Monday, December 08, 2014

Corrupt Left and unions tarnish Australia's international reputation

Transparency International's global corruption index for 2014 is out today and the news for Australia is not good.

In 2002 Australia was rated No 1 - the least corrupt country in the world.   We were still doing OK in 2009, but over the past 4 years our ranking has slipped each year and now for the first time we are out of the top 10 cleanest countries, ranking 11th.

Here is TI's media release for 2009, reporting that we were then heading in the right direction.

This year we scored 80 points out of 100, down from 81 last year and 85 in 2012.   Relative to other countries we've slipped 4 places over the past two years.

TI's Australia Director Professor AJ Brown released this statement today.

He said:

“New revelations of links between some unions and organised crime add to concerns about the real capacity of federal and State governments to keep on top of corruption, such as revealed at the Australian Wheat Board, the Reserve Bank companies, Customs and other agencies long presumed to be above reproach,” says Professor Brown.

“Ongoing questions about weaknesses in Australia’s inconsistent political donation and disclosure regimes only compound the need for stronger, independent federal leadership, coordination and oversight.”

The data assembled by Transparency International tell a sorry story for a country that prided itself on the rule of law and doing the right thing.   The example set by Craig Thomson, the ALP President Michael Williamson, some of their parliamentary/union friends and a few shonky corporations should embarrass us all and jolt us into action.   The Trade Union Royal Commission in particular should take note of the extent of our decline and the importance of a thorough job.


Greenie land-grab contested

THE long-running Federal Court case of southern NSW farmer Peter Spencer strikes at the heart of land ownership in Australia, Queensland federal MP Bob Katter says.

MR Katter has flown to Sydney to support Mr Spencer's legal case against the Commonwealth and the NSW government over land-clearing laws.
He argues restrictions imposed on the clearing of vegetation on his farm constitutes an acquisition of his property.

Speaking outside the court on Thursday, Mr Katter told reporters that the case, which was launched in 2007, was one of the most important in Australia's history.

"Today the question is: who owns the land, the crown or the people?  "If we don't own our own land and a bunch of half-witted politicians own our land, than God help us all.  "This is why I have tracked across Australia to support Peter."

It comes more than four years after Mr Spencer staged a 52-day hunger strike in 2009 and 2010 on a suspended platform on his former property at Shannons Flat, near Cooma.

The leader of Katter's Australian Party said "millions of dollars worth of timber and timber rights" had been taken off Mr Spencer without compensation.


Indian citizens head immigration queue for Australia

Indian citizens are flocking to Australia to work, beating the once-dominant British expats, while the granting of Australian citizenship is at a six-year high, according to migration figures released this week.

The statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show there has been 46.6 per cent increase in the number of people becoming Australian citizens. During 2012-13,123,400 pledged to become citizens of Australia, the highest number since 2011-12, the International Migration Outlook report said.

Australia's Migration Program has also seen a significant increase, with 40,100 India citizens applying to migrate during 2012-13, while China had 27,300 applications and the United Kingdom 21,700.

According to Migration Law expert Sharon Harris, there is a growing trend of Indian and Chinese citizens seeking citizenship in Australia for greater global movement.

"India and China is without any doubt the most prolific source countries for pursuing visas and ultimately citizenship," she said "With an Australia passport, this opens up greater travel access globally."

Ms Harris, who has been a migration lawyer for 20 years, said the change in governments was particularly popular with Chinese citizens, who were attracted to the Abbott government.

"With the change of government they have more confidence in a stable political environment," Ms Harris said.

But the report also showed that 62,700 people whose temporary visas had expired or had been cancelled were living illegally in Australia.

Jobs which only offer cash in hand such as in the hospitality industry or agriculture contributed significantly to the number of workers who went "missing".

'"This is a huge issue but the Department of Immigration did not have the resources to find these people.  "They do checks in area of high concern such as farming and hospitality, where those employers are happy to pay cash in hand."

In October, it was revealed by a Fair Work Ombudsman that more than an estimated 20,000 workers on the skilled 457 visa had gone missing.  The audit assessed 1807 skilled workers on 457 visas and found 338 – or about 20 per cent – were no longer employed by their sponsor.

According to the latest 457 visa figures, Indian citizens comprise almost a quarter of the skilled visas, at 23.3 per cent. This was followed by the United Kingdom at 18.3 per cent; the People's Republic of China at 6.5 per cent and the Republic of Ireland, 7.2 per cent. The number of American citizens applying for the skilled visa was at 6.2 per cent.


Putting caps on University places would put the caps on regional Australia

If regional Australia had any hope of ever catching up with city Australia in university participation – without sending the country broke – then it would be through an uncapped student system in a deregulated market.

That’s according to CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman, who was responding to calls from independent Senator Nick Xenophon to recap university student places.

Professor Bowman said regional areas such as Central Queensland had a lower proportion of school leavers (under 30%) heading to university, compared with more than 60% in capital cities such as Brisbane.

He said the uncapping of student places by the previous government began the process of closing the gap, and the introduction of a deregulated fees system by the current government would help finish the process of closing the gap.

