Monday, March 09, 2020

Winston Peters and NZ's deportations row with Australia

It is something of a wonder that the NZ government is so furious at getting its own criminals back. We hear no such fury from other countries. Why does it think they are Australia's responsibility? They could have become Australian citizens but did not.

They say it is unjust because the criminals have often been here  for some years (attempting to exploit us, presumably). But Australia and NZ are very similar countries so it is absurd to say that the criminals will have difficulty fitting in back home.  And why should we care if they do?

I am afraid there is only one thing that makes sense of it all: Racism.  Most of the offenders are at least partly Maori and there is no doubt of the high level of criminality among the Maori.  New Zealand has one of the highest incarceration rates in the Western world, and more than half of the prison population is Maori, while Maori are only 16% of the overall population

I have had business dealings with some Maori myself and I repeatedly got the impression that their ethical system is very rudimentary.  It was not a happy experience.  I would much rather have had them in NZ than here

So Ms Ardern makes sense if you look at what is unsaid but she has no reasonable argument for lumbering us with her unwanted criminals

Mr Peters claims virtue by saying that NZ sends back far fewer people the other way. It is rare to deport Australians from NZ back to Australia.  If I may venture an obvious suggestion: That may be because it is much rarer for Australians to be criminal.  Australia's large ethnic minority is Chinese -- who are famously law-abiding.  So Mr Peters would  seem to be claiming a virtue he does not possess

Winston Peters has invoked the tragedy of the Christchurch massacre in blasting Australia’s policy of forced deportations of non-citizens, saying an Australian was charged with “the worst tragedy we’ve ever had”, and nobody “sought to abuse Australia about that”.

New Zealand’s deputy prime minister on Tuesday escalated Jacinda Ardern’s recent evisceration of Australia’s policy, telling the ABC the home affairs minister Peter Dutton had implemented deportations for political reasons and for personal ambition, and Australia should be “better than that”.

Peters told ABC radio that the man on trial for mass murder over the massacre had “come to this country from Australia”.

“Did we make a song and dance about Australia about that?”

“It was the worst tragedy we’ve ever had – 51 people lost their lives and scores and scores were damaged forever. It was far worse than Port Arthur, and no one in my country sought to abuse Australia about that.”

Forced deportations has been a point of friction in the bilateral relationship for several years, but has flared as New Zealand heads for the polls later this year. New Zealand police have said Australia’s policy is a significant factor behind a rise in domestic criminal gang activity.

Dutton said on Monday Ardern was accelerating criticism of the policy because of the looming election, and that was “regrettable”.

“New Zealand obviously is in an electoral cycle at the moment,” he told Sky News on Monday. “It is, I think, regrettable that she made the comments but that would have played well domestically for her.”

Peters rejected the commentary. He said the complaint from New Zealand was not about the election. “He’s wrong,” he said. Local police had raised the negative consequences of deportations of violent criminals because there was evidence of a growing problem. “We wouldn’t be saying it unless we had evidence.”

Peters argued Australia’s policy was fundamentally unfair: “You’ve sent thousands back to New Zealand and we’ve sent a handful back to you.”

During a visit to Australia last week, Ardern took her strongest stance yet opposing Australia’s policy of deporting New Zealand citizens, no matter how long they had spent in Australia, if they had committed a crime.

Morrison said Australia had no plans to abandon the policy. “The Australian government’s policy is very clear,” he said. “We deport non-citizens who have committed crimes in Australia against our community.

“This policy is applied not specific to one country, but to any country whose citizens are here. You commit a crime here, if convicted, once you have done your time, we send you home.”


Green ‘lawfare’ a $65bn deal hit to projects

Green activists are using a back door on environmental laws to delay an estimated $65bn in projects­ ranging from dams to a salmon farm, with “lawfare” forcing companies into court for more than 10,000 days in total since 2000.

Conservation and green groups have used 11 new legal claims in the past four years to tie up seven projects in regional areas, including the $16.5bn Adani coalmine in Queensland, a new $140m port on Melville Island­ in the Northern Territory, Victorian government forestry and the $30m Tassal salmon farm in Tasmania.

The 11 new cases of environmental groups using secondary legislation since 2016 have resulte­d in seven major projects being delayed in court for a total of 2600 days, as business investment in Australia drops to its lowest level since the 1990s.

