Monday, December 21, 2009

Weak Copenhagen outcome a boost for Australia's conservatives

Copenhagen's wishy-washy outcome is a boost for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and a setback for the Prime Minister, as they look to an election year in which climate policy will be a core issue.

A strong agreement would have given Kevin Rudd backing for his decision to bring back rewritten emissions trading legislation in February. At a personal level, a successful conference would have been a diplomatic plus for Rudd, who was a "friend of the chair". Instead, the minimal progress, with eyes shifting to yet another conference some time next year, has made it easier for Abbott to maintain that other ways to cut emissions are better than a "great big new tax".

Rudd so hyped the need to get his scheme through before Copenhagen that, now the conference has ended with only a weak "accord", people will be inclined to say, "So what was the hurry? And why rush now?". The need for hastening the Australian legislation, which both Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull understood, was because of just what's happened. If Copenhagen delivered little, it was always going to be hard to get the wind back into the emissions trading sails here.

While Abbott is helped by Copenhagen, the climate issue will still be a slog for him. Possibly some voters will transfer their anger at lack of international progress on to those at home who have been sceptics or reluctant to do much. Climate will remain a significant issue, and if Abbott is to have credibility his alternative "direct action" policy will have to do enough and be properly costed.

Soon both Abbott and the Government will specify their targets for cutting emissions within Australia's currently declared range, announced for Copenhagen, of 5-25 per cent.

Rudd said at the weekend that "once we've put together all developed and developing countries' targets and commitments", Australia would determine its own target. Rudd is adamant that "Australia will do no less and no more than the rest of the world … That is why we'll wait 'til we see a pulling together of the aggregate commitments from the rest of the world."

The Opposition does not want an argument about the final target - that would complicate its challenge to the ETS. There will be timing issues - when the Opposition policy is released compared to when the Government sets the target. The Opposition will want to know the official target as soon as possible and its current aim would be to match that target, so it can argue it would do as much at less cost.

Abbott will be fighting not just Rudd but Turnbull. In a tough article in The Times, Turnbull has attacked Abbott, saying if he were "a leftist you could understand his reluctance for market-based mechanisms for putting a price on carbon". From now until the election Turnbull will be sitting on the backbench like a black crow, swooping from time to time to attack the man who deposed him over an issue that has become a passionate cause for the one-time environment minister.


Police investigate police in corrupt Victoria

The Victoria police are notoriously trigger-happy. Shooting disturbed people is their bag. A bullet replaces patience and negotiation

VICTORIA's police watchdog does not have the capacity to take over an investigation into the shooting of a fifteen year old boy at the hands of police, a court has heard. In the first hearing of a coronial inquest into the death of Melbourne teenager Tyler Cassidy, who was shot by Victorian police officers at a skateboarding park last December, State Coroner Jennifer Coate said the Office of Police Integrity would not take over the homicide investigation despite a push by Tyler's family for them to do so.

Members of Tyler's family have written to the OPI, requesting it to take control of the investigation so as to prevent a conflict that might arise from police investigating the actions of other police. It is understood that Youthlaw and the Human Rights Law Resource Centre have also made submissions to the Coroner requesting the investigation be taken out of the hands of Victoria Police.

State Coroner Coate confirmed that she had received concerns, "about the inappropriateness of the sector of police investigating police, in a matter such as this." "It's been requested that the investigation be taken over by the OPI, you may be aware that I have had communication with the OPI and the answer to that is no. "That capacity to basically take over an investigation of this magnitude is not available from the OPI," State Coroner Coate said. Justice Coate said she will instead receive "something in the form of an assessment of the adequacy of the police investigation by an experienced officer from the OPI."

Tyler's family did not attend court this morning. Through their lawyer, Jane Dixon SC, they said their absence from the hearing was "in protest of what they consider an inadequate investigation into the death.” "They feel that nothing is happening with the things that they are concerned about," she said. Ms Dixon told the hearing that the family had not been informed by the appropriate authorities that they had a right to refuse to submit Tyler's body for autopsy. "They feel misinformed," Ms Dixon said.

The coronial inquest is not likely to begin until the second half of next year.


Useless ankle bracelet system for Victorian criminals

Another "high" for Victorian law enforcement

A SEX fiend is accused of randomly attacking eight women while wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet. The freed inmate is believed to have been on a night curfew, so the tag would alert authorities only if he left home after dark. But it's understood the assaults occurred in daylight.

The case again calls into question the controversial program of Extended Supervision Orders, under which prisoners are freed on strict conditions and fitted with the bracelets to stop them re-offending.

The man, who can't be named, is accused of going on a two-month spree, indecently assaulting eight women, one of whom was holding her baby in the street. He is also charged with stalking, wilful and obscene exposure, and offensive behaviour.

The woman who was holding her baby could scarcely believe it when she was groped in a western suburbs street. "He didn't turn around; then he did look back, and kept walking as he looked back," she said. She felt "violated". "How do you rehabilitate someone like that?"

The man was arrested on September 25 and is on remand for crimes that occurred over the previous two months. He is expected to face court in February.

Police Association secretary Greg Davies said Corrections Victoria needed to monitor offenders more closely and not rely too heavily on the monitoring technology. "Talk about all care, no responsibility," Sen-Sgt Davies said. "What good's a bracelet on their foot? "It doesn't stop them attacking someone. How many times do you have to take these kind of offenders out of society?"

Corrections Victoria said it could not comment, as the case was before the courts. But a spokeswoman said laws to take effect soon could keep high-risk sex offenders behind bars even after the end of their jail terms. "Courts will have the power to detain sex offenders in prison, if they are deemed as so high-risk they cannot be managed in the community, for up to three years; though this could be extended indefinitely," she said.

In Victoria, 23 sex offenders are on ESOs, and another 22 are living in a compound outside Ararat Prison, in the state's west. In October, the State Government signalled a move towards putting convicted arsonists on ESOs during fire season. The ankle bracelets are linked to a central monitoring system that notifies a central server of any breaches.


"Merry Christmas" makes a comeback after Parramatta Council dumps "Seasons Greetings" signs

COUNCILS have turned their backs on political correctness, reinstating the "Merry Christmas" greeting to its rightful place. Parramatta Council, in Sydney's west, has taken down its "season's greetings" banners in favour of posters wishing "Merry Christmas". The move came after the council produced Christmas cards and 50 banners for five years without mentioning Christmas once.

Councillors believe the politically correct banners reflected "a secular view of Christmas" instead of the "traditional Australian view of Christmas". "Our community is fed up with this erosion of the true meaning and essence of Christmas through this ridiculous pre-emptive surrender of the real Christmas on the basis it may offend someone," councillor Michael McDermott said. "All we do is offend the great majority of our residents by this politically correct nonsense and watering down of the historically accurate view of Christmas. "This is not some puerile statement, it is a debate that our communities need to have about the essence of Christmas and the manner in which political correctness is used to attack and erode it."

He put forward a move to reinstate the phrase "Merry Christmas" on banners, websites, booklets, leaflets, and for Christmas events, as well as to cover the words "season's greetings" on all banners within the Parramatta CBD with "Merry Christmas". Staff were asked to design a range of banners that illustrated "the traditional notion of Christmas, and the nativity version and traditional Christian notion of Christmas".

A council spokesman said four new "Merry Christmas" posters would be hung at selected sites and new Christmas banners would be made next year.


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