Australian news, and some related international items

Digging into Adani:  The dubious dealings of India’s corporate colossus.

28 Sept 17, ‘When Four Corners travelled to India to investigate the activities of the giant Adani group, they soon discovered the power of the company.

‘While attempting to film and gather information about Adani’s operations, the Four Corners team had their cameras shut down,  their footage deleted and were questioned for hours by police.

‘The team were left in no doubt that their investigations into the Indian company triggered the police action.

‘For months, Four Corners has been digging into the business practices of the Adani Group.
This is the corporate colossus that plans to build Australia’s biggest mine site. … ‘


October 2, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australian public servants face disciplinary action if they criticise govt, or “like” such criticisms on social media

US Government department tells staff to not use term ‘climate change, A PUBLIC sector department has told employees to cease using the term ‘climate change’ and opt for other more benign words insteadBenedict Brook@BenedictBrook, , 8 Aug 17, ….

While Australian public sector staff have not been told what to say, they have been warned what they’re allowed to like or say on social media.

On Monday, it emerged that public servants who criticised the government on Facebook or Twitter could face disciplinary action.

If they “like” or share a Facebook post critical of the government, they could find themselves in hot water — even if they select the “angry face” reaction.

Government employees could also be in breach of the public service code of conduct for material they send in a private email, or for failing to remove “nasty comments” posted by other people to their social media pages.

The new social media guidelines, published on Monday by the Australian Public Service Commission, reinforce that while APS employees “have the right to participate in public and political debate”, it is “not an unlimited right”.

“If you ‘like’ something on a social media platform, it will generally be taken to be an endorsement of that material as though you’d created that material yourself,” the guidelines read.

Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, described the new policy as “overreach”, saying it “clearly does not strike the right balance between giving our community faith in the Commonwealth public service and allowing people who work in public services to undertake normal, everyday activity in a democracy”.

August 9, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Who will guard Peter Dutton’s guardians?

Peter Dutton’s home affairs ministry will investigate itself for corruption, The Age,  Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker 22 July 17  In his almost four years as Justice Minister, Michael Keenan has not once requested that the commission hold public hearings to examine corruption – a move guaranteeing the agency’s virtually non-existent public profile.

Fairfax Media is aware of several major investigations under way into the integrity of people or operations within agencies set to form part of Mr Dutton’s new super-ministry. These investigations are being conducted behind closed doors by the integrity commission and the federal police.

The creation of Home Affairs means that the Australian Federal Police will now come under the same departmental umbrella as the people and agencies they are investigating in partnership with the integrity commission.

 Experts warn the arrangement risks putting such integrity probes even further out of the public eye.

“Institutionally it is a weakness. The arrangements should be such that this is not an option,” says Australian National University security expert John Blaxland.  Professor Blaxland has been critical of the proposed Home Affairs ministry because it may reduce the “high degree of healthy contestability” between agencies, which sees the AFP eager to scrutinise Border Force, and vice versa, when necessary. This is disputed by senior officials.

What is incontestable is that since its inception in 2006, the integrity commission has not held a single public hearing into any of the agencies it oversees: the AFP, the Criminal Intelligence Commission, Border Force and the Immigration Department.

Due to a lack of resources, Australia’s least-known corruption fighting body relies on one of the agencies it oversees, the AFP, to actually carry out its major investigations.  …….

July 22, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Militarisation of Australia’s police?

If Turnbull’s plan becomes law – and the prospects of the Opposition stopping anything to do with ‘fighting terrorism’ are remote – we can expect a terrorist attack to trigger an emergency response from the Special Operations Command, whose officers will have to be trained to shoot to kill other Australians.  

As Australia becomes increasingly militarised, it is possible that the Tactical Assault Group could be called out for an anti-war demonstration, anti-mining protest, or industrial strike, and may be told that the people it confronts are enemies of the state and therefore terrorists. It makes me think of those signs you see on American suburban lawns: ‘Beware, Armed Response.’

ALISON BROINOWSKI. Beware, armed response. 19 July 2017  


Now that we have concrete bollards in Martin Place and Swanston Street and on Capital Hill, as well as fences to stop citizens strolling or rolling over the Parliament House grass, you’d think that in exchange for the aesthetic damage inflicted on us we must be safe. After all, Australia has had only five fatal terrorist attacks since the mysterious Hilton Hotel bombing in 1978. The risks we face from lightning strikes, sharks and crocodiles, or indeed bee-stings and falling furniture, are incomparably greater.

