Monday, October 04, 2021

Innocent male student targeted over rape claim

Bettina Arndt

Kristin Hosking is used to a tough life. She and her husband Phil run a sheep farm near Tamworth in Northeast NSW

They have coped with drought. “We had to hand-feed our stock and watch them die. But we pulled together and got on with it. That’s just nature, you can understand that,” said Kristin.

Next came the bushfires. “What was left of our feed was lost in the fires, along with fencing and hundreds of acres.” That too, the family just dealt with, with their sons spending months fighting not just on their farm but on their neighbours’ as well.”

But what came next just blew them away. “How do you prepare your kids for absolute evil?” asks Kristin.

“How do you explain to your son that even through you have lived your life in a respectful, decent way and have done nothing wrong, all it takes a malicious lie from one girl and you can be thrown out of university and your life impacted forever?”

On the first of March this year, Kristin’s son suffered an “emergency eviction” from the University of New England. He was advised by university administrators that he’d been accused of a rape that supposedly had happened five months earlier, in a dorm room on campus. He was given two hours to pack his bags and leave the university grounds.

Kristin and Phil brought James home to the farm and she took leave from her job because she was frightened of leaving him on his own. “I’ll never forget the absolute bewilderment and hopelessness in his eyes when we arrived to pick him up. My beautiful, caring young man was shattered.”

James had been accused by a young woman living in the same dorm who was known to suffer mental health issues. As a male nursing student, he’d became a support person for her after she told him about her history of self-harming, her tales of being raped by an uncle in Sri Lanka, and her suicidal thoughts. She was part of a group of four friends who interacted most days over a six-month period in 2020.

The bungling, self-serving handling of this complaint by the university was appalling – but sadly typical of the biased, negligent treatment of accused young men by the kangaroo courts currently operating across Australian universities.

Just think about this. Here’s a young woman accusing a fellow student of rape - in October last year. The university refers the matter to police but James is not even told. They leave him living in the dorm near his accuser totally innocent of the fact that she’d accused him of a criminal offence – and all this time he is exposed to the possibility of further accusations.

Then suddenly, five months later, the university decides to expel him - by which time his accuser has moved on to study elsewhere. Despite this, he is suddenly deemed a risk to others on campus. It later emerges that the university received a complaint from parents of a friend of the accuser, asking why an alleged rapist was living in the dorm.

Once this all happened, the university asks police to get a move on with the investigation. James produces detailed evidence of his activities on the night in question – the alleged rape took place in her room after the friends all attended a games night. He has social media messages showing the girl’s friendly involvement with him over the subsequent few weeks. But eventually she withdraws contact – which he believes may have been due to her taking offence when he pressed her to address her mental health issues.

Finally, after months of anguish and thousands in legal fees, the police announce they are dropping the case and the university informs James that the girl has withdrawn her complaint.

James is now back at college but the very public handling of his expulsion from the university has left him feeling very uncomfortable and shamed, with the accusation always hanging over him. He’s lost a year of his nursing studies and is now struggling to complete his degree because his disrupted schedule has meant he misses out on the government study payments.

Kristin has decided to speak out because she believes the public needs to tune into the injustice being perpetrated by our universities. I’ve made a video with Fiona, as she describes the shattering impact of this event on her family. James was happy to go public but we believe it’s too much of a risk for the young man to deal with the unfair stigma that accused men face.

The shaming of this young man by the University of New England is par for the course. Our universities have in place sexual misconduct regulations which pay lip service to fair treatment for accused students but in practice, accused young men are routinely left out to dry.

In the last few years, I’ve been following a string of such cases, having gathered a group of very generous lawyers willing to offer pro bono help for students dealing with these kangaroo courts.

The wildly unfair, inconsistent treatment of accused students is so distressing to witness. Here was James left for months not even being told he had been accused, while other students are expelled or thrown out of colleges within days of an accusation being made. One young international student found himself given two hours to get out of the college which had been his only home since he’d arrived in Australia – dumped alone and desperate in ghastly accommodation far away from his few new friends.


The ‘speed bump’ news publication trusted by Australia’s youth

When Sam Koslowski and Zara Seidler started uploading news breakdowns on Instagram for their family and friends in 2017 they couldn’t predict that four years later it would become a trusted news source for hundreds of thousands of young Australians.

The Daily Aus has quickly grown into the go-to news source for young Australians, jumping from 70,000 readers in December 2020 to 219,000 less than a year later. The social media-driven platform’s aim is simple, engage the young in the news that matters.

