Saturday, October 03, 2009


They regularly do that sort of thing in Britain so it is alarming that Australia seems to be on that road too. Compare the two reports immediately below

What do you need to do in order to go to jail?

The most gross and repeated misbehaviour is going to escape with no real penalty? Way to go if you want more crime

A TEENAGER crashed a stolen car into an elderly woman's living room and left her pinned under the wheels as she screamed for help, a court has heard. The 18-year-old youth was 17 and on a learner’s permit when he stole a Holden Rodeo ute at a party at Cheltenham in Melbourne's southeast, the Moorabbin Kingston Leader reports. The teenager did burnouts and tried to “drift” the car around corners before he lost control and smashed into the house. He later blew a blood alcohol reading of 0.10.

Police prosecutor Stephen Healy told a children’s court that none of the boys in the car tried to help the victim, who spent weeks in hospital after the incident. “The vehicle crushed the victim underneath the front passenger wheel and among the wreckage," Sen-Constable Healy said. “The vehicle crashed through the wall of the house with such force, it was partially lodged into the next room.” Sen-Constable Healy said the other occupants the car provided statements that the woman was calling out for help.

The crash was the final act in a two-month crime spree the teenager driver carried out from January to March this year. He pleaded guilty to 13 charges including using a private residential spa in Patterson Lakes without authority, graffitiing a truck in Carrum, stealing two jackets from the Tommy Hilfiger store at Direct Factory Outlets while on a good behaviour bond and stealing alcohol from a Bentleigh East bottle shop and Dan Murphy’s in Parkdale.

The youth’s defence lawyer said his client had suffered significant personal hardship and that alcohol played a major role in his offending. “Once he leaves home and gets with his mates and gets on the alcohol he does these things,” the lawyer said.

Magistrate Thomas Barrett said he was unlikely to sentence the teen to a term of detention despite a police submission that the boy had shown “callousness” and no remorse and should receive a custodial sentence. He will be sentenced on December 16 and was ordered to take part in a group conference before that date.


Mistake by an Australian immigration official led to three years behind bars for a legal resident

This is a disgrace. Three years in jail without a judicial review?? He should have been brought before a court within a week at the outside. Immigration abuses like this do happen in the USA and UK as well but that is all the greater reason for vigilance against such official negligence

THE locking up of an Australian resident for more than three years in what is said to be the nation's longest and worst case of wrongful detention has prompted demands for an overhaul of federal laws by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Revelations that a Sydney man, Van Phuc Nguyen, spent 1173 days at the Villawood detention centre because of bungles and indifference by public servants have sparked calls for an apology from the Rudd Government.

While Cornelia Rau was given $2.6 million after being wrongfully detained for 10 months, the Government offered Mr Nguyen only $57,900 - less than $50 for each day he was held. His barrister described the offer as a ''wholly inadequate and inappropriate'' response to a ''bureaucratic bungle of enormous proportions''. Last month the ACT Supreme Court awarded $55,000 to a man wrongfully detained for just 29 days.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Mr Nguyen said he was routinely threatened by other detainees and left severely traumatised by his three years, two months and 16 days at Villawood, between November 2002 and February 2006. Mr Nguyen said he witnessed suicide attempts, stabbings and widespread drug use while at Villawood's notorious Stage One wing, which the Human Rights Commission said last year was so bad it should be demolished. ''It was terrible. I was so scared all of the time of the other inmates … after a while, my mind started to shut down. I just sat there and stared at the wall.''

Mr Nguyen fled his native Vietnam by boat as a 14-year-old, spent four years in a refugee camp in the Philippines and was given permanent residency in 1989.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman, John McMillan, told the Herald the Immigration Department repeatedly failed to act on information that could have avoided Mr Nguyen's ''alarming and serious'' predicament in the worst case he had seen. ''Arguably it should not have occurred at all and certainly not for anything like the period of time,'' Mr McMillan said.

The catalyst occurred in 1995, when an immigration official unlawfully and mistakenly issued Mr Nguyen with a one-month visa that led to the cancellation of his residency on his return from a trip to Vietnam.

Before Villawood, Mr Nguyen served several stints in prison for drug offences linked to a heroin addiction formed after an illness and the death of his mother in the mid-1990s. He said he had been clean for several years.

