them, and assume they are just “fence sitters” waiting for the global caliphate.

(Who knows, maybe they are, we are all generally “extremists” in one form or another, even if we don’t acknowledge it, and the non-Muslims remain suspicious of them all … just in case).

When I say; “it’s simple”, I actually mean that it’s complicated, but we, as humans, generally reject complicated notions.

We have no desire to absorb more than a basic understanding of anything not directly related to our employment or hobbies, but that doesn’t stop us from having passionate opinions about other things as well.

Also, we all tend to reminisce a bit too fondly over times that have passed.

The people of the oil rich countries in the Middle East have gone, in only two or three generations, from being poor and illiterate to healthy and educated, enjoying individual, as well as national prosperity, but this has bought massive changes, psychologically, with it.

There are still members of these communities and families, the “patriarchs”, that have been alive since before these changes occurred and are still living, these men have great influence on their far better educated descendants;

“When I was younger I’d have beaten my wife with a stick if she’d spoken to me as you allow your wife to speak to you …”

“Why are you cooking and washing the clothes?”

“That’s woman’s work. How can you call yourself a man?”

“Your woman should not display herself in public without protection from the lustful gaze of other men … she needs to be covered from head to toe.”

If someone were to claim that our Australian “beach culture” hadn’t progressed, that it was still as Kathy Lette described in her novel Puberty blues, the men surfing, while the girls sat idle watching them, gossiping, and fetching the odd Chiko roll, today’s women would laugh at you …

With good reason.

Can we still believe that women beyond the black stump are still confined to the house, preparing roast lamb dinners and baking sponge cakes memorised from CWA recipe books, while the menfolk drive the tractors and harvesters. Muster the sheep and cattle?

Not on your life.

Muslim women are no different, and the modern Muslim man knows it… subconsciously, at least.

Do we in our country, with all the mod cons, really believe that the women in less affluent societies enjoy washing clothes in shit filled rivers and beating them against rocks everyday?

That they don’t dream of washing machines and a constant source of electrical power.

Maybe even men to load the machine and dry the laundry while they go out to work or enjoy a coffee with their friends.

They dream of indoor plumbing and underground sewage systems, imagining a time their rivers will be clean and shit free.

The often-heard statements like, “they can’t live like us, they are not like us”, are rubbish …

Many of them are already.

Worldwide, there’s little difference now between the education level of men and women. A statistic I read recently was that, globally, the average amount of education attained by 30-year-old men is 10 years. For women, it’s 9 years.

We tend to think of the different pay rates between equally qualified and skilled men and women in our society as the benchmark of inequality between the sexes, but globally, the world is balancing itself.

Real progress has been achieved in a relatively short time frame and it isn’t going to stop.

Of course, the countries with an Islamic tradition are not the only ones in which the men feel confused and uneasy about their future role in society.

Ask Tony Abbott or Cory Bernadi.


Morally unfit

By Ad astra

It was James Comey, ex FBI director, who labeled Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, as “… morally unfit to be president”. He said much more.

He did not question Trump’s mental capacity; it was his morality. “This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values…” Comparing him with a mafia don, Comey writes in his book A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership“The boss is in complete control. The loyalty oaths…the lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” 

I need not elaborate; you will likely have read about Comey’s book. If you’ve missed it, you can read about it here:

Writing in The Washington Post, R Marie Griffith challenges us with these words: ”… to judge moral fitness, shouldn’t we first agree on what moral behaviour is? Philosophers, theologians and ethicists have argued about it for thousands of years, and the rest of us grapple with the question, too: We’re talking about basic right and wrong, what we consider to be good and bad. And we differ widely on the answer.”

Whichever criterion of morality we choose: personal behaviour, honesty, ethical disposition, sexual conduct, exercise of male supremacy, insistence on unquestioning loyalty, attitude to violence, or cold-hearted disregard for institutional values, social justice, gender equality, racial parity, or civil rights, Trump is an obscene example of moral unfitness. We are appalled by his conduct. Somehow, in the Western World we expect better of anyone who occupies the position of US President, the ostensible Leader of the Free World.

But we don’t have to look far to see many more morally unfit leaders.

Perhaps the one most recently burned into our memory is Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a man who, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, has overseen the death of over half a million of his people since the civil war began in March 2011, has destroyed many beautiful Syrian cities, and most recently has attacked his people in Douma with chlorine gas and possibly the nerve gas Sarin. Compounding this obscenity is the ongoing denial, and the obstruction of international inspectors sent to examine the devastation. Assad is morally unfit to govern.

No less culpable is Russian president Vladimir Putin, Assad’s ally in his destructive assaults on his people. Putin knows full well what Assad is doing, but supports him with troops, weapons and air power.

Putin has other atrocities to explain: his recent attempt to assassinate Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury with the deadly nerve agent Novichok. Putin’s robust denials convinced nobody. Now Salisbury has the massive task of cleansing that city of this deadly and persistent poison, which is believed to have spread widely. It affected not only the Skripals, but policeman Nick Bailey. All recovered slowly.

Only a morally unfit leader could perpetrate such iniquity.

Of course there are many other heinous crimes that stain Putin’s reputation. His intervention in Ukraine, the shooting down of Malaysian Airways flight 17 over that country that killed 283 passengers and 15 members of crew in July 2014, and the annexation of Crimea, come quickly to mind. But there are many more. His suppression of dissent; his imprisonment of dissidents; his rigging of elections, his re-election as president being the most recent; his agents’ hacking of routers of foreign firms and government agencies in global cyber attacks; his likely involvement in Trump’s election; and his ruthlessness in dealing with any who disagree with him, have all led to him being described as a ‘thug and a murderer’.

By any reasonable standard, Putin is ‘morally unfit to be president’ of Russia.

Where else do we see moral unfitness?

Take the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No matter on whose side you are, there can be no denying the immorality of that decades-long conflict which has brought misery, deprivation, homelessness, poverty and hopelessness to countless residents in that troubled area of the Middle East. Is Benjamin Netanyahu morally fit to govern Israel? Is Mahmoud Abbas morally fit to lead the Palestinians? You be the judge.

