Tuesday, July 03, 2012

More to come in the Azaria Chamberlain case?

How can the terrible injustice done to the bereaved mother ever be explained?  Bigotry against the members of a small but benevolent religion (SDAs) was probably part of it but is that all?  The initial coroner's verdict was correct.  Was bigotry enough to get it disregarded?

MICHAEL Chamberlain is still waiting for an apology from the Northern Territory government over the handling of his daughter's death.

Chamberlain is yet to hear from the government following the June verdict that a dingo killed Azaria Chamberlain at Uluru in  1980.

On June 12, 2012, Deputy Northern Territory Coroner Elizabeth Morris confirmed that a dingo killed nine-week-old Azaria while the family was on a camping trip.

Chamberlain, from Lake Macquarie in NSW, said he had mixed feelings about the verdict, while talking to AAP about his newly-released book Heart of Stone: Justice for Azaria.

"It was a bittersweet experience for me, and I felt in one sense sobered but elated by this because it was a 32-year-old battle, and now justice for us had turned full circle," he said.

Chamberlain said the Deputy Coroner's speech was overwhelming and he had not expected it to be so emotional.

"The coroner doesn't have to apologise, although the first one did, but that was an absolute bonus; unexpected," Chamberlain said.

"Pity though the Northern Territory government hasn't come good. Still waiting.

"... I don't mind just a blanket apology from the Northern Territory government because I think not just us but I think everybody now waits to hear their ultimate response."

He said he also has plenty of questions left unanswered.

"I have peace and gratitude in my heart that Azaria's spirit now lies rested, and I have gratitude and peace in my heart because justice has been done for us, but why did this happen to us? Why did it take so long? And why were there consistently a whole lot of mistakes made? It was systemic; it just wasn't one or two."


Green light for boats is the worst of both worlds

For overseas readers: The long-nosed female in the toon is a caricature of Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia.  She is blaming the conservatives for the results of her own policies -- outlined on the signs

Am I naive to be waiting for a minister in the federal government, a government which now has so much blood on its hands, to take responsibility for the policy failure and resign?

During the past 19 months at least 363 people are known to have drowned while trying to make their way to Australia on fishing vessels.

Fifty people died off Christmas Island in heavy seas on December 15, 2010. On November 1, 2011, eight drowned off Indonesia. Several weeks later, on December 17, about 200 people drowned in Indonesian waters while on their way to Australia. On February 1 this year, 11 people drowned off the coast of Malaysia on their way to Australia. On June 21, 90 people drowned en route to Australia. About another 120 were pulled from the water. Last Wednesday, four more people drowned and 130 escaped death only because two commercial vessels were passing nearby. Many were women and children.

All the deaths at sea are directly linked to policies introduced by the Rudd Labor government and implemented by the Gillard government, when the effective border security arrangements inherited from the Howard government were dismantled. This re-created a problem that had ceased to exist.

Ten years ago, the Howard government used a variety of policies to bring the hammer down on the asylum-seeker traffic. The flow of boats abruptly fell to a trickle. During the six years from 2002 to 2008, just 301 people arrived on 18 boats, an average of three boats and 50 people a year.

The role of Julia Gillard in this is instructive. Almost exactly 10 years ago, on August 26, 2002, she told the Parliament that in the five years between the election of the Howard government in 1996 and the Tampa controversy in 2001, "We know that in respect of those boats - some 213 boats carrying 11,513 people - the Howard government did nothing …

"In the face of these unauthorised arrivals, the Howard government did nothing except maintain Labor's policy of mandatory detention … The so-called Pacific solution … is really no more than the processing of people offshore in third countries. It is a policy that Labor does not support, because it achieves nothing and costs so much in so many ways … And we know that it delivers absolutely no outcomes … "

Such irony. The "Pacific solution" proved so effective that Gillard, as Prime Minister, has been seeking to send asylum seekers to Malaysia to help staunch the billion-dollars-a-year black hole in her government's credibility on border security.

Clearly, Labor gave a green light to the people-smuggling industry and has sought to deflect blame for the results. It has created the worst of both worlds: a system that is punitive but ineffective, and wildly expensive.

To justify this failure, the government has resorted to lying. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, along with relevant ministers, have all parroted the line that under the Howard government, the "Pacific solution" - the processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea - was no more than a very costly posture because nearly all these asylum seekers ended up getting residency in Australia.

This is simply not true. Nauru and Manus Island housed 1637 people, of which 1153 were found to be refugees. But only 705 were settled here, while 448 were resettled in other countries.

Now contrast the current success rate of those who arrive after destroying their documents and bypassing immigration. About 90 per cent are being given residency and welfare payments. Yet those who seek to enter the country as skilled migrants are subject to an arduous and protracted vetting process, which just got harder.

As of yesterday, those seeking to arrive as skilled migrants can now be placed in limbo for years under new regulations. Perhaps the government does not even realise what messages it may be sending to prospective skilled immigrants, who are expected to make up 125,000 of the immigration intake this year, or 68 per cent.