“Recapping the system and limiting the places available would hinder the aspirations of regional students at a time when we need to redress the balance,” Professor Bowman said.

“It would effectively lock in place the disparity between country and city tertiary attainment.”


Cheeky crook tries to sue police who arrested him

Judge dismisses claim but says that the Qld. police exceeded their powers

As terror hysteria – fuelled for all its worth by media and politicians – grips the nation, a Supreme Court judge has issued a terse rebuke of the misuse by police of “extraordinary” arrest and detention powers they already possess.

The unlikely protagonist in the events that led to the lashing launched at Queensland police, is a reveler who allegedly urinated publicly in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley nightclub precinct.

Dominic Burke was detained on a Sunday evening in September 2007 but ran off after his arrest only to be re-apprehended with the aid of a member of the public.

He escaped again in handcuffs, this time across the four lanes of Ann Street traffic into an alleyway. He alleged after surrendering in the dead end alleyway that was a blindspot in the blanket CCTV coverage of the area, Senior Constable George Price “king hit” him in the face and pushed him to fall on his face, fracturing his nose.

When serving Price with his court claim at Charlotte Street police station as arranged, for the alleged assault in September 2010, he was arrested again by another officer (Harris) with Price’s assistance, purportedly in connection with the investigation of an unrelated offence.

Burke “resisted and protested verbally in foul language which did him no credit and attracts no sympathy”. Harris and Price twice “transitioned” him to the ground in different locations in the station. The encounter was captured by audio recording.

He commenced further proceedings arising out of that arrest, alleging that it was unlawful in that it was not made for the stated purpose, namely investigating an assault at Iceworks Paddington on Melbourne Cup day in 2009.

The police charge against Burke for resisting that arrest was in fact dropped, once Harris’ evidence of the events was aired in the magistrate’s court prosecution hearing.

Both of Burke’s civil claims were heard by Judge Greg Koppenol over six days in the Ipswich District Court in August 2013 where Burke was self-represented.

Price contended there was no assault in the Valley 2007 incident, merely a tackle that on the evidence of a Police Academy instructor was the most “appropriate and reasonable action that could have been taken in the circumstances, notwithstanding that some risk of injury was involved”.

Burke’s injury claim for that incident was dismissed.

His Honour also dismissed the claim for wrongful arrest in 2010, ruling that it had been for the purpose of questioning over the Paddington incident and therefore permitted under the detention without charge provision in Police Powers and Responsibilities Act s 365 (2).

To appeal those rulings, a notice of appeal was required to have been filed on 16 September 2013 but his attempt at this was rejected by the court registry three days earlier, his notice not being in the proper form. An amended notice was eventually accepted on 21 October 2013.

Burke applied to the appeal judges for an extension of time for the late filing of his appeal and it was in that hearing that Justice David Jackson drew the allusion between police behaviour and the excesses of the Gestapo.

Burke’s appeal grounds included:  “judicial bias in favour of the respondents”; another officer was a “paid, bought man” whose evidence should have been rejected; “a quick decision is not a good decision”.

The majority ruled that “in summary, none of the grounds of appeal ventured by Burke has any prospects of success” and refused leave to extend time to appeal they considered to have hopeless prospects.

Justice Jackson agreed with the majority that the application for the extension of time to lodge the appeal should be dismissed, but published a dissenting judgment to the extent that the 2010 arrest at the Charlotte Street police station involved a misuse of police power.

In his view, there was no evidence to support a finding that the arresting officer’s purpose was “for questioning the applicant or investigating the offence”, the necessary condition for an arrest under PPRA s 365 (2).

Rather, the evidence favoured the view that Harris‘s purpose was to detain Burke simply to ascertain his address and give him a notice to appear.

Justice Jackson was of the view that because the extraordinary terms of s 365 abrogate the common law right of habeas corpus requiring prisoners to be promptly brought before a court after arrest – and allows detention without charge – the power must be strictly construed.

The officer was not entitled to rely on the power merely to ascertain Burke’s address or to make more it convenient for the service of process. Such measures could not constitute “an investigation” into the alleged crime.

Harris already had adequate powers under PPRA s 40 – without arrest – to require Burke to provide his address.

“Although even the Gestapo’s misdeeds may have faded from the consciousness of contemporary Australia, our tolerance of methods of arrest for the purpose of investigation or questioning,” Jackson warned, “requires that the limits of the proper exercise of such power are not lost in hollow lip service to or rote incantation of the purposes for which an arrest can be made.”

Justice Jackson’s caution echoed the dire warning made 70 years earlier by NSW chief justice Sir Frederick Jordan, in his advocation against allowing police the additional powers they now possess.

In a climate where citizens are being daily urged to welcome ever increasing discretionary state power to “trench upon their liberty at common law”, this is timely advice indeed.

His Honour went to pains to specify that his dismissal of Burke’s application for other reasons, “should not be seen as an endorsement” of the misuse of the extraordinary police power of detention without charge.


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