Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Queensland Government hopes to open Palm Island, in the state's north, to tourism

Palm island is indeed wasted on a people who have turned it into a hellhole.  It should be put to better use.  It is not the ancestral home of most of the blacks living there so there should be no objection to relocating the troublemakers

PALM Island - once rated the most violent place on earth outside a war zone - may be the state's next tourism hotspot.

Premier Campbell Newman has ordered State Cabinet help make the infamous riot township off the coast of Townsville into a popular tourist destination.

The decision was prompted following Mr Newman's recent five-hour tour of the island - his first visit to the troubled community.

The briefing notes, obtained exclusively by The Courier-Mail in a Right to Information request, show he felt "greatly inspired by the potential" of Palm Island after his February visit.

Mr Newman instructed Cabinet to do whatever they can to "ultimately lead to better opportunities for the people of Palm Island".

Palm Island is an idyllic tropical island paradise fringed by white sandy beaches, coral, and waters teeming with fish.

Home to a 2000-strong Aboriginal population, the former mission is notorious for the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee and mob riots in 2004 - and a malaise of high unemployment, violence, and welfare dependency.

The RTI request revealed the strife-torn community has obtained $1.2 million for a new ferry landing.  Under the Premier's support, it is earmarked for another $1.7 million to build a retail precinct, cultural zone, foreshore upgrade and eco-tourism development.

"I am now asking that all ministers in the Queensland Government provide assistance where possible to support the council's plan to drive economic development," Mr Newman wrote in a letter to Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey, dated March 12 this year.

"I am keen for you to explore what can be delivered (perhaps consider a pilot program) within the next few years to give tourists visiting Palm Island a unique experience of its local culture and hospitality."

Ms Stuckey said last night she had been in touch with Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council to express the Government's support for economic and tourism development on the island.

Palm Island Mayor Alf Lacey said his council had no illusions about the difficult task to reinvent the strife-torn township.

"We've got no plans to make it like Hamilton Island or Gold Coast," said Cr Lacey.  "We want tourists to come visit, go fishing, spear mud crabs, ride horses on the beach, do artwork, and experience the authentic Australian culture."

Cr Lacey said the island was no longer the "most violent place outside a combat zone", as it was listed in the Guinness Book of Records in 1998.

"It's time for Palm to find new feet, go on a new journey, make economic gains. Too long we've been on the taxpayer purse strings," he said.

Palm Island has an average crime rate of three offences a day, latest figures show.  The Queensland Police Service online crime site reveals 1018 offences - or one for every two residents - on the former mission in the past 12 months.  Most offences are for liquor (222), assault (203), unlawful entry (95), drugs (86) and weapons (three).  There have been five homicides, not including the infamous Mulrunji death-in-custody, out of 9241 offences over the past decade.

Tourism expert Judy Freeman said it was extremely difficult to make a success out of indigenous tourism.

"There are just so many obstacles," said Mrs Freeman, an indigenous tourism consultant and founder of Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns.

"Do they really want tourists? This sort of venture can divide a community.  "And are there enough people to actually run the business? This is not going to be an overnight success. It needs a lot of energy and funding to keep it afloat beyond a three-year electoral cycle."

Palm Island, about 65km north of Townsville, can only be accessed by air or sea and is a 20-minute charter flight or two-hour ferry ride one-way from the city.

Island delights:

 *  White sandy beaches, small bays and steep forested mountains with waters teeming with fish, crabs and lobster

 *  Palm Island arts centre with vivid artwork depicting the dugong, crocodile and spirit totems of the island's different tribal clans

 *  Visitors stay in a 11-room motel, featuring double bedrooms with ensuite, surrounded by razor-wire security fencing

 *  Coolgaree bar and bistro sells coffee and lunches and mid-strength beer from 5pm to 9pm with beautiful views over the ocean

 *  Guests are advised to follow community protocols and not roam the streets alone at night because of potential assaults or attack from packs of wild dogs


Heat builds on Kevin Rudd over asylum boat tow-backs

LABOR is facing increasing pressure to reconsider turning back asylum-seeker boats and stare down threats of self-harm from passengers demanding they be taken to Australia.

Former high-level military officers have declared that turning back asylum-seeker boats en route to Australia is possible and would send a message to Jakarta that it needed to crack down on the people-smuggling trade.

