Sunday, June 14, 2015
Were asylum seeker boats paid to turn back?
Britain pays illegal immigrants to return. It's cheaper than keeping them in detention
Were boats paid to turn back? Tony Abbott refused to deny the practice of paying people smugglers to turn back asylum seeker boats. Picture: Lawrence Pinder Source: News Corp Australia
The Indonesian government has asked the Abbott government to deny or confirm that Australian Customs had paid people smugglers to do a U-turn.
Earlier Labor opposition immigration spokesman Richard Marles said Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s refusal to deny the practice had occurred had left the door wide open to the idea the government was handing wads of taxpayers’ cash to smugglers.
Meanwhile, the Greens will try to force the government to hand over documents showing whether cash is paid to people smugglers to turn back boats.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in Jakarta today her country would be “really concerned” if it was confirmed that the captain and five crew of a boat carrying asylum-seekers were each paid $US5000 ($6500) by an Australian immigration official to return to the Southeast Asian nation.
The claims were made to local police on Rote island in eastern Indonesia, where the boat carrying 65 asylum-seekers came ashore late May after being intercepted by the Australian Navy.
Ms Marsudi said that she had raised the issue on the sidelines of a conference in Jakarta with Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson.
“I just asked him ‘What is it about, tell me, what is it?’,” she told reporters at the event.
“He promised to take my question, my inquiry, to Canberra and he promised to get back to me again.
“We are really concerned if it is confirmed,” she said.
Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir also said Jakarta was seeking clarification from Australia on the issue.
“We have consistently said that the Australian government’s push-back policy is on a slippery slope,” he told AFP, referring to the Abbott government’s hard-line policy of turning back asylum boats when it is safe to do so.
“If this latest incident is confirmed, this will be a new low for the way that the Australian government is handling this issue.”
The escalating row risks further damaging relations between Australia and its northern neighbour, which are already tense after Indonesia executed two Australian drug smugglers by firing squad in April.
Indonesian authorities have launched an investigation into the alleged payments to the crew of the boat carrying asylum-seekers from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, which was intercepted en route to New Zealand.
Only one boat with asylum-seekers has reached the Australian mainland since December 2013. Before the Abbott government’s hard line policy was introduced, boats were arriving almost daily with hundreds of people drowning en route.
In Melbourne today, Mr Marles said: “Really it leaves one with the only possible assumption that that may well have been exactly what happened.
The Greens will on Monday try to win Senate support for a motion requesting the government table documents detailing any payments to individuals on board asylum seeker boats, after Prime Minister Tony Abbott refused to deny the practice.
The government has repeatedly stated it won’t discuss or publicly release information on operational matters.
Its policy includes military-led efforts to turn back such boats, which mostly come from Indonesia, and sending asylum-seekers to camps on the Pacific island outpost of Nauru and Papua New Guinea for resettlement despite strong criticism from human rights groups.
Australia has also signed a deal with impoverished Cambodia to accept unwanted refugees in return for millions of dollars in aid over the next four years.
Background: Were crews paid to turn back?
Australian authorities could be accused of people smuggling if it is proven they paid the crew of an asylum-seeker boat to return to Indonesia, an international law expert says.
On Friday, claims surfaced that the navy paid six crew members of a boat carrying 65 asylum seekers $US5000 ($A6450) each to return to Indonesian waters.
The claim was rejected by two senior government ministers.
Professor of international law at the Australian National University, Don Rothwell, says if proven the activity could be tantamount to people smuggling under current regional protocols.
“People smuggling is defined with the protocol and to that end the provision of moneys to people who are engaged in people-smuggling activities to take persons from a place on the high seas to another place, such as Indonesia, is clearly a people smuggling-type activity,” he told the ABC.
He said the claims also raised questions because Australia was a party to the 2000 protocol to disrupt people smuggling.
Prof Rothwell said a lot would depend on how Australia’s regional partners responded to the allegations.
The Indonesian government appeared to be taking them seriously, he said.
“We’ll no doubt hear from Indonesia in the future about this.” Prime Minister Tony Abbott did not deny the allegations in a radio interview but he did say officials were being “incredibly creative” in following Australia’s policy to turn back the boats. “What we do is stop the boats by hook or by crook,” Mr Abbott said.
“We have stopped the trade and we will do what we have to do to ensure that it stays stopped.” He repeatedly declined to confirm whether Australia was investigating the claims.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the allegation was not an accurate reflection of what was happening.
“The prime minister has essentially stuck to his very longstanding practice of not to provide a running commentary on operational matters,” he told Sky News on Saturday.
“He didn’t confirm or deny, he didn’t make comment one way or the other. He certainly didn’t indicate that payments have been made.”
Why Australia's economic growth matters for all Australians
The recent national accounts figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics have sparked a debate, and a welcome one at that, about the appropriateness of national economic growth rates.