Close by is Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has ruthlessly suppressed dissidents, imprisoned thousands, purged the judiciary, and murdered innumerable Kurds who are seeking independence. Is he morally fit to govern?

What about the Saudis and their assault on Yemen? Where is the moral leadership in that part of the world? Countless thousands of Yemeni have been slaughtered. There seems to be no end to this conflict, especially as other players seek to take advantage of the situation.

Let’s go west to the Korean peninsular where Kim Jong-un has ruthlessly suppressed the people of North Korea, as did his predecessors, starving them while he built up his vast Army and a world-threatening nuclear capability. He lied repeatedly about his intentions, threatened his neighbours and nations far afield with nuclear obliteration, thereby earning the appellation of leader of a ‘rouge nation’. Recently he authorised the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jung-nam at Kuala Lumpur Airport. Is he morally fit to lead a nuclearized nation?

Maybe even he is asking himself that question as he now declares his intention to denuclearize North Korea and trade nuclear weapons for economic gain. Has he had a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment? Or are we witnessing just another play in his game of intrigue and uncertainty? The meeting last Friday of Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, where they shook and held hands prior to their discussions, was a promising sign. Time will tell.

Closer to home think about Myanmar where the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Rohingya Muslims continues unabated – their villages burned, thousands killed and women and girls raped, hundreds of thousands displaced to Bangladesh where they live in misery in appalling conditions as the Monsoon season overwhelms them. Are the leaders of Myanmar morally fit to lead? How much sway do military leaders still have? Where does Aung San Suu Kyi stand?

Still closer, think about the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who authorizes the cold-blooded murder of drug traffickers, and the rulers of Aceh and other homophobes in Malaysia who publically flog those caught in a homosexual relationship. Are they morally fit to rule in our contemporary world?

There are many more that fit the tag: ‘morally unfit’. You know them.

Indeed, it’s difficult to think of nations that do exhibit moral leadership, who have leaders that are seen as morally fit to govern. The leaders of Canada, New Zealand, Germany, France, Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries spring to mind as being morally fit, but several central European countries now find themselves under the influence of far-right political players that are nationalistic and anti-immigration, whose behaviour moves closer and closer to Fascism or even Nazism, with all the ugly civil disruption that characterizes these movements. Are the leaders who allow this morally fit?

We would not place our own governing bodies in the dark category of those mentioned above. They avoid the label ‘morally unfit’ most of the time, but none-the-less the questionable behaviour of many politicians does cast a shadow over our own politics. We skate close to corruption; the call for a national anti-corruption body is heard almost every day. Leaders accuse each other of ‘dodgy deals’ again and again. Referring to our political system in his 18 April National Press Club address: Our politics is a dreadful black comedy, Richard Flanagan, had this to say:“… it’s not just those in immediate power but a whole system that is beginning to lose its moral legitimacy.”

Recent events at the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and the Financial Services Industrythough make our politicians look like relative cleanskins in comparison to bank executives.

I’m sure you don’t want to read again here the details of the appalling dishonesty, misconduct and straight out fraud that has been exposed by this inquiry. Even the most imaginative mind could not have dreamed up the extravagant extent of the corruption that has been uncovered. Most reasonable people would have anticipated that administrative errors, computer glitches, or simply misunderstandings would have explained many of the distressing stories that emerged. But who has not been flabbergasted by what we have heard?

Are the executives of these financial institutions morally fit for their positions?

If you happen to have missed some of this truly shocking story, read Charlie Lewis’ The top five worst scandals revealed by the royal commission (so far) in Crikey.

The catalogue of gross dishonesty, deception, cheating and criminal fraud that has been exposed has astonished and alarmed even the insiders in the financial industry. Only the whistleblowers are not surprised. Although few, they have been telling us what’s been going on for a long while. But who wanted to listen? Not the Coalition!

The Coalition did everything it could to avoid a Royal Commission, insisting that there had already been too many inquiries into banking, that the so-called regulatory bodies overseeing the finance industry had them under control and had all the power needed to counter any malfeasance. We know now that this was nonsense, and as Labor describes it, the Coalition was simply running ‘a protection racket for the banks’. ASIC and APRA are culpable in this sorry tale of corruption because they have been ineffectual ‘toothless tigers’; they refused to bite! Last week, the Royal Commission began the process of uncovering the ineptitude of these regulators. There is more to come!

The Coalition must wear much of the ignominy of this disaster. It is now running scared of the fallout, promising heavy penalties for offenders, but steadfastly deflecting any culpability for delaying an inquiry that was obviously necessary long ago. Its inability, indeed its unwillingness to admit it was wrong, manifestly wrong, is a further black mark on its already tawdry reputation. Only after Barnaby Joyce admitted his role in delaying the inquiry have other Coalition members begun to concede that the delay was wrong. Matt Canavan has joined him, as has the usually-immovable Mathias Cormann; others will follow as the political fallout escalates.

But not Kelly O’Dwyer, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, who on the ABC’s Insiders on 22 April, repeatedly refused to concede the validity of Barrie Cassidy’s assertions that the Coalition was wrong on several counts. She looked foolish. Her garrulous performance was appalling. Her stupid, poorly planned strategy of denial brought into question her qualification to be a Federal Minister at all. She did more than that. Her obfuscation, her mendaciousness, and her sheer effrontery in avoiding every confronting question brought into doubt whether she is morally fit for high office. How can anyone who performs like that be regarded as a fit and proper person to hold a senior ministerial position?

If you think I’m being to hard on her, and haven’t seen her performance on Insiders, take a look at this video and make up your own mind. Even she herself has now recognised how bad it was, has apologised, and has admitted the Coalition’s delay was wrong.