According to analysis from the free-market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, legal activism using the federal environmental protection act has put $65bn of investment at risk, with delays totalling more than 28 years in court.

The tactics of activist groups have delayed 28 projects between 2000 and 2019, with an estim­ated value of over $65bn.

The projects include six coal and iron ore mine projects, two dam construction projects, two dredging projects, forest and pest management, a tourism development, multiple road construction projects, the construction of a pulp mill, a desalination plant and a marine supply base.

After the election of the Morrison Coalition government, the Queensland Labor government fast-tracked final approval for the Adani coal project in the Galilee Basin, after a nine-year approval process and an extra 341 days in court after an Australian Conservation Foundation appeal started in 2016.

In 2017, a Bob Brown Found­ation challenge against a salmon farm in Tasmania, to protect the southern right whale, was dismissed after 237 days in court but an appeal meant another 349 days in court.

According to IPA research fellow Kurt Wallace: “A small group of green activists are using a special legal privilege to delay and disrupt $65bn of investment, which is disproportionately damaging regional Australia.”

He said the disruptive liti­gation from environmental groups using a section of the act allowing conservationists to take companies to court was not leading to substantial changes in ­environmental controls on the projects. “Disruptive lawfare has not led to environmental improvements,’’ Mr Wallace said.

“Of the cases under section 487, 94 per cent have failed to bring about a substantial change to the original project which had been approved by the commonwealth Environment Minister.

“Section 487 has allowed the courts to be used as a strategic tool for environmental activism.

“Green groups, such as the Australian Conservation Found­ation and Wilderness Society, are using legal challenges to delay and disrupt major projects with the goal of restricting investment in the resources sector by raising costs and uncertainty.

“Repealing section 487 would be a massive shot in the arm for investment in regional Australia and create an enduring stimulus for the Australian economy. (It) will not diminish the legal avenues available to farmers and private land owners who wish to take legal action against a mining project that could adversely affect their interests.’’

Disappointing news today. Equinor has announced that it won't be drilling for oil in the Bight. We desperately need to improve our oil security.

Former resources minister Matt Canavan said activists were exploiting environmental laws merely to delay projects.

“Every day that major projects are held up is another day that a desperate Australian family doesn’t have a job,’’ Senator Canavan said.

“Our environmental laws act as a big yellow light slowing everybody and everything down.

“We need laws that focus on protecting major environmental issues, not being an alternative avenue­ for radical green activists to pursue a political agenda.”


Progressive warfare on economics

There’s a concerted effort to shift the focus of economics away from financial data towards social. Specifically, it’s argued that economic welfare would be better measured by our individual and collective ‘wellbeing’ than by the GDP (the value of goods and services produced in the economy).

Would-be Treasurer under a Labor government, Jim Chalmers, has thrown his support behind this idea, praising New Zealand’s ‘wellbeing budget’. He promises a two-pronged assault: first, to supplant GDP’s primacy with a more holistic measure of wellbeing; second, to weigh up budget decisions in terms of social objectives — rather than economic merits.

Chalmers argues that alternatives to GDP would instead “measure what matters” and “redefine what success means in terms of economic outcomes.”

To better measure a country’s progress, the Kiwis now monitor levels of (among others) loneliness, belonging, mental resilience, and digital inclusiveness — all supposedly more important than money. The marker of success for NZ, then, is moving the needle on these indicators, irrespective of the economics — implying that a happier society is better off than a more prosperous one.

Where this comes from is a pessimistic view that, despite nearly 30 years of economic growth, Australia supposedly hasn’t enjoyed social progress —we’re apparently all living miserably.

It’s important to understand this isn’t supported by the economic data or social indicators. First, as the Productivity Commission argued, income inequality has not significantly worsened in Australia.

Second, according to the OECD’s Better Life Index, Australia scores the second highest of any country in the world. And we are sixth on the UN’s Human Development Index — which includes both economic and other factors — and on an upward trend.

Not to forget that economic factors are themselves important indicators of the health of a society.

Indeed, focussing on social indicators rather than economic growth leads to policymakers treating the symptoms rather than the cause of social problems — many of which stem from, or are exacerbated by, adverse economic outcomes.

In short, healthy economies breed healthy societies — and the progressives are wrong about the direction of this causation.

Social progress and cohesion are important policy goals, but prioritising these over broader economic goals would be counterproductive. It also distorts fiscal policy decisions by evaluating spending proposals on the basis of their direct social impact; not financial prudence, or in context of the macroeconomic stability lever that has been the convention.