The ABS data showed real gross domestic product in seasonally adjusted terms rose by 0.9 per cent during the March quarter of this year, and by 0.6 per cent in trend terms.
The key contributor to this outcome was our export performance, with the seasonally adjusted value of goods and services exports rising 5 per cent during the quarter, representing the best quarterly export growth in about 16 years.
It is certainly true that the overall GDP quarterly result surprised many economic analysts and business commentators, with some pre-emptively suggesting in media circles that a recession is on the cards.
The stronger than expected economic performance led Treasurer Joe Hockey to refer to the latest statistics as a "terrific set of numbers", derisively referring to the doomsayers as "clowns" who have "been proven to be looking foolish".
It might be difficult for the general public to become too animated about economic growth trends, and movements in quarterly figures are subject to high variability in any case, but thinking and talking about growth is much more than a wonkish debate between economists and politicians.
Indeed, every Australian regardless of their background, occupation, or political affiliation, has a deep stake in economic growth and we should all desire stronger growth rates in our economy, especially in the areas of private investment and international trade.
We all should desire stronger growth because that translates into better living standards over time, meaning more abundant food, clothing, shelter, transportation, entertainment, and other goods and services helping to improve our quality of life.
We should desire stronger growth because we care about the poor and their desire for enrichment, and this necessitates a growing economy with more ample and cheaper supplies to live comfortably as well as better opportunities to access meaningful, highly-paying work.
Stronger growth means we don't fray the fabric of our democratic political system and robust civil society by getting caught up in zero-sum distributional fights with each other, since there would be more income and wealth to share around for all those who want them.
We also want stronger growth because we want a greater abundance of resources to help protect the environment, including the economic means to generate more scientific knowledge and innovation addressing the great ecological problems of our time.
Although fiscal and regulatory interventions by the public sector invariably do more harm to growth than good, even governments want stronger growth, not least because their electoral credibility depends on their meeting budget targets reliant upon a faster rate of GDP growth.
Eyebrows were certainly raised last month when the federal government outlined a fast track for deficit reduction by assuming not a can opener, as economists are wont to do when they want a feel-good message, but stronger real growth from 2.5 per cent last financial year up to 3.25 per cent during 2016-17.
For its part the ACT government is also forecasting the Territory budget deficit will decline, and in fact even return to surplus by the end of the forward estimates, on the back of an "achieve budget repair by assuming growth" trick.
Politicians might look upon those who prognosticate about economic doom and gloom with contempt and disdain, but the fact is that the Australian economy, as reflected in our underwhelming economic growth rate, has been underperforming for far too long.
Over the past 50 years, real GDP in Australia has grown at a rate of about 3.5 per cent a year, and so this provides something of a threshold rate of growth which should ideally be attained if Australians are to enjoy prosperous circumstances on a sustained basis.
Using the well-known "rule of 70" in economics, which indicates how long it would take for an economy to double its size, if we were to sustain a 3.5 per cent real growth rate into the future it would take about 20 years for the Australian economy to double in size.
Right now the annual GDP growth rate is about 2.3 per cent, and this implies it would take the Australian economy roughly 30 years to double in size, in other words adding another whole decade for that compounded outcome to be achieved.
Growth rates in an economy will be affected by a wide range of factors, including external developments such as the shifting patterns of production and consumption in our export markets, many of which cannot be influenced by governments.
But if there are domestic policies inhibiting GDP growth it is not reasonable to maintain them, especially on account of sectional political interests, if it means Australians are deprived of even better living standards for longer.
Other statistics released by the ABS showing flagging labour productivity growth, and a national income crunch as commodity prices recede, giving further credence to the notion that Australia is vastly underperforming its economic potential.
So, what the economic statistics illustrate quite clearly is that we need to "go for growth", and we cannot rely exclusively upon China and the rest of the world for growth to be bolstered.
The economic freedom empirical literature compellingly illustrates that policies oriented toward relaxing constraints upon market activities, such as a lighter tax load, and labour and product market deregulatory measures, are a sound way to bring about a return to growth.
A return to growth will also be shaped by what policymakers do not do.
There are certainly numerous Australian policy pundits calling for redistribution policies to suppress inequalities, but these ideas should be looked upon most sceptically.
This is because various proposals to redistribute income, such as steeply progressive taxes, will harm growth by sapping economic incentives to better serve customers, here and abroad, and not to mention inhibiting upward mobility by the poor.
But with the lingering effects of the global financial crisis still with us almost a decade on, remaining in our reform slumber simply cannot be a viable option for economic improvement.
Son fined $369 for driving through a red light as he followed his father’s hearse in funeral procession
Tannous is an Arab surname so it seems that we have here another Muslim who thinks that he is entitled to special treatment
A grieving son is outraged his car was fined during a funeral procession as he drove at a speed of 15km/h behind his father’s hearse.
Melbourne man Assad Tannous has challenged the $369 fine for driving through a red light due to the ‘principle’ of the matter; appealing to Victoria Police to wave the fee given the ‘special circumstances’.
