Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Their skin colour is not fair, they have a 'foreign' name - what could possibly go wrong for these travellers during the Trump Regime?

Hassan Aden
Details of my CBP Detention at JFK Int. Airport:
After spending a lovely weekend in Paris celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday, I happily boarded my flight to return to the United States-something I have done countless times for 42 years after becoming a U.S. citizen. I had an enjoyable flight to New York’s JFK International Airport. On all of my prior trips, I was greeted by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers with a warm smile and the usual, “Welcome home sir”. Not this time. I approached CBP Officer Chow who didn’t say anything when I handed him my passport and looked at me with a gruff expression and simply stated, “are you traveling alone?”, I knew this was a sign of trouble, I answered “yes”, he then said, “Let’s take a walk”.
I was taken to a back office which looked to be a re-purposed storage facility with three desks and signs stating, “Remain seated at all times” and “Use of telephones strictly prohibited” - my first sign that this was not a voluntary situation and, in fact, a detention. By this point I had informed CBP Officer Chow, the one that initially detained me, that I was a retired police chief and a career police officer AND a US citizen-he stated that he had no control over the circumstance and that it didn’t matter what my occupation was. He handed my passport off to another CBP officer who was working at one of the desks. The second CBP officer was indeed kind and appreciated the fact that I was a career police officer and tried to be helpful. He explained that my name was used as an alias by someone on some watch list. He stated that he sent my information to another agency to de-conflict and clear me, so that I could gain passage into the United States….my own country!!!
As I sat in the CBP detention center, numerous, at least 25, foreign nationals were also brought in and quickly released, their detentions were reasonable and appropriate, maybe 5 or so minutes while their passports were checked. I pointed out the irony of this fact to the CBP officer that was attempting to “clear me for entry”. I told him, as he avoided eye contact, how wrong this scenario was that the only US citizen, career US police officer and chief of police, out of the group of detainees, was the one with the longest unreasonable detention- I was held for an hour and a half. I asked several times, “how long of a detention do you consider to be reasonable?”, the answer I was given by CBP Officer Chow was that I was not being detained-he said that with a straight face. I then replied, “But I’m not free to leave-how is that not a detention?” I was in a room with no access to my mobile phone to communicate with my wife and family about what was happening, my movements were restricted to a chair and they had my passport………and he had the audacity to tell me I was not being detained. His ignorance of the law and the Fourth Amendment should disqualify him from being able to wear a CBP badge - but maybe fear and detention is the new mission of the CBP and the Constitution is a mere suggestion. I certainly was not free to leave. As former law enforcement, believe me, I agree that if certain criteria is met, a reasonable investigative detention is not inappropriate-the key here being “reasonable”.
As I continued to sit in the CBP makeshift Detention Center, watching numerous foreign nationals enter my country while I couldn’t, I began thinking about my numerous trips abroad -including five in the past year (all prior to inauguration) - with no problems upon my return and complete with the warm greeting of “Welcome home”.
Fortunately, a CBP officer that had just started her shift took interest in my situation and began to inquire with the “other agency” that was reviewing my information-she aggressively asked them for status updates and eventually called me over to tell me that I was cleared to enter the United States of America. I promptly thanked her and filled her in on how impactful this situation was-she apologized and I was on my way after an hour and a half detention.
I spent nearly 30 years serving the public in law enforcement. Since I retired as the Chief of Police in Greenville, NC, I founded a successful consulting firm that is involved in virtually every aspect of police and criminal justice reform. I interface with high level U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Court officials almost daily. Prior to this administration, I frequently attended meetings at the White House and advised on national police policy reforms-all that to say that If this can happen to me, it can happen to anyone with attributes that can be “profiled”. No one is safe from this type of unlawful government intrusion.
As I left the CBP makeshift detention center, I had to go back through security to catch my next flight back to DC, ironically, due to my weekly air travel, I have TSA Pre-check and was whisked through security without a hitch and made my flight by minutes.
This experience has left me feeling vulnerable and unsure of the future of a country that was once great and that I proudly called my own. This experience makes me question if this is indeed home. My freedoms were restricted, and I cannot be sure it won’t happen again, and that it won’t happen to my family, my children, the next time we travel abroad. This country now feels cold, unwelcoming, and in the beginning stages of a country that is isolating itself from the rest of the world - and its own people - in an unprecedented fashion. High levels of hate and injustice have been felt in vulnerable communities for decades-it is now hitting the rest of America.
I have contacted my US senators, and my contacts at the NYT and other media sources to continue to tell the story of what is happening in the United States of America.