Of course our silver-tongued PM, realizing the damage being done, has attempted to deflect criticism by ‘admitting’ it was a ‘political mistake’ being too slow to set up the Commission, but that it was necessary to take the process along carefully, arguing that it would have been harder to make immediate regulatory changes to the sector if a Royal Commission was underway. He has not apologised, and likely never will – that would be a bridge too far for an ego as big as Turnbull’s. Do denials so redolent with pathetic excuses cast doubt on his moral fitness? Especially as he still wants to give his proposed business tax cuts to the big four banks, $7 billion in all!

To give you an idea of how out of touch he is on this issue, only 6% of respondents to the 24 April Essential Report were in favour of business tax cuts at all!

I could go on and on cataloguing the moral turpitude, the depravity, the iniquity of nations and institutions the world over, and in our own country. It’s depressing, disheartening, demoralizing. What can we, the ordinary citizens do? The most powerful artillery we have is our voices and our votes. It is up to us to speak up, to call out immoral behaviour by whatever means we have, to abandon institutions that conduct themselves immorally, and to vote out of power those who behave immorally.

Money and power are so cherished by those who control our lives that depriving them of this is our most potent weapon.

In the wake of Anzac Day, it is fitting that I finish with the concluding words of RAAF orthopaedic and trauma surgeon Group Captain Annette Holian, taken from her speech at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne:

… I ask you to be brave, to stand up for what you believe in, to speak up for others, to be kind and support each other …”

This article was originally published on The Political Sword.

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Government’s institutional brutality (Part 5)

Part Thirty of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

On 29 May 2017, during an A.B.C. Q&A programme marking the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum, Cape York Partnership founder Noel Pearson outlined some of the problems Indigenous People in Australia continue to face, including high incarceration rates.

Mr Pearson said: “We’ve made progress in the last 50 years but some of the profound indicators of our problems – children alienated from parents, the most incarcerated people on the planet Earth, and youths in great numbers in detention – obviously speak to a structural problem.” [Emphasis added].

Is that right?

Australian Bureau of Statistics data show that the Indigenous incarceration rate in 1991 was 14.4 per cent. It was 27.4 per cent in 2015. It was even higher during 2016: 28 per cent.

Indigenous People still amount to 3 per cent of the population in Australia.

Last year, for every 100,000 Indigenous People, 2,253 were in prison – an increase from 1,232 in 1991. For every 100,000 non-Indigenous People, 146 were in prison – an increase from 102 in 1991. This makes an Indigenous adult 15.4 times more likely to be in prison than a non-Indigenous person.

But there are a number of limitations with prison data collections.

To begin with, official prison measurements are point-in-time: they reflect the number of prisoners on a certain day in any given year – mainly as at 30 June. They do not represent the through-flow of prisoners across a year. Indigenous People are more likely to receive shorter sentences, and more likely to cycle in and out of prison. So it is likely that the over-representation of Indigenous People in prisons over the course of the year is greater than the official statistics suggest.

Professor Stuart Kinner, a Griffith University expert on criminal justice, found that the annual ‘flow’ of Indigenous People through Australian prisons significantly exceeds the daily number.

Before the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its report in 1991, there were few statistics on numbers of Indigenous women in custody. Data now permit a more nuanced understanding of the prison demographic. The Royal Commission also made a special point about the inadequate information in relation to juvenile prisoners at the time.

Among prisoners, Indigenous children and Indigenous women are currently the most over-represented compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. Still, it is not easy to compare changes across all demographics.

One of the factors affecting the higher proportion of Indigenous in Australian prisons is the way juvenile offenders are treated by the justice system. 59 per cent of people in juvenile detentions are Indigenous. And Indigenous children are 26 times more likely to be in juvenile detention than non-Indigenous children.

A blanket understanding of increases in prison rates does not reflect the prisoners who are sentenced and those on remand. 27 per cent of Indigenous People in custody in 2015 were on remand – either un-sentenced, un-convicted or awaiting trial.  The media time spent in remand in 2015 was 2.7 months. And between 2014 and 2015 the rate of prisoners overall in remand was 21 per cent – the highest rise in a decade. The rate of sentenced prisoners rose just 3 per cent for the same period.

Statistics can vary depending on the agency collecting them and the methodologies employed, leading to small discrepancies whether one examines the statistics of the corrections system, Australian Bureau of Statistics or other research bodies. (Data gaps mean Indigenous incarceration rates may be even worse than we thought, Thalia Anthony, The Conversation, 27 July 2016).

When asked for sources to support his statement, a spokesperson for Mr Pearson referred to data from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and said that the U.S. has the highest rate of imprisonment – in number and by percentage of population.

In the United States the African-American people are the most incarcerated by percentage of their population: 2,207 per 100,000.

Indigenous People in Australia are the most incarcerated by percentage of their population: 2,346 per 100,000.

Therefore, the statement that Indigenous People in Australia are the most incarcerated people in the world is true.

Of course, it depends on what one means by ‘people’, which is a complex term to define and will mean different things to different audiences.

For the purposes of the consulted FactCheck, one was confined to checking Mr Pearson’s statement on Indigenous People incarceration rates with the best available data on national incarceration rates in other countries.

Indigenous People incarceration rates in Australia were also checked against the rate at which Indigenous populations are imprisoned in other countries, as well as the rate for African-Americans.

One can compare rates of incarceration in countries around the world using the World Prison Brief, an international database hosted by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at Birbeck, University of London. It reports the number of adults incarcerated per 100,000 of the total population in 223 jurisdictions.

Mr. Pearson’s spokesperson was accurate to say that the United States had the highest overall rate of imprisonment in 2010, but things have changed since then.

The World Prison Brief now names Seychelles as the country with the highest adult imprisonment rate. That is based on data from 2014, which showed Seychelles had an imprisonment rate of 799 adults per 100,000 people.

The United States is currently in second place, having reported 666 adult prisoners per 100,000 people in 2015.

As a total population – including both Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons – Australia currently ranks 93rd on the World Prison Brief list, with an imprisonment rate of 162 adults per 100,000 of the total population in 2016.

But, as Mr Pearson highlighted on Q&A, one obtains a very different result when one looks at the incarceration rate for Indigenous people in Australia.

