Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Tony Abbott offers 'act of contrition' to Malaysia over asylum seeker criticism

Tony Abbott has apologised to an Asian leader for the second time in a week over his robust political campaigning before he was elected, offering an "act of contrition" for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

The Australian Prime Minister acknowledged in a meeting with Mr Najib at the APEC conference late on Monday that in Australia, "we play our politics very hard".

"I offered an act of contrition, if you like, to Prime Minister Najib for the way Malaysia got caught up in what was a very intense and at times somewhat rancorous debate in Australia. He knows we play our politics pretty hard in our country," Mr Abbott said.

When in opposition, the Coalition heavily criticised the Gillard government's proposed "Malaysia Solution" for asylum seekers, with immigration spokesman Scott Morrison arguing in 2011 that Malaysia could not guarantee the human rights of people sent to that country under the program.

"Our criticism was never of Malaysia, it was of the former government. I guess you might say that, in my own way, I offered an apology because I appreciate this was a difficult situation for Malaysia and it was only in that difficult situation because, in its own way, it had tried to help out a friend," Mr Abbott said.

Mr Abbott also apologised to Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta last week for the fact that Australian politicians should have "said less and done more" about asylum seekers passing through Indonesia to Australia.

Mr Abbott declined to comment in detail about Mr Najib's response, saying only, "I think he understood".

Moving to repair another regional relationship damaged by Australia's jarring asylum seeker debate, Mr Abbott also met Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill on Tuesday, saying he would "take full advantage" of Labor's PNG solution.

"I have indicated to Prime Minister O'Neill that I am grateful for the assistance that he is giving to Australia in its hour of need," Mr Abbott said.

"I have indicated to him that we certainly want to take full advantage of PNG's offer to host, if necessary, very significant numbers of illegal arrivals by boat in Manus."

During the election campaign his then shadow ministers criticised the PNG arrangement as unworkable, characterising it as paying off a third-world nation to handle Australia's problems.

Mr Abbott said at the time he would "salvage what we can" from the arrangement, which now appears to be every aspect of the PNG Solution negotiated by Labor.

In return, Mr Abbott also said 50 Australian Federal Police officers would be seconded to PNG by Christmas.

"They are helping us out with the boat people issue. They have certain domestic issues that they believe we can assist with, and we are," he said.

Mr Abbott also met on Monday Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and said the pair agreed to disagree over human rights issues in Sri Lanka.

Mr Harper is boycotting the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in the country, saying he was deeply concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka, pointing to the impeachment this year of the Sri Lankan Chief Justice, along with reports of judicial killings, the intimidation of political leaders and journalists, and the harassment of minorities.

"It is clear that the Sri Lankan government has failed to uphold the Commonwealth's core values, which are cherished by Canadians," Mr Harper said on the sidelines of APEC.

But Mr Abbott is determined to attend CHOGM. In his meeting with Mr Harper he said the issue had been discussed but not in detail.

"He knows where I stand and I think there is just an acceptance as there ought to be with friends that at different times we'll take a different approach," Mr Abbott said.

Australia's position is that Sri Lanka's human rights situation is benign enough to mean that refugees fleeing the country to Australia are able to be immediately repatriated.


God and Allah to be scrapped from court oaths in South Australia

A SHORTLIST is being drawn up for a simple and inclusive new oath for witnesses in South Australian courts, which could also remove references to God and Allah.

The proposed reforms would lead to a single statement for witnesses to pledge to tell the truth in South Australian courts.

There are several forms offered to witnesses preparing to give evidence in court, such as swearing on the Bible or Koran, or a non-religious "affirmation".

Attorney-General John Rau has asked the SA Law Reform Institute to create a shortlist that would contain new wordings for a uniform court statement.

Former Thinker In Residence Judge Peggy Hora has argued some people would not be bound to tell the truth under the current oath because it did not hold any meaning.

Law Reform Institute Deputy Director Helen Wighton said one example of people who would not necessarily feel bound by current wording would be residents of tribal Aboriginal lands.