Jamaica Observer, 20 March 2017:
HOUSTON, Texas — A Jamaican woman was whisked back to the island and her visa revoked after she arrived at the William P Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas, on Wednesday night.
The woman’s family sought answers from United States media outlet KHOU 11 News, which aired their story.
Veronica Gaubault, who was sent back to Jamaica, told the Houston media that US Customs and Border Protection revoked her visa after agents inspected (CBP) her iPhone, iPad and other belongings.
Her cousin, paediatrician Kareen Smith, said she waited for approximately four hours before customs agents told her that Gaubault would not be allowed to enter the country.
“[They] just decided they were not going to let her in,” she told KHOU 11 News.
“It is important to note that issuance of a visa or a visa waiver does not guarantee entry,” a statement from the US Customs and Border Protection said, adding that “a CBP officer at the port of entry will conduct an inspection to determine if the individual is eligible for admission into the US”.
When asked why the woman’s belongings were searched, they said it was for “administrative causes”, KHOU 11 News reported.
Smith said text conversations between her and Gaubault were also scrutinised.
“She visits me, she visits other family we have in New York or Florida, and she goes home,” Smith said. “She never overstays her time. She always honours her visa and, for some reason, this is the first time she’s been denied.”

The Huffington Post, 7 March 2017:
A Muslim Canadian woman says she was turned away at the United States border after a lengthy interrogation on her religion and thoughts on President Donald Trump.
"I felt humiliated, treated as if I was less than nothing,” Fadwa Alaoui told CBC News on Wednesday.
Alaoui was travelling to Burlington, Vt. to do some shopping with her cousin and two children. The Canadian citizen was born in Morocco and has been in Quebec for 20 years, according to La Presse…..
Border agents took Alaoui and her cousin’s cellphones and asked for the passwords. She was asked questions almost exclusively about her Islamic practice, as well as whether she knew any victims killed in the deadly shooting spree at a Quebec City mosque…..
When border agents asked what she thought of Trump, Alaoui said she responded that he can do what he wants in his own country.
The group was fingerprinted and sent on their way after four hours.

The Star, 6 March 2017:
MONTREAL— A Montrealer who is a Canadian citizen by birth says she was barred from entering the United States and told to get a valid visa if she ever wants to cross the border.
Manpreet Kooner said she was turned away at a crossing along the Quebec-Vermont border on Sunday after a six-hour wait where she was fingerprinted, photographed and questioned before being refused.
She said she was told she was an immigrant without a valid U.S. visa.
Kooner, 30, is of Indian descent and was born in Montreal to parents who came to Canada from India in the 1960s and have lived in the same LaSalle district duplex for decades.
There have been several reports of Canadians encountering issues at the U.S. border, including a Canadian Muslim woman from Quebec who believes she was denied entry because of her religion.
Kooner said she’s perplexed given she was travelling on a Canadian passport and has no criminal record.
The only issue she had was a computer glitch that prevented her from crossing into New York state for 24 hours in December.
Kooner didn’t think much of that snafu until Sunday when she was stopped at Highgate Springs as she was travelling with two white girlfriends.
Her friends were not questioned but she was asked about the December incident.
“At the end of it, they told me I was not allowed going in and that I would need a visa if I ever went in the States again,” Kooner said.
Kooner claims the border agent told her, “I know you might feel like you’re being Trumped,” in reference to U.S. President Donald Trump — a statement she found odd.
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman said Monday the department can’t comment on individual admissibility inspections, but noted that possession of a valid travel document does not guarantee entry to the United States.
Asked how she feels, Kooner said, “Just so bad, I feel like I’ve done something wrong, like I’m a criminal or something, but I’m not.”
Kooner went to the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa, as suggested at the border, and was told the situation was “odd” and that a visa isn’t necessary for Canadians.
“Maybe there is no valid reason, maybe this is something that I can’t shake because I’m born like this,” Kooner said of her skin colour.
Her travel plans are up in the air: Kooner is supposed to go to a U.S. music festival at the end of March and her bachelorette in Miami in May.
“I’ve never had issues before, that’s the part that kills me,” Kooner said. “Now I’m just debating whether I should cancel.”

Artnet, 1 March 2017:
Juan Garcia Mosqueda, owner of the Chelsea design gallery Chamber NYC, was inexplicably denied entry to the US on Friday after a trip to his native Argentina, according to an open letter he titled “The Visible Wall” and shared with friends and colleagues yesterday.
Mosqueda, who was sent back to Argentina, explains the “dehumanizing and degrading” experience he was subjected to at the border, including being questioned under oath, denied legal counsel, held without food for 14 hours, prohibited from using any means of communication, and denied privacy when using the bathroom.
His belongings—which he could not access while kept in holding—were searched, and his legal documents were kept from him until he arrived back in Buenos Aires. He was escorted onto the plane by armed officers.
“This thirty-six hour nightmare is nothing but clear evidence of a deeply flawed immigration system in the United States, carried out by an administration that is more interested in expelling people than admitting them,“ he writes.
The curator and gallerist explains he has been a legal resident of the US for ten years, as a student, employee, and proprietor.
“Although I am not an American citizen, Chamber is an American product that I hope adds to the cultural landscape of the country,” he writes….
This is just one of many cases of non-US citizens, even with proper visas or green cards, being turned away at the US border under Trump’s travel restrictions, which came in the form of an executive order in January, and were subsequently blocked by a federal judge in Washington state.
Mosqueda’s case, however, is, on the surface, particularly baffling. Under the initial order, travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, and Yemen—were banned from entering the US. A revised version, set to be introduced this week, bans travelers from all the aforementioned except Iraq, as well as the temporary suspension of all foreign refugees. Legal residents of the US should not be barred under the order.

