Tuesday, January 05, 2016

A victory for free speech: The Australian army versus outspoken Major Bernard Gaynor

The man they couldn't fire: A good soldier persecuted for his Christian beliefs and criticism of Islam.  The Army has however appealed his win in the Federal Court to the High Court. The High Court is however where a right of free speech for Australians was first found so the bet should be on Gaynor to win again

The Australian Defence Force has just suffered an embarrassing defeat in which the armed forces appear primarily as a federal government department rather than a combat force. Most of the fighting is done behind desks.

The mission, duty and special legal status which sets our military apart from almost all other elements of society, is that it exists to detect, deter, suppress and, when necessary, kill people deemed a threat to the nation. The ultimate power of government is always rooted in part on weaponry and the authority and willingness to use it.

With the exception of our superbly-trained Special Air Service Regiment and Commando regiments, hunting and killing is rarely on the mind of Australian Army personnel.

Based on the very extensive advertising and recruiting campaigns that the military services roll out every year, the main point of joining the armed forces is to gain skilled qualifications at no cost and see the world.

Don't mention the war.

For much of this year, in the Federal Court of Australia, the extensive resources of the ADF have been pitted against the threadbare resources of a single, sacked Army Reserve officer who the ADF is determined to ostracise, humiliate and terminate.

The ADF has been highly successful in ostracising him, not surprising given the military's long and inglorious record of tolerating hazing, bullying and bastardisation.

But as for terminating this officer, he has proved hard to kill.

Last Friday, a judgment handed down by Justice Robert Buchanan, Bernard Gaynor v Chief of the Defence Force (2015), found that the ADF had acted unlawfully in terminating the commission of Army Reserve Major Bernard (Bernie) Gaynor jnr.

He ordered that this termination be set aside.

Justice Buchanan wrote: "The applicant has strong views which he attributes to the teachings and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. As they relate to the events which led to the termination of his commission, those views were expressed as an antipathy to overt tolerance or support of homosexuality or transgender behaviour as well as statements critical of adherents of Islam.

"The applicant served in Iraq in 2006-7, 2008-9 and 2009 and also briefly in Afghanistan in 2006. He was awarded the United States of America Meritorious Service Medal in October 2009. His general competence is not in issue."

The 90,000-word judgment includes critical and unflattering observations about Gaynor's conduct, which included "a deliberate and calculated course of open defiance".

However, where it mattered the judge found in his favour: "The fact that [Gaynor's] conduct involved direct disobedience of orders does not sufficiently change matters … Freedom of political communication was burdened… [when] his commission as an officer was terminated… [His] conduct involved the expression of political opinion, effectively as a private citizen."

Justice Buchanan found that being sacked for holding personal political views, even in defiance of orders, was too fundamental a right to be quashed in the name of military discipline.

On Tuesday, Gaynor responded by writing in his blog: "Politicised militaries and democracies do not mix well."

The judgment will unnerve the military command. It is easy to see why. In a posting on Facebook in March, 2013, Gaynor wrote:

"The war in Afghanistan has been an utter failure but it is the government's domestic policies which have completely betrayed the efforts of soldiers serving on operations. In the time our Army has been in Afghanistan the number of Muslims in Australia has increased from around 280,000 to 476,000. Anyone who thinks Australia is safer as a result is deluded …

While our soldiers have been fighting, taking casualties and dying in Afghanistan to protect Australia's interests and values from violent Islamists our own government has allowed them to take root inside our borders."

He has since pointed out that twice as many Australian Muslims went to join Islamic State than are enlisted in the ADF. When I checked with Defence media they said there were 100 self-identified Muslims out of 81,000 ADF and Reserve personal. So Gaynor is right.

He has already begun his next battle. He will contest next year's federal election as the Senate candidate in Queensland for the Australian Liberty Alliance. He intends to remain in the Army Reserve.


The onion racket

Australian onion grower's cartel keeps out "foreign" onions to keep prices up

The peak industry body for Australian onion farmers is investigating reports some of its growers are supplying imported onions to supermarkets, claiming they grew them locally.

Onions Australia said it had received information about farmers buying imported onions, re-packaging them and selling them to Coles and Woolworths.

In 2012 the two major supermarkets made commitments to only stock Australian onions, which meant growers had to ensure year-round supply.

Historically the industry has struggled to meet demand, but Onions Australia chair Kees Versteeg said growers were now on top of it and any fraudulent activity was an opportunistic way of making extra money.

Mr Versteeg said it was almost impossible to prove growers, or other players in the onion supply chain, were cheating consumers.

"I think it's about making the industry and Australia aware that the potential is there these things can happen," he said.

"The fact is, you can get away with it because no one is policing it. I even find it difficult to prove."

The reports of alleged farmer fraud follow revelations some retailers also have been selling imported onions with false 'Australian grown' signage.

Passing imported onions off as local 'very easy'

Onion industry representatives have repeated Mr Verteeg's concerns to ABC Rural, including another grower who said he knew of two peers mixing imported onions with their own produce.

Mr Versteeg, who runs an onion farm and packing company, said the practice would be "very easy".  "There's no one dropping into our packing facility and investigating those things," he said.

"And that's the problem — onions that are not being traced back to some certain extent as to where they come from, they could be coming from anywhere ... they could be from China."

So who is responsible for ensuring consumers are getting what they pay for, when a sign says 'Australian grown'?

Mr Versteeg said it was "a tough question" but placed responsibility on retailers.

