Sunday, June 22, 2014

High Court rules against Scott Morrison's refugee protection visa cap

The High Court has issued a stunning rebuke to the Abbott government's border protection policy, striking down its decision to refuse to give refugees who arrive by boat permanent protection visas.

In two unanimous decisions, with implications for thousands of boats arrivals, the full court ruled that Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's decision to impose a cap on the number of places in Australia's refugee intake for boat arrivals was invalid.

The government's determination to deny permanent protection visas will now rest with the Senate, where the Palmer United Party will control the balance of power from next month.

The party's leader, Clive Palmer, has spoken out strongly in support of refugees, but told Fairfax Media the party would study the High Court judgment and any decision on allowing temporary protection visas would be made by his party room.

Mr Morrison re-imposed the refugee intake cap in March after the Senate voted down his attempt to re-introduce temporary protection visas (TPVs) for boat arrivals, declaring that the Coalition would "not give an inch when it comes to protecting our borders".

He vowed then to take "every step necessary to ensure that people who arrive illegally by boat are not rewarded with permanent visas". Mr Morrison, who has presided as minister over six months without a boat arrival, was travelling when the judgment was handed down and was unavailable for comment.

His March decision effectively imposed a freeze on the grant of permanent protection visas to about 1400 asylum seekers who had already been found to be refugees and has implications for many thousands more whose claims have not yet been decided.

"This is a very significant victory for the rule of law being brought to bear on the plight of refugees in our country," said lawyer David Manne, who led the legal team representing an Ethiopian teenager who arrived in Australia without a visa last year, after stowing away on a cargo ship.

A second decision upheld a challenge on behalf of a Pakistani national who arrived by boat at Christmas Island in 2012.

In both cases, the court ordered Mr Morrison as minister to consider and determine the asylum seekers' applications for a protection visa according the law as it stands.


NSW Environment Protection Authority to be investigated following string of controversies

A parliamentary inquiry is to be held into the performance of NSW's Environment Protection Authority after a string of controversies that have dogged the agency, including botched prosecutions, accusations of cover-ups, mismanagement and a referral to the corruption watchdog.

Labor's environment spokesman, Luke Foley, successfully moved for the inquiry in the NSW Upper House on Thursday after warning that the EPA appeared more focused on protecting polluting industries than looking after the community and human health.

It also follows the introduction of a private member's bill last year by opposition MP Ron Hoenig calling for the EPA to be stripped of its powers to prosecute serious environmental offences because it was "incompetent" and does not have the "guts" to go after environmental criminals. Mr Hoenig wanted the powers to be given to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

EPA chief executive officer Barry Buffier said the inquiry would be an "opportunity to increase public awareness and understanding about the important role we play in protecting the communities and environment of NSW".

The inquiry comes after months of revelations by Fairfax Media about controversies over the EPA's performance, including its management of coal dust pollution in the Hunter, the mercury and other toxic chemical contamination in the Botany Hillsdale region and its alleged failure to protect koala habitats in the Royal Camp State Forest.

It also follows the EPA's abandonment of its biggest ever prosecution case, which was launched against the chemical company DuPont for allegedly polluting the ground and killing trees and plants around its Girraween site. DuPont had maintained it was not responsible for the pollution.

Community groups around the state, which have led the complaints about the EPA, have welcomed the inquiry saying it is in the best interests of the people.

The Hunter Community Environment Centre spokesman Dr John Mackenzie said they were pleased it would focus on the agency's repeated mishandling of coal dust monitoring in the region, which was referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption earlier this year.

“We are hopeful that the inquiry will improve the EPA’s ability to be a strong and effective environmental regulator," said Dr Mackenzie. "This inquiry is also vital for restoring community confidence in the EPA, given that its performance in recent years has fallen well shy of community expectations."

Botany resident Sharon Price said: "We look forward to a long-awaited, positive outcome."