Australian Attorney-General Senator George Henry 'Soapy' Brandis finally obeys the court

For these reasons I consider that the decision communicated to the applicant by letter dated 13 June 2014 that a practical refusal reason exists because the work involved in processing the request(s) would substantially and unreasonably interfere with the performance of the Attorney-General’s functions should be set aside and, in lieu thereof, I decide that no practical refusal reason under s 24 of the FOI Act exists in relation to the request(s), with the consequence that the request(s) are required to be processed in accordance with the FOI Act. [Dreyfus  and Attorney-General (Commonwealth of Australia) (Freedom of information) [2015] AATA 995 , 22 December 2015]

With Australia’s British High Commissioner Alexander Downer not due to step down his post until around April 2018 and no other acceptable option to mothball the Attorney-General in sight, I fear that Australian voters will have to put up with the undistinguished legal mind Senator George Henry ‘Soapy’ Brandis until at least the next federal general election due sometime between August 2018 and May 2019.

Right now he is probably acting like a bear with a sore head in the corridors of power as, once he was forced to obey legal judgment, his diary entries appear to confirm that he never bothered to consult with any legal assistance services before he took a razor to government funding to that sector.

The Guardian, 20 March 2017:

George Brandis has finally released his ministerial diary and it shows no evidence he met with anyone working in the community legal sector before their funding was cut in the 2014 budget.
He handed his electronic diary to Mark Dreyfus, the shadow attorney general, late on Friday.
It took three years for him to release his diary after Dreyfus made his original freedom of information request.
The move came a week after Dreyfus threatened Brandis that he would push for contempt of court proceedings if Brandis did not release the diary immediately.
“Three years since the original freedom of information (FoI) request was made, and thousands of taxpayer dollars later – George Brandis has finally handed over his diary,” Dreyfus said on Monday.
“While the capitulation represents a victory for common sense, transparency and the principles of FoI, it is also ridiculous that it took such lengths to force the attorney general to comply with an act that sits within his own portfolio.
“In order for the attorney general to fulfil a simple request, it has taken an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, a hearing in the full court of the federal court, and the threat of contempt.
“It is absurd, and it shows once more Senator Brandis’s unsuitability for the role of attorney general and his contempt for the rule of law.
Labor has been seeking Brandis’s diary since February 2014 to discover what consultation he held before cuts to his portfolio in the 2014 budget.
Dreyfus lodged an FoI request to inspect Brandis’ electronic diary from September 2013 to May 2014.
The Labor frontbencher has had a string of legal wins, with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal rejecting Brandis’s refusal of the request in December 2015 and finding it had to be processed. In September 2016 a full federal court decision upheld the tribunal’s ruling.
But less than two weeks ago, Dreyfus’s lawyers wrote to the Australian government solicitor accusing Brandis of “continued avoidance of his obligation to process” the FoI request because he still hadn’t released his diary.
The letter said that Brandis had had six months since the full federal court decision to process the request but “has continued to behave in a manner that is contemptuous” of the decision and the FoI Act.
It threatened if Brandis did not process the request by 20 March, Labor would seek a court order to set a deadline for the attorney general, after which it could begin contempt of court proceedings.
“No explanation for this delay has ever been proffered nor have we been given any reasons why the application has not been processed,” the letter said.
On Monday, Dreyfus said the saga – which cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars – had been a “monumental waste of everyone’s time”.
“What a waste of of taxpayers’ money, of public servants’ time, of the court’s time just because of – apparently – the attorney general’s vanity,” he told ABC radio.
He said it was notable there was no evidence in the diary that Brandis had met with legal assistance services, including Environmental Defenders Offices and Community Legal Centres, before cutting their funding in 2014.
In September 2014 the Productivity Commission found that the federal and governments needed to inject an extra $200 million a year into legal assistance centres to better align the means test, maintain existing frontline services and broaden the scope of legal assistance services; with the majority of funding being the responsibility of the federal government.

Instead the Attorney-General has insisted on cutting funding wherever he could and the fight continues with deans of law schools joining in the push back against Brandis:
On his part Brandis denies the funding cuts and attempts to blame the former Labor federal government (which has not been in power for the last three annual budgets) as well as the states, in his speech to the Bar Association of Queensland Annual Conference on 25 March 2017:

"I've been asked this morning to say a few words about federal matters so I thought I'd take the opportunity to address a matter which I know has been of much interest to the Bar, and which was averted to briefly by the state Attorney and that is the question of the Federal Government's contribution to legal assistance funding. We should never forget that most court proceedings in Australia are conducted in state and territory courts under state and territory law. Appropriately, therefore, it is the governments of the states and territories which are the principal funders of legal assistance in Australia. That is as it should be, even acknowledging, of course, that a very large component of the budgets of state and territory governments is money provided to them by the Commonwealth Government under various Commonwealth grants.