The 37-year-old's barrister, Robert Sutherland, SC, said his client had been subject to ''high-handed, humiliating and unnecessarily long detention. This man deserves an apology and appropriate compensation.'' Mr Nguyen's lawyers said his doctors had found he was traumatised and suffering mental health problems as a result of his wrongful detention.

Mr McMillan has stated Mr Nguyen's case should result in legislative reform to provide a safety net for people adversely affected by government decisions and laws, ranging from improper detention to unfairly missing out on government benefits.

He said it was a foundation principle of civilised society that people should not be unlawfully deprived of their liberty. ''Wrongful detention for over three years is a matter of grave concern, and it is equally a matter of concern that our legal framework does not confer powers necessary to address problems and disadvantage of this kind,'' Mr McMillan said.

The Federal Government denied that bungling and indifference led to Mr Nguyen's detention in its compensation offer. The offer concedes that he was wrongfully detained for 108 days but says that during the rest of his detention officials had no reason to suspect a mistake had been made.


Protectionist threats a lot of hot air

THE threat of punitive tariffs on imports from countries not acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been raised by Kevin Rudd as a reason Australia should adopt his carbon pollution reduction scheme. He has cited threats apparently made by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and others. Provisions in the US emissions trading scheme bill are perceived the same way. Paul Kelly (The Weekend Australian, September 26-27) is one of the latest to retail these arguments.

This trade retaliation red herring, per se, is no reason to adopt the CPRS. It doesn't stand up to cursory analysis. At best, it adds another layer of confusion to a confused policy. At worst, it's rubbish.

Existing World Trade Organisation rules are clear. First, countries generally are not allowed to discriminate between imports from different countries by imposing border taxes (for example, tariffs) on imports differentiated by source country, unless that has been enshrined in existing agreements. No such agreements are based on whether different countries have adopted policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Punitive tariffs would violate existing WTO rules and constitute grounds for seeking remedies under WTO processes.

Second, countries are not allowed to discriminate in favour of locally produced goods and services by taxing them less than imports of the same products. Punitive tariffs (that is, higher ad valorem equivalent taxes on imports than applied to locally produced substitutes) would breach existing WTO rules and be a basis for seeking remedies under WTO processes.

In both cases, such punitive action is protectionist. The WTO's role is to punish those adopting such measures. Besides, widespread adoption ofsuch measures by relatively wealthy developed economies would amount to "doing a Samson" on world trade, dragging down global economic growth and living standards in the process. This is the trade policy bogeyman raised by our Prime Minister as a competitiveness threat to Australia if we don't adopt his CPRS. (Let's ignore the negative protection competitiveness threat embodied in the CPRS itself for now.)

Assume the threat is implemented. Assuming substantive failure at Copenhagen (however it's dressed up in the communique), it implies world trade collapses as the developed world, led by Europe, sets off a round of protectionist tariff increases, others retaliate, and chances of even an anaemic global economic recovery are destroyed. Everybody loses, including the European Union, which needs to seek out new, growing markets to buffer growth in living standards from its own slowing domestic markets driven by its ageing (in some cases shrinking) population.

This outcome implies the WTO is ineffective. (Given inaction against present breaches by most members of the Group of 20 - the so-called new driver of the global policy agenda - of their own pious communiques preaching the evils of protectionism, this may be plausible.)

But let's be more realistic. Assume instead all countries decide stronger world growth takes priority over trying to force some to adopt policies they don't want to adopt. That is, governments decide to trade off gains in near-term employment recovery against early action reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (The national politics are obvious. Large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions wrought by the global recession are a convenient excuse.)

What will governments do on climate policy? The easiest courses are (a) to implement "emissions watch" climate policies or (b) do nothing.

The first option has symbolic appeal but does little or nothing to reduce global greenhouse gases. For those adopting option (a), international competitiveness is not undermined (or at least not much). There is little need to violate WTO rules by imposing punitive border taxes on imports. In this case, the punitive tariff threat is empty and the climate policy adopted is pusillanimous. Interested in spin rather than substance? This policy is for you.

Option (b) is just the status quo for many. There's another option: comply with WTO rules and put a serious price on emissions, initially unilaterally. Do border tax adjustments have a place here? Absolutely.

Australian taxes differentiate between different products already. The GST is not uniform. Some food, health and education products are GST-free. So are imports of these products. Some are input-taxed under the GST, including imports. Most products are taxed at 10 per cent, including imports. The luxury car tax is a special higher tax on expensive cars, applied equally to locally produced cars and imports. The same applies to the wine equalisation tax. The excises applied to petroleum products, alcohol and tobacco produced in Australia apply equally to imports of these products (revenue customs duties).

