Saturday, January 16, 2021

Young woman appears in court after allegedly obstructing police and breaching bail

What gives these people the right to disrupt other people's lives? There is no such right but you would never know that from the decisions of the courts

The affinity between Leftists and environmentalists was well on display here. From Napoleon and the Socialist Hitler onwards, both groups cheerfully disregard the rights of others in pursuit of their own interests. Many completely innocent people were greatly put out by the traffic holdups but did the demonstrators care about that? Not as far as one can see. Obtaining their own goal -- personal publicity -- ruled supreme

That personal publicity was the aim can be seen from the pointlessness of their "cause". The people they were championing were NOT refugees. They were people who claimed to be refugees but whom the authorities and the courts had ruled NOT to be refugees. They had already had full attention to their fraudulent claims

A refugees rights activist charged after a protest in Brisbane has been bailed following a night in custody. Emma Jade Dorge, 24, appeared in Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with obstruct police and a breach of bail condition.

About a 100 protesters marched in the streets of Kangaroo Point yesterday blocking peak hour traffic as the Gabba Test finished.

The protest began about 5pm at the Kangaroo Point Central Hotel where scores of immigration detainees have been warehoused since last year. The protesters headed down Main St chanting “we won’t stop until we free the refugees”.

A Queensland Police spokeswoman said there was no permit issued for the demonstration and it was “an unauthorised protest”.

Dorge was the only person charged following the incident.

Representing herself in court this morning Dorge indicated during a bail application that she was likely to plead not guilty to the charges.

If refused bail today she would spend months in custody for offences that are likely to only attract a fine if found guilty, she told the court.

“All of my alleged offences and history are for peaceful protesting. I don’t pose a risk to the community in being let out on bail,” she said.

Magistrate Annette Hennessy granted bail stating she did not consider Dorge an “unacceptable risk”in the community.

Australian 'excess' deaths lower than expected, despite coronavirus pandemic

Australia recorded fewer deaths than expected from medical conditions in 2020, despite being in the midst of a global pandemic.

So, what's behind the numbers. What type of deaths are we talking about?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released provisional mortality figures in December for deaths certified by doctors.

According to the ABS, "excess mortality" is the difference between the number of deaths in a period of time, and the expected number of deaths in that same period.

The ABS's December report showed there were 116,345 deaths registered by doctors between January 1 and October 27, 2020, compared with the 2015-19 average of 117,484.

Doctor-registered deaths include deaths associated with respiratory diseases, dementia and chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

"In 2020 when the initial wave of the pandemic hit, we had an increase in the number of deaths and the increase was sustained only for around a month," ABS health and mortality statistics director James Eynstone-Hinkins said.

"After that, what we've actually seen is a lower number of deaths through the winter months pretty much right the way through until October, which is the latest data that we have now.

"What we can see is that the causes that have the lowest numbers of deaths in comparison to previous years are mostly in the respiratory disease group so that can include chronic lower respiratory diseases, things like influenza and pneumonia.

"It certainly points to a lack of transmission perhaps of some normal infectious diseases during the winter months that may have contributed to a lower-than-expected number of deaths during that period."

The statistics do not include deaths referred to coroners, such as accidents, assaults and suicides, which Mr Eynstone-Hinks said usually accounted for about 10-15 per cent of deaths in Australia.

What happened with influenza?

Federal Health Department figures show that of the laboratory-confirmed influenza cases last year up to late November there were 37 deaths, a 50 per cent decrease from the five-year mean.

There were 21,266 notifications of laboratory-confirmed influenza to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System in the year to the end of the 2020 influenza season, which was almost eight times fewer than the five-year average of 163,015.

Deakin University chair in epidemiology Catherine Bennett said Australia was heading into an early influenza season before COVID-19 arrived, but restrictions introduced in response to the pandemic slowed transmission not only of coronavirus, but also of other infectious diseases.

"Because we went early and hard with our restrictions, we not only prevented many COVID deaths — we did see 900 or so [COVID-related] deaths — but at the same time we prevented many more," Professor Bennett said.

"In the process, by bringing in an early vaccine for flu and just the effects of the restrictions, the isolation, the extra hygiene people were practising, we also reduced our flu deaths and other communicable, respiratory in particular, deaths really noticeably."

Without restrictions and physical distancing, Professor Bennett said Australia would have recorded similar numbers of influenza deaths to previous years, as well as "many more" COVID-19 deaths than the 900.

Is drilling in Lake Torrens the next Juukan Gorge?