The World Prison Brief does not report the adult imprisonment rate for Indigenous People as a subset of the Australian population. But it is possible to calculate an estimate to compare to the international figures, using Australian Bureau of Statistics data and population estimates.

In 2015 the Indigenous population in Australia was approximately 729,000 people. In that year there were 9,885 Indigenous adult prisoners. That is an imprisonment rate of roughly 1,356 adults per 100,000 of the total Indigenous population.

Therefore, Mr Pearson’s statement that Indigenous people in Australia are “the most incarcerated people on the planet Earth” is correct if considering Indigenous incarceration rates alongside incarceration rates in countries listed by the World Prison Brief.

But how does Australia’s Indigenous imprisonment rate compare with those of other Indigenous and marginalised communities around the world?

Data on Indigenous imprisonment rates are not consistently measured or reported in many countries. Thus it is difficult to gauge how Australia’s Indigenous imprisonment rate compares with Indigenous People or marginalised groups internationally.

Credible data are available for a number of groups in several countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

And the following figures are reported per 100,000 of the adult population, not the total population as used by the World Prison Brief.

Starting with the United States, a spokesperson for Mr Pearson’s accurately quoted U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics which showed African-Americans were the most imprisoned racial group in the U.S. in 2010, with an adult imprisonment rate of 2,207 per 100,000 African-American adults. In the same year, Indigenous People in Australia were imprisoned at a higher rate: 2,303 per 100,000 Indigenous adults.

In 2015 the adult imprisonment rate of Indigenous People in Australia was still higher than that of African-Americans. In that year 1,745 per 100,000 African-American adults were incarcerated, compared to 2,253 per 100,000 Indigenous adults in Australia. (By 2016 the incarceration rate of Indigenous People in Australia had risen another 4 per cent to 2,346 adult prisoners per 100,000 adults).

The imprisonment rate for Indigenous Americans in the U.S. in 2010 was 895 per 100,000 Indigenous adults in America. The imprisonment rate for Canada’s Indigenous People in 2010-11 was estimated to be 1,400 per 100,000 Aboriginal Canadian adults.

One may calculate the imprisonment rate for New Zealand’s Māori using statistics from the Department of Corrections and Stats New Zealand. In 2015 the Māori adult imprisonment rate was approximately 1,063 per 100,000 Māori adults.

To conclude: Indigenous People in Australia were imprisoned at higher rates than Indigenous people in the U.S. in 2010, in Canada in 2010-11 and in New Zealand in 2015, and at higher rate than African-Americans in 2015.

Mr Pearson’s statement that Indigenous people in Australia are “the most incarcerated people on the planet Earth” is correct. based on the best available international data. (FactCheck Q&A: are Indigenous Australians the most incarcerated people on Earth?, Thalia Anthony and Eileen Baldry, The Conversation, 6 June 2017).

* * * * *

Almost one year since the findings of the Inquest by State Coroner Ms Ros Fogliani in the case of Ms Dhu’s death were delivered, not much has happened in Western Australia to change the condition of Indigenous People in trouble with the majesty of the law.

In a statement, W.A.’s Attorney-General, the Hon. John Quigley said that the State Government was working to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous People in gaol, with the incarceration figures amongst the highest in the country.

“Western Australia’s Indigenous incarceration rates are scandalous … the McGowan Labor Government does not shy away from this problem.” he said.

He also said that he would be introducing “a package of amendments to the Fines, Penalties and Infringement Notices Enforcement Act 1994 (W.A.), the effect of which will be to reduce the number of people imprisoned for fine default alone. …  “I have examined the approach taken in other jurisdictions in relation to jailing for fines and I will be in a position to bring forward a reform package to Cabinet before the end of the year.”

The Attorney General also said that “the McGowan Labor Government has committed to introducing the Custody Notification Service.” (Aboriginal woman jailed over unpaid fines after police call, 10 months on from Miss Dhu inquest, Sarah Collard, A.B.C., 30 September 2017).

Less than a month after, a Nyoongar 35-year-old woman was arrested for fines totalling $ 3,900 after a standard-practice background check was carried out when the police was called to her Joondalup home.

The mother of the woman said that she had called the police because her daughter wanted to speak to officers about “certain things.”  “They took her to Joondalup police station … from there they transferred her to Melaleuca women’s prison,” she said.

The woman was sentenced to two weeks in gaol but was worried for her young children, her mother said. “She has got five children … she doesn’t want to be made homeless,” she said.

In a statement, the Western Australia Police said that officers had no discretion when carrying out court orders. “They are lawful orders to WA Police officers to take into custody the person named on the warrant and there is not capacity for those officers to ignore or defer that order,” the statement said.

Police also said that the officers had ensured that the woman and her family were treated reasonably and had “considered the welfare of all persons.”

“In this particular matter, a review has been conducted and WA Police is satisfied that both the woman and her family were afforded all reasonable care,” a spokesperson said.

“The officers who handled this matter conducted themselves in accordance with policy and met the standards required when dealing with these difficult situations.” (Aboriginal woman jailed over unpaid fines after police call, 10 months on from Mis Dhu inquest).

The family is closely related to Clinton Pryor, who walked from Perth to Canberra to raise awareness of the plights of Indigenous People.(!)

At mid-October 2017 a 23-year-old Indigenous woman in Western Australia disclosed that she was being threatened with gaol over unpaid fines, under the same laws that saw 22-year-old Yamatji woman Ms. Dhu die in police custody in 2014. The pregnant single mother told NITV that she was being harassed by police over $4,123.45 in unpaid fines, claiming that police had been “banging on my back door with their torches” late at night, threatening to gaol her for six days if she does not pay at least $1,000 of her debt and causing her to fear authorities would take away her young son. (Heavily pregnant single mother threatened with jail over unpaid fines, Madeline Hayman-Reber, NITV, 17 October 2017).

Continued Friday with: Much law, scarce justice (Part 1)

Previous instalment: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 4)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.


Double Pronged Approach – Time and Empathy, Bitterness and Hate, Education and Awareness

By Cally Jetta

I love when the kids are asleep and my hubby and I finally have the chance to really talk and get into the bigger issues that we are both so passionate about. It’s quite a rare occurrence these days, I must admit.