“We think of ourselves as a speed bump that meets our readership where they are. You should be able to scroll on social media, see a photo of a coffee, a brand you like, and then a little, digestible explainer of ours about interest rates before going back to what you’re doing more knowledgeably,” Koslowski told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Over 85 per cent of the publication’s 219,000 followers are under the age of 35, and a significant proportion exclusively use it to get their news. Koslowski says young people gravitate towards The Daily Aus because it delivers high-quality news that isn’t patronising, is devoid of jargon but “isn’t afraid to use a swear word in a headline”. For now, the publication is focussed on producing explainer articles, and while it’s likely to dip its toe into the breaking news space Koslowski would “rather be slow and right, than fast and wrong” for now.

Unlike most traditional media companies, The Daily Aus has consciously avoided adopting a subscription-based revenue model. Instead, Koslowski and Seidler are focussing on growing a devout readership before thinking about how to monetise them.

Koslowski is proud of the way The Daily Aus has made its mark on young people, he’s cautious about disrupting that relationship with revenue grabs too early and said the publication is more likely to emulate publications such as the satirical newspaper The Betoota Advocate.

“Our audience doesn’t sit on web browsers and pay to read like other generations do,” he said.

Following in the footsteps of The Betoota Advocate makes sense. Both organisations are primarily social media based, have audio offerings, newsletters, and are both published by Piers Grove.

Grove argues working with brands to advertise around an article on a website is ‘a really horrible way’ to cultivate a media business because it makes the relationship with the audience immediately transactional.

“I always try to look at how I can grow a community of people around this content, so they can use the content as a way to engage with each other and develop an identity. Once I have that, I look at what we can do with them,” he says.

He says The Daily Aus’ strength has come from listening to its audience singularly, rather than pandering to advertisers. As a result, he says, The Daily Aus has avoided the ‘fairly vacuous’ relationship traditional publications grapple with where a reader’s loyalty extends only to the next story.

The High Court recently ruled that media outlets are legally responsible as “publishers” for third parties’ comments on their Facebook pages, in a decision with implication for all social media users. What it means for The Daily Aus is less clear. Its biggest audience is on Facebook-owned social media platform Instagram, but it’s too soon to tell whether the judgment applies to all Facebook products.

Koslowski is a former lawyer, and isn’t sure what to make of the decision “if you’re going to rely on social media to give you revenue, you’re responsible for the content, but we don’t make any money off social media content, we’re not a part of the bargaining code dynamics, so I’m not sure that it should apply to us,” he said.

In the event it does, Koslowski is willing to disable comments entirely, but says it’s a shame for the relationship between publisher and reader as The Daily Aus often replies to comments to clarify confusing elements of the news for its readership.

He says the media bargaining code is a win for news literacy and accessibility, but it delays a difficult discussion for the industry about what a ‘sustainable’ revenue model is for news companies and where social media behemoths fit in as more Australians stop paying for news. He also questions the way the code works given social media-based platforms with the highest growth on the paying platforms, such as The Daily Aus, aren’t included.

Despite growing nearly 100,000 new Instagram followers over the past three months, The Daily Aus is not wedded to the platform, “we’ll meet our readers wherever they want us, at the moment it’s Instagram, tomorrow it could be TikTok,” Koslowski says.

The Daily Aus does not shy away from the fact a significant proportion of its content is originally reported by other platforms. Koslowski is a big admirer of traditional media but says failure to source information correctly or attribute other outlets holds the industry back in the era of ‘fake news’.

He adds that focussing too much on inter-industry squabbles detracts from the overall goal, “We have a clear aim. We want every young person who walks into the voting booth at the next federal election to know who they’re voting for and why and if that means directing to them to a wonderful infogram by the ABC or a great analysis piece by The Sydney Morning Herald, great.”

“News companies should work together in the game of having a more educated public rather than placing too much emphasis on ego-driven exclusives”, he says.


Meet Dom Perrottet — the conservative Catholic and father-of-six who will be NSW's next Premier

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A man with a big family and strong ideals around freedom — meet Dominic Perrottet, the man who is set to take NSW's top job at a critical time.

Mr Perrottet has secured a deal that will see him become the state's 46th premier and Gladys Berejiklian's successor.

Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres will become deputy Liberal leader and Environment Minister Matt Kean will become Treasurer.

The party will hold an official vote on Tuesday which the ABC understands will be a formality.

Mr Perrottet will take the helm just as Greater Sydney and its surrounds prepare to reopen for fully vaccinated people on October 11 after more than 100 days of COVID-19 lockdown.

The timing is far from ideal, but Mr Perrottet has emphasised his "hope" and "optimism" about leading the state through uncharted waters.

Last year, Mr Perrottet was widely criticised for his handling of the $38 billion state-run insurance scheme icare, which is supposed to look after millions of workers when they get sick or injured on the job.

It emerged the troubled agency, set up by Mr Perrottet in 2015, had lost more than $3 billion despite cutting benefits to thousands of injured workers.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry into the scandal-plagued organisation was last year told the wife of former icare chief executive John Nagle was paid $800,000 over three years after being awarded a contract without a tender.

