Friday, August 09, 2013

Law requiring Muslim women to remove burqa to prove their identity to police introduced to WA Parliament

A NEW law that would require Muslim women to remove a burqa or niqab to prove their identity to West Australian police has been introduced to the state's parliament.

The legislation was drafted in specific response to public outcry about the case of burqa-wearing mother-of-seven Carnita Matthews, who had a conviction of knowingly making a false statement quashed.

Ms Matthews was originally given a six-month jail sentence after being found guilty of falsely accusing a senior constable of forcibly trying to remove her burqa when she was pulled over while driving in Woodbine in Sydney's southwest in June 2010.

She was later acquitted on appeal after the prosecution could not prove she was the woman who signed the statement while wearing the garment.

As part of WA's Criminal Investigation (Identifying People) Amendment Bill, the law will require "a person to remove headwear or do other things to facilitate the officer being able to confirm a person's identity".

Officers will also get explicit powers to detain a person while they comply.

It will apply to an item of clothing, hat, helmet, mask, sunglasses or "any other thing worn by a person that totally or partially covers the person's head".

The WA parliament will be told the law was in direct response to the NSW case. 

"Having regard to that case, the government has taken action to ensure that similar injustices do not occur in Western Australia," Attorney-General Michael Mischin said.  "The amendments provide a explicit power ... where the subject person refuses to remove an obstruction that is preventing the officer from being able to identify the person's face."


Kevin Rudd wrong as Queensland jobs jump

KEVIN Rudd has been thrown on the defensive on economic management after a surprise fall in full-time jobs offset by strong growth in Queensland that challenges his warnings about the damage from the state Liberal National Party government's "austerity" cuts.

Thousands of Australians gave up looking for work over the past month in a new sign of the weak jobs market, sharpening Coalition attacks on the Prime Minister yesterday, despite the addition of almost one million jobs since Labor took power.

The federal government hailed the steady unemployment rate - 5.7 per cent last month and still the highest level for almost four years - but economists warned that thousands more could join the jobless. The unexpected loss of more than 10,000 mainly full-time jobs between June and July fuelled economists' concerns the unemployment rate would climb higher than the 6.25 per cent forecast in last week's economic statement.

"We struggle to identify where new jobs will be created from here," said Stephen Walters, JPMorgan's chief economist, suggesting the transition from mining to non-mining growth was not going smoothly.

"The jobless rate probably still has some way to climb, most likely to 6 per cent by the end of this year and probably even higher in 2014."

The jobless rate, although well below that of most other industrialised countries, has been rising steadily since 2011, when it fell to a post-GFC low of 4.9 per cent.

The Rudd government conceded the "slight" fall in jobs but appealed to voters to remember the workforce had swelled from about 10.5 million since Labor came to power in 2007 to about 11.5 million.

In a challenge to one of Labor's key election strategies in Queensland, the latest figures showed the state gained 18,500 jobs and saw its unemployment rate fall from 6.3 per cent to 5.9 per cent.

Labor has attacked Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and his LNP government by claiming his cuts to 14,000 public service positions last year would damage the state economy.

UBS economist Scott Haslem said Queensland was the nation's "standout" performer, and Commonwealth Bank economists noted the state's "buoyant" conditions.

The results undercut Labor's warning that a federal government led by Tony Abbott would drive down growth by adopting the same "austerity" policies as Mr Newman, starting with an audit of spending to clear the way for cuts.

Mr Rudd argued yesterday that the weaker jobs outlook, including the 6.25 per cent unemployment forecast in last week's budget update, heightened the reasons for voters to back Labor's economic management.

"It is the core reason why the strength of the economy, the robustness of the economy, is core business for this election," he said. "Because the global economic pressures to which we are now subject, particularly from the end of the China mining boom, are going to impact on growth, impact on employment.

"I've been frank about that from day one (when) I returned to the position of Prime Minister."

Former Queensland premier Peter Beattie, standing beside Mr Rudd in Brisbane yesterday as he announced a plan to enter federal parliament, said industries such as mining services were the source of future jobs growth.

But opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey argued that the weak participation rate - the percentage of Australians in work or actively looking for work - meant that the flat unemployment rate did not reflect the weakness in the economy.

"That just illustrates we're in a deteriorating market that is heading towards an unemployment level of around 800,000," he said.

The participation rate fell from 65.3 to 65.1 per cent, the equal lowest level for more than six years.

As the Coalition came under questioning again over its plan to put a 1.5 percentage point levy on big companies to fund a parental leave scheme, Mr Hockey said the policy would help lift the number of people in the workforce.

"The participation rate is an essential guide to the confidence of Australians to get out there and look for a job," he said. "The fact that it is falling, that people are giving up looking for work, says everything."

The disappointing result would "concern" the Reserve Bank, said Citi senior economist Joshua Williamson, who like most economists expects the RBA to cut rates again by Christmas, although after the federal election.

Michael Workman, a senior Commonwealth Bank economist, said tourism and a revival in housing and construction in Brisbane and the Gold Coast were supporting jobs growth in Queensland.

"It appears the state has absorbed the public sector job cuts for now and the unemployment rate is stabilising around 6 per cent," he said. "While coalmining job losses have been significant, coal-seam gas is still generating work."

Tasmanian and South Australian jobs markets generated no new jobs over the year to July, and registered jobless rates of 8.2 and 7.1 per cent respectively, while NSW was the best performer, adding more than 60,000 jobs.