Nevertheless, federal governments of both political persuasions have always acknowledged that there is an important role for the Commonwealth to play in supporting the states in the provision of legal assistance through direct payments to Legal Aid Commissions, to Community Legal Centres, and to Indigenous legal assistance bodies.

With that in mind, I note that in the recent past there have been a number of statements made about the size of the Commonwealth's contribution to the legal assistance sector.

So let me take the opportunity with these remarks this morning to put some facts on the table.

First, to date, there have been no cuts to payments to Community Legal Centres by the Commonwealth Government. It has been claimed by some that the Government is withdrawing $6.8 million annually. That claim is misleading.

That money, to which the state Attorney also referred, was money provided for under a four year program, announced by the previous federal government in the 2013 budget, which was deliberately designed to terminate on 30 June 2017. When that program terminates that money will no longer be available. This is what is being called by some - the "Dreyfus funding cliff".

In spite of those, and other claims, the reality of competing funding priorities and the necessity for budget repair across Government should not obscure the significant support that the Commonwealth provides and to which we are committed to continue to provide."


The Guardian, 27 March 2017:

The fight for adequate funding for community legal centres stretches back to 2013. When the Abbott government was elected in September 2013, it used its first mid-year budget update to cut $43.1m for legal assistance services over four years, including $19.6m from community legal centres.

Six months later, in its 2014-15 budget, it cut another $6m from CLCs.

A month later it made one-off grants worth $1.55m to just 14 CLCs. Then in March 2015, following intense community pressure, it reversed some of its 2013-14 budget update cuts, reinstating $12m in funding over two years for the sector.

A few months later, in mid-2015, it signed a new five-year national partnership agreement on legal assistance services. The agreement provided Australia’s 189 community legal centres with $42.2m funding in 2016-17, but that funding drops to $30.1m in 2017-­18, $30.6m in 2018-­19, and $31m in 2019-­20.

The reduction in funding levels from 2016-­17 amounts to $34.83m over three years, 30% of CLC funding.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Australia Card Mark 3: Surprise! Without justification we will be collecting biometric data to create one centralised identity for each and every one of you and we will be retaining your metadata for an indefinite period at our discretion

The Turnbull Government received the Commonwealth Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) preliminary report, Initial Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for the Trusted Digital Identity Framework (TDIF) Alpha, in December 2016.

The origin of this particular digital identity proposal was a recommendation by the Financial System Inquiry set up by then Treasurer Joe Hockey in December 2015, with an inquiry committee dominated by representatives of banks and the financial services sector.

This preliminary Privacy Impact Assessment is the latest step in establishing a single digital identity for each and every Australian citizen, with all the same privacy and security risks as the formerly proposed Australia Card and Access Card.

It is proposed that an individual’s digital identity information will initially be made available to federal government departments/agencies and later to state government departments/agencies that apply to join the TDIF.

As yet there is no underlying legal authority for the Trusted Digital Identity Framework, much of the security arrangements for this framework are apparently not yet developed and a full independent risk assessment has either not been completed to date or is not publicly available.

Cross-border data transfers of personal information held on Australian citizens may occur under this framework.

It is expected that complaints and correction requests may cause some difficulties in the TDIF because multiple participants may each hold part of the relevant data and responsibility for dealing with complaints and corrections may be difficult to determine.

On 24 March 2017 The Canberra Times reported:

The federal government is experimenting with a system that would allow Australians to use selfies to log onto Centrelink, Medicare and other Commonwealth services.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's digital re-invention agency is designing a system that would use "bio-metric" facial recognition technology to allow easy log-ins while protecting accounts from identity thieves.

The Digital Transformation Agency insists that no collection or data base of images would be built, the system would be voluntary and the strictest privacy safeguards would be in place.

But privacy activists are worried the idea is simply a high-tech version of the unpopular "Australia card" plan, resurrected more than 20 years after the national ID scheme was dumped.

The government is determined to improve to access to its services online, to save time and money, and to step-up the automation of many of its core activities, particularly in the expensive health and welfare sectors.

But security and privacy has been a huge issues, with many of the problems associated with the much-maligned myGov portal put down to the complex and glitch-prone log-in protocols……

A user of the proposed new system, after establishing their account, would log-in by scanning their traditional forms of ID and as a fail-safe against hacker and identity thieves, take a selfie and upload it from their mobile, tablet or computer.

Central [to] the architecture of the scheme would be an online "identity exchange", a portal that would confirm to a government agency, Centrelink for example, that a user's identity had been verified and cleared to use their account but would not supply the photo or any other data used to make the confirmation.

But talks with "stakeholders" including state and federal privacy authorities as well as online privacy campaigners, have begun to reveal the full complexity of the privacy problems facing the TDIF.

Many of those consulted were surprised they had not already heard of such a game-changing project  and questioned the motivation for the decision.

"Stakeholders queried whether due consideration had been given to the failure of previous centralised models in the Commonwealth identity field, such as the Australia Card and the Access Card," Galexia reported.

There were worries that various parts of the system "would obtain, over time, a large and rich source of personal data that will be attractive to third parties for surveillance...or subject to external attack (e.g. hackers), and  or subject to accidental breach."

