Sunday, November 03, 2013

Asylum seekers in Darwin sent to offshore detention after talking to media

Asylum seekers being held at one of Darwin's four immigration detention centres are now wary of talking to the media after two people who spoke to the ABC last week were sent to offshore detention.

More than 10 asylum seekers spoke on camera through the fence at the Darwin Airport Lodge last week, with some complaining of poor conditions and others saying they would prefer to stay in detention rather than face persecution or death in their country of origin.

They also complained that only two toilets were available for 500 people in one section of the Christmas Island detention facility.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison last week said those complaints were "unsubstantiated".

Messages sent by asylum seekers from inside the Darwin Airport Lodge to Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network (DASSAN) members this week reveal that two women, who spoke to the ABC on October 24, have been sent to Christmas Island.

"A guy from Immigration started talking about media. He said if you tell your story to the media, like why you came to Australia, it may effect your [application] process," one asylum seeker said.

Another said: "The people who were transferred to [Christmas Island] are those who spoke to the media last week."

Mr Morrison said claims that detainees were transferred offshore for speaking to the media are "completely false, and add to the growing list of unsubstantiated claims being promoted by advocacy groups through the media".

Mr Morrison would not say whether asylum seekers had been warned against talking to the media.

But he said "it has been long-standing policy of both Coalition and Labor governments that media are not given access to detainees".

Fernanda Dahlstrom from DASSAN said last night's vigil was very different to the previous visits.  "We've been holding these vigils for over a year and every single week there's been a crowd of people on the other side of the fence," she said.

"This is the first week that we've seen virtually no-one come out to the fence to engage with the community. And we believe that's because they have been intimidated out of doing so by SERCO and immigration."

Last week, more than 20 asylum seekers came up to the detention centre fence to talk to the advocates. The ABC recorded interviews with more than eight of them.

At last night's vigil, only four asylum seekers came up to the fence, three adults and a small boy. An Iranian couple wanted to tell their story but not on camera, out of fear of retribution against their families in Iran.

The woman said she had already been recognised in Iran from a photograph of her with her head in her hands after the Australian Navy picked up her and her husband on July 19.

She said it "put our family into trouble and they're bothering and teasing our family and I think it's not good that our picture will be shown in our media".

Her husband said they had arrived in Australia just hours after the new laws came into effect under the previous Labor government, ruling out the possibility that people arriving by boat would be considered for permanent residency in Australia.

He said they did not know the law had changed. "It's really not fair because we were on a boat [for three days]. We both are educated and we are just escaping from our country to make a better life," he said.

The couple said they cannot go back to Iran and they do not know what they will do when they are sent to Nauru or Manus Island.

The man said he suffers from epilepsy exacerbated by stress in detention.  "It started again on Christmas Island because of stress and those things. I can't walk correctly," he said.

The Iranian woman said Immigration officials did not tell detainees directly about the rules regarding talking to the media.

"I think it's obvious that last week everyone just rush here and talk with the media but today no-one came," she said.


Sections of the medical community question Catalyst program about cholesterol and heart disease

The Australian public broadcaster has done some good for once, blowing the whistle on the cholesterol/statin myths

The ABC's medical science program Catalyst is under fire from some sections of the medical community for a two-part special that questions the scientific evidence linking cholesterol to heart disease.

Recently, Catalyst described the claim that saturated fats and cholesterol causes heart attacks as one of the biggest myths of medical history.

The most recent claim put forward by the program is that the anti-cholesterol medication called Statins is a massively over-prescribed drug and has no guarantee of reducing heart attack

The program goes further to say that the drug can, instead, do serious harm to the health of people taking them.

"All drugs have side effects and when you look at the clinical trials, it suggests that the side effect profiles are quite low," Catalyst presenter Dr Maryanne Demasi told ABC's PM program.

"But when you look at side effects in the general population, they’re a lot higher. And when you speak to doctors who are in clinical practice, they say that sometimes 20, 25, up to 30 per cent of their patients experience these side effects."

