March 2019: Dissonance reverberates as MPs’ words don’t match actions 

Standards in public life continue to shrink as politicians’ words and actions fly in the face of reality. ‘Urgent’ for a Minister is when you’re doing something for him, not when he is expected to act; a new petitions process will deliver more gloss and grandstanding for pollies, and no better outcome for the people; new trade deals being negotiated in secret are sure to disadvantage most citizens; and MPs from each major side reach to new heights of hypocrisy as they claim to support “freely and fairly” reporting on national security.

  • Leaky blackshirts get their ASIO mates offside
  • Tim Anderson: ‘spooked’ for years, now sacked
  • How PM Abbott’s jobs-for-the-boys worked out
  • Will whistleblowers get a financial reward?
  • Third jurisdiction to get a bill of rights this year
  • Fourth jurisdiction may bring in ‘Right to Appeal’ law
  • New inquiry could change prisons nationwide
  • 9-0 US decision may influence forfeiture laws here
  • How big is ’The Community’ of spooks in Oz?

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Spooky MPs raise the bar on monumental hypocrisy

The chair, Andrew Hastie, and deputy chair, Anthony Byrne, of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security have issued a truly historically hypocritical media release in which the parliament’s most repressive committee claims it stands for ‘the ability to report freely on national security’ as ‘vital to our democracy’. What about on-water incidents with boats and refugee claimants? What about ASIO reporting restrictions? What about the Witness K/Collaery secret trial at the moment? We haven’t heard a word from either of the two PJCIS heavies standing up for the media’s right to report ‘freely’ on those issues.

Qld bets on financial inquiry to stop jails leaking money

An inquiry of fundamental importance to prisoners and prisons throughout Australia is under way in Queensland. The state government has charged the Qld Productivity Commission with taking a cold, hard, financial and performance look at how jails are operating. The answer, from their first draft report, is extremely poorly. Prisons in the state are overcrowded massively, they don’t rehabilitate prisoners (50% are back within two years) and they cost huge amounts of money now, with projections suggesting $6 billion more within a decade…and that’s just for new buildings, not running costs. If Qld can find a cost-effective remedy, the solution will ripple round Australia nearly as quickly as a Trump tweet.

DFAT: Report on 2019 Annual NGO Forum on Human Rights    

Forums between civil society organisations and the government departments provide excellent opportunities for robust, two-way exchanges of thoughts and opinions. The February 2019 DFAT forum saw some sharp exchanges as NGOs tried to hold the government accountable for seeming human rights abuses. But, as CLA Director Eloise McLean reports, much responsibility for how Australia respects human rights now rests with the ‘action’ agency, the Department of Home Affairs.

‘No further correspondence will be entered into’

Sometimes we forget that those who serve us 24/7 might also be doing it tough. Two recent major reports into the health/mental health and ‘injury’ management systems of first responders have raised serious and troubling questions about the quality and integrity of internal management and compensation arrangements, particularly in the NSW Police Force. Former Detective Sergeant Terry Flanders explains why ordinary citizens should be worried about and stand up for all ‘first responders’.

Australia: Are we a fascist state?

Is smoking worse than fascism? How do you measure and balance between different claims to society-harming activity? These are the issues Mark Jarratt – who chooses to smoke – explores in this article calling for the many to dispense with apathy and think about controlling what he sees as the real danger to Australian society, group-think engendered and controlled by a self-selected cadre of fervid crusaders for whom even the Turkey solution of the past might not be enough.

Children need to learn their 3Rs…and human rights

Students should learn about human rights, in schools and universities, as an integral part of their education, not necessarily only as a standalone subject, a major internatinal human rights conference heard recently.  More than 400 hundred human rights experts representing 50 countries  attended the 9th International Conference on Human Rights Education at Western Sydney University in November 2018. CLA member Sophie Bouris reports on the highlights.

SA AG rejects inquiry: says ‘handled case-by-case’

The South Australian Attorney-General and Deputy Premier, Vickie Chapman, has rejected CLA’s call for a full inquiry into about 400 criminal cases in the state over about 40 years that were corrupted by malfunctioning forensic science organisation and by the concomitant errors of police, prosecutors and the judicial system. Any issue would be handed on a “case-by-case” basis, she said. However, the problem in SA was systemic and deeply entrenched: it colours how justice operates in SA to this day because key actors of yesteryear have risen to prominent positions now.

Justice dies a ‘Death on the Derwent’

A former Tasmanian, and noted crime author, Robin Bowles brings a unique perspective to her skilfully crafted, disturbing and compelling new book on the Sue Neill-Fraser case. The third book on the wrongful conviction released in just six months, Bowles brings a different insight to the sorry saga, which is still being played out in the Tasmanian courts 10 years after Bob Chappell disappeared off a yacht, his body never found. All actors in this drama await judge Michael Brett’s imminent decision on whether the woman sentenced to 23 years jail will get another chance to appeal her innocence.