Can a Premier who is also Minister for Aboriginal Affairs really refuse an inquiry sought by Indigenous people into his state’s native title organisations because he says he respects Aboriginal self-determination — yet then approve mining exploration in an area his own Aboriginal heritage body recommended against?

It’s a bob each way on self-determination and it’s at the heart of this month’s decision by South Australian Premier and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Steven Marshall to grant Argonaut Resources subsidiary Kelaray permission to drill on the western shores of Lake Torrens, 450km north of Adelaide. It’s a decision some insist is potentially South Australia’s version of last year’s Juukan Gorge destruction by Rio Tinto in Western Australia.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of the nation’s most experienced native title lawyers says: “In some ways Torrens is not directly comparable with Juukan because the destruction of the caves is far more damaging to traditional culture than exploratory drilling at Torrens. Yet, in another way, it is far worse. While it can be argued neither the WA government nor Rio Tinto properly understood the importance of Juukan ahead of the blasting, the Lake Torrens situation is the opposite. The Marshall government has approved drilling of a site even though it had extensive knowledge from the state’s Aboriginal Heritage Commission warning it of the potential destruction of sacred sites.”

The issue is divisive politically and for local people. ABC Online on September 28 reported comments from Kuyani woman Regina McKenzie, who said her people “had a deep connection with the lake”.

“The Kuyani were the law holders of what anthropologists would call the lake’s culture people,” McKenzie said.

Her brother, Malcolm “Tiger” McKenzie, completely disagrees. He is unequivocal that cultural issues need to be traded off to maximise economic benefits to local Indigenous people.

“There’s a lot of people, especially the Greens, that stop Aboriginal people advancing in this country. There are important cultural issues associated with the lake, but without mining how are we going to build the capacity of Aboriginal people to work and to contribute to this country?”

Tiger, 68, lives in the Aboriginal community of Davenport north of Adelaide. He believes concerns about a possible repeat of the Juukan Gorge disaster could be alleviated if people from the various tribal groups associated with the lake could sit down and negotiate with the company and state government.

“That’s what we blackfellas have got to do. Sit down and negotiate. We should not be saying no from the very beginning. Otherwise we are always going to have our arms out for a handout.”

For its part, Argonaut is treading warily; CEO Lindsay Owler, acknowledged by all sides as a thoughtful executive who has good relations with government and local Aboriginal communities, saw no benefit in going on the record for this story. Argonaut wants good relations with local Aboriginal people and is willing to pay royalties to any group that eventually secures native title.

Argonaut’s Kelaray sent a draft Native Title Agreement to the Kokatha in October 2019. A royalty framework agreement and proposed heritage arrangements were sent to the Adnyamathanha, including the Kuyani subgroup that may make its own claim for the area, and the Barngarla in late 2016. None of Argonaut’s draft agreements has been executed.

Professor Peter Sutton, anthropologist with the South Australian Museum, gave evidence in the Overlap case that the Kuyani had the strongest connection to the Lake Torrens area.

As in all things native title since the original Wik Ten Point plan devised by John Howard in 1998, negotiated local agreements are the best way forward. With that in mind, Koolmatrie hopes Marshall’s indication last year that he may be prepared to look at some form of parliamentary inquiry will proceed by mid-2021. Andrew Thomas says Marshall should “be meeting with the Kokatha law and culture committee regularly”.

The complexity of the anthropological evidence considered by Justice Mansfield suggests to reform group members that the path of legal action is not the best way forward for Aboriginal native title holders and those without title who nevertheless have legally recognised cultural connections with proposed mining sites.

In the Lake Torrens matter that process would be complicated by the state’s history of mining approvals in the area. A spokesman for the Premier said records indicated the first exploration hole at the lake was drilled in 1960 and 282 exploration licences had been granted over the area since the 1970s. As well, “previous Section 23 authorisations had been approved in 2010 and 2018 by the former Labor government”. The spokesman said any proposed mining would mean “a separate Section 23 authorisation would have to be sought by Kelaray”.

The Marshall government could lose a lot of political skin pleasing neither side, whatever the anthropological justifications for the Premier’s latest decision. An inquiry and a new, more co-operative approach could benefit miners and Aboriginal groups while minimising political damage. A good place to start might be splitting Marshall’s portfolio responsibilities. Many people spoken to for this story believe it is inappropriate that a Premier with power to override Aboriginal heritage recommendations is also Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

Nor is there much support for the opposition. The most recent drilling at Lake Torrens was approved three years ago by ALP minister for Aboriginal affairs Kyam Maher, who told ABC radio on Thursday he now believes Marshall’s decision went much further than his own. The present Aboriginal Heritage Act was introduced by Maher in 2016.

