Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Asylum seekers injured as Christmas Island staff shut down protest over Reza Berati's death, dozens of detainees moved to 'red block'

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed several asylum seekers were injured when staff shut down a week-long protest at the Christmas Island detention centre yesterday.

The ABC understands around 70 male detainees, who had been protesting to mark 100 days since the death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Berati on Manus Island, were removed by specially trained staff and taken to a high-security facility known as 'Red Block'.

Mr Morrison has told Parliament some detainees became aggressive and had to be restrained after detention centre operator Serco called in an emergency response team (ERT) and asked all asylum seekers to return to their compound.

"The majority of detainees were compliant however I am advised a small number exhibited non-compliant behaviour," he said.

"The Serco ERT continued negotiations with those detainees who were refusing to comply. Reports to me suggest some detainees became aggressive and were subsequently restrained and moved [from the area].

"I'm advised that two detainees suffered minor injuries arising from non-compliant behaviour and were treated onsite," he said.

"A further four were taken to hospital for a range of injuries including suspected sprains or broken bones.

"One detainee has suffered an injury to his wrist. No staff were injured. I'm advised the facility remains calm."

Witness says most protesters walked away peacefully

The ABC has been contacted by a Christmas Island resident who witnessed yesterday’s events.

The person, who wanted to remain anonymous, said the protests had been peaceful and specially-trained staff removed some asylum seekers yesterday.

"One-by-one the protesters were removed from the group," the resident said.

"Most got up and walked away voluntarily but some didn't.

"They were then forcefully removed and in the process several asylum seekers sustained minor injuries."

The resident said a nurse on the island had reported "several cases of self-harm among the protesters, mainly cuts to arms and chest".


Judging by the telling silence from the Left, sexism must be all right

IF a high-powered woman is ­described as the “top dog’’ and her deeply personal struggle to fall pregnant dragged into the public domain to score cheap parliamentary points, is it sexism?

For some feminists, the answer sadly seems to depend on their politics.

Former Rudd and Gillard government staffer Jamila Rizvi, now the editor-in-chief of the Mamamia website, described the outrage that followed Clive Palmer’s personal assault on Tony Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin as a “still and telling silence’’.

Here was Mr Palmer dragging Ms Credlin, who has publicly opened up about her struggles with IVF, into the paid parental leave debate, claiming working women were being discriminated against so Ms Credlin could ­“receive a massive benefit when she gets pregnant’’. Yet, there was hardly an avalanche of outrage on Twitter to condemn the gender-based attack.

Labor backbencher Terri Butler was less than sympathetic. “She’s got a pretty fierce reputation. I think she can speak out on her own behalf,’’ the Queensland MP said.

One of the nation’s most influential feminists, Eva Cox — who described Mr Palmer’s comments as “right out of line’’ — sounded a note of caution at the public ­response to the attack on Ms Credlin. “I am concerned if people are not defending her because she’s seen as Tony Abbott’s staffer. I think that would be very unfair,’’ Ms Cox said.

Less than two years after Julia Gillard urged zero tolerance to sexism and misogyny, some progressive women were slow off the mark. Others were just missing in action. As Crikey’s Bernard Keane noted on Twitter: “I see lots of progressive thinks (sic) sexist attacks on Peta Credlin are OK because Gillard copped same/worse. Charming.’’

At midday the Destroy the Joint group posted on its Facebook site, hitting out at the Palmer ­attack on Ms Credlin, about 20 hours after he launched his personal broadside.

Anne Summers, one of Ms Gillard’s staunchest backers and a formidable feminist, said she had no idea what Mr Palmer had said and no wish to comment.

The attack on Ms Credlin was largely met with white noise.

“What’s that you hear?” Ms Rizvi wrote on Mamamia. “A buoyant defence of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff? Outraged cries for bringing the personal into politics, for making a leader’s staff member the story, and for using someone’s gender against them in policy debate? No. What you actually heard was silence. A still and telling ­silence.’’

Ms Credlin, she wrote, deserved better and feminists shouldn’t be fence sitting, mute.

“We do ourselves a disservice on the Left if we aren’t consistent in calling out sexism, and only calling it out when it suits us,’’ Ms Rizvi told The Australian.

Destroy the Joint’s Jenna Price said Mr Palmer had exposed himself as a “terrible sexist’’ and his attack on Ms Credlin, who had aired her struggles with IVF, was “heartless’’.