"The consequences of surveillance or a breach were likely to be significant," Galexia noted.

""Some stakeholders predicted that, over time, each [agency] would collect biometric information (photographs) and contribute to the development of a national data set of photographs.

"Although there is no intention to retain photographs in the TDIF, and they are destroyed as soon as a verified match has been made, stakeholders believed that 'it was only a matter of time' before the system was changed and photographs were retained and shared."

A prototype of the TDIF system is expected to be ready for testing in mid-2017….

Key stakeholders consulted sometime in October-November by Galexia Pty Ltd for its 5 December 2016 report:

Australia Post
Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)
Australian Privacy Foundation (APF)
Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection Victoria (CPDP)
Department of Finance, Services and Innovation NSW (DFSI)
Digital Rights Watch           
Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC)
Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)
Office of the Information Commissioner QLD (OIC)
Queensland Government Chief Information Office (QGCIO)
Queensland SmartService (Digital Productivity and Services Division)
Service NSW

According to Galexia on Page 27 of its report:

In the consultation conducted for this PIA, the following views were expressed on this issue:

* Stakeholders questioned where the decision had ‘come from’ as it appeared to take nearly all stakeholders by surprise;
* Stakeholders queried the link between the decision to establish a single Commonwealth IdP and the recommendations of the Murray Report (which in part endorses the development of multiple IdPs in order to foster competition, choice and innovation);
* Stakeholders queried whether due consideration had been given to the failure of previous centralised models in the Commonwealth identity field, such as the Australia Card and the Access Card. Although stakeholders recognised some differences between those proposals and the TDIF in relation to the overall framework and the Identity Exchange, they viewed the decision to establish a single Commonwealth IdP as a ‘throwback’ to those earlier proposals. Even after detailed discussions and explanation on the details of the TDIF most stakeholders still viewed the single Commonwealth IdP as an updated version of the Australia Card / Access Card;
* Stakeholders were strongly of the view that such an important and far-reaching decision should have been the subject of extensive community consultation and debate, with many stakeholders calling for a public discussion paper and / or legislation; and
* Almost all stakeholders struggled to see any justification for the establishment of a single IdP – a common question was “what is the problem that needs to be solved?”.

Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources seeks to place farm lands and water security in jeopardy

This man is the Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the National Party of Australia and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

Photograph found at The AIM Network

Member for New England Barnaby Joyce is also the same man who is irresponsibly calling for the dismantling of the already inadequate protections afforded rural and regional lands and water resources when coal seam gas miners move into a district.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has started dismantling Australia's sweeping ban on coal seam gas drilling, arguing a new scheme to divert a share of government royalties to farmers will overcome furious opposition in the bush.

Mr Joyce on Friday embraced a South Australian government plan to pay farmers 10 per cent of royalties in exchange for allowing gas wells on their land, saying the scheme should be rolled out nationally, with an exclusion of prime agricultural land.

The Agriculture Minister said lifting moratoriums and giving landholders a fair price in exchange for access would equate to "a substantial turnaround in attitude and that is a very good outcome".

"I can't see people who start making hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of dollars a year having a backlash," Mr Joyce told Fairfax Media.

"I think you'll probably find them onside."

Mr Joyce's comments could cause political problems in regional Australia and will be opposed by some MPs in the Coalition party room, where views about the environmental, social and electoral impacts of CSG remain mixed……

National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson said moratoriums were "blunt instruments" but still needed "because of the lack of confidence the community, including the farming community, have in the way governments have regulated the gas industry in the past".

"Until we have absolute confidence these concerns have been addressed, then moratoriums will be part of the response," she said.

But Joyce said excluding prime agricultural land and productive aquifers from exploration would address most concerns….

Ms Simson said the National Farmers Federation welcomed the South Australian plan to "adequately compensate" farmers, but said "it's never been just about the money".

"The two things we can't and won't compromise on is the secure access to water and land," she said.

NSW Resources Minister Don Harwin said the state gas plan "makes clear that landholders and communities will share in the benefits of gas development, and the government has already made legislative changes to deliver on this commitment."

Since July 2016 companies have been able to apply to establish a Community Benefits Fund from which individuals and organisations can apply for grants for community initiatives.

NSW landowners are also entitled to compensation under a land access agreement struck with a company wishing to drill on their land.

"Further compensation may be payable to landowners if there is any loss or damage resulting from exploration or production," Mr Harwin said.

But opponents say this is insufficient as landowners still have no right to refuse access.

NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham said of Mr Joyce's statement: "Barnaby hasn't got the message that farmers won't be bribed. Rural community know coal seam gas destroys land values".

This is what typical coal seam gas production wells, supporting infrastructure and access roads looks like on rural land.

ABC Four Corners, 3 April 2013

Look at the birdie. Smile!

Photograph by ABC News journalist Nick Wiggins

The Bush Stone-curlew, or Bush Thick-knee, is a large, slim, mainly nocturnal, ground-dwelling bird. It is mostly grey-brown above, streaked with black and rufous. It is whitish below with clear, vertical black streaks. The bill is small and black, and the eye is large and yellow, with a prominent white eyebrow. Both sexes are similar. Young Bush Stone-curlews are similar in appearance to the adults, but are paler, and a little browner in colour. Bush Stone-curlews are nocturnal birds (night birds), doing all their feeding and other activities at night. 