The other night was one of those times however. My hubby said that at times he wondered what it would be like to be white. How his life would have been different. He felt that much of the trauma he experienced in his earlier years and the memories he continues to struggle with today are the direct result of the inter-generational trauma he was born into and the resulting lifestyle outcomes of poverty, violence, alcoholism and crime. He went on to mention the many young relatives and peers he has lost just in recent years to suicide. They may not have been part of the Stolen Generations or alive when some of the worst atrocities against Aboriginal people were happening; but they certainly bare the heavy burden of the compounded feelings of hopelessness, anger and despair of those that did. He spoke about the fact that Aboriginal people had every right to feel grief and anger but without a healthy outlet, it leads to our own self-destruction and at times a deep-seated rage and bitterness that comes from feeling dismissed and disrespected by society.

It made me think of a story I had read just days earlier about an Aboriginal woman who had lived during a period a massive political change, interference and control. Her traditional life was destroyed and her family torn apart. She lost many babies because hospitals and doctors refused to treat her serious condition. She was forcibly removed from every place she ever found sanction and taken to squalid reserves. The children that did survive were not permitted to live in the same house with her and when her daughter of approximately 6 years fell ill and was taken far away to a strange and unfamiliar hospital and staff, the Chief Protector of Aborigines at the time refused to let her accompany her daughter. All she wanted was to sit by her daughter’s bedside during her final days and she was denied this right as a mother by people distant and unknown to her.

We have a 6 year old. I tried to imagine how I would have felt in this woman’s shoes. To be honest just the thought of it filled me with a gut-wrenching bitterness and hatred that no amount of time would likely diminish.

And the frightening realisation is that this experience, or similar, and the attached emotions and trauma are shared by so many Aboriginal people all across the country. I thought also about our aunt who was stolen not once, but three times from her family to endure such cruel and abusive treatment at the hands of mission staff. The pain, anger and hurt shows in her eyes and you can hear it in her words. Her children and grandchildren hear her stories and they see and hear her pain; and then they feel it too.

So, with all of this intergenerational trauma and grief what is the way forward? How do we break a cycle of self, family and community harm? What will it take to move beyond the anger and hate so many are justifiably holding onto and genuinely feeling?

My hubby simply answered with ‘time’. He explained that he didn’t mean Aboriginal people would ever forget their history and what their ancestors endured but that over time the raw emotion of it would fade along with feelings of bitterness and hate. He feels it is because we have many still alive today that endured such awful things and the fact that their children and grandchildren today are witness to the devastating impacts of it that the anger still burns so hot. Maybe when these experiences and stories are no longer still in living memory and the people telling them are not so directly involved and impacted by them we will see a shift forward and away from the raw emotion that is still very much felt today.

I then added that acknowledgement and empathy were also vital ingredients for healing and explained that the apathy and lack of empathy unashamedly expressed by so many Australians towards Aboriginal people and the lasting and devastating legacy of invasion was hugely counterproductive. I don’t think the average Australian realises just how a change in perspective and attitude could make such a monumental impact and difference to how Aboriginal people feel about themselves, others and their place in this nation.

I whole-heartedly believe that it is not entirely possible for a person or people to heal, grieve and move forward without the atrocities that were committed against them and the resulting trauma first being acknowledged and understood. A shift from dismissal and defensiveness to compassion and awareness would allow us to start pulling down the wall that currently exists between our communities and become a nation built on truth, respect and solidarity.

I don’t understand why this is such a challenge for our country and why so many seem to fear and loathe the very thought of considering an Aboriginal perspective or demonstrating any type of compassion and understanding. The scary idea for me is that we will never actually reach that point and that our nation won’t find the leadership and motivation needed to take the courageous and honest action needed to address past wrongs and create the public awareness needed to develop real understanding and empathy.

My hubby agreed also and then we both agreed that it was a double-pronged solution. Both time and empathy would bring healing and change. Time and empathy could potentially move us towards genuine reconciliation. Neither cost anything, they just require some patience, compassion and willingness to listen and learn on our part.

I’m willing to invest those things in the hope of a brighter and better future. Are you?

Government’s institutional brutality (Part 4)

Part Twenty-nine of a history of European occupation, rule, and brutal imperialism of Indigenous Australia, by Dr George Venturini.

On 29 August 2016 Elijah Doughty, a fourteen-year-old Indigenous child, was involved in a fatal traffic collision with a utility truck whilst riding a stolen motorbike. There is no evidence that Elijah had stolen the motorbike. The driver of the Nissan Navara vehicle, a 56-year-old ‘white’ man, was also the owner of the motorcycle, that he had reported stolen the previous day.

The driver was subsequently charged with manslaughter but was acquitted by a jury on 21 July 2017 after a trial at the Supreme Court of Western Australia. Instead he was found guilty of the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death.

On 28 August 2016 the driver and his wife had been out visiting friends and arrived at their front gate at 8.15pm. She had driven home, as they had earlier agreed that she would. While they were out he drank six Carlton Dry beers. The man suspected immediately that they had been burgled because the key that he said he always left at the front gate was gone. Break-ins were not unusual at the time in the twin cities of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, where thefts were the main topic of conversation. His wife posted about the thefts on the Facebook page dedicated to local crimes. A friend offered a $1,500 reward for the return of the Honda, and members of the ‘Whinge and Whine Facebook’ group began sending information.

Police had told the man that dirt-bikes often end up at Gribble Creek reserve, and suggested he check under bushes for the Honda. He searched the streets near his home by torchlight on foot until 10.30pm. He told his employer he would not be in the next day and started searching again soon after 6am on 29 August. He was parked at the edge of Gribble Creek shortly after 8.30am listening for motorbikes when he saw a person wearing a sweatshirt with a hood and riding the bike that his children used. He started his car and gave chase. The pursuit lasted no more than 26 seconds.

