Saturday, December 16, 2006


Pauline Hanson was charged and convicted over such a trivial matter as her definition of "membership" but an apparent murderer will not even face court. The cop appears to have kicked the black so hard it ruptured his liver -- and yet the matter will not even be considered in court

The furious family of Palm Island death-in-custody victim Mulrunji last night said they had been "treated like animals" over a shock decision to clear the police officer accused of his death of any criminal charges. "I feel like my heart has been torn from my chest," said Valmai Aplin, a sister of the victim speaking on behalf of the family. "I wanted to hear he was guilty and being charged with murder. But today he is walking free and will probably get paid a heap of compensation for stress."

Director of Public Prosecutions Leanne Clare [who also sent Pauline Hanson to jail on specious charges that were overturned 11 weeks later. As I mentioned in the article linked at the head of this post, Clare is an "affirmative action" appointment and thus politically "reliable"] yesterday told a packed press conference in Townsville that charges would not be laid against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley. She overturned the findings of a two-year coronial inquest which found Mulrunji died from being struck by the police officer and ruled the death had been due to a "complicated fall" and was a "terrible, terrible accident". The incident led to riots on the island.

Mulrunji's family rejected Ms Clare's decision. "When we heard the decision we just broke down and cried," Ms Aplin said. "We feel like we're being treated like animals . . . we are just lost." In September, deputy state coroner Christine Clements found that Snr Sgt Hurley struck Mulrunji and caused his fatal injuries on November 19, 2004 at the police station on Palm Island, off Townsville. Riots erupted on the island seven days later after an autopsy found Mulrunji suffered four broken ribs, a ruptured liver and a ruptured portal vein in a watchhouse scuffle.

Ms Clare said autopsy results [not now to be tested in court. What would other pathologists say?] showed neither kicks nor punches caused Mulrunji's death. She said Mulrunji died from internal injuries caused "by a crushing force to the front of his abdomen" when he and Snr Sgt Hurley fell together through the open door of the police station [What a tall story!]. Glen Cranny of Gilshenan & Luton lawyers said Snr-Sgt Hurley was yet to decide his future as a police officer, adding that his client was also considering possible legal action of his own. Snr-Sgt Hurley has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. The Crime and Misconduct Commission reached the "inevitable conclusion" that no disciplinary action could be taken against Snr-Sgt Hurley. Police Minister Judy Spence said the police ethical standards command would now conduct its own probe.


A Queensland government has once again bowed before the police union. I guess the cops know too much. More on the Hanson conviction here

'Case should have gone to jury'

Townsville MP Mike Reynolds has launched a stinging attack on the decision not to test the case against Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley before a jury. An angry Mr Reynolds also launched a tirade against police, public servants and governments, including his own, for failing indigenous people. The former academic said allowing the case against Sen-Sgt Hurley to be tried before a jury would have been a superior way of ensuring justice was done. "I think this could have been well and truly tested by the jury," he said.

While insisting he was not criticising the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Reynolds said the findings were in "complete contrast" to those of the Deputy Coroner. He accused police of being ignorant of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 and said questions remained about whether Mulrunji should have been arrested in the first place. Mr Reynolds claimed "culturally incompetent" bureaucrats were advising ministers and the Government had to re-establish an indigenous advisory committee.

Premier Peter Beattie urged everyone to accept the "umpire's decision" and said it was time to build a new future for Palm Island. "Can I say to Mulrunji's family and the wider Palm Island community, I know this is not the decision you were hoping for . . . but we all must accept the decision of the independent DPP," he said. Police Minister Judy Spence said police would now resume their examinations to consider several aspects of the case. But Ms Spence appeared to defend the actions of police officers in the case, saying they had "done all they can to make life on Palm Island a safe place".



A group of Sudanese refugees has been refused residence in Australia's most "Friendly Town" because of fears they could spark a repeat of the race riots that gripped Sydney a year ago. City officials in the NSW city of Tamworth said today they had rejected residency for five Sudanese families because they could stir racial unrest in the city, 260km northwest of Sydney. "We need to change the (refugee) program significantly because of the cultural difference of African people, things such as their respect of women in their community," Mayor James Treloar told Reuters, dismissing fears of a divisive race row.

Tamworth in January hosts Australia's largest country music festival and recently won a tourism award naming the busy rural hub as the country's premier "Friendly Town". But Mr Treloar said local people and some "redneck elements" had aired concerns at a council meeting about 12 other Sudanese already living in the city, saying most had come before local courts for crimes ranging from dangerous driving to rape. "They will not take a direction from authorities, so we've got a fairly significant cultural problem," he said, adding that health services for Tamworth's 40,000 population were already stretched.

Local churches said they would launch a petition calling on the council to reverse its decision, which was a response to an immigration department programme to resettle refugees in regional areas to help reverse a drift of Australians to major cities. Several councillors and business leaders said they would try to overturn the decision, arguing that the arrival of the refugees would not fuel the kind of tensions that led to last December's Sydney beach riots where mainly-white surfers battled Lebanese-Australians. "It will reflect on Tamworth and I feel it will be somewhat of a negative effect. To say that we can't provide for another five families is I think a bit ridiculous," Tamworth Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Max Cathcart said on ABC radio.