'Civic compliance stated Tenille (the driver) was a danger to the public. We were driving at 15km/h and every driver could see it was a funeral procession,' Mr Tannous told Daily Mail Australia.
'It's not about the fine. The people that make these decisions need to show some compassion.'
He maintains the light was orange when they entered the intersection, according to the Herald Sun.
Mr Tannous’ girlfriend Tennille Waddelle was driving the vehicle in Yarraville in West Melbourne on January 28 - the third car in the funeral procession for the late Adam Tannous.
Ms Waddelle allegedly entered the intersection of Somerville and Geelong roads ‘when the lights were green, turning orange’, Mr Tannous told the Herald Sun.
However, Victoria Police spokeswoman Sarah-Jane Hooper said the incident was reviewed by the Traffic Camera Office. Footage determined the driver entered the intersection ‘after activation of the red signal’.
Victoria police also deemed the incident a ‘serious safety related matter’.
This Queensland mum knew her baby was ill so invoked Ryan’s Rule
A traumatised Gold Coast mum has opened up about her recent experience at a Queensland hospital, that saw her and very sick 10-month old daughter, Arabella, being sent home a total of EIGHT times before anyone took her concerns seriously.
Trust a mother’s intuition
Lili Curtis visited Gold Coast University Hospital eight times over the course of 17 days, each time desperate to get the medical attention she believed her daughter needed. And each time she was turned away because Arabella was apparently not sick enough to be there. But on her final visit, Lili’s gut instinct took control.
She knew, as all mother’s do, that something was very wrong with her daughter and she refused to take no for an answer. Lili exercised her right to invoke Ryan’s Rule, a Queensland-only health protocol that allows people who do not think their health concerns are being taken seriously enough to call upon extra help.
It was a decision that ultimately got to the bottom of little Arabella’s troubles. After the head of paediatrics was called in to review Arabella’s case, she was diagnosed with a form of bronchitis and treated with a long course of antibiotics. At a follow-up appointment, Arabella was referred to a lung specialist in Brisbane, as her moist cough had been dragging on for more than four weeks and was showing no signs of clearing.
It was only thanks to Ryan’s Rule that Lili was able to take matters into her own hands. Without this protocol, who knows what the outcome would have been for this little bub. Arabella is one of the lucky ones - unlike toddler Ryan Saunders, the brave little soul whose tragic story paved the way for the implementation of this protocol that honours a parent’s indepth knowledge of their own children.
The story behind Ryan’s Rule is a sad one
Before Ryan Saunders got sick, he was just an ordinary Central Queensland kid. But in 2007, when he was incorrectly diagnosed with mumps at Emerald Hospital, things deteriorated before his heartbroken parents knew what hit them.
When Ryan’s conditions worsened he was transferred to Rockhampton Base Hospital, to try and find out the root of his pain. Doctors did not discover that little Ryan had a serious bacterial infection for another 24 hours, and treated him solely with regular doses of Panadol.
On 26 September 2007, 30 hours after being admitted to the hospital in Rockhampton, little Ryan died as a result of toxic shock, leaving his parents and his hometown of Emerald in a state of utter despair and disbelief.
Some four years later in 2011, the then-state coroner, Michael Barnes, handed down his findings on the case. This is how The Courier Mail reported on the judgement:
In his coronial inquest findings delivered today, Mr Barnes said director of paediatrics at Rockhampton Base Hospital, Dr Peter Roper “repeatedly made a serious error of judgment” when he declined to conduct blood tests, despite being urged by a number of junior doctors to do so.
“When a CRP test was finally done it demonstrated a highly infective process was underway but by that stage Ryan could not be saved,” Mr Barnes said in his findings.
“The evidence indicates that, had the same test been done the night before or immediately after the ward round, the outcome may have been different.”
Even though the doctor in question was cleared of unsatisfactory professional conduct by the Medical Board of Queensland, Michael Barnes was still very critical of the quality of care that Ryan received. As a result, a complete review was ordered of Queensland Health procedures.
Ryan’s Rule was implemented across Queensland to ensure that there would be no more children turned away, misdiagnosed or left untreated. Ryan’s Rule is now a right that every parent across the state has.
On the Queensland Government Health website, Ryan’s Rule is explained as follows:
Ryan Saunders was nearly three years old when he tragically died in hospital. His death was found to be, in all likelihood, preventable. Staff did not know Ryan as well as his mum and dad knew him. When Ryan’s parents were worried he was getting worse they didn’t feel their concerns were acted upon in time. Ryan’s Rule has been developed to provide patients of any age, families and carers with another way to get help.
Ryan’s Rule will never bring little Ryan Saunders back. But we hope, with hands on our hearts, that Ryan’s parents know their little boy’s death brought about some radical change in Queensland hospitals, and we pray that other states will soon adopt this potentially lifesaving protocol too.