The government may not fully understand the possible impact of its new regulations because the Department of Immigration and Citizenship communicates in classic bureaucratese. Here, in the language of the department's website, is the thrust of the changes which became law yesterday: "From 1 July, 2012, the Migration Regulations 1994 are amended to … support the new skilled migrant selection model, known as 'Skill Select', by harmonising skill requirements across skilled visa subclasses and introducing an invitation requirement for some key visas."

I am advised by an immigration lawyer that what this means, in plain English, is that it is has just become harder to get a skilled migrant visa. The "invitation requirement" raises the barrier to entry.

What it means, the immigration lawyer advises, is this: "If you are applying in the skilled migrant group, you will no longer be able to make an application to migrate to Australia. Instead, you will file an 'expression of interest' and stay in the system for two years until an employer or a state government sponsors you."

I am also advised that the new regulations make it harder to get into Australia as a business migrant.

We thus have the disconnect at the heart of Labor's immigration and refugee regimes that the people who are the least forthcoming, the least qualified, the least vetted, and who have done everything to bypass the vetting system, enjoy the greatest prospects of gaining permanent residency.

The green light for people smuggling is still on. Expect more boats, more deaths, more blame-shifting, and more cost. Just don't expect anyone in this government to accept responsibility for the failure and resign when the next boat sinks. That would require a code of honour, when all that exists is a code of survival.


State Government axes Queensland solar energy scheme, nation's largest

AUSTRALIA'S biggest solar energy scheme is dead in the water, torpedoed by the withdrawal of funding by the Newman Government.

The State Government is pulling $75 million out of a renewable energy power project, effectively killing off up to 400 jobs.

Regional Queensland was set to be home to one of the biggest combination solar and gas power plants in the world under a $1.2 billion scheme, a joint Federal-State Government and private partnership.

The Solar Dawn project would have used Australian-pioneered technology and transformed Chinchilla and the western Darling Downs into the nation's mixed-energy capital.

But the Liberal National Party has found a way to back out of an earlier Bligh government agreement and halt its contribution.

Premier Campbell Newman signalled soon after winning the March state election that he would look at pulling the plug on the $75 million investment if he could do it without risk to taxpayers.

Minister for Energy and Water Supply Mark McArdle wrote to federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson last week to confirm he had cut the Queensland contribution.  Mr McArdle was understood to have told Mr Ferguson Solar Dawn was unable to meet the State Government's funding agreement.  As a result, the agreement between the two governments was "terminated".

Mr McArdle apparently expressed "disappointment" at the outcome and hoped the project would still work with federal backing.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard had committed $464 million, saying the project would support Labor's carbon tax and keep the environment clean.

But George St insiders said the LNP was able to stop the contribution because Solar Dawn and the state-owned electricity utility Ergon were unable to negotiate a power purchase agreement.

Construction on the Solar Dawn project - about 300km west of Brisbane - was due to start in 2013 and be completed within three years.  It was expected to create 300 new jobs, indirectly support up to 100 jobs and save 500,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. It would have powered the energy of 70,000 homes.

Mr Ferguson yesterday described it as a disappointing development.   "The Solar Dawn project offers Queensland the opportunity to be at the forefront of solar thermal technology and home to one of the largest solar power stations in the world," he said.  "These opportunities have to be grabbed, but the Queensland Government seems content to let them slip by."

He said the future of the project would be determined by the independent Australian Renewable Energy Agency.


Leftist politician mocks concerns over carbon tax

Joe Hockey says Craig Emerson is a ‘circus clown' after dance act.   During a TV interview yesterday, Mr Emerson started dancing and singing "no Whyalla wipeout, there on my TV" to the tune of 1975 Skyhooks single, Horror Movie.

Mr Emerson's reference to Whyalla follows comments from Opposition Leader Tony Abbott that the carbon tax would wipe the South Australian town off the map.

Mr Hockey wasn't amused and says the trade minister's disgraceful behaviour reflects the attitude of the Federal Government to the concerns of everyday Australians about the carbon tax.

The singing was bad, but Mr Emerson stands by his performance.    "What we're making light of is Mr Abbott's doom and gloom prophecies," he said.

It was awkward and out-of-tune and Mr Emerson has been accused of mocking the people of Whyalla and other industrial towns fearful that the penalty on carbon emissions might cost many jobs.

Today he said he had made an important point but admitted he was a better minister than singer.  "Singing is not right up there with my other abilities," Mr Emerson told Sky News.

"But I was trying to get an important point through here. And that is, we've had a year or more of Mr Abbott terrifying communities and they have taken this to heart - they have been very worried."

His parody of Tony Abbott's carbon tax claims was well planned - he cleared the use of Skyhooks' tune Horror Movie with band member Red Symons.

Liberal front bencher George Brandis was not impressed by the song.  "I don't know what he was thinking," he said. "I think that he's certainly earned himself star billing in Coalition election campaigning for the coming election campaign."


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