Monday, December 28, 2015

Another black riot in Melbourne

EIGHT men suspected of involvement in a weekend brawl at Seaford, which left a man with stab wounds, squared up for round two at Frankston police station last night.

Just hours earlier, three men had been arrested over the weekend melee, which involved up to 80 people.

One of the trio, a 27-year-old Frankston man, was charged last night with intentionally causing serious injury, recklessly causing injury, and affray. The other two men remained in custody.

Relatives of the men were waiting at the station about 7pm when eight other men entered, asking for the return of mobile phones seized by police.

Denied, the men briefly left, but two returned and tried to attack three women and a male. Four police officers tackled one man to the ground outside the station.

The 25-year-old Seaford man was charged with assault on an emergency worker, summary assault and threatening behaviour.

The violence follows the weekend incident, with crowds gathered for a tournament for the South Sudanese Australian National Basketball Association.

Crowds started hanging around the stadium carpark before starting to fight and running to Kananook Railway Station where the fighting continued

The victim, a 23-year-old man from Seaford, is still recovering from the multiple stab wounds he received in the fight on Wells St, Seaford on Sunday afternoon at about 5:35pm.

He was dropped off at Frankston Hospital on Sunday after the fight by a group of unknown men. He is listed as being in a stable condition and was expected to remain in hospital until Wednesday at least.

It was earlier revealed members of a western suburbs gang were seen wielding a samurai sword, baseball bats and a machete during the mallee. Dramatic CCTV vision shows one man carrying what appears to be a large knife, while near him another carries what looks like a wooden baton.

Stills from CCTV footage showing men running after a brawl outside Kananook Railway Station. Young men and women, including some dressed in basketball uniforms, were seen running down Wells Rd as police swooped.

The violence had spilled over from the stadium carpark, about 200m to the Kananook train station.

About 30 minutes later, witnesses reported seeing two carloads of armed men smashing the windows of a car at the nearby Bayside Shopping Centre.

Youth worker Les Twentyman warned that groups were travelling to sporting events and schools to attack individuals and "stamp their mark" on their rivals. "It's tit for tat," Mr Twentyman said.


Did chicken pox kill off most Aborigines in the early days?

Estimating the size of the Aboriginal population before 1788, the anthropologist Alfred Radcliffe-Brown wrote in the Commonwealth Yearbook of 1930 that it would have been more than 250,000, maybe even more than 300,000.

But Butlin's piecing together of the evidence told him this was way too low. He wrote in 1983 that it would have been 1 million or 1.5 million.

Then in 1988 some of Australia's leading archaeologists, led by John Mulvaney, argued that a more accurate estimate would be between 750,000 and 800,000. This has become accepted as "the Mulvaney consensus".

The Aboriginal population declined dramatically in the early days of white settlement. We can be reasonably confident that, by 1850, the Indigenous population was only about 200,000.

Thus backcasting the figures to 1788 involves determining the main factors that led to the loss of Aboriginal lives and estimating how many lives they took, then adding them back. So the paper is a kind of whodunit.

One factor springing to the modern mind is that the unilateral appropriation of Aboriginal land led to much frontier violence, which started shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet and persisted well into the 20th century.

"Like any war, declared or otherwise, the conflict led to many deaths on both sides," the authors say. But even the controversial historian, Henry Reynolds, estimated the number of violent Aboriginal deaths at as many as 20,000, making this only a small part of the explanation.

Butlin allows for Aboriginal "resource loss", where tribes' loss of productive members and land used for sustenance led to people dying of "starvation or dietary-related diseases". Butlin's calculation implies this factor would have involved as many as 120,000 people.

That's still not the biggest part of the story. No, the big factor is the spread of introduced diseases. Such as: Tuberculosis, bronchitis and pneumonia, not to mention venereal disease. But the big one is smallpox. Butlin and others have assumed that it spread rapidly around Australia along the extensive pre-existing Aboriginal trading routes after its first recorded outbreak in Port Jackson in April 1789.

In 2002, however, the former ANU historian Judy Campbell argued in her book, Invisible Invaders, that it was brought to Northern Australia by the Macassan coastal traders following its outbreak in Sumatra in 1780, then spread across the continent, reaching Port Jackson by early 1789.

This is where Hunter – no doubt relying heavily on the expertise of Carmody – brings to bear modern medical understanding of the infectiousness and mortality rates of various diseases. Although smallpox has a high rate of mortality – between 30 and 60 per cent of those who contract it – it's not highly infectious.

This means it happens most in densely populated areas and doesn't spread rapidly to distant areas. This casts doubt on Campbell's theory that smallpox spread rapidly from lightly populated Northern Australia to densely populated NSW. But it also casts doubt on Butlin's theory that smallpox spread rapidly from Sydney to the rest of Australia via Aboriginal trading routes.

