Monday, March 25, 2013

Juvenile offenders will no longer get a clean slate when they turn 17 under proposed Qld. Government changes

MOST of the state's dangerous youth offenders, even rapists, do not have criminal records because courts are not recording convictions against them.

Three-quarters of juveniles sentenced for assaults and sexual offences in the past three years did not have convictions recorded, meaning they can legitimately tell an employer they do not have a criminal history.

It also means that if they commit another offence after they turn 17, judges cannot take into account their criminal history during sentencing if no conviction was recorded.

A three-month investigation by The Courier-Mail reveals the judiciary is reluctant to record convictions against juveniles because they are worried about the prospects of their rehabilitation.

The State Government today releases its Safer Streets Crime Action Plan - Youth Justice, which Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie said would end youths "thumbing their noses at the law".

Among the proposals are for sentencing judges to take into account an adult's juvenile history; transferring young criminals to adult prisons when they turn 18; and evaluating bootcamps trialled on the Gold Coast and Cairns.

Mr Bleijie will today ask  for public feedback on youth offenders and ask for strategies on dealing with them.

He said he was considering reviewing laws that would "ensure courts are given the full picture when sentencing adults with juvenile criminal histories".

"Section 184 of the Youth Justice Act 1992 gives judges the discretion to record a conviction in relation to a young offender," Mr Bleijie told The Courier-Mail.

"Currently where a conviction is not recorded, any offences committed as a juvenile are not able to be taken into account by a court if the offender is subsequently sentenced as an adult."

He is also considering a breach-of-bail offence for juveniles, which critics said was unnecessary. A three-month investigation by The Courier-Mail into youth offending has revealed how the judiciary is reluctant to record convictions against youth offenders - even those found guilty of rape - because they are worried about their ability to rehabilitate.

Three-quarters of juvenile offenders sentenced for assaults and sexual offences in the past three years did not have convictions recorded.

However, 11 youths who appeared before the Supreme Court for murder, attempted murder and other aggravated assault charges since 2010 all had convictions recorded.

While not advocating for any particular change, Queensland Chief Justice Paul de Jersey acknowledged there was community concern.

"The point of not recording a conviction relates primarily to an offender's future employment prospects, and with some offenders, for example sports people, to the prospect of obtaining a visa if travelling for that purpose," Justice de Jersey said.

"The exercise of the discretion whether or not to record a conviction is potentially sensitive, in that many prospective employers would argue that they should be informed about the past history of an applicant for employment, warts and all," Justice de Jersey said.

He said if an offender had been convicted but no conviction was recorded to the "outside world" they do not have a criminal history.

Sentencing judges can take into consideration previous crimes if a conviction was recorded.He said the Court of Appeal had noted there was a presumption that under Section 183 of the Juvenile Justice Act convictions not be recorded.

"That has led to a general reluctance to record convictions against children," Justice de Jersey said.

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman said there was no evidence youth justice was more of a problem.

"Fundamentally, if convictions against children haven't been recorded and there have been any appeals, then that speaks for itself," he said.

The Queensland Law Society's criminal law committee member Ken Mackenzie said courts were obliged to take into account how a conviction recorded would impact on a juvenile's future.


Flood of illegals increasing

MORE than 120 asylum seekers arrived on three boats over the weekend with new UNHCR figures showing refugee claims in Australia are increasing five times faster than the rest of the world.

The three vessels have cemented a record number of arrivals for March under Labor with 1215 so far with a week to run.

The figures, from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, show just 115 people arrived in March last year, 373 in 2011, 746 in 2010 and just 54 in 2009.

A UN report last week revealed Australia's asylum claims topped 16,000 in 2012, a 37 per cent increase compared with an eight per cent increase across 44 industrialised countries.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison claimed the figures show the government's policies were encouraging asylum seekers to travel to Australia.


Right wing? No, I'm a liberal and proud of it

by Australian physicist John Reid

Recently, a friend asked me why I have such “extreme right-wing opinions”. This came about after I had expressed some scepticism about human induced climate change and various other Green shibboleths. This is my response.

I associate the term “right wing” with the following political beliefs:

(i) the State is more important than the individual,

(ii) Capital is more important than Labour and trade unions and industrial action should be suppressed,

(iii) the State is justified in censoring books, newspapers and the media in order to suppress ideas that the government or important lobby groups may find unpalatable,

(iv) warfare is not merely unavoidable but desirable,

(v)  those in power know best; hierarchical forms of government are preferable to democracy, and

(vi) these self-evident truths are continually being undermined by the malign influence of International Communism in its various forms.