Immigration Minister Tony Burke yesterday warned asylum-seekers who seized control of ships at sea by any means should face a criminal investigation and potential rejection of their asylum applications. His warning came after The Australian revealed that an attempt to return a group of asylum-seekers to Indonesia was aborted last week when they threatened to kill themselves. The group had been picked up in international waters by a Maltese-flagged oil and chemical tanker, the Sichem Hawk.

As Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison raised the issue of the Tampa in 2001 and flagged using Australia's elite SAS troops to secure vessels being confronted with such threats, Tony Abbott reiterated the Coalition would turn back boats where it was safe to do so.

"What we will ensure is that we are not played for mugs by the people smugglers and their customers. We will not be played for mugs," the Opposition Leader said. If it wins government at the election later this year, the Coalition will reintroduce the Howard-era policy of towing asylum-seeker boats back to Indonesian waters.

A joint communique issued after talks between Kevin Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last week - warning against "unilateral actions which might jeopardise such a comprehensive regional approach and which might cause operational or other difficulties to any party" - did not mention the Coalition but has been interpreted as criticism of its proposed tow-back policy.

Mr Burke said Mr Morrison had acknowledged "that when they say they'll tow the boats to Indonesia, they'll actually only go to the edge of Indonesian territory". And Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare said that under John Howard only five or six of the 250 boats that arrived when he was prime minister were successfully turned back.

"Most of the other times when they tried to turn back boats, they couldn't," Mr Clare said. "The boat was sabotaged and the people (aboard) ended up going to Nauru or Christmas Island. The second problem is it's not safe."

But Mr Abbott told the ABC's 7.30 program last night that Indonesia had never explicitly approved the Howard government's turning around of asylum-seeker boats. "I'm not saying it's hazard-free but what has been done in the past can be done in the future," he said. He said the most dangerous thing of all was to do nothing, leading to more deaths at sea.

Former senior military officers yesterday insisted that because boats had been turned back before, it could be done again.

Retired major general Jim Molan told The Australian turning back the boats would send a strong signal to Jakarta that Australia was serious about stopping them.

General Molan, who served in Jakarta for five years and worked closely with the Indonesian national security system, said Indonesia could stop the boats fairly quickly if it wanted to. "The main reason to (send back boats) is as a signal to everyone involved, especially the Indonesian government," he said. "Indonesia just needs to know that the Australian government is serious about what it's doing."

Former navy chief Vice Admiral David Ritchie told The Australian that while the practice would be risky, it could be done. If the government told the navy to turn the boats back the navy would do it and do it well, he said.

He said attempts were made to sabotage boats in the past but that did not stop the process working.

"Of course (sabotage) is going to happen," he said. "Those people are desperate to get to Australia and you're trying to stop them so they'll do whatever they can."

Admiral Ritchie said he would probably agree with those who argued that Indonesia could not legally protest against boats being turned back by Australia if the people smugglers were using Indonesian-flagged boats with Indonesian crews.

General Molan said the most effective measure against the flow of boats was for Indonesia to use its existing laws against people smugglers. Indonesia had clamped down very effectively on terrorism within its borders and could do the same for the people-smuggling trade, he said. "They are not interested in doing it at the moment," he said. "Our challenge is to make them interested in doing it.

"We make them interested in doing it by encouraging them, by working co-operatively, by showing our resolve and by impressing on them the magnitude of the problem for Australia."

Current navy chief, Ray Griggs, who commanded a frigate during the 2001 border protection operations, has warned that turning back boats could prove dangerous for both the Australian crews and the people smugglers.

Vice Admiral Griggs is also known to be concerned about high levels of post traumatic stress among crews on border protection operations, particularly those who have had to repeatedly recover bodies from the ocean after asylum boat sinkings.

Former Australian Defence Force chief Chris Barrie said yesterday that because the opposition had so publicly declared its turn back the boats policy, it would be very difficult to do and the consequences could be "terrible".

Admiral Barrie said the people smugglers were very likely to sabotage boats by sinking them or setting fire to them.

He said the Howard government's policy was brought into effect without being "declared" and caught the people-smugglers by surprise. While it had worked for a time in the past, it would be very difficult and risky to do now, he said. "All of the safety conditions for saving life at sea must be met before you could even consider implementing such a policy," Admiral Barrie said.


Taxis in Queensland will soon be wired for sound with recordings to be introduced next year

HUMAN Rights campaigners have criticised a Government move to allow taxi drivers to make audio recordings of passengers.  State Transport Minister Scott Emerson will introduce legislation next year in a move he says will improve safety.

It follows a 2005 move that saw video cameras in Queensland cabs.

But President of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties Michael Cope said audio recordings were not justified and were only being introduced as a "debt collection" measure.

Speaking on ABC Radio this morning he said: "The issue is the collection of vast amounts of personal data without justification.

"The problem is there is no evidence to support the proposition that recording audio in taxi cabs would reduce assaults.

"We say it will be consistently used to collect fares and there is no other business that is allowed to use audio recordings to collect debts.  "Where does it stop?"

Mr Cope also suggested it was a concern that taxi drivers would have so much personal information about their passengers, including a phone number, address, picture and audio recording.

Mr Emerson said capturing sound inside cabs would act as a further deterrent to assaults against taxi drivers and passengers.

"We won't stand for attacks on taxi drivers, but audio recordings and cameras can deter and ensure additional evidence when a crime is committed," he said.

He said the recording would be encrypted and stored on a hard drive in the taxi.

However, the recordings will be automatically overwritten after 72 hours, up from 32 hours currently allowable for the storage of video recordings.

"This Government is committed to providing all Queensland taxi drivers with a safe work environment however this must be balanced with passengers' and taxi drivers' right to privacy," Mr Emerson said.

Queensland Taxi Council CEO Benjamin Wash said the introduction of audio recording would bring Queensland cabs into line with safety innovations used across the world.

But most other states in Australia currently do not allow the capture of audio, except in a "distress situation" when an alarm automatically triggers the recording.


Rudd takes power to change leaders off faceless men and hands it to Labor rank-and-file

Gough Whitlam had problems with "faceless men" too.  

KEVIN Rudd has torn apart more than 100 years of Labor Party tradition to remove the power of the faceless men who knifed him in 2010.

Instead, the power to remove and install a new leader will be in the hands of rank-and-file members of the party, making it nearly impossible for a party leader to be removed.

The changes would likely have stopped Mr Rudd from removing Julia Gillard as leader two weeks ago and also stopped her from knifing Mr Rudd in 2010.

"You want to be able to say to the Australian people, you vote for this guy, you vote for this woman, they end up staying on for the duration of the term," Mr Rudd said.

"This rule change is clear. If a leader of the Australian Labor Party takes the party to the election and they are returned to form the government of the nation, that person remains as leader of the party and the government for the duration of that term."

MPs will be recalled to Canberra to vote on the proposals in a special Caucus meeting on July 22.

The changes are almost certain to pass, with one of the powerbrokers who tried to prevent Mr Rudd's return to power saying the party could not afford to rebuff him now.

"I think most people would understand the consequences of a rejection of the proposal," the Labor faction boss said.  "It would be catastrophic for Kevin."

Mr Rudd announced his plans last night after discussing them with his Cabinet.

But some MPs are angry that they were not consulted before the announcement.

The Prime Minister faces claims he is motivated by vengeance.  But he denied he was using the shake-up to get back at those who dumped him just over three years ago.  "It's a principle that goes way beyond my individual circumstances, Julia's individual circumstances," he said.

Under the changes, rank-and-file members would get 50 per cent of the votes in a leadership contest, making it difficult for MPs to conspire against a popular prime minister.

Plotters would need support from three quarters of the Caucus to call on a leadership spill, instead of the current one third required, if the leader did not resign or allow a challenge.

Mr Rudd said the changes would prevent Labor powerbrokers confronting the leader "one day or one night and saying 'OK sunshine, it's over'."  This would bring an end to Labor's revolving door of leadership and attract people to join the Labor Party, he said.

In a sweetener for the Caucus, MPs will once again be granted the right to elect ministers that Mr Rudd took off them when he was last prime minister.

A full ballot of members would take up to 30 days, in a move that could effectively place the leadership in limbo.

The deputy leader would act as a caretaker leader if the position was vacant.

As part of the overhaul, the leadership will automatically be put to a vote if Labor loses the election. Mr Rudd would not say whether he would stand for renomination if that happened.


1 comment:

Paul said...

They can relocate the troublemakers to Cairns. They'll fit in perfectly.