The principle's clear. Whatever tax (as a percentage of value or as a dollar amount per physical quantity) is applied to locally produced goods and services can be applied to imports of those products under present WTO rules. Any country can set a tax on a given product, determined any way you like, apply it equally to local products and substitute imports, and not breach WTO rules.

Suppose any country sets such taxes based on (i) the carbon emissions price in that country and (ii) the emissions intensity of locally produced goods and services. Suppose that process also determines the border tax adjustment to be applied to imports of the same products, so that percentage or specific tax burdens on imports are the same as on local substitutes. Such border tax adjustments are WTO-compliant. They are not protectionist. They are competitiveness-neutral. They are an integral part of a national emissions consumption approach to climate policy.

By eliminating losses of trade competitiveness otherwise incurred by "first movers", they make an effective (as opposed to pusillanimous) global deal on climate policy likelier. They remove an obstacle impeding consummation of a global deal in this area since 1992 and, on present trends, likely to continue impeding such a deal in December and beyond.


When too much self esteem is just too much

This is a remarkably long-lived fad. I remember back in the '80s when psychologists regarded self-esteem as one of the most important indicators of mental health. And faddy California even had an official government body charged with boosting self-esteem! The evidence has however now long been in that promoting high self esteem is more likely to do harm than good. See e.g. here

Every year multitudes of young people line up to unleash their hidden talents at the auditions for the Australian Idol competition. As viewers we are entertained by the many – alas, too many – whose efforts fall well short of what may be objectively regarded as talent. Most interesting is their surprised reactions to being rejected. They truly believe they have something special to offer and cannot fathom that the judges disagree.

How is it that in all the years prior no one around these people, family or friends, had shared reality with them, tapped them on their shoulder and suggested they may be better off pursuing another hobby?

This scenario is representative of the wider outlook and attitudes of young people today, and the younger they are the more this seems to prevail. The mantra for modern parenting is self-esteem. In countless interviews with Australian mums and dads they insist the most important quality they wish to instill in their kids is a high level of self acceptance.

The rationale for this comes for two different angles. On the defensive side parents fear the implications of low self-esteem. Their greatest concern for their kids is that they develop depression or an eating disorder. While the media and public domain are filled with discussion on obesity parents are more concerned with the opposite. They turn a blind eye to the obesity debate worried that focussing on their children’s weight may have negative consequences on their self-image. (Here, there is a clear contradiction, for while mums attempt to instill in their kids self-acceptance and loving their body, they themselves do not believe it for their own bodies, and their kids know it).

On the proactive side parents believe high self-esteem is necessary in order to succeed in today’s competitive society. When they were growing up success could be achieved by going through the ropes, getting an education and skills and entering the workforce. Today’s society is all about self-reliance with success requiring an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to showcase oneself. So they encourage their kids to do from the earliest.

From the youngest of age kids are encouraged to speak their minds and express opinions. Parents are loathe to simply say ‘no’. Rather they discuss and negotiate, urging their kids to put forward their viewpoint, express an opinion and feel they are being listened to. The result of this focus on the individual and their talents will be felt acutely by our society in the years to come. The reality is that while everyone wants to be above average less than half the population can be.

Kids are being set up with the expectation for great achievement having been told over and over ‘you can do anything as long as you set your mind to it’. Well, no they can’t. And when they discover this truth the disappointment will be great. For some it may too great.

We are already seeing this with Gen Y as they approach their late 20s. Their expectations are high and goals quite profound. Their role models are the billionaires entrepreneurs who started Facebook, or actors and models plucked from obscurity by talent agents, not the millions of others who remain unknown or have failed. On reaching their late 20s and realising they will not be millionaires by 30, not even close, many young people enter a third life crisis. With the past decade of growth and prosperity giving way to uncertainty many will have their dreams shattered earlier.

By focusing on success and achievement we are, with the exception of the lucky and talented few, setting our kids up for failure, something we are not teaching them to cope with.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It certainly goes some way to understanding the horror of Australian Idol.

Seriously though, its not permitted to tell anyone anything that might upset them, no matter how true it may be. Consider the Goldstone report into Israeli war crimes for example...........hello??