If Bush Stone-curlews are nearby you may hear their eerie, high-pitched wailing at night. This ghost-like call is their contact call, and may be given by several birds in a chorus. Rendered as weer-lo, it is repeated four or five times, sometimes culminating in a trilled, screeching crescendo. It is sometimes also heard during the day, when stone-curlews are usually inactive, standing quietly in the shade with their eyes half-closed, or squatting on the ground where their cryptic plumage makes them difficult to see among the leaf litter. 

Listed as Endangered in New South Wales and Victoria. [Birdlife Australia]

The story of how this photograph came about can be found here.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Privately run vocational training 'colleges' - what could possibly go wrong?

Just one of many allegedly dodgy businesses allowed to flourish under a dubious federal education policy which saw state government-run TAFE colleges allowed to decline.

The Age, 13 March 2017:

Rich-list tycoons behind a vocational training empire that collapsed after receiving $100 million in government funding have been implicated in alleged fraud, predatory conduct towards vulnerable students and shocking vilification of business associates.

The claims of widespread malfeasance at Australian Careers Network have been laid bare during an extraordinary defamation trial in the Supreme Court of Victoria that was launched by ACN co-founder Atkinson Prakash Charan against the publisher of The Australian newspaper.

Mr Charan is a former Qantas baggage handler who joined forces with ex-policeman Ivan Brown and invested their last $500 to register their first vocational training business in 2012.

Just two years later, they joined the ranks of the BRW Young Rich List in 2014 with a stake in an estimated $177 million fortune when ACN was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

ACN was placed into voluntary administration last March after the federal government froze more than $40 million in payments under the VET FEE-HELP loans program.

The company is the subject of an ongoing fraud investigation by the federal Department of Education and Training. 

Charles M. Blow: "America elected a parasite"

If words could drive U.S. President Donald J. Trump from office he would be gone by now……….
The New York Times journalist Charles M. Blow on13 March 2017:
We have now passed the 50-day mark of the Donald Trump administration and one thing is clear: There is no new Trump.
There is only the same old Trump: Dangerous and unpredictable, gauche and greedy, temperamentally unsuited and emotionally unsound.
If you were trying to create in a lab a person with character traits more unbecoming in a president, it would be hard to outdo the one we have.
He continues to have explosive Twitter episodes — presumably in response to some news he finds unflattering or some conspiracy floated by fringe outlets — that make him look not only foolish, but unhinged…..
In these fits of rage, he generates a lie or repeats one, which shifts the burden of proof to the legitimate media to swat it down and defend the truth. This exercise is already getting old.
Trump’s assaults on the truth are not benign. Presidential credibility is American credibility. There is no way to burn through one without burning through the other.
And when he’s not making explosive charges, he’s taking destructive actions.
He has signed a slew of executive actions to demonstrate his power and signal his administrative direction.
As Business Insider pointed out, as of March 6, “The 45th president has signed 34 executive actions so far, with far-reaching effects on Americans’ lives.” These included “16 executive orders in 45 days.”….
As The Hill reported on Saturday, “President Trump paid a visit to one of his golf courses again Saturday, marking apparently his ninth visit to a golf course in the seven weeks since he took office.” The site pointed out, “Trump has made several weekend trips to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., as well, calling the property the ‘Winter White House.’ ”
In February, numerous media outlets pointed out that Trump was spending on travel in a month nearly as much as what the Obamas spent in a year. This doesn’t even include the travel and security costs of Trump’s children or the cost of Trump’s wife and son remaining in Trump Tower in New York, at least for now, which is estimated to cost taxpayers hundreds of thousand of dollars a day.
This was particularly jarring because Trump had been a chief critic of the amount of money the Obamas spent on vacations. Indeed, Trump tweeted in 2012: “President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars — Unbelievable!”
No, what is unbelievable is the staggering nature of the hypocrisy of Trump and his current spending and the near silence of Obama’s conservative critics.
Trump appears to view the Treasury as a personal piggy bank and the presidency as a part-time job.
I think any who have been holding out hope that Trump will eventually change into someone more polished, professional and amenable than the man we have come to know must simply abandon that hope.
This is a 70-year-old man who has lived his entire life as the vile, dishonest, incurious creature who got elected. That election validated his impulses rather than served as a curb on them.
Trump will continue to debase and devalue the presidency with his lies. Trump will continue to follow Bannon’s philosophy of internal deconstruction of our government, its principles and its institutions. And Trump will continue to leech as much personal financial advantage as he can from the flesh of the American public.
That’s who Trump is. America elected a parasite.
* Photograph from Google Images.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Just because it is beautiful.........(25 )

Ghost Fungus

White & large fan shaped when mature
bioluminescent at night & poisonous

Native to Australia
Found in south-east Queensland, eastern New South Wales,
Victoria, Tasmania, south-eastern South Australia
and south-western West Australia

Political Cartoon of the Year 2017

Mark David, Australian cartoonist

Friday, 24 March 2017

Turnbull and Co announce they are taking their ideological razors to the Racial Discrimination Act and Human Rights Commission legislation

During this decade there have been three cases close to the hearts of the far right of the political spectrum in Australia.