“I think this is the third time we’ve had to stick up for Peta Credlin, and I think that’s a good thing,’’ she said, adding the group was about getting rid of sexism and misogyny and not all its members were from the progressive side of politics.

“It can be difficult because a lot of women on the Right say that feminism isn’t important but that shouldn’t stop us from saying if you are being attacked because you are a woman, that’s wrong,’’ Ms Price said.

During a parliamentary debate on Monday, Mr Palmer claimed that under Mr Abbott’s signature $5.5 billion PPL scheme, working women were being discriminated so Ms Credlin could receive a “massive benefit’’.

Instead of contrition yesterday, Mr Palmer refused to apologise because “that’s my position’’ and seemed to further inflame the situation, suggesting Ms Credlin was behind the policy, even though Mr Abbott had championed it years before she joined his office.

“She’s the top enchilada. She’s the top dog, oh, I shouldn’t say that … She’s the boss,’’ he said.

He claimed he was unaware of Ms Credlin’s IVF struggles.

He later tweeted: “I’ve not intended to personally attack Peta Credlin in my PPL criticisms. However, no key position in government should escape scrutiny.’’

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull last night pulled out of a charity auction organised by the federal parliamentary press gallery in which they were to have dinner with Mr Palmer at the Wild Duck restaurant in the Canberra suburb of Kingston. They said they had cancelled the event because of Mr Palmer’s “offensive and inappropriate’’ comments in relation to Ms Credlin.

Earlier, Ms Bishop demanded Mr Palmer apologise. “I hope Mr Palmer reflects on what he’s done. It’s particularly hurtful thing to focus on the Prime Minister’s female chief of staff, whom it is well known is seeking IVF treatment,’’ the Foreign Minister said. “And for him to accuse the Prime Minister of putting in place a policy to benefit her is particularly hurtful in these circumstances, and I hope he reflects on what he’s said.’’

Bill Shorten said the comments were unwarranted and wrong, and senior Labor MP Jenny Macklin said the attack was inappropriate. Nationals MP Darren Chester said all Labor MPs needed to get behind Ms Credlin.


No "consensus" among Australian Earth scientists about "climate change"

AUSTRALIA’S peak body of earth scientists has declared itself unable to publish a position statement on climate change due to the deep divisions within its membership on the issue.

After more than five years of debate and two false starts, Geological Society of Australia president Laurie Hutton said a statement on climate change was too difficult to achieve.

Mr Hutton said the issue “had the potential to be too divisive and would not serve the best interests of the society as a whole.”

The backdown, published in the GSA quarterly newsletter, is the culmination of two rejected position statements and years of furious correspondence among members. Some members believe the failure to make a strong statement on climate change is an embarrassment that puts Australian earth scientists at odds with their international peers.

It undermines the often cited stance that there is near unanimity among climate scientists on the issue.

GSA represents more than 2000 Australian earth scientists from academe, industry, government and research organisations.

A position statement published in 2009 said the society was concerned about the potentially harmful effects of carbon dioxide emissions and favoured “strong action to substantially reduce current levels’’.

“Of particular concern are the well-documented loading of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which has been linked unequivocally to burning of fossil fuels, and the corresponding increase in average global temperature,’’ it said.

“Risks associated with these large-scale perturbations of the Earth’s fundamental life-support systems include rising sea level, harmful shifts in the acid balance of the oceans and long-term changes in local and regional climate and extreme weather events.”

Publication of the position statement caused an uproar among members and led to a revised statement, after wide consultation. The revised statement said: “Geological evidence clearly demonstrates that Earth’s climate system is inherently and naturally variable over timescales from decades to millions of years.

“Regardless of whether climate change is from natural or anthropogenic causes, or a combination of both, human societies would benefit from knowing what to expect in the future and to plan how best to respond.

“The GSA makes no predictions or public policy recommendations for action on climate beyond the generally agreed need for prudent preparations in response to potential hazards, including climate change.”

The revised statement was criticised as being too vague.

In a short statement published in the latest edition of the society newsletter, Mr Hutton says: “After a long and extensive and extended consultation with society members, the GSC executive committee has decided not to proceed with a climate change position statement.’’

“As evidenced by recent letters to the editor … society members have diverse opinions on the human impact on climate change. However, diversity of opinion can also be divisive, especially when such views are strongly held.

“The executive committee has therefore concluded that a climate change position statement has the potential to be far too divisive and would not serve the best interests of the society as a whole ,” the statement says.