The driver was the owner of the stolen motorcycle that Doughty was riding. He had followed Doughty in his utility along a dirt-track in the Gribble Creek area of Boulder. Crash investigators stated that the man travelled at an average speed of 67 km/h as he gained ground on Elijah at a rate of 5.65 m a second. Elijah was on a 70cc bike – widely marketed as suitable for eight-to 11-year-olds – and travelled at an average speed of 46 km/h. A collision subsequently took place in which Doughty was killed after suffering severe injuries. The forensic pathologist explained to the jury that Elijah’s injuries included his skull split in half, brain stem snapped, spinal cord severed, most of his ribs broken, fractured pelvis, and leg and ankle mangled. Elijah’s body was found 9.5 metres from the largest piece of dirt-bike wreckage, while the utility had continued in a straight line for 34 metres.

The following day, a protest occurred outside the Kalgoorlie Courthouse. Approximately 200 people, some armed with rocks and bottles, broke down the gates of the court and surrounded the police. The police used pepper spray and riot shields in response. Twelve police officers were injured during the disorder, with one requiring stitches, while several demonstrators were arrested. Five police cars and a local business were damaged.

Dozens of Indigenous People were expected to be arrested. Media were calling the disorder a riot.

The event was similar to those which had occurred many times before in many parts of the continent.

In Queensland in November 2004 Palm Islanders had burned the local police station, court house and part of the police barracks to the ground. That happened after Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley – the most senior police officer beat an Indigenous person to death on the floor of the local watch house.

The victim, Mr Cameron Doomadgee, known as Mulrunji, was just over half Hurley’s size. Mr Doomadgee’s ‘crime’ was to walk past Hurley – who was arresting another Indigenous man – and swear, while singing, ‘Who let the dogs out’. Within an hour he was dead.

Doomadgee suffered a ruptured spleen, broken ribs, and his liver rendered into two parts held together by a couple of blood vessels. That is the kind of fatal injuries one might expect to see in the victim of a serious accident.

The body of Doomadgee was placed in the morgue, and Hurley went to drink beer and share a meal with police from the Ethical Standards Command – senior officers who had been sent to the island specifically to ensure that the police investigation into one of their own was not corrupted. One of the lead detectives assigned to the case was Hurley’s close friend and neighbour, Senior Constable Darren Robinson.

As tensions grew, and police spread rumours in the media that Doomadgee may have suffered his injuries prior to his arrest, calls for calm from community leaders grew.

Six days later a forensic pathologist’s report was read out to Palm Islanders at a public meeting. The report found that Doomadgee had died after tripping up a single step, and falling onto a flat floor.

Before that report, news of the event had been covered in a single media report. The story was presented as another ‘death in custody’.

Within an hour of the report being read out, the Palm Island police station, the court house and the home of Senior Sergeant Hurley had been burned to the ground. That was to make a more interesting story.

The event was written about, and even a film was made out of the story.

Palm Islanders were to suffer greatly: Doomadgee’s son suicided, a week before the coronial inquest into his father’s death was to commence; an Indigenous man who was sharing the cell with the dying Doomadgee suicided two years after the event.

An entire community of Indigenous People was terrorised by Queensland’s police.  Dozens of Indigenous People were arrested and gaoled. Most claimed to have been assaulted in the process. Children were held at gunpoint by tactical police dressed in black, wearing masks. They sat scared in their homes with laser targets pointed at their heads.

The man who led the uprising, Mr Lex Wotton, spent several years in gaol. The morning after his conviction, Queensland Police announced bravery awards for officers who served on the island during the uprising.

Six of the police who received those awards were adversely named in a report by what was then the Crime and Misconduct Commission – 2002-2014, now the Crime and Corruption Commission. No real sanctions were ever imposed against them.

For his part, Senior Sergeant Hurley went on to defraud Queensland taxpayers of more than $100,000, after being given an ex gratia payment by the Police Service for property lost in the fire. He had already claimed $35,000 from his insurer for the very same property.

After authorities initially decided that Hurley had no case to answer, public outrage – driven in large part by outstanding reporting from a national newspaper – forced a criminal trial.

Hurley was acquitted, but as he left the court he declared to media his responsibility for causing the death of Doomadgee. Subsequently, Hurley was promoted briefly to Acting Inspector, moved to the Gold Coast, and took extended leave, on full pay.

The Queensland Police Service was forced to take action against Acting Inspector Hurley. In March 2016 Hurley was charged with two counts of assault of a female colleague. (White Man’s Manslaughter. Black Man’s Murder. White Man’s Riot. Black Man’s Uprising, Chris Graham, New Matilda).

As in most cases resulting from the death of an Indigenous person, the charge of manslaughter is a convenient escape for the defendant. And there is among Indigenous People an instinctive reaction to the very word: manslaughter as a presage of ‘white’ justice – always easy on the defendant. The charge Senior Sergeant Hurley beat was also manslaughter.

If one knows anything about the history of Indigenous deaths in Australia, then one might understand the reaction of Kalgoorlie protestors.

Mr. Edward James Murray, 21 years old, a descendant of the Kamilaroi people, was a rugby league footballer. On 12 June 1981 he was found dead in his police cell in Wee Waa, New South Wales within an hour of having been detained for being drunk and disorderly. Murray had planned to travel to Sydney, to join the Redfern All Blacks Rugby League team’s tour of New Zealand when he was detained.

Police claimed that they found Murray hanging in his cell around 3:30pm, and argued that he had suicided. This occurred prior to the majority of Aboriginal deaths in custody which were later examined in the 1987 Royal Commission. Mr Murray’s parents remained unconvinced that their son’s death was a suicide, and fought for a more extensive investigation into the death. That death, too, has helped to draw attention to the issue of Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Murray’s case drew the attention of several investigations, including the Muirhead Royal Commission, the N.S.W. Anti-Discrimination Board Report on Street offences; and his case was one of the first to be investigated by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1988.

In 1997 Murray’s body was exhumed and a new autopsy revealed a previously undetected smashed sternum. A forensic pathologist determined that the injury had most likely occurred immediately prior to his death. Despite this, the details of his death remain a mystery, and still no one has been officially implicated in his death. This has been to the dissatisfaction of Murray’s family, who have called for a more extensive inquiry.

