Australian news, and some related international items

Evidence to be taken in Tennant Creek, on the legal case against Muckaty nuclear waste dump

WASTES-1Muckaty trial to be held in Tennant Creek NEDA VANOVAC AAP APRIL 11, 2014 
THE federal government is exploiting the Northern Territory’s constitutional weakness by planning to build a nuclear waste facility there Peris,-Novaagainst traditional owners’ wishes, Senator Nova Peris says.

This week it was decided that a Federal Court trial would sit in Tennant Creek and Darwin in June to take evidence on the proposed dump, which is fiercely opposed by four of the five traditional owner groups at Muckaty, about 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek.

Legal proceedings have been running against the federal government and the Northern Land Council (NLC) since June 2010, with those opposed accusing the NLC of breaching its duties by failing to properly identify the traditional Aboriginal owners of the nominated land, not consulting adequately and not getting proper consent before recommending the site. “The Northern Territory is not our nation’s dumping ground,” Senator Peris told a Muckaty dinner in Darwin on Thursday.

“The only reason the dump was proposed to be built here is because we are a Territory and not a state. Exploiting our constitutional weakness is not acceptable.”

Ms Peris called for a scientific and rational approach to determining how Australia would deal with its nuclear waste.

Lawyer Elizabeth O’Shea said it was a victory for traditional owners to have part of the trial sit in Tennant Creek.

“We’re very concerned about the health and age of a number of our witnesses,” she said.

“It’s hugely important that the court has taken this step and we’re very pleased, and it’s caused great comfort for our clients.”

The Muckaty decision affects all of Tennant Creek, traditional owner Penny Phillips says, so it’s important for the community to be able to observe the legal process.

“All the people there, the old people and the young ones too, they can step up and start talking up,” she said.

“Our people fought for country for years and years – you get back country and you have to look after it.

“If you put the dump there, who’s going to look after the next generation?”

The trial will begin in Melbourne on June 2.

April 11, 2014 Posted by | legal, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Legal bullying made a scientific journal remove its article about climate change

intimidationThe journal that gave in to climate deniers’ intimidation The Conversation,  Elaine McKewon,  Research Associate, Australian Centre for Independent Journalism at University of Technology, Sydney 1 April 14, 

In February 2013, the journal Frontiers in Psychology published a peer-reviewed paper which found that people who reject climate science are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. Predictably enough, those people didn’t like it.The paper, which I helped to peer-review, is called “Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation”. In it, cognitive scientist Stephan Lewandowsky and his colleagues survey and analyse the outcry generated on climate skeptic blogs to their earlier work on climate denial.

The earlier study had also linked climate denial with conspiracist thinking. And so by reacting with yet more conspiracy theorising, the bloggers rather proved the researchers’ point.

Yet soon after Recursive Fury was published, threats of litigation started to roll in, and the journal took the paper down (it survives on the website of the University of Western Australia, where Lewandowsky carried out the study).

A lengthy investigation ensued, which eventually found the paper to be scientifically and ethically sound. Yet on March 21 this year, Frontiers retracted the paper because of the legal threats.

The episode offers some of the clearest evidence yet that threats of libel lawsuits have a chilling effect on scientific research………

the journal’s management and editors were clearly intimidated by climate deniers who threatened to sue. So Frontiers bowed to their demands, retracted the paper, damaged its own reputation, and ultimately gave a free kick to aggressive climate deniers.

I would have expected a scientific journal to have more backbone, certainly when it comes to the crucially important issue of academic freedom.


April 2, 2014 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, legal, media, secrets and lies | Leave a comment

Court judgment on Andrew Bolt and Racial Discrimination

justicetext-bigotryBrandis Backs Down on Bigotry, ProBono Australia, March 27, 2014 Federal Attorney General George Brandis has watered down his controversial changes to the racial  discrimination laws, however community organisations remain steadfast that no changes should be made to the current law.

Previously the Coalition Government’s proposed changes, as part of an election commitment, were to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) , which prohibit public conduct that is reasonably likely to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” a person or groups because of their skin colour or national or ethnic origin.

However, the Government has announced that while continuing to repealing some sections of the Act a new section will be inserted which Senator Brandis claims will preserve the existing protection against intimidation and create a new protection from racial vilification……….

Co-Chairs of Reconciliation Australia, Dr Tom Calma and Melinda Cilento released a joint statement saying they are opposed to any changes to the RDA which weaken the protections against racial discrimination.