"We expect NSW to continue to outperform the other states on the jobs front as it will suffer less from any mining fallout and its housing sector is proving responsive to rate cuts," said Justin Fabo, a senior economist at ANZ.

Chris Bowen updated the government's jobless forecasts last week, suggesting a peak of 6.25 per cent next year, while St George's chief economist Besa Deda anticipate a rise to near 7 per cent by the end of next year.

"If the rebound in housing and construction doesn't occur as expected, the jobless rate would be even higher," she said. "Employment needs to grow by between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs a month to keep the unemployment rate stable and that's not happening."

The number of people claiming to be out of work last month shrank by 5700 to 705,400 people, while the total number of employed people stood at 11.65 million, the ABS report showed.

"Male-dominated sectors like manufacturing, construction, utilities and transport are bearing more of the economic slowdown than some of the service sectors," Mr Williamson said.


Wipe out Greens for good of all: Kennett

JEFF Kennett has unleashed a withering attack on the Greens, warning the minority party should be preferenced out of existence to protect the nation's economic and social fabric.

The former Victorian premier said the Liberal Party nationally should preference the Greens and independents last, even if it risked elevating Labor candidates.

His warning came as it emerged that the Liberal Party will almost certainly announce in the first half of the campaign that it will preference against Greens MP Adam Bandt, making it increasingly difficult for him to remain in the House of Representatives. Senior party sources said there was "no argument" within the Victorian party about Greens preferences and that the party would be doing whatever it could to ensure Mr Bandt lost the seat of Melbourne.

Mr Kennett told The Australian that the relationship between the Greens, the independents and Labor had been toxic for Australia in the past three years, undermining the nation's economic and social prosperity by creating unstable government.

Mr Kennett said it was crucial that a government be given the mandate to implement its agenda without the corrosive influence of the minor parties and the Greens.

"Hopefully we will not be about giving authority to minorities; that the public will realise that we have a responsibility to ourselves, for our children and the future of the country to give a government sufficient authority to govern," he said. "To that end, my view is that all independents and all Greens should be placed last, even if it means in some seats from our point of view a Labor candidate might win."

Senior Victorian Liberals said the federal division of the party had intervened in 2010 to preference the Greens, leading to Mr Bandt's election.

Senior party figures have told The Australian that the party has no option but to preference against the Greens.

This, sources said, would be an electorally successful strategy for the conservatives to help wipe out the Greens, which the Liberal Party believes have been given a platform by the Coalition's previous failure to attack the minor party by starving candidates of their preferences.

Another senior party figure told The Australian: "There is no division in the party . . . The Greens will not get our preferences."

In 2010, Mr Bandt received almost 80 per cent of Liberal preferences.

He holds Melbourne on a 6 per cent margin and gained 36.2 per cent of the primary vote in 2010, which, if replicated, is unlikely to be enough given the lack of Liberal preference flow.


Union fat cats

THE lucrative paypackets of Queensland's most influential union kingpins have been revealed for the first time, with bosses taking home more than $1.6 million last year.

The Newman Government's new industrial relation laws overruled union attempts to keep the information confidential, with the details tabled in Parliament last night.

In some instances, the union leaders are earning more than double the salary of most of the workers they represent.

The figures show Together union secretary Alex Scott was the top earner with $212,481 last financial year, including allowances and superannuation.

Together assistant secretary Julie Bignell earned about $177,223 while deputy secretary Kevin Place earned about $138,303.

Together Queensland published a graph alongside the wages of 10 of its officials showing they were paid less than public service department heads and Premier Campbell Newman and Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney.

Australian Workers' Union stalwart Bill Ludwig earned about $164,085 last financial year including board fees, while Queensland branch secretary Ben Swan earned $99,590.

Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates was paid a base salary of $156,187 in 2012-13, while QTU general secretary Graham Moloney earned a base salary of $153,396.

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Beth Mohle earned $205,894 including allowances and superannuation, while her assistant secretary Des Elder earned $181,899.

BLF state secretary David Hannah earned $172,107 in 2012-13.

Employer organisations such as the Queensland Chamber of Commerce and Industry are also required to reveal information on the pay of their top 10 office holders.

Unions had protested the new laws, labelling them an undemocratic attack on free speech.

They argued information on executive pay was already available to members.

But the Newman Government argued the laws were a necessary move to ensure unions and employer organisations were transparent in the wake of the Health Services Union credit card scandal involving Federal MP Craig Thomson.

Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie told The Courier-Mail that one Queensland union was already being investigated for potential breaches of the Newman Government's new laws just a month after they came into force.

Mr Bleijie said the industrial inspectorate was investigating whether or not the union, which cannot be identified as yet, spent more than $10,000 on a political campaign without balloting members first.

"There's one particular union that we've sought information from in terms of potential breaches of the campaign spending and whether they had their members' vote on spending $10,000 or more," he said.

"The deputy Director-General of Justice and Attorney General has written to this union and sought information about whether that particular campaign falls under the categories of the legislation.

"They wrote back and said, 'Thank you, we don't intend to respond to any of the issues you've raised', so the inspectorate have gone down there and met with the union and they are working through (the issues) now."

Mr Bleijie urged union members to go online and have a look at the information.

The information will also be audited by the industrial inspectorate.


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