Coles was the first supermarket to announce it would only stock Australian onions on its shelves.  Fresh produce manager Brad Gorman said the commitment was of "significant value" to the onion industry.

"I would hate to put a dollar figure on it but we sell more than 30,000 tonnes of brown, white, red and pink onions across the country all year," he said.


Soft life in a Queensland women's prison

The sense of community established on popular TV show Orange is the New Black, in reality, doesn’t seem too far from the truth.

You could be forgiven for considering some time in prison as a desirable option/break from normality after watching the close bonds formed and new skills learned.

I am usually a law-abiding citizen. But when I was sent to prison I didn’t want to leave.

Let me tell you, it’s not all doom and gloom behind bars. In fact it’s the complete opposite.  That’s what I found out when I was sent to the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Centre recently — on assignment.

Other than the odd parking and speeding tickets, I haven’t done anything serious in my time. But since the visit I’ve had a different outlook on my law-abiding ways.

For a start, these women doing time for crimes from stealing, arson, murder to armed robbery are living in air-conditioned units and cells. I don’t even have air-con at my house.

It’s understandabe why the average tax payer sees red on hearing stories like this.

If you’re an eye-for-an-eye type you’d probably want people who have committed murder or burnt down a business with intent to cause suffering, to in-turn suffer in prison, alone and with nothing.  But they don’t.

It was eye-opening to witness the top treatment these incarcerated women at Wacol’s high security prison were receiving.

They can work and earn some cash within the prison grounds. It’s not a lot, but still, it’s something.

Some are employed as landscapers and hairdressers, others care for RSPCA foster cats. They are always occupied with something to do or an activity to take part in.

These criminals can also study behind bars. They can gain myriad of skills and experience to, on their release, gain employment in many industries from hairdressing to personal training. And some of the courses available are government funded.

So, commit a crime and learn how to become a barista, work in horticulture or get a gig in hospitality.

Doesn’t sound too bad does it? Own a pet while you’re at it too.  Seems like a free ride with plenty of privileges to me.

And if you think that sounds grand, what about bringing your kids to prison with you?

Not everyone can do this I must say. It’s up to inmates to apply to have their kids (aged up to five years) live with them behind bars.

Walking through the residential units for mothers, everything seemed too good to be true. From cots to baby clothes to milk bottles and play equipment, everything is provided for these crims. Never mind having a baby shower or stockpiling your hard-earned, I thought to myself.

These women have access to midwives, councillors and even children’s playgroups and day care (off-site).

This isn’t a judgement at the individual women, just an observation at the overall scenario. They all have their individual stories.

The overcrowded prison is no doubt filled with talented prisoners, many who express their feelings through art or embroidery classes.

Some use their talents for good by making gowns for Angel Babies — an organisation that supplies gowns made from donated wedding dresses for babies who don’t survive after birth — others knit coats or make toys for rescue animals.

The courses and activities provided are part of a rehabilitation program with hope to improve or change past behaviour. But it seems a bit over the top.

These prisoners are living the life. They are getting luxuries not many other women in our community have. I know of women who are living week to week trying to afford rent, raise a family and send their kids to school.  No doubt they would like to study, go to yoga classes and paint all day.

I’m sure there are deprivations these women suffer, but it isn’t exactly “hard time”.


P&O announces new purpose-built cruise ship for Australia to arrive in 2019

Cruising is a big deal these days, largely because of cheap Third World staff

P&O CRUISES Australia will make history by becoming the first cruise line to build a new ship specifically for the booming Australian market.

The planned 135,500-tonne ship will be the biggest cruise ship ever to be based fulltime in Australia, carrying more than 4200 guests.

To be launched in 2019, the new ship will have double the capacity of the biggest cruise vessel currently homeporting year round in this market. It will be based out of Sydney.

While a range of cruise lines have ships based in Australia either fulltime or for the busy summer season, all are either refurbished or have been based in other regions before being assigned to Australian waters.

At 323m in length and with 2100 guest rooms, P&O says the new ship will be a ‘game changer’ for Australian cruising. Built specifically for modern Australian cruising tastes, it will offer itineraries from three to 10 days duration.

The addition of the new P&O Cruises’ ship forms part of a global announcement made overnight by P&O Cruises’ parent company, Carnival Corporation, to stock markets.

The company has signed a memo of agreement with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build four new cruise ships for its global fleet.

As the world’s largest travel and leisure company, Carnival Corporation has an existing fleet of 99 cruise ships and now 17 new ships scheduled for delivery between 2016 and 2020.
P&O’s new purpose-built ship will cater to the booming Australian cruising market.

Carnival Australia Executive Chairman Ann Sherry and P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell hailed the first ‘newbuild’ cruise ship for the Australian market as the best possible good news for one of the world’s top performing cruise markets.

“The much anticipated first newbuild cruise ship is a huge vote of confidence in the Australian cruise market with much of the 20 per cent year-on-year passenger growth over the past decade driven by P&O Cruises’ dynamic industry leadership,” Ms Sherry said.

Mr Myrmell said the new ship added to P&O Cruises’ pattern of growth, with the recent addition of Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden to its existing three-ship fleet to be followed in 2017 with the addition of Pacific Explorer.

“P&O Cruises is the modern face of Australian cruising and, with such a proud heritage of leadership, it is a natural step to announce that the line will take delivery of its first newbuild ship,” Mr Myrmell said.

Mr Myrmell said details and features of the new ship will be revealed later but it will build on the continued evolution of the P&O Cruises’ brand and will reflect the tastes of modern Australia.


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