The inquiry will specifically look into the land contamination issues at Botany and Hillsdale, the coal dust pollution in the Hunter, and the ground water contamination in the Piliga by Santos. Mr Foley has raised concerns about exploration company Santos being given a ''pathetic $1500 fine for the contamination of a water aquifer with uranium at levels 20 times higher than safe drinking water guidelines''.

It will also look into the regulation of cruise passenger ships at the White Bay Cruise Terminal and the regulation of forestry practices in Royal Camp State Forest.


Pressure on Opera Australia to sack soprano over homophobic comments

Free speech?  Tolerance?  Not for people who hold views that were normal just a few decades ago

Opera Australia is facing pressure to sack a Georgian opera singer due to perform with the company next month over comments in which she compared gay and lesbian people to faecal matter.

The soprano, Tamar Iveri, has been rehearsing with Opera Australia in Sydney for several weeks ahead of a performance in Opera Australia’s Otello in Sydney in July and August.

Iveri is also scheduled to sing in Tosca in Melbourne in November and December.

Asked whether Iveri would still perform in both productions, an Opera Australia spokeswoman said the company had no comment.

The spokeswoman confirmed Iveri had taken part in Otello rehearsals in Sydney for the past two to three weeks. ‘‘Rehearsals are proceeding,’’ she said.

Iveri’s comments about the LGBT community surfaced recently from a letter she posted on Facebook in May last year to Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili.

Her letter followed a protest in the Georgian city of Tbilisi by LGBT activists on the International Day Against Homophonia and Transphobia. During the protest, activists were assaulted - some beaten severely - by Orthodox Christian demonstrators.

The violence was condemned by Margvelashvili, which prompted Iveri’s letter to the president.

In the letter, Iveri pleads with Margvelashvili to ‘‘stop vigorous attempts to bring West's ‘fecal masses’ in the mentality of the people by means of propaganda.’’

‘‘Do not try to wrap this mass in beautiful packages, pour Chanel perfume on it and present it to people as if it was something of medical, recreational qualities,’’ she wrote.

‘‘No matter how unhappy ‘friendly West’ might become, fortunately, the Georgian people are well aware of what fruits, offered by the West in their menu, to eat and what to discard. Just like my small dog guesses it.’’

Her post has since been removed from her Facebook page.


"Chaser" sketch on Chris Kenny breached ABC editorial policies: ACMA ruling

The battle between the ABC and conservative commentator Chris Kenny is officially over – and the verdict is unequivocal. Game, set and match: Kenny.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) ruled on Friday that the infamous Chaser sketch depicting Kenny having sex with a dog breached the ABC's editorial policies, overruling an earlier ABC verdict that the segment was legitimate. ACMA found the sketch, aired on The Hamster Decides program last September, breached the ABC's "harm and offence" standard, which states: "Content that is likely to cause harm or offence must be justified by the editorial context."

 The authority said the sketch was clearly satirical but the digitally altered image of Kenny fornicating with a dog was not justified. The segment was "intrinsically likely to have caused high level of offence".

ACMA also suggests in its verdict that the ABC board should reflect on whether its code of practice is operating effectively when it comes to harm and offence.

The present standards on harm and offence serve to "complicate and obscure rather than simplify or clarify", it found.

Complaints about whether the segment carried appropriate classifications and warnings were dismissed.

The ACMA verdict overrules the ABC complaint department finding last October that the segment did not breach the broadcaster's editorial policies. The ABC's audience and consumer affairs division found the skit would have offended many viewers but was legitimate satire.

In April, ABC managing director Mark Scott issued a formal apology to Kenny for the sketch. Earlier this month, the ABC reached a settlement with Kenny, who sued the broadcaster for defamation, that involved paying him $35,000 in damages and apologising to him on-air.

Kenny said earlier this month he sued the ABC to show that the broadcaster should not be able to silence or intimidate its critics.


1 comment:

Paul said...

"Just like my small dog guesses it"

I think she should keep on posting. She's funnier than