Sunday, June 05, 2011

Gillard's Malaysia plan falling apart

Labor now urged to revive Howard's Pacific Solution by refugee activists

LABOR'S support base on border security is crumbling, with a key critic of the Howard government's Pacific Solution calling for its partial revival in preference to Labor's "nightmare" plan to send unaccompanied children to Malaysia.

Marion Le, a refugee lawyer, last night urged Labor to reopen the Nauru processing centre - the same facility she demanded be shut in 2005 because of concern about the treatment of asylum-seekers.

She was backed by human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, who accused Labor of failure on refugees and said asylum-seekers would receive better treatment in Nauru than Malaysia.

Meanwhile, in Western Australia, 14 state Labor MPs signed a petition condemning the plan to send unaccompanied minors to Malaysia as part of the refugee swap.

Opposition to Julia Gillard's Malaysian solution hardened yesterday after news that a draft agreement over her plan to exchange 800 boatpeople for 4000 confirmed refugees processed in Malaysia excluded any reference to human rights.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen guaranteed the final agreement would address human rights concerns, but further inflamed his critics by revealing he would send unaccompanied minors to Malaysia.

Labor announced its plans to transfer asylum-seekers to Malaysia last month as a means of discouraging people-smuggling. It argued that if asylum-seekers knew they could be sent to Malaysia once they reached Australia they would be less likely to risk the voyage. But refugee advocates and the Australian Greens have condemned the deal, noting that Malaysia did not observe UN protocols for handling refugees and, in the past, asylum-seekers had been publicly caned.

Yesterday, Ms Le said it was time for Labor to "bite the bullet" and reopen Nauru, which was mothballed in 2007 after Kevin Rudd took office. Her position puts her in agreement with Tony Abbott, who has demanded the Prime Minister "pick up the phone" to the government of Nauru.

"The place itself is not the problem . . . the situation on Nauru is much better than on the mainland and in Malaysia," Ms Le told The Weekend Australian. "The detention centre needs to be operated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Reopening Nauru would be far better than all the nightmare ideas this government has put forward."

Ms Le, who visited Nauru in 2003 and 2004, said children and unaccompanied minors on the island were properly fed, taken to school and given access to sporting activities and fishing. According to the UNHCR, child refugees in Malaysia do not go to school and are not housed in refugee camps, surviving instead in low-cost flats.

Mr Burnside said if it was a choice between Malaysia and Nauru, he would choose the latter. "Nauru is certainly the less worse, but both are unacceptable." Mr Burnside said Labor should be ashamed of the "scandalous" Malaysian deal, which was "as bad as the Pacific Solution".

"In one way, it is worse because we know Malaysia has a bad track record in its treatment of asylum-seekers," he said. "The idea of sending unaccompanied minors there as well makes it more disgraceful. This is being driven by raw politics. They're behaving like the Howard government."

Mr Bowen said the final agreement with Malaysia would reflect Ms Gillard's insistence that there must be proper regard for the human rights of asylum-seekers. "Let's see this agreement play out," Mr Bowen told ABC radio. "There will be a range of protections to operationalise the commitment given by the Prime Minister of Malaysia about respect for human rights."

Mr Bowen said he was not prepared to make exemptions for children because this would encourage people-smugglers to entice children on dangerous voyages to Australia in leaky boats.

He said the use of Nauru would not break the people-smugglers' business model. "If you go to Nauru, you would end up back in Australia - that's what happened before," he said.

In 2001, there were 44 unauthorised boat arrivals in Australian waters carrying 5516 people, including the Tampa. The Howard government then brought in the Pacific Solution, and in 2002 there was just one unauthorised boat arrival carrying one person. From 2003 until 2007, when Labor won power, there were 17 boats carrying 287 people. As of last night, there were 5976 people in immigration detention in Australia. There have been 25 boat arrivals this year.

Former Howard government immigration minister Philip Ruddock said Labor had attacked the Pacific Solution and was not prepared to "lose face" by reopening the Nauru centre. "In my judgment, they should have simply pocketed their pride and said, 'We made a mistake in criticising the Howard government and the approach they took. We now have to put all of those measures in place to bring this insidious people-smuggling trade to an end'."

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young declared Labor was providing no leadership or compassion. "I think compassionate thinking Australians are sick to death of being taken down this false road of a race to the bottom with no true leadership," she said. "I would be suggesting no one is sent back to Malaysia. That's the Greens' position."