The first was Pat Eatock v Andrew Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times Pty Ltd in the Federal Court of Australia, the second the Cynthia Prior complaint to the Human Rights Commission and, the third was the complaint against Bill Leak lodged with the Human Rights Commission.

The Federal Court found against News Corp journalist Andrew Bolt, the Commission terminated the Prior complaint on the basis it was satisfied that there was no reasonable prospect of the matter being settled by conciliation (the complainant later commencing unsuccessful litigation) and, the complaint against cartoonist Bill Leak was eventually withdrawn by Ms. Dinnison.

The Racial Discrimination Act and the Australian Human Rights Commission Act appear to have operated as intended by the original law makers in all three instances.

Yet such was the angst in Liberal Party and ‘flying monkey’ circles that an attempt to significantly alter the Act and neuter the Commission is now underway.

Excerpts from Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull statements at a joint press conference on 21 March 2017:

Good afternoon. Today I am here with the Attorney and we are announcing changes to the Racial Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Commission legislation, which will strengthen the protection of Australians from racial vilification and strengthen the protection of free speech, one of the fundamental freedoms upon which our democracy depends.

We are defending the law by making it clearer. We are defending Australians from racial vilification, by replacing language which has been discredited and has lost credibility. It has lost the credibility that a good law needs.

So the changes we are proposing to section 18C will provide the right balance between defending Australians from racial vilification and defending and enabling their right of free speech upon which our democracy, our way of life, depends.

We are also amending the law so as to ensure that the Human Rights Commission will offer procedural fairness, will deal with cases promptly and swiftly and fairly. That's very important too.

We need to restore confidence to the Racial Discrimination Act and to the Human Rights Commissions' administration of it. The changes we're proposing have been supported from all sides of the political spectrum.

Granted, there will be many critics and opponents. But this is an issue of values. Free speech. Free speech is a value at the very core of our party. It should be at the core of every party.
Ensuring Australians are protected from racial vilification, likewise, is part of that mutual respect of which I often speak, which is the foundation of our success as the greatest and most successful multicultural society in the world.

We’ve struck the balance right. We've done this carefully. There's been a scrupulously careful examination of this matter by the Human Rights Committee and we thank the Chairman, Ian Goodenough, and the members for their work.

What we presented today strikes the right balance. Defending freedom of speech, so that cartoonists will not be hauled up and accused of racism. So that university students won't be dragged through the courts and had hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal costs imposed on them over spurious claims of racism.

The time has come to get the balance right, to get the language right, to defend our freedom of speech and defend Australians with effective laws, clear laws, against racial vilification. That's what we're doing today. We're defending Australians with a stronger, fairer law…..

The language, the new language will better and more clearly protect people from racial vilification, in a more generic term, from harassment or intimidation because the language is clearer.

The problem with the language at the moment - using the language insult and offend – the problem is that, of course, on its face, its natural and ordinary meaning, it includes very small slights. So people have said: “Oh, well, you know, there are court cases that say it only means really serious insults.” Well isn't it better that laws actually say what they mean? Isn't it better that laws are clear? Isn't it better when you’re dealing with freedom of speech and you're dealing with protecting people from racial vilification, that the law is clear and in language people can understand? That's what we're doing.

….. you have got to remember that if you have language that does not reflect the object, or the proper object of the legislation, it has a chilling effect on free speech. So let’s be very clear. Ask this question: “What is it we that we are seeking to prohibit”?

We believe that “harassment”, “intimidation” are the better terms. They are clearer and they clearly express the type of conduct that should be prohibited, not mere slights or the taking of offence or hurt feelings. That is not what the law should be about…..

….. We believe that the law has lost its credibility. I mean, all of you have seen the criticism that has come around recent cases, the QUT and the Bill Leak case being classic examples. When a law loses its credibility, it lacks its ability to achieve any of its objectives.

So this is why it’s important to restate the language in terms that better reflect the objects of the legislation. As the Attorney said, right from the outset, if you go back decades, it better reflects the object of the legislation then, and it clearly prohibits conduct of a kind that we condemn, that we abhor, that we do not accept.

We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. It’s built on a foundation of mutual respect, and that mutual respect - that foundation - is strengthened by stronger, clearer, fairer laws.


Excerpt from a paper by the Chair of Melbourne University Law School Professor Adrienne Stone in Melbourne University Law Review 926 on the judgment in Eatock v Bolt [2011] FCA 1103 (28 September 2011):

In a short judgment following his initial finding, Bromberg J granted two remedies: the Herald Sun (published by the Herald and Weekly Times) was required to publish a ‘corrective notice’ as specified in the judgment, and Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times were restrained from further publishing or republishing the offending articles.[67]

The remedies are notably insubstantial. They are considerably less onerous than damages, a fact which is especially notable given it seems entirely possible that Eatock could have successfully claimed damages in a defamation action.[68] The lenity of the remedy becomes even clearer in light of an additional order which allowed the Herald Sun to continue to make the offending newspaper articles available ‘for historical or archival purposes’, provided that the publication was accompanied by the required corrective notice.[69] The result of this latter order is that the offending articles remain available online.[70] The ready availability of the offending articles considerably weakens claims that Bolt has been silenced by the action, and more general claims that freedom of speech has been chilled. The ideas in his articles continue to be communicated to those who seek them out.