So what's Hunter and Carmody's theory? Are you sitting down?

Gathering all the suspects in a room, detective Hunter deftly turns the finger of guilt from smallpox to the so-far unsuspected chickenpox. The two are quite separate diseases, but this wasn't well-known in the 1780s. And since they both give rise to rashes or spots around parts of the body, many people may not have been able to tell the difference.

The point, however, is that chickenpox is about five times more infectious than smallpox, meaning it could spread a lot faster. It can recur in adults as shingles, which is also highly infectious. When adults contract chickenpox it can be fatal.

When the authors use chickenpox to do their backcast, assuming a low mortality rate of 30 per cent and also taking account of resource loss, they get a pre-contact Indigenous population (including up to 10,000 Torres Strait Islanders and up to 10,000 original Tasmanians) of about 800,000 – which by chance fits with the Mulvaney consensus.


NAB anxiety index: jobs secure but cost of living makes us anxious

Australians are more secure about their jobs than a year ago but cost of living pressures remain a headache, according to National Australia Bank's latest quarterly consumer behaviour survey.

NAB found that consumer anxiety has fallen to its lowest level since this time last year. It attributes the better mood to "more signs of improvement in the labour market and non-mining sector of the economy".

NAB's "consumer anxiety index" slipped to 61.1 points in the December quarter from 62.5 in the three months to the end of September, compared with a long-term average of 61.9 points.

The bank's findings suggest recent improvements in the labour market, shown by a further fall in the unemployment rate to 5.8 per cent in November, have made finding or keeping a job less of a worry than a year ago.

"Strong employment growth and a falling unemployment rate may be buoying confidence, despite weak growth in wages suppressing household income," the bank said.

"Wealth creation effects from the housing boom in Sydney and Melbourne are also likely to have contributed but may provide less impetus to consumer spending in the new year as house prices stabilise."

Indeed, Australians are already less chilled when it comes to financing their retirement and meeting the monthly costs of health, transport and utilities such as electricity, gas and internet connections.

The sub-indices covering these areas are above last year's levels and are largely unchanged or only slightly down on last quarter.

"It is still of some concern that almost one in three consumers rate their anxiety levels from cost of living pressures as high," said NAB's chief economist Alan Oster.

Despite this, spending on non-essentials, while broadly unchanged since the previous quarter, was much stronger than a year ago, said Mr Oster.

This is particularly true in NSW and Victoria, which have the hottest housing markets and are where most of the new jobs are being created.

However, there were still some cuts in spending on essentials such as transport, utilities in health, with paying down debt a household priority, particularly in NSW, the ACT and Western Australia, NAB said.

The removal of Tony Abbott as prime minister in September also appears to have fed into the survey results, with anxiety about government policy at its lowest level in about two years.

However, the issue still rates as the second most important after cost of living and above the ability to fund retirement.

"By state, nearly all types of spending were weighing more heavily on the household financial positions of consumers living in Western Australia and Tasmania."

Tasmania aside, the bank concluded that overall consumer anxiety levels had slipped below the long-term average in all states and many demographic groups.

The main exceptions to this were low-income earners, women over 50, widows and divorcees, some professionals and those whose highest educational attainment was a diploma.


University student sues Yarra Trams after ticket inspectors pinned him down

Goons in uniform are all too frequent

A university student is suing Yarra Trams, alleging that he was forcibly pinned down by multiple ticket inspectors, including one who pressed their knee on to his throat to detain him.

Cheng Liu, also known as Michael, was allegedly thrown to the ground by the ticket inspectors at a Swanston Street tram stop on October 30, 2013.

He alleges that when the inspector placed his knee across his throat, he refused to remove it. The incident was filmed by another commuter on their mobile phone, in which Mr Liu can be heard shouting that he cannot breathe. A ticket inspector asks him to stop moving.

In documents lodged in the Supreme Court on Monday, Mr Liu is suing Yarra Trams for using "physical force that was grossly excessive, as well as assault and battery".

The 23-year-old is also arguing that the inspectors ignored his pleas for mercy and that Yarra Trams has failed to implement, or adequately implement relevant recommendations made by the Victorian Ombudsman in relation to issuing public transport infringement notices.

Maurice Blackburn's Dimi Ioannou said Mr Lui now suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident.

She said the case had broader implication for other public transport users, who "needed to be protected from such violence at the hands of ticket inspectors".

"Inspectors must know the difference between restraint and excessive force and appreciate that they don't have the same powers as Victoria Police," she said.

The writ was filed against Yarra Trams by Maurice Blackburn in the Supreme Court on Monday.


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