“The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (RDA) currently ensures all Australians are protected from discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, descent or ethnic origin,” Dr Calma and Cilento said.

“Any changes to the RDA that weaken protections from racial vilification would pave the way to a less reconciled, just and equitable Australia. We therefore strongly oppose the current proposed changes to the RDA which repeal Section 18C.”

The Reconciliation Australia Co-Chairs said the use of defamation laws by politicians from both sides of politics was well known and exemplifies the balance between free speech and the need for citizens to be protected from scurrilous and false verbal attacks.

“We note that Section 18D of the current Racial Discrimination Act contains exemptions for ‘anything said or done reasonably and in good faith’ and, in the case of publishing, anything that constitutes ‘a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest’.

“We note that in the key case against which the alleged free speech restrictions of the RDA are being measured – the Andrew Bolt case – the judge, J Bromberg, found that Mr Bolt contravened section 18C because the articles were not written in good faith and contained factual errors, and therefore not made exempt by Section 18D of the RDA.

“In his judgment J Bromberg found the Section 18D exemptions did not apply because of ‘….the manner in which the articles were written, including that they contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language’.

“Section 18D does provide free speech protection for comments that may be considered offensive to many Australians as long as these comments are delivered in a reasonable and honest way.”

New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council has also condemned the moves to amend the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act………

March 28, 2014 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment

Australia’s new “Freedom Commissioner”, Tim Wilson – what a (bad) joke!

hypocrisy-scaleHe made clear on Monday he supported repealing the section of the Racial Discrimination Act that made it illegal to insult or offend people on the basis of their race.

Tim Wilson: Freedom Commissioner, The Age, Tony Wright, Dan Harrison December 18, 2013 The Abbott government has sent shockwaves through the anti-discrimination and political establishments by appointing one of the nation’s most vociferous critics to the Human Rights Commission. Continue reading

December 18, 2013 Posted by | A Private, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment

The few surviving Maralinga nuclear veterans lose yet another case for justice

Maralinga signAustralian veterans affected by nuclear testing lose final bid for case to be heard By Sally Block 10 Dec 2013 Australian veterans of British nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s have lost their bid to have their case investigated.

About 300 surviving members of the Australian Defence Force applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission to have their case heard.

The veterans were involved in the nuclear tests by the British at Maralinga, Emu Field and Monte Bello islands. Their lawyers argued the Menzies government at the time exposed them to the harmful effects of radiation in full knowledge of the damage to their health and that is a breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Commission knocked them back, saying it is out of their jurisdiction to inquire into the acts or practises by the Commonwealth that are alleged. Continue reading

December 11, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Will BHP Billiton pursue Aboriginal activist Kevin Buzzacott for legal costs?

Buzzacott,-KevinAboriginal elder Kevin Buzzacott gets no answer from BHP AGM BHP Billiton would neither confirm nor deny that it plans to pursue a South Australian Aboriginal elder for court costs.   ABC Rural  Babs McHugh Kevin Buzzacott of the Arabunna people was ordered by the Federal Court to pay costs to the SA and Federal Governments and BHP after a failed appeal over the expansion of the Olympic Dam uranium, copper and gold mine.

Mr Buzzacott argued the proposed expansion, which has since been shelved, was approved without proper consideration of the long term environmental impact. But three judges ruled that lawyers for Mr Buzzacott failed to make out the grounds for appeal and ordered him to pay court costs.

Sources close to the world’s largest mining company told the ABC it’s very unlikely the the miner would consider pursuing Mr Kevin Buzzacott for costs.  They added that BHP Billiton doesn’t have a track record of pursuing individuals on this basis.

November 21, 2013 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment

Anti wind farm group’s ‘sprawling and inarticulate’ tactics to try to delay King Island wind project

judge-1wind-turb-smJudge labels King Island wind farm legal challenge ‘sprawling and inarticulate’  1 Nov 2013 A legal challenge against Hydro Tasmania’s King Island wind farm proposal has been described as “sprawling” and liable to create additional costs.

The No TasWind Farm group has appeared in the Federal Court in a bid to stop Hydro proceeding with its $2 billion project. Lawyers representing the group say Hydro did not have broad community support for the wind farm and it should not proceed.

Justice Duncan Kerr described the application as massively sprawling, inarticulate and likely to result in significant costs to Hydro Tasmania, without concluding anything. He has ordered the two parties to meet and narrow down the claim before returning to court later this month. Hydro wants to build 200-turbines on the island, creating the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere.