Indeed, this claim of silencing is at once made and disproved by  Andrew Bolt  himself. In his response to the decision, Bolt wrote ‘Silencing Me Impedes Unity’, a commentary in which he argues that his ideas have been ‘banned’ and yet goes on to repeat, at quite some length, his argument that Aboriginal people of mixed heritage should not claim Aboriginal identity.[71]

This irony deepens when one considers the common refrain amongst critics of 
s 18C (and the respondents in Eatock v Bolt in particular) that the complainants should have responded to the criticisms by defending themselves in public debate.[72] This suggestion taps into an important idea in the political theory of freedom of speech that the victims of harms caused by speech ought to ‘speak back’, and that the ‘fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones’.[73] The irony arises because, in effect, Bolt and the Herald and Weekly Times have themselves been subject to a certain kind of ‘speaking back’.[74] They have not been required to apologise, to pay damages, or — crucially — to remove the material from the internet. The sum total in effect of the measure imposed on them is that the articles are labelled as having infringed the RDA.

In other words, the remedy imposed inEatock v Bolt was predominantly expressive  rather than coercive. It neither required compensation nor imposed any other sanction on the respondents. Rather, the state signals its disapproval of the message conveyed — labelling it as contrary to the RDA — but does not prevent its communication. The state’s action is akin to the ‘speaking back’ that the respondents and their defenders encourage. Moreover, just as the respondents and their defenders encouraged the complainants in this case, if the respondents are troubled by being labelled in this way, they are, of course, able themselves to ‘speak back’. Therefore, one way to understand the effect of Eatock v Bolt is that it makes a contribution to the public debate about racial identity (labelling the particular contribution of Bolt as discriminatory), but does not prevent Bolt’s message from being heard.

This argument will, no doubt, not satisfy those deeply committed to a strong libertarian vision of freedom of speech — in which the role of the state is to be minimised — and who will find even expressive remedies offensive to their underlying conception of liberty.[75] The state is an especially powerful ‘speaker’ and its intervention through expressive remedies might be cast as dangerously distorting.

However, libertarian conceptions of freedom of speech are themselves contested both in theory[76] and exceptional in practice.[77] So those campaigning to amend s 18C cannot simply claim to be defending freedom of speech against those who disregard it or prefer other values or interests. They are defending a particular, rather unusual, and strongly contested version of freedom of speech and they are doing so in the face of alternative conceptions that powerfully defended in theory[78] and widely adopted in practice.[79] By neglecting even to notice the expressive nature of the remedy, the opponents of the law have thus failed to see that it may advance, rather than chill, free speech values.

Legal meaning of 'offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate'

2.21 The Federal Court in Jones v Scully explicitly set out the dictionary definitions of the terms 'offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate' in an attempt to establish the meaning to be given to each word individually.14 The ordinary meaning of the words provided in Jones v Scully provide some guidance, but must also be consistent with the threshold established by Kiefel J,15 in Creek v Cairns Post Pty Ltd,16 that section 18C only applies to conduct having 'profound and serious effects, not to be likened to mere slights'. This standard has been affirmed in the case law.17

2.22 It is worth noting, however, that the Court generally does not consider each term in isolation. Although in McGlade v Lightfoot the relevant conduct was found to be reasonably likely to 'offend' and 'insult', the Court made it very clear that it was not  reasonably likely to humiliate or intimidate.18 This means that the legal meaning of 'offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate' does not wholly correspond with the ordinary or 'common sense' meaning of the terms. In other words, as interpreted by the courts, conduct that is merely offensive or merely insulting will not be captured by section 18C of the RDA, but only more serious forms of conduct on the basis of race. While some submitters suggested that the words used in section 18C created uncertainty, the committee received evidence from other witnesses that the legal meaning and judicial interpretation of section 18C was well settled as applying only to conduct at the more serious end of the range.19
14 [2002] FCA 1080.
15 Kiefel J is now the Chief Justice of the High Court.
16 [2001] FCA 1007, [16].
17 Bropho v Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (2004) 135 FCR 105 at 131, [70]
(French J) (Bropho); Jones v Scully (2002) 120 FCR 243, [102]; Eatock v Bolt (2011) 197 FCR 261
at [267]-[268] (Justice Bromberg) (Eatock).
18 McGlade v Lightfoot (2002) 124 FCR 106, 120 at [61]-[62].
19 See, for example: Law Institute of Victoria, Submission 184, 4; Mr Iain Anderson, Deputy
Secretary, Attorney-General's Department, Committee Hansard, 17 February 2017, 21-22.