Labor faced criticism on the issue from 14 West Australian Labor MPs, with frontbencher Ben Wyatt saying he was appalled and embarrassed by the federal government's position.

"Federal Labor has lost its way by now making the decision to brutalise and penalise children caught up in terrible circumstances of asylum," he told AAP. "I'm a former army officer, and I fully understand and support strong border protection policy . . . but this is an appalling decision and I'm embarrassed."


Australian National University Warmists moved to safe location after threats

The proposed carbon tax is threatening a lot of jobs so it is no wonder some workers are angry

A CANBERRA university has increased security following death threats to its climate scientists, some of whom were moved to a safer location. The Australian National University has received a large number of e-mails with threatening and abusive language directed at some of its scientists.

The Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, Professor Ian Young, said staff should not have to put up with such behaviour.

"Obviously, climate research is an emotive issue at the present time, but these are issues where we should have a logical public debate," Professor Young told ABC News 24. "In fact, it's completely intolerable that people be subjected to this sort of abuse and to threats like this."

Professor Young said the threats had unsettled the scientists. "Academics and scientists are actually really not equipped to be treated in this way," he said. "The concept that you would be threatened for your scientific views and work is something that is completely foreign to them."

The Australian Federal Police said it had not been contacted by the university although it was aware that threats had been made.


Nifty Nev knows where the NSW ALP has gone wrong

It has lost touch with the workers it claims to represent

NEVILLE Wran, the Labor Party's most popular and successful state leader, says the ALP has "lost its way" and no longer represents its traditional voters.

In an interview with The Weekend Australian, Mr Wran, 84, said the problem stemmed from his party's failure to field candidates with life experiences that reflected those in the wider community.

"We've developed the political career path," he said. "On our side, it is university, union, ministerial or MP's office and then stand for an election. "This path keeps the new practitioners away from the reality of life of those they hope to represent. If you've been in that cloistered world, how can you expect to know what the real world is like, what issues the real people face and the aims and aspirations of those real people?"

Mr Wran's first cabinet, sworn in on May 15, 1976, included a former bricklayer, a car salesman, a rail worker, a teacher, a pharmacist, a fitter and turner and a professional boxer. Today, many of these occupations and professions are more at home in the conservative side of politics.

"If you look at the last election," Mr Wran said, "those who produced the Barry O'Farrell tsunami came from professions and occupations that 20 or so years ago would have been logical Labor candidates. "Those people are now conservative representatives and we have to get them back as Labor representatives."

He also criticised the use of focus groups and polling in policy development, arguing that Labor's factions were now more focused on "internal power rather than policy development".

Mr Wran, who was NSW premier from 1976 to 1986, spoke to The Weekend Australian about his political career, how Labor could rebuild in NSW and the recent national inquiry into the Labor Party. The interview was to mark the 25th anniversary of his resignation from politics.

Mr Wran supports internal Labor reform and said last year's national review into the party by former premiers Steve Bracks and Bob Carr, and Labor senator John Faulkner, "was heading in the right way". Mr Wran co-authored a report on party reform with former prime minister Bob Hawke in 2002, which was largely ignored.

In his first public comments since NSW Labor lost power in March, Mr Wran said he told former NSW premier Nathan Rees in 2009 that he had no chance of winning the next state election. "I said simply that the time was up," he said. "I don't think Nathan appreciated it, but it was how I felt.

"Also, scandal after scandal portrayed a government that had lost its way and was far more focused on itself than the people it was supposed to represent. The electorate had turned off from the government, and you can't have any success if that happens. The electorate was just waiting for election day to show their displeasure -- and they did in an unprecedented way."

Mr Wran said the 2008 debate over electricity privatisation was highly damaging for the government because it "showed the community how split the party was and engaged in internecine warfare".

For Labor to regain the political ascendancy, Mr Wran said, the party must rediscover its base, carry out internal reform and have "a sense of purpose," as his government did.

He said the 24-hour news cycle and the impact of social media had changed the nature of government so that "too many bad decisions are taken in rapid reaction". "In government and politics, you're expected to have an instant response and an instant answer to every issue," he said. Rather, it was important to "think through issues and problems".

"If I decry anything," he added, "it is the ever-shortening media cycle and the demands on the body politic."