It said the project would not proceed to the feasibility study without the backing of most of the residents. The survey in June found just under 59 per cent support, which Hydro described as sufficient. The close vote prompted the opponents to launch a legal challenge to stop the project. In a statement,

Hydro says a decision on the project’s future will only be made after a feasibility study. Several studies are underway looking at whether the TasWind project is commercially and technically feasible. Hydro says the court challenge will not affect the timing of this phase.

November 2, 2013 Posted by | legal, Tasmania, wind | Leave a comment

Tribunal awards war widow pension regarding veteran harmed by Monte Bello nuclear radiation

A decision this month by the Veterans’ Appeals division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal upheld the finding that Mr Prior’s death was linked to his work with the British Nuclear Test Defence Service.

Relying on 57-year-old log books of Operation Mosaic – the code name given to the atomic weapons testing at the Monte Bello islands – as well as a witness account of the explosion and design points of the aircraft, the tribunal found Mr Prior would have suffered contamination.

text ionisingThe tribunal heard Mr Prior suffered from a very rare skin condition that could have been caused by ionising radiation.

Specialists said the itching and pain could be so severe as to lead to depression and suicidal thoughts, with itching permeating every aspect of live, including sleeping.

The court found “there was a connection between Mr Prior’s exposure to ionising radiation and his skin condition which caused chronic pain” and upheld the decision to award the pension.

justiceWife of veteran involved in Monte Bello Island nuclear test wins war widow pension JESSICA MARSZALEK NEWS LIMITED NETWORK OCTOBER 07, 2013 VETERAN’S wife has won a 10-year fight for the war widow’s pension after she successfully argued her husband committed suicide because of his involvement in atomic bomb testing in Australia.

The retired Air Commodore, who was stationed at Richmond in NSW and served in Vietnam, was 67 years old when he died in October 2001 – a death deemed not to attract the $840 fortnightly war widow payment. Continue reading

October 8, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, health, legal, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Trans Pacific Partnership could override Australian law, but will Abbott resist this?

The progressive think tank, the Australia Institute, put out a statement within hours of the release of the Coalition Trade policy, attacking the Coalition’sAbbott-shhhh “hidden agenda” which would see “health and the environment sacrificed for free trade”.

It highlights the threat that ISDS provisions pose to pharmaceutical, tobacco and environmental legislation in particular.

“The Howard Government successfully resisted pressure from the US Government but now the Coalition has signalled its intention to sell out Australian sovereignty.”

Trans-Pacific-Partnership provisions of the Trans-Pacific partnership are increasingly encountering resistance within other negotiating nations, which are concerned that the American agenda is more about protecting the interests, particularly the intellectual-property interests, of its big corporations than it is about free trade

Abbott: Open For Business — And Multinational Lawsuits The Global Mail By Mike SeccombeSeptember 20, 2013 ………You’re probably familiar with the fact that a group of tobacco companies including Philip Morris brought a case to the Australian High Court, on the basis that the government had effectively stolen its intellectual property by enforcing plain packaging. It got lots of media coverage.

Less publicised is the fact that having failed in the High Court, the company now is pursuing the matter via a bilateral trade agreement signed between Australia and Hong Kong in the early 1990s, which includes ISDS provisions.

The contempt such an action shows for Australian legal process and sovereignty, says Patricia Ranald, is plain. “They’re saying: ‘We’re going to ignore the High Court, when it says we’re not entitled to compensation; we’re going to go off and find an obscure trade agreement to sue you under’.” Continue reading

September 23, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics international | Leave a comment

Traditional owners’ court case against plan for Muckaty radioactive trash dump

hypocrisy-scaleSpurious excuses    The rationale for the dump is spurious. There is no compelling scientific or public safety necessity for one to be built.It has been repeatedly claimed that a specialised waste dump is required to safely store low level waste (LLW) and long lived intermediate level waste (LLIW).

Most of the LLW is derived from medical isotopes used in hospitals and clinics, while the LLIW comes almost exclusively from the nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney. It is this latter type of waste that is of most concern because it is highly toxic and radioactive for a lengthy period 

No Northern Territory nuclear waste dump!, En Passant Posted by John, September 19th, 2013 Despite clear opposition highly-recommendedfrom the Aboriginal traditional owners, the push for a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty Station, 120 kilometres north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, continues, write Jon Lamb and Cathy Lawless in Red Flag.

The campaign led by traditional owners to stop the waste dump is gearing up for the next stage in the fight.

On 26 August, the Federal Court set June 2014 for a case to be heard on whether the nomination of the site for the waste dump followed due process. The nuclear free campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, Dave Sweeney, told Red Flag: Continue reading

September 21, 2013 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, Northern Territory, wastes | Leave a comment

Abbott government illegal in telling Clean Energy Finance Corporation to cease operations

judge-1Clean Energy Finance Corporation could sue over Coalition shutdown It is not lawful for the new government to tell the CEFC to cease operations, says leading barrister , political editor, Thursday 19 September 2013 

The board of the clean energy finance corporation is legally obliged to ignore a directive from the new treasurer, Joe Hockey, to cease its operation and could take the Coalition government to court if it persisted in attempts to shut the CEFC down before the parliament voted to abolish it, according to advice from a leading barrister. Continue reading

September 19, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, politics | Leave a comment

Indigenous Land Under Attack through ILUA Indigenous Land Use Agreement

justiceAustralia: ILUA Indigenous Land Use Agreement Equals Indigenous Land Under Attack   Native Title lawyers and anthropologists are deceiving claimants of their true Native Title rights and interests Michael Anderson said from Goodooga on July 2:2013

From my involvement in the Gomeroi Nation’s recent experiences with mining companies, who seek to destroy our Country, it is clear that the Native Title applicants and claimants are being maliciously misled in the Native Title process. The Sovereign Union is seeking legal advice about a class action against Native Title lawyers, anthropologists and the Federal government sponsored Native Title Representative bodies.
The NSW Native Title Corporation Representative body (NTSCorp), the majority of Native Title lawyers and anthropologists fail to inform the various Native Title applicants and claimants that their Law and custom incorporates, and is inclusive of, all flora and fauna that lives in and belongs to their territories.
In the Mabo No. 2 judgement the High Court held that Aboriginal connections to land under Law and custom establish a recognised legal proprietary interest in the claimed lands, waters and airspace.
Various land occupiers may hold the freehold, perpetual pastoral leases or other land titles exhaustively itemised in the Schedule to the Native Title Act but this does not extinguish First Nations Peoples’ proprietary interests in their plants, trees, medicines and shrubs, as well as the mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects and all naturally occurring living beings. Generally Native Title lawyers and anthropologists do not press these rights and interests in the Native Title process.
When one looks at how the Aboriginal Native Title rights and interests are dealt with, it is clear that the lawyers and anthropologists are not fulfilling the legal trust that has been conferred upon them. Continue reading

September 5, 2013 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal, reference | Leave a comment

Ashurst, Paladin, attack this website with legal threats. Reply from Ashurst

Among other things, the Ashurst letter accused the anti-nuclear campaigner of imputing that Mr Walker was ‘’insensitive’’.

civil-liberty-2smIn any case, these kinds of threats to muzzle free speech are on the rise. At a time when the mainstream media is under pressure from falling revenues, lawyers are threatening and shutting down websites around the country at an alarming clip.

Anti-nuke campaigner braces for legal blast, The Age, December 19, 2012 Michael West Ashurst is at it again.
Acting on instructions from its clients, the big law firm last month was threatening a farmer who had the hide to express his opinion on electricity prices.

This month it has been instructed to threaten a 75-year old pensioner who has spoken out against the alleged exploitation of African workers by an Australian uranium miner. Noel Christina Macpherson Wauchope, who runs the website under the name Christina Macpherson, told Business Day she was not in a position to hire lawyers.

“I think they must have thought AntiNuclear Australia was a big organisation, but it is just me,” she said. She was particularly worried that the letter of demand said “STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL NOT TO BE PUBLISHED” until we explained that there was no legal basis for expecting confidentiality from somebody who simply bobbed out of the blue with a bunch of threats and told you to keep quiet about it.

If you already had some kind of confidential or contractual arrangement with the other party, it might be different…… The price of Noel Wauchope’s concern for the people Karonga was a long and intimidating letter of demand from Ashurst on behalf of the uranium company Paladin Energy and its general manager of international affairs, Greg Walker. If she did not comply with these demands, warned Ashurst, she would face court action.
Curiously, big companies with more than 10 employees are not permitted to sue for defamation yet the concerns notice sent to Noel Wauchope complains about defamation of Paladin.
…… the Ashurst defamation partner responsible for the letter was unavailable for comment….. and did not respond to
questions. Neither did Ashurst’s public relations department. Paladin chief executive John Borshoff said he was unaware of the
letter. “I’m not aware about a 75-year old lady,” said Borshoff, “All I know is that these NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) and they are
absolutely maligning us, and we sent them legal letters”.
Neither was Borshoff aware that Paladin was unable to sue for defamation……
Among other things, the Ashurst letter accused the anti-nuclear campaigner of imputing that Mr Walker was ‘’insensitive’’.
In any case, these kinds of threats to muzzle free speech are on the rise. At a time when the mainstream media is under pressure from falling revenues, lawyers are threatening and shutting down websites around the country at an alarming clip.Read more:

logo-AshurstLegal Firm Ashurst replies to the article above

27 August 2013

Dear Ms Wauchope

Thank you for giving me ths opportunity to respond to the article which you have posted on your websites. I trust that you will post this letter with equal prominence. Fairfax is no longer publishing it, has accepted that I and Ashurst acted ethically and competently at all times, and has withdrawn and apologised for the suggestions in the article to the contrary.

Your article contains  a number of errors and says  a number of false and damaging things about me. In particular, when I sent you the letter on 10th December 2012, I had no way of knowing who you were, as we were sending it to you as a domain name registrant. Your site appeared to be published by an organisation. Further, I at all times acted in accordance wit proper legal practise, and my professional obligations to my client.

I hope that you will rethink your decision to continue to publish incorrect and harmful allegations about me.

Kind regards

Ashurst lawyer

Editor’s note:  I don’t understand why Fairfax  withdrew the article from their online publication, as I thought that the article was true.  I understand that the journalist who wrote that article stands by the story and has not accepted the claims made by Ashurst’.

September 2, 2013 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | 1 Comment

June 2014 date for Muckaty nuclear waste dump plan court hearing

wastesjusticeDate set for court fight over Muckaty nuclear waste dump 26 Aug 2013,  A date has been set in the Federal Court case of Aboriginal traditional owners fighting plans to use their land as a nuclear waste dump.

The site on Muckaty Station near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory is the Federal Government’s preferred site for Australia’s first radioactive waste facility. Beyond Nuclear Initiative spokeswoman Natalie Wasley says the month-long trial has been listed for June 2014.

“After eight years that’s a big relief for traditional owners and the community who have had this nuclear cloud hanging over their heads,” she said.

She says submissions being made this week will determine whether pre-trial evidence needs to be taken. Ms Wasley says those involved are hoping the trial would be held near the proposed site.

“It’s very important for people that they give the best evidence possible, and of course that it’s close to the site that’s being discussed,” she said.

August 27, 2013 Posted by | legal, Northern Territory | Leave a comment

Legal case drags on, as Aboriginals fight for their land, against radioactive trash dump

justiceCourt date marks eight-year NT nuke fight 16 July 13   FOR Dianne Stokes, it was fitting that the eight-year anniversary of a fight to stop a Northern Territory nuclear dump was marked by a brief and frustrating court appearance.


Ms Stokes, an elder with the Yapa Yapa people, is one of the traditional land owners taking action to stop the federal government dump proposal, which is earmarked for Muckaty Station. She was present on Monday when the Federal Court heard a delay in an anthropologist’s report may push back a 2014 trial date.

Ms Stokes says the traditional land owners’ complaints to the government had for years fallen on deaf ears. “It’s been a long struggle, many years of struggling to say we didn’t want the waste to come to our land when no one is listening,” she said outside court in Melbourne.

But she said new Resources Minister Gary Gray had agreed to visit the site and meet community members – a move she welcomes. “We’re going to try to hassle him until he comes down,” Ms Stokes said. “It’s a spiritual country, it’s a cultural land and it’s a very strong belief we have in that county.”

The waste dump was originally planned to be built in South Australia, but in the face of local opposition the federal government sought to relocate it to the NT. A site at Muckaty Station, about 110km north of Tennant Creek, was flagged as a possible site.

Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Dave Sweeney said Mr Gray’s visit was a step forward in the conflict, but that it signalled a “change in tone, not necessarily a change in policy”.

Mr Gray declined to comment.

The parties will return to the Federal Court for another directions hearing in August.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | aboriginal issues, AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, legal | Leave a comment


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