We can’t afford for economic priorities and progress to be derailed by progressive social policy — especially with the vulnerabilities of today’s economy.


High drama and even higher stakes: it’s the moment of truth for George Pell

His Eminence was given no benefit of the doubt at all.  He was convicted for the sins of his church, not for anything he personally did

It is a measure of George Pell’s lot that he finds himself in notionally better surrounds but not necessarily better company.

The cardinal, still Australia’s most senior Catholic, will monitor next week’s High Court developments while in isolation in his ­relatively new home at Victoria’s maximum-security Barwon Prison, near Geelong.

Barwon is a hole that swallowed gangland murderer Carl Williams but it’s not quite as deep as Pell’s former holding cell in the centre of Melbourne.

Pell, 78, now has more room to move, with a more modern but still austere toilet, shower and general living facilities. He is served shoddy food and his main human contact is with the prison guards who bring him his medication for twin heart conditions.

It remains a life of deprivation.

Given his convictions, most people will be happy with Pell’s plight. For others who have followed the facts of the case closely, including the brightest minds in the law, next week’s High Court appeal will be a significant moment in Australian legal history.

There are deep divisions about whether Pell should even be in jail.

“If you look at all of the case law about unreasonable verdicts, it’s (the Pell convictions) right on the borderline of what’s reasonable and what isn’t,’’ Sydney University academic Andrew Dyer told ­Inquirer.

Dyer, who has co-authored a paper on the Pell case with the university’s Professor David Hamer, is not predicting in any way how the High Court will act. Nor is anyone else with any certainty.

But the paper, published in the Sydney Law Review, makes clear what many independent voices suspect: Pell’s convictions may be flawed.

Dyer and Hamer write that it appears open to the High Court to overturn the Pell verdicts on the basis of the cumulative effect of the evidence, but they doubt the court will make this finding.

They express concern about the impact that rejection of the Pell decision would have on the standing of juries.

Dyer and Hamer’s views are not black and white. They also make clear that the law allows for convictions based largely or solely on the complainant’s evidence and a different tack would “undermine the prohibition against child ­sexual assault’’.

This is a tick to the prosecution’s heavy reliance on the surviving choirboy, whose evidence was central to the Pell convictions.

In the paper, however, Dyer and Hamer note that key aspects of the evidence regarding Pell pointed to no opportunity to ­offend against A, the surviving ­victim, and B, another choirboy who died of a drug overdose.

“Once we also consider the ­inconsistencies in A’s account ­(however understandable), the unlikelihood that Pell would take such risks and B’s and Pell’s denials, it becomes apparent that a reasonable jury might not have convicted,’’ they write.

“Indeed, the case seems close to the borderline between one where the jury was entitled to return a guilty verdict, and one where it should have had a doubt.’’

On Wednesday, five or seven members of the High Court will gather in Canberra to decide Pell’s fate. Dyer thinks there will be seven but we probably won’t know until Tuesday afternoon.

The High Court will determine whether the Victorian Court of Appeal erred when it decided, 2:1 last year, that the County Court jury was within its rights to convict Pell of five sexual assault charges that occurred in the priests’ sacristy at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and in a corridor in 1997.

Or whether there should have been a reasonable doubt.

Central to deliberations is whether belief in the complainant, now a family man in early middle age, could be used as a basis for eliminating doubt raised by other witnesses, several of whom were highly credible.

Pell’s submissions asked: “Was it open to the jury to find the ­offending proven beyond reasonable doubt?’’

As one well-informed observer noted this week, of all the charges that were filed against Pell, the ­cathedral claims were among the most difficult and even unlikely to have progressed to any court.

Those with deep understanding of the cathedral, Catholic rituals and Pell’s practices are incredulous that the archbishop could ever have been left alone for the five or six minutes upon which he was convicted of forced oral sex and other abuses.

It was not uncommon in that period for literally hundreds of people to gather after Solemn Mass, the numbers bolstered by busloads of Taiwanese tourists who swarmed into the cathedral.

Justice Mark Weinberg, the former Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, was the dissenting voice at the Court of Appeal, arguing that aspects of A’s evidence lacked the necessary weight. But on A’s side were ­Justice Anne Ferguson and Justice Chris Maxwell, as were the County Court jury, Victoria Police and the prosecution.

Jeremy Gans, a professor of law at Melbourne University, said it would be most unlikely if any decision were to be made next week, with the court sitting on Wednesday and possibly Thursday.

There are four options for how the court hearings may unfold.

The court could decide not to hear the appeal and end Pell’s chances of being freed early. Special leave could be granted to hear the appeal and the appeal is rejected. And special leave could be granted and the appeal is allowed.

The fourth option is that special leave is granted and the case is sent back to the Court of Appeal with three different judges.

The latter would be awkward for all, but mostly Pell, who would have to wait months more to know whether freedom was a genuine prospect for him.

One technicality is over whether the Court of Appeal appropriately used video evidence to come to its conclusion. Gans believes the only way Pell would walk next week would be if the court ruled on the spot. Even so: “I still reckon they’d wait.’’

Mirko Bagaric, dean of law at Swinburne University, notes the difficulty in predictions but says the High Court may opt for a ­narrow, contained judgment.

“The court ultimately will have to grapple with the issue about whether or not the jury verdict was reasonable,’’ he said. “It’s impossible to anticipate.’’

The prosecution’s submissions are firm in their view that the jury decision should not be overturned. The first County Court jury failed to reach a verdict; the second convicted. In a submission lodged by Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd, the prosecution argues: “It (the jury) is best placed to decide matters of credibility and reliability. The jury has the benefit of being able to deliberate as a group in private throughout the trial. And its decisions are subject to the discipline generated by the requirement of unanimity or a very high majority.’’

The prosecution also argues that Team Pell glosses over the quality of the evidence provided by A, who correctly identified the ­location of the first offending and correctly described the layout of the priests’ sacristy.

It calls into question the so-called “alibi’’ evidence provided by key witnesses. But overshadowing this is the fact that Weinberg, the legal expert on the Court of Appeal, effectively raised the spectre in his dissenting judgment of an innocent man having been wrongly convicted. Weinberg observed: “These convictions were based upon the jury’s assessment of the complainant as a witness and nothing more.’’

Further, he was damning of the conviction of Pell on the final charge, which was that in 1997 the then archbishop assaulted A in front of others, grabbing him on the testicles in front of dozens.

“I would have thought any prosecutor would be wary of bringing a charge of this gravity against anyone based upon the ­implausible notion that a sexual ­assault of this kind would take place in public and in the presence of numerous potential witnesses,’’ Weinberg ruled.

The final element of the High Court deliberations is expected to relate to the way the Court of ­Appeal assessed A’s evidence, which was videotaped.

The court, The Australian reported last month, was weighing the importance of viewing A’s testimony compared with reading the transcript.

A technical point is being considered by the High Court over what the Court of Appeal should have viewed by way of video evidence and whether, chiefly, the Court of Appeal should have strayed from the trial transcript.

Team Pell had argued that no matter how favourable the view was of A, it was not open to the jury to conclude the prosecution had eliminated all reasonable doubt. This is in the context of the combined effect of the unchallenged evidence of other witnesses.

While apparently a technical point, it could become significant if the High Court believes that the majority Court of Appeal judges went too far in their use of the video evidence.

Pell himself, meanwhile, will have no idea what is happening on Wednesday.

The proceedings will not be livestreamed outside the court and he will have to wait, probably until each night, when he may have the opportunity to telephone someone who was at the High Court for a briefing.

Maybe even his lead silk, Bret Walker, SC, depending on whether he is on the cardinal’s limited telephone list.

Regardless of the outcome, the assessment of Pell’s guilt or innocence will resonate for years.

His supporters and a fair slab of the legal community are questioning whether the jury and the ­majority on the Court of Appeal got it right.

Within sections of the Catholic Church there is a strong view that the maths don’t add up.

How could one of the busier parts of Melbourne on a Sunday morning be the site for such depraved acts? More broadly, if Pell is acquitted, it will provoke one of the ­fiercest debates in the history of Australian law and order, and ­religion.

The best hope is that the facts are allowed to tell the full story.

As we’ve been told repeatedly, it doesn’t matter what you might think of the man. But it matters if an innocent man has been jailed.

The Pell critics will get another chance to dance on his reputational grave after the High Court has finished.

That will come when the redacted sections of the sex abuse royal commission are finally released by the Morrison government.

Like so many pronouncements about Pell in recent years, they are unlikely to be kind.


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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