But terrorism is serious political business and once the threat of an attack is officially listed as ‘probable’, no government is brave enough to reduce it. Politicians have to be seen to be responding robustly to the danger. Continue reading

July 21, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, safety | Leave a comment

Maralinga nuclear compensation cases blocked by Bob Hawke when PM

text-from-the-archivesHawke government schemed to stymie Maralinga nuclear test compensation, cabinet documents reveal  PETER JEAN POLITICAL REPORTER THE ADVERTISER JAN 1, 2015  THE statute of limitations was invoked by the Hawke Government to prevent hundreds of compensation actions being pursued in court by veterans of British nuclear tests in Australia.

Government documents from 1988 and 1989 released by the National Archives of Australia reveal that cabinet decided to try and invoke time-limit rules to fight court compensation actions launched after 1988. Continue reading

December 9, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, history, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UN human rights expert finds that Australian government has lost trust of civil society

flag-UN.highly-recommendedAustralian Government must re-build trust of civil society – UN human rights expert, CANBERRA / GENEVA (18 October 2016) – United Nations independent expert Michel Forst today called on the Government of Australia to urgently dispel civil society’s growing concerns about the combined ‘chilling effect’ of its recent laws, policies and actions constraining the rights of  human rights defenders.

“I was astonished to observe mounting evidence of a range of cumulative measures that have concurrently levied enormous pressure on Australian civil society,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at the end of his first fact-finding visit* to the country.

Recognizing Australia’s traditional safeguards of constitutional democracy, rule of law and free media, Mr Forst noted that his initial expectation from his official visit was to “encounter only laudable implementation of the State’s obligations under international human rights laws, aimed at ensuring a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders.”

Instead, the expert found a number of detrimental measures which include a growing body of statutory laws, both at the federal and state levels, constraining the rights of defenders. “They have ranged from intensifying secrecy laws to proliferating anti-protest laws, from the stifling Border Force Act to the ‘Standing’ bill shrinking environmental access to courts,” Mr. Forst specified.

“Those laws have not only accentuated the disparity between Government’s declared commitments at the international forums and their implementation within the country,” he noted. “They have also aggravated the situation following the drastic defunding of peak bodies by the Government, following their advocacy or litigation on such topical issues as immigration, security, environment and land rights protection.” Continue reading

October 19, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Government MPs push for stifling environmental protests

civil-liberty-2smMinisters push for laws to make it harder for greenies to mount environmental challenges on major developments,  June 6, 2016  Steven Scott The Courier-Mail SENIOR Government ministers are planning to ramp up pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to make it harder for green groups to challenge major developments.

The Courier-Mail can reveal several senior MPs have already canvassed options to discourage legal challenges to projects such as mines and dams, including by imposing time limits on appeals.

Mr Turnbull will face increased pressure from his own MPs should he win the July 2 election. Ministers have discussed ways to make it easier for courts to impose costs orders against funders of court cases, to prevent green groups using shelf organisations to limit their financial risk.

The move would revive ­former prime minister Tony ­Abbott’s controversial plans to restrict environmental ­challenges.

Mr Abbott wanted to change the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to limit green groups’ challenges after the Mackay Conservation Group last year used the law to hold up the approval of Adani’s ­central Queensland mine.

The plan is still Coalition policy but it has been quietly shelved because there was not enough support to pass the changes through the Senate and some ministers held concerns about the proposed changes……

June 6, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australian environment groups unite to oppose govt plans to cut their charitable status

election Australia 2016Federal election 2016: climate survey fires up green council of war Graham Lloyd THE AUSTRALIAN MAY 17, 2016  Peak environment groups have prepared a co-ordinated election blueprint on climate change, the Great Barrier Reef and fossil fuels, staring down threats to cut the charitable status of organisations that play politics.

The groups, including Greenpeace, WWF, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society, have spent the past fortnight planning a strategy against the background of a parliamentary report that set out a road map to punish critics of the government and resource industry.