Since leaving politics, Mr Wran has established a successful business career and recently returned from Mongolia, where he was looking at business opportunities. Mr Wran chaired the CSIRO and oversaw an inquiry into higher education for the Hawke government. He has also been an advocate for civil rights and an Australian republic.


National medical body 'a debacle'

Another disastrous Leftist attempt at centralizing power

THE introduction of a national medical registration body was a "debacle" that resulted in doctors being unknowingly deregistered and losing income and patients being left without healthcare.

A Senate inquiry found the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency failed to notify health practitioners that they needed to renew their licence or that they had been deregistered as a result.

The agency - which took over the registration from 85 different state boards - also spent an "inordinate amount of time" processing applications and did not provide any help to worried doctors who unknowingly had their registration cancelled.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners told the inquiry the transition to the new national agency was "the worst crisis in our workforce in living memory" and the Australian Medical Association described it as a "debacle".

The Coalition-dominated finance and public administration references committee found the COAG-created body had failed to fulfill its primary functions of maintaining a national register to protect the public.

"The mistakes, omissions and poor processes that were clearly evident from the evidence received during the inquiry calls into question the ability of the AHPRA to carry out its primary purpose," it concluded.

"For AHPRA itself to be responsible for the breakdown of the entire system of registration of health practitioners in Australia is a dismal example of policy implementation and public administration."

The committee found that AHPRA's failures went beyond doctors, as patients experienced financial loss because they could not claim Medicare rebates for services provided by deregistered doctors. "Patients of practitioners who were deregistered had appointments cancelled or postponed," the report found. "This was of great inconvenience and concern."

They recommended AHPRA write letters of apology to affected doctors as well as urging all state and federal health ministers to "establish and improve" the accountability of the body.

But a minority report by Gillard government senators on the committee disagreed with the findings, saying it was not a debacle and the conclusions were for "political purposes only".

"It would have been unreasonable to expect such a large undertaking to be without problems in the initial phase," they wrote.

Opposition health spokesman Peter Dutton said the shift from "a myriad of state bodies to one national body" should have been done over time instead of overnight.


Child protection coverup to be busted at last?

Alleged rape victim wants Heiner inquiry restarted by federal authorities

AN ALLEGED rape victim who was paid compensation but forced to keep quiet by the Bligh Government is set to spark a new federal inquiry into the state's longest-running scandal.

A 20-year controversy involving politicians, shredded documents and "hush money" is set to be re-opened when Senator Nick Xenophon - with Coalition support - moves to open a new probe into what has become known as the Heiner Affair. The victim, 36, will be able to reveal why she received $140,000 in compensation last year for an alleged crime that happened in 1988.

The shock new inquiry into "Shreddergate" means the victim can ignore the confidentiality agreement she signed before receiving the funds because the right to speak to federal senators trumps the agreement.

The Queensland woman alleges she was just 14 years old when on a supervised bush outing she was pack raped. No one was ever charged. At the time, she was a ward of the state at the now closed John Oxley Detention Centre.

The victim met with Senator Xenophon's staff in Brisbane on Friday and revealed she wanted to tell the inquiry her story.

Senator Xenophon and the Coalition will need one more senator to set-up the inquiry, and will likely win the support of outgoing Victorian Senator Steve Fielding. A spokesman for Senator Fielding said that on "face value" the inquiry would be supported but more information would be sought from the Conservatives and Senator Xenophon.

Senator Xenophon, approached by a whistleblower, said new questions needed to be asked about the "hush" money. "This former ward of the state has been gagged by the Queensland Government but the fact is that gag is worthless when it comes to the senate inquiry," he said. "The question Queenslanders may want to ask themselves is that if nothing illegal happened, why was a rape victim paid a six-figure sum with taxpayer dollars for a crime that supposedly never happened?

"And there is a broader issue here. Why would any State Government feel the need to make a rape victim sign a confidentiality agreement?"

In 1989, retired Children's Court Magistrate Noel Heiner conducted an inquiry into issues relating to the detention centre.

The inquiry documents were shredded by the then-Labor Goss Government in 1990 over fears centre staff may take legal action. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd was Mr Goss's chief-of-staff at the time.

Several inquiries focused on the shredded documents. No one in the Goss government was charged nor was anyone charged for the suspected abuse against the centre's youth.


No comments: