Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bob Carr gets a grip  -- on illegals policy

TANYA Plibersek's view on refugees and migrants is shaped by a deeply personal experience, but that doesn't mean the deputy Labor leader will be soft on asylum-seeker policy.

Former foreign minister Bob Carr has warned Labor it faces years in opposition if it doesn't match the coalition's hardline border protection measures.

He has told his Right faction colleagues there should be no "daylight" between the ALP and the Abbott government on asylum seekers.

"If you want to embrace the Greens-Left-Fairfax-ABC position, you are going to go backwards at the next election," he said, according to Labor sources quoted by The West Australian.

Ms Plibersek, the daughter of Slovenian migrants, says her family's experience has given her a degree of compassion on the red-hot issue.

"I guess the difference with my parents was that they waited in refugee camps in Austria and Italy and they were offered a choice between Canada and Australia," she told ABC radio on Tuesday.

A balanced policy approach was needed to ensure asylum seekers do not take up dangerous travel options.

Allowing asylum seekers to get on a boat in Indonesia and make a dangerous journey to Australia was not the next best way to have a compassionate approach, Ms Plibersek said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has flagged a more compassionate Labor approach to the refugee issue.

Former immigration minister Brendan O'Connor said he didn't want to see the vilification of people who were genuinely seeking asylum.

"We cannot allow people to continue to die at sea," he told Sky News.  "I'm very sensitive to the difficult issues this presents. People want to see compassion."

Parliamentary secretary Simon Birmingham said Senator Carr was offering "sage advice" to Labor.


New Vic. rules allow speed cameras to be concealed, but police say it's OK to flash lights and warn others

POLICE say they are happy for drivers to flash their lights to warn other motorists about speed cameras.

Traffic Superintendent Dean McWhirter today said he was happy for motorists to flash their lights to warn other motorists they were approaching a speed camera.

"If that occurs I am comfortable with that because it means actually people are getting the message," Supt McWhirter said today.

Supt McWhirter also defended rule changes, revealed in the Herald Sun today, which allow the hiding of speed cameras behind bushes and road signs.

"It was done to make sure that there was some protection in relation to the mobile speed camera operators," he said. "To make sure the risk to them is mitigated.

"Unfortunately, what we know is that there have been a number of incidents where mobile speed camera vehicles have been swerved at.

"In the last 12 months there have been 247 incidents of threats in relation to mobile speed camera operators.  "And of those 247 incidents, 110 of those have been swerving at mobile speed cameras."

Supt McWhirter confirmed there would be occasions that operators would be concealed by bushes or signs to protect them.  "That's a commonsense approach," he said.

The force policy used to say that "under no circumstances" were cameras to be concealed by any covert means.  It also used to ban them on downhill stretches of road unless the site had a significant speed-related crash record.

The new rules - effective immediately - permit mobile speed cameras to be hidden behind trees, bushes, posts and road signs to lessen the risk of harm to camera operators from angry motorists.

They also allow them to be used at the bottom of hills and on slopes if the "road safety objective" can't be achieved at an alternative location.

"There is no restriction from a technical, legislative or enforcement perspective on a mobile road safety camera being operated on a slope, hill or gradient," the new rules say.

The force spent months creating its new policy after the Herald Sun revealed some cameras were being hidden despite the ban and also that fines had to be scrapped because a camera was wrongly set up on a steep hill.

Almost 510,000 motorists paid more than $103 million in mobile speed camera fines in the past year.

Victoria Police yesterday defended the changes to the mobile speed camera policy, saying they included recommendations made by speed camera commissioner Gordon Lewis.

"The amendments were made to specifically focus on the occupational health and safety of mobile speed camera operators, which is paramount in ensuring they can work in a safe environment," force spokesman Leonie Johnson said.


Labor party hostility to Israel

EXPLAINING why her foreign minister was "so hostile to Israel" and blaming the Jewish community for the weakness of her cabinet and caucus on Israel - this was what Bob Carr had reduced Julia Gillard to in her final months as prime minister.

Leaked documents reveal the acute embarrassment Senator Carr created for Ms Gillard over the question of Australia's support for Israel.

They also provide a remarkable insight into Labor's ongoing internal tensions over the Middle East.

Ms Gillard's briefing notes for a Jewish community event in Sydney in April included talking points with suggested answers to the question: "Bob Carr is so hostile to Israel what are you doing about it?"