What are some of the beliefs of the Left? Nowadays, Marxist Socialism is largely discredited in the West, apart from a small minority of the faithful. In its place we have an amalgam of feminism, militant environmentalism and welfare state advocacy. This constitutes The Left in present day Australia and has, rather cleverly, avoided being branded as a particular “ism”. That is unless we include Post-Modernism, which acts as a sort of intellectual umbrella but which is so arcane and confusing that most Left-inclined non-academics tend to muddle along without it.

The Green-Left-Feminist (GLF) world-view includes many of the following:

1/ All cultures are equally valid (from Post-Modernism).

2/ Prior to the Modern Era (which usually began around the time when the speaker attended university) Western society was a Dickensian hell in which women were subjugated by their violent husbands and children underwent harsh physical punishment and rote learning at school.

3/ We have nothing to learn from our past, which was controlled by white male patriarchs.

4/ Owing to Capitalist Greed, the planet is about to come to an end as fragile ecosystems collapse under the strain of the resources taken from them and the poisons being pumped into them.

5/ All ecosystems are fragile – there is no such thing as a robust ecosystem.

6/ Human beings are a scourge on the planet. The world would be a better place without human beings.

7/ It is our job as human beings to ensure that the world is preserved exactly as it is now, like a giant museum. No more species should ever be allowed to become extinct whatever the economic cost of keeping them viable (David Attenborough).

8/ Scientists, and especially environmental scientists, have a profound understanding of the natural world and only they know how it should be managed. Lay people have no right to criticise them because they always know best.

9/ Scientific truth is whatever a consensus of grant-funded scientists say it is. Retired scientists and those employed by Big Business are not to be trusted.

10/ As there will be no more wars; all money spent on defence is wasted.

11/ Nuclear is bad. All nuclear power plants should be closed down.

12/ Carbon dioxide is bad (i.e. all combustion).We should obtain all of our energy from alternative, Green technologies.

13/ Hydro-electricity is bad because it involves building dams.

14/ Notwithstanding #1 above, pre-industrial societies like New Guinea hill tribes and Yanamomo Indians are superior to our own in their dealings with Nature and with one another. War is a product of capitalist society and is unknown among such people.

15/ All wilderness and all forests must be preserved, whatever the cost, because trees are more important than people and forests are more important than communities.

16/ Large native trees are sacred (Richard Flanagan). Whales are sacred.

17/ These self-evident truths are continually being undermined by the malign influences of the Energy Lobby and the Murdoch Press

Note the similarities. Both Right and Left downplay the individual, both appeal to authority, both, in the extreme, become totalitarian, both attribute evil motives to their detractors and subscribe to the malign influence theory.

The political philosophy which opposed them is liberalism. Liberalism is neither Right nor Left. In wartime the Left tends to be more liberal and the Right illiberal, as during the Cold War and the Viet Nam War. Today it is the Left which has become illiberal. To question the Leftist “truths” listed above is to be a “redneck” or a “denier”.

I am a liberal, with a small “l”, although recently I have joined the large “L” Liberal Party. I grew up in a family with a liberal orientation. I first became self-consciously liberal after hearing John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty read by Prof Sydney Orr when I was a student at the University of Tasmania. The year was 1959, the centennial of the essay.

Along with Voltaire and many others, Mill was part of the Enlightenment tradition of liberal thought. It is a tradition which is deeply embedded in our culture and one of the reasons for our stability and our success.

More than 150 years later, Mill’s ideas about the suppression of slavery and the desirability of female suffrage have come to pass in Western countries. I believe that he got it right about liberty, about freedom of speech, and about the necessity for informed and inclusive debate in a healthy democracy.

However his more socialistic ideas, about workers’ collectives and so on, sound more than a little na├»ve nowadays. I believe that if Mill were alive today he would not support socialism and would be horrified by the perversions to which it has led. In 1859, when he put pen to paper, Stalin’s purges, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, the excesses of Pol Pot and the sheer lunacy of North Korea were yet to happen. He would have been appalled by the unnecessary suffering and suppression of the human spirit brought about by this fervent, mindless and un-self-critical ideology which holds the State or the Party above the individual.

To me, the problem with GLF’s, particularly the Greens, is that they confuse what is desirable with what is possible. They also confuse loyalty and truth. Being Left is rather like being a Collingwood supporter: you may, in your heart of hearts, suspect that the 'Pies are going to lose next weekend but you can’t say so publicly because that would be disloyal.

A society which puts loyalty before the truth is not a healthy society. The Vietnam war might have been avoided if the US had been able to talk to the Chinese, who were equally dissatisfied with North Vietnam at the time (according to Kissinger). However the US State Department had been purged of its China experts. Anyone who had actually been to China was seen as being “soft on Communism” by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. There could be no real debate or communication with China under those circumstances, and prejudice held sway at the cost of millions of lives.