Of the 3000 people who live in the APY Lands, in the State's Far North, a majority do not speak English and live a semi-traditional lifestyle.

The State Government changes will be released as a discussion paper for public comment later this month and aim to design one oath suitable for all aspects of the community to provide binding and truthful evidence in court.

Ms Wighton said she hoped there would be comments from a range of people, including those who could give an insight into the type of statement that would bind all people to tell the truth.

"We are hoping that we will get responses not just from lawyers and judges who have direct experience but religious groups and cultural groups and linguists," she said.

"I hope to hear from psychologists and people like that who understand how much saying something which you can identify encourages the telling of the truth, let alone comprehending what they are saying."

Ms Wighton said Mr Rau had told the institute he wanted one oath which would bind all people.

Ms Wighton said the issues paper would be released after being presented to Mr Rau later this month.

"We have identified where the oath or affirmation comes from, where the principles are and what the current practice is, and what it is elsewhere," she said. Uniting Church SA moderator Rob Williams said the solution would be two oaths, one religious and one not.

"It would seem to make more sense to have one affirmation for people who are not religious and also one for people who would prefer to swear on the Bible or Koran," he said.

A spokesman for Mr Rau declined to comment.


Subsidies, federation 'stifle next big sectors to boom'

The report below is patchy.  Getting rid of subsidies to uncompetitive industries is a no-brainer and the potential of tourism is undoubted.  Australia can offer magic tropical destinations where you can safely drink the water and you don't have to press 1 for English!  But the idea of feeding Asia is  unlikely to be realized.  China itself is already a net food EXPORTER under capitalism.  Those Chinese farmers are good!

WASTEFUL industry subsidies, a lack of skilled migrants and a "creaking" federation are stopping businesses from reaping maximum benefit from five "super-growth" industries that can bolster Australia's enviable prosperity as the mining boom wanes.

A Deloitte report argues Asia's increasingly prosperous nations will make farming, gas exports, tourism, education and wealth - where Australia already has advantages - potential boom industries over the next 20 years.

"Exceptional growth in these five sectors would add an additional $25 billion to Australia's GDP in 2033," said Deloitte Access Economics director and report author Chris Richardson.

"The reality is that we need new growth drivers - several new waves - and the first place to look is markets that can be expected to grow significantly faster than the global economy as a whole over the next 10 or 20 years."

Co-author Mehrdad Baghai, managing director at Alchemy Growth Partners, said: "The multi-billion-dollar question is where will global growth and Australia's natural advantage next intersect?"

Farming or "agribusiness" - Australia's "forgotten hero", which offers the greatest economic potential among the five - will be buoyed by a global trend towards higher protein diets coupled with the dollar's anticipated fall to US80c in coming years.

The report recommends "encouraging the consolidation of mature or declining industries, and winding back poorly directed subsidies (as) specifically directed government help can often miss its mark" - advice that defies the Abbott government's plans to prop up the ailing car industry.

The report slams Australia's "creaking federation, with overlapping responsibilities at every level of government leading to wasted spending and atrocious efficiency outcomes".

The potential for education and tourism made sense to visiting English tourist Claire Stokes, who is studying for a year in Melbourne and was yesterday enjoying the sunshine in Cairns, after a week-long east coast bus tour.

Ms Stokes said she was lured to Australia by its natural beauty, a drawcard identified by the Deloitte report, which highlighted the country's 60,000km of shoreline and 3000 average hours of sunshine each year.

"We just visited Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays and it was paradise," Ms Stokes said.

"Australia is my ultimate destination in a lot of ways: it's got great weather and its natural destinations are stunning."

Ms Stokes is studying international development at Melbourne's Monash University. Deloitte pinpointed the teaching of foreign students as Australia's fourth-biggest export earner.

The report says the industry generates $15bn a year and employs 100,000, figures expected to grow as demand intensifies.

Ms Stokes chose to study for one year in Australia, rather than backpack here for two weeks, so she could fit in as much travel as possible. "I don't want to go home without seeing absolutely everything I can," she said.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Ken Morrison said the report emphasised the need for governments not to take for granted tourism's potential.