The then prime minister's speaking notes also included a plea for the Jewish community to lobby Labor MPs to bolster support for her position in cabinet and caucus.

"There were not many voices in caucus," she complained. "This community has work to do."

The split over the Middle East came to a head last December when Ms Gillard told cabinet of her intention to vote no to a UN resolution giving the Palestinian territories observer status at the UN.

This triggered a backlash within government, led by Senator Carr, that forced Ms Gillard to back down and instruct Australia's UN ambassador to abstain from the vote.

It is the only clear instance on record of Ms Gillard being thwarted by her own cabinet and caucus.

It ended a strong bipartisan position on firm support for Israel, demanding negotiation without preconditions towards a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Australia received diplomatic complaints from the US and Israel for failing to vote against the resolution, which passed comfortably regardless. And domestically, Jewish community leaders conveyed their disappointed to the government.

So on April 23, when Ms Gillard went to a high-powered lunch at Chifley Tower, hosted by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, she was in a difficult position. At the event she would become the first Australian politician to sign the London Declaration on Anti-Semitism.

But she also might have to apologise for her foreign minister, who had led the charge on the UN vote and also had made strident comments about Israeli settlements on the West Bank being illegal.

"I know Bob is genuinely committed to Israel's security and survival," her speaking notes suggested. "He feels exceptionally strongly on the settlements."

The notes also directly addressed the way Ms Gillard was rolled by her party on the UN resolution; and they suggested putting the onus back on the Jewish community.

"There were not as many voices in cabinet supporting a 'no' vote on that resolution," they prompted. "There were not many voices in caucus. There were a lot of members who should have been heard from - and who were not. So I believed this exposed a weakness in the community's reach compared with previous years."

This issue was so divisive for Labor that during the election campaign Labor's Melbourne Ports MP, Michael Danby, took out a newspaper advertisement to distance himself from his own foreign minister.

Once Labor's new leadership team is resolved on Sunday, it can expect to be lobbied fervently by the Jewish community to strengthen its support.

New Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who was critical of the Gillard government's posture at the UN, has signalled Australia's intention to return to a position of unstinting support for Israel.


States and Feds at odds over homosexual "marriage"

THE Commonwealth is throwing down the gauntlet to the ACT on gay marriage as legal experts in Tasmania say there's no reason states shouldn't be able to make their own laws on the issue.

Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis has confirmed the federal government will challenge the ACT's same-sex marriage law in the High Court once it passes, which could happen within the next four weeks.

"Irrespective of anyone's views on the desirability or otherwise of same-sex marriage, it is clearly in Australia's interests that there be nationally consistent marriage laws," Senator Brandis said.

The Commonwealth Marriage Act provided that consistency but the ACT's law would be "a threat to that well-established position", he said.

ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said he and Senator Brandis had a "polite but forthright" discussion about the matter during a meeting of the standing committee on law and justice in Sydney on Thursday.

"We will be robustly defending our law and asserting that our law is capable of concurrent operation with the Commonwealth law and that it is not inconsistent," he told AAP.

A Tasmania Law Reform Institute report released on Thursday has found no legal reason for states not to make laws on marriage.

But its authors do say there is no way to predict how the High Court would rule on a challenge.

The island state made a bid to go it alone on gay marriage last year when its lower house became the first in the country to pass legislation on the issue.

It was narrowly defeated in the upper house because of concerns about its legitimacy under the constitution and whether it left Tasmania open to a costly High Court challenge.

In the ACT, the first same-sex weddings could happen as early as December.

Marriage Equality chair and independent NSW MP Alex Greenwich said the fact the federal government was intervening would encourage same-sex couples to get married sooner rather than later.

"The more people we have expressing their love and commitment will make it harder for any laws to be overturned," he told AAP.

But Senator Brandis warned it might be distressing for same-sex couples who marry under the new law, only to have their union later invalidated by a High Court challenge.

"It would be better for all concerned if the ACT government waited for a short time until the validity of the proposed law was determined by the High Court," he said.

But Mr Corbell said the territory had "declined to do that" because there's strong support for the law, which could pass within the next four weeks.

"We are disappointed that the Commonwealth professes concern for same-sex couples entering into marriage in case the law is struck down when it is they themselves who are seeking to have it struck down," he told AAP.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Because the only thing that really matters for an Australian Government is blind unquestioning grovelling at the feet of Israel. Don't we know who they think they are?