Apology finally squeezed out of public broadcaster that broadcast Leftist hate speech

NINE months after broadcasting an offensive skit featuring The Australian’s columnist Chris Kenny by The Chaser team, the ABC will tonight issue a comprehensive on-air apology as part of a formal defamation settlement that includes paying all legal costs and some damages.

Despite the ABC and The Chaser team vowing to contest the matter in court, backed by an internal review that found the skit met editorial standards for satire, the apology will tonight be broadcast on ABC1 at about 9pm, before the Jonah From Tonga show.

The Chaser team will not be permitted to republish the mat­erial or make public statements that detract from the settlement, to prevent a repeat of the way presenter Julian Morrow undermined managing director Mark Scott’s personal apology to Kenny in April.

Hours after that apology, Morrow tweeted a picture of Mr Scott in a compromising position and rejected his public statements, stating: “We are not taking any steps to settle the legal action. If the ABC wants to then that’s a matter for it.”

Mr Scott’s failure to act decisively in the Kenny matter has cast doubt on his tenure as the ABC’s boss and editor-in-chief.

The action stems from a skit on the Chaser’s election campaign show, Hamster Decides, that ­depicted Kenny in a carnal act and called him a “dog f. .ker”.

Kenny said it was clear if he had not commenced legal proceedings, he would not have won an on-air apology and said it had been “worthwhile” to pursue the case. The details and costs of the settlement will remain confidential.

“It shouldn’t be this hard to get the taxpayer-funded national broadcaster to behave decently, but at least it’s finally happened,” Kenny said.

It is understood the ABC board is meeting today and had been pressing Mr Scott to finalise the matter.

Kenny said he decided to sue the ABC, production company Giant Dwarf and its presenter ­Andrew Hansen for defamation because of the offensive nature of the skit, and its subsequent damage to his reputation, but also ­because he considered it an ­attempt to silence him.

“I was singled out because I’ve been a critic of the ABC and it was an attempt to silence me,’’ he said.

“People have suggested to me it’s anti-free speech to launch a defamation action, well I think it’s quite the opposite in this case. I was singled out because I dared to criticise the ABC and it (the skit) was an attempt to intimidate people out of criticising the ABC.”

Responding to criticism that journalists should not pursue law suits and commentary that satire should be exempt from defamation, Kenny said he did not “take legal action lightly but in the end you have to draw a line”.

“They can mock me, they can tease me, they can find examples to ridicule me with all they like but somewhere there has to be a line,’’ he said.

“I accept that the line is grey, but I think this case was so ­obviously beyond the pale that nobody would disagree.”

Kenny was at a birthday dinner for his pregnant wife Sunita when the skit aired and he was instantly inundated with messages from friends and colleagues who had seen it.

He said the offensive nature of the skit “really wasn’t very pleasant for my wife or young children”.

The defamation proceedings that followed were unpleasant as well, he said, with the ABC employing bullying tactics, which included publicly releasing a legal letter in an attempt to force him to drop the case.

Kenny said he was grateful he was in a position to take his fight up to the ABC — an option not available to others who had been wronged by the taxpayer-funded organisation. “They do use these intimidatory tactics,’’ he said.

“I was able to take the ABC on and make this stand and get an apology on air, and that’s very important, but I do worry about people, individuals in society who might think they’re wronged by the ABC, it’s a very difficult, large, well-funded beast to take on.

“I think really when they’ve done wrong, they should look at it immediately themselves, come to a reasonable judgment and if they’re wrong apologise quickly.”

Kenny said many of his supporters, angry at the offensive nature of the skit, encouraged him to persist with the defamation proceedings and take the ABC to trial.

His primary aim, he said, was not to win compensation, but to achieve an apology and for the ABC to concede that the skit had “crossed the line”.

“Many people didn’t want me to settle — they wanted to see a court ruling against the ABC — I can understand their point but I think the ABC has been made to see sense, and having forced apologies in court and on air, as well as appropriate costs and damages, it would be intemperate to push on,’’ he said.

It was not the first controversy for the Chaser team, which has been in hot water on multiple occasions over insensitive and distasteful skits.

Kenny said he wondered “if and when” the Chaser boys were “going to grow up but that’s Mark Scott’s problem if he’s going to keep employing them.”

When the case is formally discontinued in court, the ABC will read an apology and a statement will be read on Kenny’s behalf.


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