New Australian Leftist leader disowns socialism

Even though the Labor party has always called itself socialist in the past

New Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd has decisively moved to modernise the Labor Party's view of itself, rejecting socialism as an "arcane, 19th-century" doctrine and defining Labor's values as equality, solidarity and sustainability. "It's critical that when we say to the Australian people that we want to construct an alternative vision for Australia, that they know the values for which we stand. Socialism isn't one of them," Mr Rudd told The Age. "Any political party has to be absolutely confident in the objectives for which they stand. I am not a socialist. I have never been a socialist and I never will be a socialist." In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Rudd also:

* Signalled his support for a debate on an Australian bill of rights, declaring: "We need to begin to look at ways in which we can bedrock basic protections of civil liberties."

* Announced he will consult Aboriginal leaders on how to achieve reconciliation, declining to embrace the idea of either a formal apology for past injustices or a treaty until this process is complete.

* Revealed that he is "relatively relaxed" about the idea of a directly elected president of an Australian republic if that is what the majority of voters want.

* Backed more robust mandatory renewable energy targets, insisting Australia's performance on solar energy was "thin" and "it should be right up there".

* Insisted Labor would present "a broad canvas" to the electorate and not focus on industrial relations to the exclusion of other issues. "That includes our message to those who are in employment and those who are represented by unions that represent a large slice still of the Australian workforce. But we also must develop a message for others as well."

* Vowed that Labor would go further than the Howard Government on foreign aid, without committing to the Make Poverty History target of 0.7 per cent of GDP, and seek once again to play a global leadership role on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

* Denied he had softened Labor's policy to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq.

While supporting a plebiscite on whether Australia should become a republic if he wins government next year, Mr Rudd described the issue as "way down my list of priorities" - behind a strong economy, fairness in the workplace and elsewhere, climate change and a hard line on national security. He said it was crucial for a modern party to be "absolutely confident" in the objectives for which it stands. "And what are those objectives? We believe radically in equality of opportunity, that is that every kid from every working family has a decent start in life. We believe in solidarity, which means that, if you run into one of life's brick walls, that there should be a decent and humane helping hand extended to you to pick you up and bring you back rather than just be cast on the dung heap of the market. "We also believe in sustainability as a form of inter-generational justice. "These are the deep principles for which we stand and separate us radically from market fundamentalists. "I think it's far better therefore we construct our future vision for the party around those principles, rather than some 19th-century arcane view of doctrinaire socialism."

Labor's existing platform has the objective of "the democratic socialisation of industry, production, distribution and exchange, to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other antisocial features in these fields". Mr Rudd said: "Most people in the community look beyond the formal language of party constitutions and they look instead to what political leaders of the day stand for and, looking at me over the last 20 years, (they) would say that guy actually isn't a socialist. You know why? Because I'm not."

He described reconciliation and tackling indigenous disadvantage as a "significant priority", expressing admiration for the work to end welfare dependence by [conservative] Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson on Cape York. On reconciliation, he intended to consult the nation's indigenous leadership on what was meaningful, explaining: "I think far too easily we've latched onto a symbolic gesture here, a symbolic gesture there. "I think this requires some sensitive handling. It's got to be meaningful for those who have been so appallingly treated." On a republic, he said: "I am not ideologically committed to an appointed presidency. I'm open-minded on that question. It would be good if we could get to a stage soon where we could say that one of us was our head of state."



It does not feature on many pub crawls, given that the nearest city is almost 900 miles away. But the Birdsville Hotel is probably Australia's best-known watering hole and its name has become synonymous with the Outback. Now its owners have decided to call it a day and have put the property on the market, with a successful bidder expected to offer up to 4 million. "Sometimes you've got to know when enough's enough," said Jo Fort, who has owned the Birdsville with her husband, Kym, for 27 years. "You just have to know when you've done your bit."

Located on the edge of the Simpson Desert in far western Queensland, long considered the gateway to the Outback, the Birdsville is a popular rest stop for travellers tackling the Birdsville Track. About 45,000 travellers visit the hotel every year.

Birdsville, which dates from 1884, was named by a cattle station owner who was amazed by the diversity of birdlife which inhabited the area including seagulls on inland lakes. Brisbane, the nearest city, is 870 miles (1,400km) away.

Mrs Fort said that there had been considerable interest in the sale, given the hotel's legendary status. "People who don't even drink beer have a beer in the front bar here," she said.

The first European explorer to venture into this lonely area was Charles Sturt, after whom Sturt Stony Desert to the southeast of the Birdsville is named. Sturt was unambiguous in his response to the terrain, describing it as a "desperate region having no parallel on Earth".

There has been anxiety among Birdsville's 100 residents about the future of their only watering hole. The next- closest hotel is 124 miles away. "There's a little bit of anxiety because it's their pub, their image, their icon, and a lot of [the locals] have grown up with us," Mrs Fort said. She hopes that the hotel will be bought by someone with a passion for the Outback. "It's a big responsibility there to make sure that the image of the Outback is retained," she said. "I really hope it's an Australian with the enthusiasm and energy and the guts - because they'll need them - to take on this challenge." She warned prospective buyers not to be under any illusions as to what they would be taking on. "Obviously you don't just live in Birdsville - it takes over your life."

Mrs Fort said that she and her husband, along with co-owners David and Nell Brook, would probably lease the pub if they could not sell the business. She said that the family had fond memories of Birdsville over the years, and of memorable occasions in the hotel's front bar. "Most of the time you just had to be here," she said. The hotel, which includes 27 rooms and two residences, is being sold by tender through Melbourne and Adelaide broking firms.

Peter Moore, whose brokerage firm, MCG, is one of three working to seal the deal, said that four-wheel drive companies and syndicates of small investors had shown interest in the pub. He estimated that the hotelcould attract a price of between $4 million and $10 million.


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