He said: "Tourism generates more than $100bn in expenditure every year, directly employs more than 530,000 Australians across the country and is Australia's largest services export."


No excuses for Aboriginal brutality to women and children

Gary Johns

IN 2010, Ernest Munda of Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia killed his common law wife of 16 years, with whom he had four children. He was sentenced to prison for seven years and nine months, with a non-parole period of three years and three months.

The taxpayer funded an appeal to the High Court that his sentence was too harsh. He claimed that the Court of Appeal of Western Australia failed to have "proper regard" to his personal circumstances as a "traditional" Aboriginal man. In particular, "an environment in which the abuse of alcohol is endemic in indigenous communities", was not taken into account.

The High Court knocked him back. The court reiterated that while a person's background could play a part in mitigation, it needed to be "weighed by the sentencing judge". At present, judges have discretion, but in future, if Aboriginal culture is recognised in the Constitution, do not be surprised if the likes of Ernest Munda get lighter sentences.

The desire among many for Aboriginal recognition in the Constitution is genuine and there is a very real possibility of a "yes" case succeeding. The task ahead for sensible people is to draft a yes case that eliminates the risk that bad behaviour will be excused.

The "experts" who advised the Gillard government, recommended, among other things, "respecting the continuing cultures, languages and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples". This inclusion will increase the likelihood of a "Munda appeal" succeeding.

Just so the foolishness of the cultural recognition proposition is understood, here are the facts of the Munda case.

Munda and his common law wife were drunk and Munda had used cannabis. The pair argued. Munda punched his wife, threw her about the bedroom and repeatedly rammed her head into the walls. Munda "caused the deceased to fall on to a bed mattress". He then stood over her and repeatedly punched her in the face. The next morning, Munda had sexual intercourse with his wife. He then left the house to get some tea. When Munda returned, his wife was dead.

She had died from traumatic brain injury. She also had a fracture to her left jaw and broken ribs. In 2009, Munda had been sentenced to 12 months' jail, suspended for 12 months, for "unlawfully causing grievous bodily harm" to his wife. The injuries included a fractured femur, tibia and right radius as well as deep lacerations to her forehead inflicted by a metal shovel. Earlier in 2009, Munda was also sentenced to six months' jail, suspended for 12 months, for common assault upon his 13-year-old niece and the ex-partner of Munda's sister.

This is a sick culture. And it is a weak society that pays for this person to go to the High Court of Australia to attempt to get less than three years and three months in jail for his horrific crime. Politicians and Aboriginal leaders who want you to vote to change the Constitution to make it possible for the likes of Munda to spend less time in jail should be ashamed.

These cases are not rare. In 2005, a "traditional" man who anally raped his 14-year-old promised bride was convicted to 24 months for "assault and unlawful sexual intercourse", which in effect had him released after one month. The Court of Criminal Appeal of the Northern Territory heard the appeal and marginally increased the sentence.

Sitting in the old man's settlement of Yarralin for sentencing, Brian Martin, then chief justice of the NT Supreme Court, made the following sentencing remarks to the convicted man. "I accept that these offences occurred because the young child had been promised to you. This is not a case where you simply sought out a young child for sexual gratification ... I have a great deal of sympathy for you and the difficulties attached to transition from traditional Aboriginal culture and laws as you understand them to be, to obeying the Northern Territory law."

An alternative yes case is to recognise the historical truth in a preamble to the Constitution: that an Aboriginal people lived on the continent before its settlement by the British.

The experts also recommended "recognising that the continent and its islands now known as Australia were first occupied by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples". This is sensible, as long as it sits in a preamble. The Constitution is not a storybook, it is a rule book, and every Australian should play by the same rules.

Presently, judges have discretion in sentencing. If you want to look after the Ernest Mundas of the world, go ahead and vote yes for "cultural" recognition. If you are for human rights, then vote yes for "historic" recognition.


1 comment:

Stefan v said...

Anyone voting to support the continuation of this savagery should be sentenced to live under it. Murderers and rapists should be executed, regardless of melanin content of the skin.