Greens upper house MLC and spokeswoman for Aboriginal affairs, Tammy Franks, said in response to Maher’s comments, “We rushed through the Aboriginal Heritage Act in the first place in 2016. It didn’t have the support of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement or the SA native title services at the time. We didn’t even wait for Law Society advice. It was rammed through the parliament and they got it wrong.

“I will be moving to open up the Aboriginal Heritage Act when parliament resumes in the first week of February. I would hope Labor would be willing to have a respectful conversation that actually listens to Aboriginal voices.”

This issue will only get politically hotter. Lake Torrens is not Juukan Gorge, but activists are keen to make it seem so.

Recovery gathers pace as nation heads back to work

CBD baristas, lunch bar operators, shop keepers and suppliers are geared up and raring to go. Monday in the third week in January traditionally signals a large-scale return to work after summer holidays. This year it is more significant. Many Australians will be stepping out of the shadows of COVID-19 and returning to the workplace for the first time in nine or 10 months. The conditions are auspicious. No new cases of community transmission were recorded on Friday. The US, Britain and Europe can only envy our position. Foot traffic in the Sydney CBD increased this week; Victoria will allow 50 per cent of private sector workers and 25 per cent of public servants on site from Monday. Are the latter more delicate?

Important decisions for employers and governments lie ahead on matters such as workplace rules about vaccinations. Employers, we have reported this week, are seeking clarity. The principle of choice is important. And Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt have made it clear that COVID vaccines will not be compulsory. At the same time, employers such as nursing home operators have long insisted that staff receive an annual flu shot. A sensible, co-operative approach in individual workplaces will help. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is being proactive. In a blueprint that has been well received by Treasury, the Health Department and other business groups, it is proposing that after the inoculation of the elderly, Indigenous Australians and frontline at-risk workers, that staff in manufacturing, international education and other major export sectors receive the vaccine in the second phase, ahead of the general population. Ensuring export supply chains do not become a source of infection and allowing international travel to restart as soon as possible would make sense.

Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox, who represents the nation’s larger employers, says governments will need to issue advice “so employers and employees know what their rights and obli­gations are’’. Fair enough. Vaccination programs will take months to complete; in the interim, social distancing and other precautions will remain vital. Practical decisions will be needed, at some stage, in regard to those who decline or postpone vaccinations because of pregnancy or medical conditions. Workplace layouts, working from home and masks will be part of the mix. Much will depend on Australians’ take-up rate for vaccines. Rolling out vaccines later than other countries is a positive; useful lessons will be learned from overseas experience.

As the nation opens up, we endorse Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ plan, to go to national cabinet on February 5 to allow international students to re-enter his state. It should be adopted nationally. COVID cases are negligible and the higher education sector faces crippling losses if overseas students are locked out in the first semester. Victoria, sensibly, wants a separate entry quota for overseas students, on top of the current quota for international arrivals. Australia’s success in suppressing COVID should be a comparative advantage in a competitive field, which is also Victoria’s largest export industry. Students, including some from China, Malaysia and Pakistan, are backing campaigns to return. They are ready to pay up and follow quarantine rules.

Mr Andrews should extend his thinking to scrapping Victoria’s Stasi-like domestic border regime. It is denying Victorians the chance to return to their own homes as dates for resuming work and school loom large. Out of more than 11,000 people who have applied for exemptions since January 1, about 8000 are yet to be processed. Such tardiness on a matter that is costing Victorians dearly is inexcusable. On Friday, Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce accused the Andrews government of “hypocrisy’’ for denying Victorians the right to come home, with some basic precautions, while allowing in more than 1000 overseas tennis players. Provided it is staged safely, with restrictions for preventing the spread of coronavirus applied rigorously, we applaud the holding of the Australian Open and welcome its competitors. But Mr Joyce’s concern about Qantas and Jetstar being forced to cancel almost 3000 flights between Sydney and Melbourne, the nation’s busiest air corridor, with significant social and economic consequences, is valid. Victoria closed its border to NSW on January 1 in response to Sydney’s northern beaches cluster. The move was excessive then and is now out of all proportion with the risk of COVID transmission. As the broader national economy bounces into the new year from Monday, state leaders should be looking outwards to consider how they can safely promote economic recovery and mobility.




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