She says that if patients are not getting a benefit in having a longer lifespan from these drugs then patients need to question whether or not they expose themselves to the risks of these drugs.

Professor Emily Banks, the chair of the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Medicines, says the program may prompt people not to take necessary medicines.

But Dr Demasi says she has a responsibility to inform the public that people may using the drugs unnecessarily.

"I share her concern that patients will stop taking their medication unnecessarily but we also have a responsibility to tell people that the majority of people on these drugs may be on these drugs unnecessarily," she said.

"We have a duty of care to those people as well."

The National Heart Foundation of Australia maintains there is a clear link between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease, contrary to the Catalyst report.

The Heart Foundation said it has serious concerns about the conclusions presented in the ABC Catalyst program and is "shocked by the disregard for the extensive evidence upon which the Heart Foundation's recommendations are made".

"Australians need to be aware that the information presented by the ABC is not supported by the Heart Foundation," a statement said.

"There is international scientific consensus that replacing saturated fat with ‘good’ unsaturated fat, in particular polyunsaturated fat, reduces your risk of heart disease."

The Australian Medical Association supported the broadcast of the program, but added that it was important to have "balance" and "debate".

The program includes a warning advising viewers it is not intended as medical advice.


Beefed-up workplace cop is back
In an effort to boost productivity in the building and construction sector and tackle lawlessness, the Coalition government has revealed the finer details of the soon-to-be-reintroduced Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

Since 2009, the construction industry has been besieged by large influxes of strike activity. Illegal strikes and intimidation are becoming more commonplace, such as the infamous Grocon blockade in August 2012, where unionists blocked entry to Melbourne's Myer Emporium construction site for over two weeks in breach of two Supreme Court injunctions.

As part of the ABCC's reintroduction, maximum penalties for breaches of workplace laws will be roughly double - up to $110,000 for companies and $22,000 for individuals. The ABCC will also acquire tougher coercive powers, while the government will introduce a national building and construction code for government-funded projects.

The reintroduction of these powers to the commission addresses the shortcomings that led some in the industry to label Labor's regulator as a 'toothless tiger.'

One of the changes to the building industry regulator which the Labor government implemented was a prohibition on investigations where the parties had come to an agreement. This meant unions could, and often did, inflict large losses on companies, and would bully and intimidate workers with the knowledge that so long as an agreement was eventually reached with the employer, an investigation would be avoided.

Smaller companies simply found it too expensive and time consuming to enter into their own legal battles, and had little choice but to agree to the union's costly demands. In instances where a successful case was brought against militant unions or against rogue companies, the penalties dished out were too small to act as an effective deterrent.

The Coalition government will scrap the prohibition which means the commission will now be able to pursue penalties against unions even after an employer and the union have come to an agreement.

There are, however, concerns by unions and workers over the commission's power to compel testimony from witnesses. Individuals ought to maintain their rights against self-incrimination, but a regulator may need these powers to gather evidence for its investigations. Bodies such as the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have, and use, these powers.

With tougher powers granted to the ABCC, it is now up to the commission to use them effectively and responsibly.


Anthony Mundine joins homophobic bandwagon, 'our ancestors would have their head'

Mundine identifies as an Australian Aborigine so he is perfectly correct about his ancestors

This time, the boxer, former rugby league star and Islam convert caused a social media storm after angering the homosexual community and the Indigenous production company responsible for the ABC series, Redfern Now.

During Thursday night's season two opener, Mundine posted a comment on Facebook revolving around the show's gay Indigenous character, who was fighting for custody of his daughter following his partner's death.

"Watching redfern now & they promoting homosexuality! (Like it's ok in our culture) that ain't in our culture & our ancestors would have there head for it! Like my dad told me GOD made ADAM & EVE not Adam & Steve," he wrote.



Paul said...

"The Australian public broadcaster has done some good for once, blowing the whistle on the cholesterol/statin myths"

Now if only they could apply the same critical thinking to their Climate Change coverage....

Paul said...

Didn't know Adam and Eve (or the hapless Steve) were part of the Dreamtime. Priceless Mundine logic.