On 6August 1987 Mr. Lloyd Boney was violently arrested by three police officers for breach of bail. He was found dead 90 minutes later, hanging by a football sock in a police cell in Brewarrina, N.S.W.

The Police Internal Affairs Branch conducted the investigation into Boney’s death. No attempt was made to separate Boney’s arresting officers between interviews, providing them opportunities for ‘collusion and reconstruction.’

The local Indigenous community was suspicious of the police for their role in the death and believed it to be physically impossible for Boney to have killed himself the way he did due to his intoxicated state.

But the Coroner found Boney had suicided with “no suggestion at all of foul play.” This led to widespread protests by the community in Brewarrina, as well as Indigenous organisations nationally.

Four days later Prime Minister Bob Hawke announced a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The Commission was scathing of police conduct, and what was the police response: a video of officers at a costume party in 1992, mocking Boney’s death. (The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody: timeline of events and aftermathNITV).

Toward the end of 1990 and early 1991 in Bowraville, New South Wales, three Indigenous children were murdered. The first to disappear was 16-year-old Colleen Walker, who was reported missing on 13 September 1990. The second to disappear was Walker’s cousin, Evelyn Greenup, on 4 October 1990. The third victim was 16-year-old Clinton Speedy-Duroux on 1 February 1991.

There were several similarities between the disappearances which led police to believe that they were committed by the same killer: the murders all took place within the short time frame of five months. all three victims were Indigenous, autopsies of the two bodies which were found indicate both suffered blunt force trauma to the head, all three victims disappeared after parties in the Indigenous community in Bowraville, in an area known as ‘The Mission.’

The community was investigated for child abuse. In spite of two trials and a Coroner’s Inquest, no one has been successfully prosecuted for the murders. Almost three decades later, the serial killer remains free.

On 28 September 1983 when John Peter Pat, a 16 year old Indigenous boy, was killed in a fight with police officers of the Wickham and Roebourne police stations in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, the five officers tried over the death claimed to be acting in self-defence and were acquitted of manslaughter charges in May 1984. A Royal Commissioner in 1991 acknowledged that “The death of John Pat became for Aboriginal people nation-wide a symbol of injustice and oppression. Suspicion and a continuing sense of injustice in the Aboriginal communities throughout Australia saw the anniversary of John Pat’s death marked by demonstrations calling for justice.” (Death of John Pat – Wikipedia).

On 26 January 2008 Mr Ian Ward, an Indigenous elder from Warburton, Western Australia, was arrested by Laverton police and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. He was then driven 570 kilometres to a courthouse, remanded in custody, and driven a further 352 kilometres to a prison. The journey was undertaken in a steel prison van in 42-degree heat. Mr. Ward was ‘cooked to death’, no-one was charged with anything, The van’s air conditioning was not working and the temperature was so hot that Mr. Ward had third-degree burns to his stomach from lying on the metal floor. It was noticed by the prison transport contractors G4S driving the vehicle that Ward was unconscious. He died shortly afterwards of heatstroke. No one has ever been charged with any offence, despite repeated warnings about the dangers of woefully inadequate prisoner transport.

After 25 July 2009, when five white youths kicked an Indigenous man, Mr Kwementyaye Ryder, to death next to the Todd River in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, they also faced manslaughter charges.

They bucked the trend and were convicted. Their sentences ranged from 12 months to three and a half years, despite driving up and down the dry river bed targeting homeless Indigenous People and firing a replica pistol at them.

The judge in that trial, Justice Brian Martin, the man initially appointed by the Turnbull government to lead the Royal Commission into the abuse of Aboriginal children in juvenile detention, described the boys as “otherwise of good character.” Martin resigned shortly after his appointment. (Five jailed for racist Alice Springs killingA.B.C.).

On 4 January 2012 Mr. Kwementyaye Briscoe was dragged by police into cell of the Alice Springs watch house. His blood-alcohol reading was more than 0.3 and he had a head wound. Although police were required to visit him every 15 minutes, almost two hours passed before officers checked on the 27-year-old. When they did, he was dead.

On 17 September 2012 the Northern Territory Coroner found that “the care, supervision and treatment of the deceased while being held in custody by the Northern Territory Police was completely inadequate and unsatisfactory and not sufficient to meet his medical needs. This lack of care resulted in his death.” And again: “In my view, the catalogue of errors is so extensive and involved so many police officers of various rank as to suggest mismanagement for a period of time by police command at a level higher than just ‘local’.

Coroner Greg Kavanagh described police actions as heavy-handed and unnecessary and was dismayed at the continued practice of dragging prisoners by their limbs. Evidence given to the Coroner was that while officers should have been checking on Kwementyaye Briscoe, they were distracted by the internet, iPod and iPhone, ignoring the pleas for help from other prisoners.

Coroner Cavanagh said: “They were singing out to him, “Take him to the hospital and get him checked out. Ya know, he’s pissing out blood.” (Coroner delivers scathing report on death in custody – 7.30, A.B.C.).

The response from those in power to the death of Mr Doomadgee, and Mr Murray, and Mr Boney, and Mr Pat, and Mr Ward, and Mr Ryder, and Mr Briscoe is precisely what Indigenous People in Australia expect when one of their own is killed. They expect a manslaughter charge, if they are lucky.

And while those deaths are amongst the nation’s most infamous, they are far from the only examples of the spectacular failures of the criminal justice systems when it comes to the loss of black lives.

There are many, many more similar stories – and recent, too.

There’s Jack Sultan Page, an eight-year-old Indigenous child, run over and left to die in November 2014 in a hit and run by a man who was on bail for drugs charges. The killer, Matthew Alexander, aged 23, was sentenced to six months home detention, and an 18-month suspended sentence. During the course of Alexander’s committal hearing, Jack’s mother was warned by Magistrate Greg Cavanagh, “You’ll be arrested if you don’t shut up. This is a court of law. Not a pub where people can yell at each other.”