In my view, in this country, liberalism has come under threat. We can no longer assume that we live in a society in which minority opinions can be heard and debated. There are several examples where this principle is increasingly disregarded.

One is the recently shelved attempt to install a government-controlled watchdog to censor media content following from the recommendations of the Finkelstein Report.

Another is the prosecution of Andrew Bolt under the racial vilification laws. Bolt was dragged before the courts for criticizing what he wrote was the opportunist use of scholarships and prizes, intended for disadvantaged Aborigines, by relatively affluent middle-class people. He hurt their feelings by speaking the truth, evidently. He in no way vilified Aborigines per se, some of whom agree with him. It should be noted that the affirmative action provisions, under which such prizes and grants were set up, actively discriminate on the basis of race and are, ipso facto, themselves racist. The disadvantaged should be given preference according to the nature of their disadvantage, not because of their DNA.

The controversy over the visiting Dutch politician Geert Wilders is another case in point. Wilders has always emphasized that he is not opposed to Muslims, only to their religion, Islam, which, he considers an oppressive ideology and an existential threat to Western liberal values. His position is similar to that of Churchill in prewar Britain who was condemned for expressing concern about the rise of Nazism in Germany. Churchill happened to be correct and Wilders may well be wrong, but at least he should have the right to be heard and have his views discussed. We suppress the ideas of such Cassandras at our cost.

Finally, I regard the so-called “climate debate” as a classic case of the breakdown of the liberal spirit, this time within the scientific community. Putting aside the technical details about whether climate variability is or is not influenced by human activity, the manner in which this campaign has been conducted is a disgrace. Even the term “climate change” is loaded, presupposing, as it does, that the climate was once stable and is now changing; real scientists would use the phrase “climate variability”.

The polemical nature of the IPCC reports, the way in which opponents have been systematically vilified and denied access to funds and publication, the absence of any critical third party evaluation of the models, all imply an illiberal and political agenda. Certainly scientists need to seek funds and to put their best foot forward in doing so, but the way in which the climate people are using Green hysteria to attract massive funding amounts to nothing less than the prostitution of science. It is illiberal to the core.

No, I am not right wing. I am a liberal.


Don’t blame corporate sector for low Indigenous employment

According to a new report by the Diversity Council Australia, Reconciliation Australia and Lend Lease, the corporate sector needs to more effectively engage with Indigenous communities to close the gap in employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

In the report, 27 Indigenous industry leaders gave the corporate sector an average score of 5.1 out of 10 for community engagement and employment of Aboriginal people.

But the corporate sector should not be blamed for low Indigenous employment. The barrier to improving Indigenous employment figures is not the lack of effective (what Reconciliation Australia would term ‘culturally appropriate’) engagement with Indigenous communities, but practical things, like the appalling education outcomes of remote Indigenous Australians with many unable to read, write or count.

Rather than blaming private sector employers for not engaging appropriately with Indigenous communities, governments and training providers should be held responsible. Many more Aboriginal people could be employed if government education departments were doing their jobs properly.

Remote Indigenous people may complete multiple training courses but the training never leads to employment because underlying illiteracy problems are not addressed. Indigenous students are allowed to pass courses in Business Administration from the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education without knowing how to turn on a computer or write a simple sentence in English.

The private sector, most notably mining companies, have lead the way in offering: training; support with literacy and numeracy; pre-vocational courses; introductory job rotations; flexible traineeships; and apprenticeship on-the-job programs. Several mines, including the Argyle diamond mine in the Kimberley, the Granites goldmine in the Tanami desert, and the Century zinc, lead and silver mine in the Gulf of Carpentaria, have decades of experience in providing employment opportunities for the local Aboriginal population. In some mines, Aboriginal people make up 20 per cent of the workforce.

Yet even with all the pre-employment training and accelerated training provided by mining companies, there are many remote Indigenous Australians whose literacy and numeracy is not sufficient for them to be employed safely in mining operations. Still, mining companies are so keen to employ Indigenous people they have created ancillary positions in gardening, maintenance services and land management.

To say, as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda does, that employers should not ‘pay lip service to reconciliation’ is a slap in the face to all those private sector employers who are doing everything they can to try and employ more Indigenous people.

Andrew Forrest states that under the Aboriginal Employment Covenant, 335 employers have pledged over 60,000 jobs for Indigenous people. So far 14,000 Indigenous people have moved into employment. More would be employed if they had the right education.

The Diversity Council Australia and Reconciliation Australia are perpetuating a myth that more Aboriginal people could be employed if employers were not so racist. The truth is employment opportunities abound for educated Indigenous people.

It is education not racism that is holding Aboriginal people back.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Diversity Council Australia

The what? Where do these organizations keep springing from?