Established by ­Environment Minister Greg Hunt, it recommended groups be ­required to spend 25 per cent of fundraising on tree planting and land repair or lose tax-deductible status. It also said organisations should be made ­liable for illegal ­actions of members, supporters or volunteers.

The lower house committee recommendations were not supported by Labor members and the report included a dissenting statement from Liberal member Jason Wood. Mr Wood listed potential cas­ualties, including Beyond Zero Emissions, Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Environment Vic­to­ria, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace Australia, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, The Wilderness Society, EDOs of Australia, Australian Orangutan Project and Environmental Justice Australia.

Wilderness Society national campaign manager Lyndon Schneiders said: “They are also saying to a bunch of rednecks that they will deal with environment groups’ campaigns against controversial oil and gas projects.”

Former Greens leader Bob Brown said making groups res­ponsible for the actions of members and volunteers “would be right at home in Vladimir Putin’s Russia”. Climate Change organisation said the recommendations were anti-democratic and “an unnecessary witch-hunt”.

The Wilderness Society said it made more sense to spend money lobbying to stop trees being cut down that to replant them……

May 18, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, election 2016 | Leave a comment

High Court challenge to Tasmania’s controversial anti-protester laws

here are environment ministers Groom and Hunt backing the arrest and punishment of Australians who make a modest stand for threatened species that they, the ministers, should be protecting.

In an age of the accelerating and irreversible destruction of our Earth’s biosphere, the untoward and often unseen influence of its exploiters is eroding Australia’s time-honoured rights to peaceful protest.

It was inevitable that somewhere, some time, some citizens would face the repressive Tasmanian laws. That stand has now been made among the stately ferns of Lapoinya and will move to the High Court of Australia where the consequences are enormous for every environmental, social, cultural and Indigenous issue in Australia’s future

Bob Brown’s arrest in Lapoinya under new anti-protestor laws, The Saturday Paper, BOB BROWN, 19 Mar 16  A Brown,Bob follows their use to arrest conservationists in the Lapoinya forest. “…….The logging at Lapoinya torpedoed any hope Forestry Tasmania had of winning Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, the internationally recognised green accreditation increasingly sought by global markets. FSC depends on respectful relationships with local communities………

Through all of this, the nation’s most powerful potential guardians of Australia’s forests and threatened species, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the federal minister for the environment, Greg Hunt, failed to lift a finger.

The right to protest under threat

In Australia, the option of choice for setting back conservation is the strangling of environmental protest. As the resource-extraction industries come under fire for increasing encroachments on farmland and places of high natural or cultural heritage value, a key strategy is to have governments outlaw effective political protest…….. Continue reading

March 19, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, Tasmania | Leave a comment

New South Wales Parliament passes anti-protest laws

civil-liberty-2smAnti-protest laws giving police greater powers pass NSW parliament

Anti-coal seam gas protesters could be jailed for seven years under laws described as a ‘crackdown on democratic rights’ Trespassing anti-coal seam gas advocates face heavier fines and greater jail sentences with tough new anti-protest laws passing through NSW parliament.

With the support of the Shooters and Fishers party and Christian Democrat Fred Nile, the controversial legislation was passed 20-16 in the upper house on Wednesday after minor amendments to the original proposal.

The bill gives police greater powers to search without a warrant, seize items and move protesters on, while fines for illegal entry to mining and CSG sites have increased tenfold from $550 to $5500.

Anti-CSG protesters who interfere with gas sites – including those who chain themselves to machinery – will also be exposed to a maximum jail sentence of seven years.

The Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, who along with Labor voted against the legislation, condemned the changes as a “jackboot police crackdown on democratic rights”.

The Labor MP Adam Searle also spoke out against the bill’s “sinister” provisions.

“This legislation strikes at the heart of a fundamental aspect of our society – the right to peacefully protest,” he told parliament during hours of fierce debate.

But the premier, Mike Baird, defended the legislation, saying he didn’t believe it was too harsh.

“It’s quite simple, peaceful protests are fine,” Baird said. “Anyone that wants to disrupt a business or ultimately act illegally and puts the lives of themselves and others at risk, well we’ve put these measures in and I think it’s appropriate.”

About 500 protesters shut down a part of Sydney’s CBD to rally against the proposed changes on Tuesday.