This is just a short roll call of the dead – a tiny proportion of the ever-growing list of Indigenous People, many of them children, who have been brutally killed, then let down by the system which is – so they are told – is there to protect them.

So the question now is not so much: will Elijah Doughty become the latest victim of a vulgar, corrupt, indifferent system? Rather, will Indigenous People have a logical reason whatsoever to believe he will not?

There is hardly no Indigenous family in Australia untouched by state-sanctioned violence. They well know that while black lives do matter, they do not matter as much. They expect that the deaths of their loved ones will mean less.

The most senior police officer on the ground in Kalgoorlie on 30 August 2016 was Acting Commander Darryl Gaunt. He has more than 30 years’ experience in the job, and told media he’s “never seen anything like this before.” Describing some social media commentary as “disgusting and racist”, he added, “It has absolutely inflamed the situation, without a doubt.”

And yet, a white man allegedly killed a black child, but the people being cast as animals in Kalgoorlie are those who reacted to a well-worn history of brutal oppression by clashing with police, and smashing some windows.

This is despite the reality that the victim’s family, and Indigenous elders, supported police and tried to calm protesters.

In the midst of all this, Elijah Doughty, a 14-year-old child was lying dead in a morgue.

Those condemning protestors in Kalgoorlie would do well to remember that he was someone’s son, brother, grandson, nephew, friend.

And they would do well to remember that the system entrusted to deliver justice for this young boy is the same justice system which freed so many killers. It is the same justice system which saw no response, no accountability, in so many clear cases. It is the same system which ignored the cries of Ms Dhu.

Meanwhile in Kalgoorlie Ms Debbie Carmody, a local Indigenous broadcaster from the Tjuma Pulka Media Aboriginal Corporation, accused local anti-crime Facebook groups of “inciting violence and murder” against Indigenous youth.

The utility driver was charged with manslaughter and pleaded not guilty after his offer to plead guilty to the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death was rejected by the State.

The trial was held in the Supreme Court of Western Australia from 17 to 21 July 2017. During the trial, the utility driver stated that he had not intended to hit Doughty and claimed that Doughty had “veered in front of him.” The driver admitted however that he could not prevent the collision because he was driving too close to the motorbike.

On 21 July 2017 Doughty’s killer was found not guilty of manslaughter. He was instead found guilty of the lesser charge of dangerous driving occasioning death, and as a result could be out of prison as early as February 2018.

In a stunning display of the double standard in the criminal justice system, Elijah’s killer could be out of prison before a man charged over his involvement in the ‘Kalgoorlie riots’ which erupted in the wake of the killing. That protesting the death of a black teenager at the hands of a white man warrants almost as much time in gaol as the killing itself exposes the systematic prejudice of the criminal justice system.

It is no wonder that Indigenous People in Western Australia are twenty times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people. In a recent address to the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of the Northern Territory, the Chief Justice of Western Australia admitted, “[A]t every single step in the criminal justice process, Aboriginal people fare worse than non-Aboriginal people.”

The police play an important role in entrenching this racism, this case being no exception.

After the crime, the police ignored usual crime-scene processes, failing to preserve or examine physical evidence in a way that would be inconceivable had a white person died as Elijah did.

During the trial, police maintained an overbearing presence in both Kalgoorlie and Perth. In spite of the fact that the trial was taking place in Perth, some 600 kilometres away, police formed a protective ring around the Kalgoorlie courthouse when the verdict was announced. In Perth police horses and bikes outnumbered those who had gathered in solidarity outside the court on the morning of the verdict. And glass barriers were erected inside the court in anticipation of violence from the Indigenous community members present. For the racist police, the grieving Indigenous community must be treated as the principal threat.

It would be remiss not to mention the media coverage of this case. Initially there was no interest in the death of Elijah; he was just another dead black child in a country town. What drew their attention was the protest which erupted in the wake of his death. A “violent mob”, as many news outlets described it, and a couple of broken windows were a more familiar narrative.

Following the verdict, members of the public gallery screamed abuse at the defendant and the jury. The court was briefly adjourned to allow their removal by security.

Supporters of Doughty, watching the proceedings in Kalgoorlie through video link, protested the verdict, many wearing t-shirts with the Black Lives Matter slogan. The protest was described by journalists as vocal but peaceful.

Following the jury verdict on 21 July a number of rallies and vigils were held across Australia to call for justice for Elijah Doughty. A crowd of approximately 150 protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 24 July 2017 while chanting “What do we want? Justice. What have we got? Fuck all.” Some protestors allegedly vandalised the windows of the Supreme Court by spreading red ochre, while one woman screamed “This is the blood of Aboriginal people, don’t wait for this to be your children’s.”

On 26 July 2017 protestors in Brisbane sat on the road to block the intersection of Albert and Adelaide Streets. Another protest took place in Melbourne on 28 July 2017, in which protestors marched to Flinders Street railway station then sat on the road and started a fire in a metal drum for the purpose of a smoking ceremony, blocking one of the city’s busiest intersections. One man was arrested and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade extinguished the fire.

On 28 August police charged Elijah’s father, Darryl Doughty, over an incident at the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court. The distraught father was selected for a security search with a metal detector wand by a male Court Security and Custodial Officer, but police alleged he failed to comply and left the building. Police claimed that Darryl was seen ‘acting aggressively’ towards a member of the public and allegedly assaulted a court officer causing minor injuries. He was charged with assault and released on bail after appearing at court where he pleaded not guilty. He was due to appear in court again on 6 September 2017.

Gathering with friends and family for a vigil at Gribble Creek, Elijah’s grandfather Albert said the justice system had failed their family.

“We tried to get some healing at the end of this, some closure, but the justice system just opened it back up again,” Mr Doughty said.

Continued Monday with: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 5)

Previous instalment: Government’s institutional brutality (Part 3)

Dr Venturino Giorgio (George) Venturini, formerly an avvocato at the Court of Appeal of Bologna, devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. He may be reach at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.au.


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