A Reachtel poll commissioned by the NSW Nature Conservation Council this week also showed 61.4% of people opposed increasing police powers and fines for protest action.

The NSW Law Society said lawyers were concerned the legislation could seriously interfere with people’s human rights liberties.

Meanwhile, the NSW Unions movement says it’s considering launching a high court challenge against the laws.

March 17, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Draconian anti-protest laws for New South Wales?

The proposed protest laws would give police new powers to break up protests, to search and destroy private property. If police say just one person obstructs traffic, they can shut down an entire peaceful assembly.

This is a slippery slope that gives police discretion to silence dissent and could turn NSW into a police state. Far from being a moderate, Baird is taking NSW down the sad road of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland.

The laws will allow police to arrest anyone carrying or operating anything the police think will be used in a protest. Police would be able to arrest you and confiscate and destroy your car, for example, if they think it will be used to disrupt business in a protest. What has happened to the presumption of innocence?

Protesters could be fined more for opposing illegal mining activity than miners could for operating illegally.

civil-liberty-2smMike Baird’s anti-protest laws risk turning NSW into Bjelke-Petersen’s Queenslan  March 15 2016  Naomi Hodgson

*Poll: More than 60 per cent of voters opposed Mining protesters could face seven years’ jail

*Freedom of speech and freedom of association are cornerstones of democracy. Continue reading

March 16, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, New South Wales | Leave a comment

High Court challenge to Tasmania’s anti protest laws – by Bob Brown

Brown,BobBob Brown challenges Tasmania’s anti-protest laws in High Court ABC News 9 Mar 16 Former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has issued a High Court challenge to the Tasmanian Government’s anti-protest laws.

The legislation which passed Parliament in 2014 allows for on-the-spot fines and tougher penatlities for repeat offenders.

Mr Brown and a number of others were arrested and charged in January, under the new laws, for protesting against the logging of Lapoinya Forest in Tasmania’s north west.

He issued the High Court challenge on the grounds the laws were contrary to the implied freedom of speech on government and political matters under the Australian constitution.

“I know that a challenge in the High Court can be a very expensive thing but I also know that a lot of people are worried about this legislation and the spread of it in other states,” he said.

“The laws will, if not challenged, trap everybody who wants to take a stand against something that’s manifestly wrong going on in our country.” Mr Brown said the Tasmanian Government promised the laws were not aimed at “mum and dad” protesters.

But he said “first up, they trapped a young mother and nurse who grew up in the Lapoinya area and a local grandfather”.

Hobart solicitor Roland Brown said the High Court challenge was a test case.

“This case is unusual because it’s seeking to have made invalid, or declared invalid, legislation that targets people’s political belief and their opinion in relation to environmental, social, cultural and economic factors,” he said………

March 11, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, Tasmania | Leave a comment

Australian Senate passes motion calling on Western Australia to drop Anti-Protest Law

Federal Senate Urges WA Parliament To Drop Anti-Protest Law, New Matilda, By Thom civil-liberty-2smMitchell on February 24, 2016 The Federal Senate has passed a motion calling on the West Australian government to abandon “divisive and unnecessary” anti-protest laws which have been strongly condemned by the United Nations.

The motion, introduced by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert and passed on the voices, adds to a long list of institutions and individuals who are concerned about what Colin Barnett’s government is proposing.

Last week three separate United Nations Special Rapporteurs issued a joint statement condemning the anti-protest laws, saying it would have the “chilling affect of silencing dissenters”.

“It would go against Australia’s international obligations under international human rights law, including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression as well as peaceful assembly and association,” the three Special Rapporteurs said.

Hundreds of people protested against the bill at the West Australian Parliament yesterday, and a coalition of more than 80 community organisations, legal centres, and unions have signed an open letter opposing the bill. The Federal Senate this afternoon noted “the important role public protest and free speech have played, and continue to play in a healthy democratic society”. However that role may be dramatically curtailed by the time West Australia’s Parliament adjourns tonight.

The bill is being progressed in the lower house of the state Parliament this afternoon, having moved through the upper house last week.

The legislation will inevitably pass, because the Barnett Government controls both houses, but it faced nearly a year of staunch opposition from Labor and the Greens.

The anti-protest law creates two new criminal offences. Under the first, it will become illegal to physically and intentionally prevent a lawful activity being carried out. And under the second, it will become illegal to possess with the intent of using, or to use a “thing” to prevent a lawful activity.

On top of this extremely broad drafting, there is concern that the onus of proof is reversed for both new offences. The President of the West Australian Law Society, Mathew Keogh has previously said that the bill “may erode fundamental aspects of our criminal justice system”.

“The legislation is so broad that it is almost impossible to say how they may be applied down the track,” he said……..

Senator Siewart takes a different view, arguing “were it not for peaceful protest, awful projects such as James Price Point would have gone ahead”.

“The anti-protest laws that Colin Barnett is pushing through State Parliament attacks free speech, public protest and a healthy democratic society,” Siewart said.

“I urge Colin Barnett to consider the calls of the Senate, as well as the United Nations, and abandon these divisive and unnecessary laws,” she said.

February 27, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, politics, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Civil liberties under threat in Western Australia. UN urges WA govt to withdraw anti protest Bill

flag-UN.civil-liberty-2smUN urges WA Government not to bring in anti-protest laws, ABC News, By Briana Shepherd, 16 Feb 16  The United Nations has called on the West Australian Government to withdraw controversial new legislation that imposes harsh penalties on protesters.

The proposed laws were first introduced into Parliament in March 2015, and the Government insists it will only target radical protesters using devices like chains or thumb locks to block or stop lawful activities.

But the UN said it would “result in criminalising lawful protests and silencing environmentalists and human rights defenders”.

“If the bill passes, it would go against Australia’s international obligations under international human rights law, including the rights to freedom of opinion and expression as well as peaceful assembly and association,” the UN Human Rights Office said in a statement.

“The bill would criminalise a wide range of legitimate conduct by creating criminal offences for the acts of physically preventing a lawful activity and possessing an object for the purpose of preventing a lawful activity.

 “For example, peaceful civil disobedience and any non-violent direct action could be characterised as ‘physically preventing a lawful activity’.” Under the proposed legislation, an offence would carry serious penalties of imprisonment of one year and a fine of $12,000.

If the offence was committed in circumstances of aggravation, the penalty could be as high as imprisonment for two years and a fine of $24,000. Continue reading

February 17, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, Western Australia | Leave a comment

Tasmanian Greens stick up for civil liberties, and the right to protest

greensSmProtest laws under fire as Greens to attempt to have legislation banished from statute books February 15, 2016 THE Greens will launch a bid to overturn the state’s anti-protest legislation, which they say is being used to stifle the democratic right to protest.

Acknowledging the attempt had little chance of success in the Liberal-dominated State Parliament, Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the legislation needed to be overturned

Ms O’Connor said the legislation — which carries maximum fines of $10,000 and mandatory jail terms for repeat offenders — was being used against citizens protesting logging operations in the Lapoinya Forest — contrary to government promises about its intent.

“In recent weeks up at Lapoinya up in North West Tasmania, we’ve seen the Government’s draconian anti-protest legislation actually target the very people that Paul Harriss said it wouldn’t — mum and dad protesters.

“This Bill is not only highly political and draconian it is unnecessary — there is already legislation in Tasmania for trespass and public nuisance and we want to see this Bill banished from the statue books. “I believe this law will not remain on the statue books in Tasmania forever. It may be subject to a High Court challenge. It really has no place in a civil and democratic society like ours.”

Tasmanian spokesperson for Civil Liberties Australia. Rajan Venkataraman, said the Bill was a severe infringement on the right to peaceful protest. “The provisions in this Act are quite unique to Tasmania,” he said.

“Around most jurisdictions in Australia and indeed many countries around the world, they have provisions regarding trespass and public nuisance and certainly violent protest … but this kind of Act specifically targets protesters and specifically peaceful protesters. “The offences created by the Act and the penalties imposed are extreme and not in proportion to penalties imposed under other statutes, even for quite serious and violent offences.”

Resources Minister Paul Harriss dismissed opposition to the laws.

“It says a lot about the Greens that at a time when the state is a facing a number of serious challenges, they are most concerned about changing the law to allow their mates to try to stop others from lawfully harvesting a regrowth forest.”

February 15, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, politics, Tasmania | Leave a comment