Mr Perrottet, 39, has been front and centre of the NSW Liberal Party since becoming Treasurer and deputy leader in 2017.

He is part of the Liberals' right faction which is considered less dominant in NSW.

This may mean he faces more challenges in parliament than his moderate predecessors Ms Berejiklian, Mike Baird and Barry O'Farrell.

Growing up in West Pennant Hills in the Hills District of Sydney, Mr Perrottet was one of 13 children.

His family ideals are fierce and he went on to have six of his own children with wife Helen.

As a child he attended the Roman Catholic school Redfield College in Dural, which is run by Opus Dei priests.

The Opus Dei sect has been tied to secretive dealings, along with aggressive recruitment methods and accusations of elitism and misogyny.

But Mr Perrottet has never shied away from making his faith public. Last year he spoke about how his devout Catholic beliefs have had a fundamental influence on his work in politics. "I think having a Christian faith is part of who I am and inspires me to make a difference wherever I go," he said.

Mr Perrottet graduated from Sydney University with degrees in commerce and law and worked as a solicitor in banking restructuring and insolvency law.

Like Ms Berejiklian, he was heavily involved in student politics and served as president of the NSW Young Liberals.

In 2011, at age 28, Mr Perrottet won the very safe Liberal seat of Castle Hill but in 2015 successfully stood for the electorate of Hawkesbury.

In his inaugural speech to parliament in 2011, he said he would lead based on the four ideals of sacrifice, generosity, freedom and opportunity.

"I believe in freedom, because it is only by exercising freedom that individuals can develop the habits of generosity, hard work, fairness and concern for others," he said.

"I believe that these habits have made our country great and are ultimately the foundation for the pursuit of the good life. You cannot do good without striving to be good."

Mr Perrottet is the founder of the Hills St Vincent De Paul Young Adults Program and and has served on The Hills Australia Day Committee.

In a 2016 post on his official Facebook account, Mr Perrottet praised Donald Trump's election as US President, describing it as "a victory for people who have been taken for granted by the elites".

Part of the post read: "If you stand for free speech, you are not a bigot."

"If you question man-made climate change, you are not a sceptic.

"If you support stronger borders, you are not a racist.

"If you want a plebiscite on same sex marriage, you are not a homophobe.

"If you love your country, you are not an extremist."

"These are mainstream values that people should be free to articulate without fear of ridicule or persecution by the Left."

Mr Perrottet served as the Minister for Finance under former Premier Baird in 2014 and his portfolio was expanded to include property and innovation.

In the lead up to the 2019 election, Mr Perrottet tried to take back the seat of Castle Hill and even nominated for pre-selection — a controversial move that upset ministerial colleague Ray Williams, who held the seat.

Mr Perrottet wanted to be based in a seat closer to his home, and his decision sparked a civil war within Liberal ranks.

He eventually backed down and instead was pre-selected for the seat of Epping, which he still holds.

Most recently, Mr Perrottet has been one of the architects of the JobSaver program, and pushed back against the federal government when they scrapped JobKeeper benefits just as the Delta outbreak began to take hold in NSW.

His conversations with Prime Minister Scott Morrison were said to have been particularly heated during his repeated calls for JobKeeper to be reinstated.

Mr Perrottet has been a part of the crisis cabinet making the all-important decisions about managing COVID-19 and has committed to a strong job recovery.

“[In 2020] we lost close to 300,000 jobs in this state and we recovered every single one of them plus 30,000 more and we will do it again," he said while announcing his run for top job.

He says the state's long-awaited reopening will still go ahead despite the shock leadership changes.

"What we want to make sure is that we continue to focus on the people of our state who are going through a difficult time," he said. "That recovery package is in its final throes and it's pretty much finished. What it's focused on is stimulating the economy through Summer."

Mr Perrottet is expected to lead with an economy-first mantra, but will take over as Premier just as the state's health system is expected to be under the most pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I know this is a time of challenge for our state but I have complete hope and optimism that NSW is in a very good place," he said.


Santos seeks carbon credits for plan to bury emissions underground

Gas giant Santos could have one of the world’s biggest carbon capture and storage projects operational in South Australia by 2024 after the federal government made the technology eligible for carbon credits intended to drive industrial emissions cuts.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor’s announcement that carbon capture and storage (CCS) had been added to the list of approved technologies under the Emissions Reduction Fund has cleared the last major hurdle for Santos to green-light the $210 million project at the Cooper Basin’s Moomba gas plant.

Santos managing director Kevin Gallagher.
Santos managing director Kevin Gallagher.CREDIT:TREVOR COLLENS

Santos managing director Kevin Gallagher said the company had begun the process of applying to register the Moomba project with the Clean Energy Regulator to access Australian Carbon Credit Units.

“Once the project has been registered, we will be in a position to make a final investment decision to proceed,” Mr Gallagher said.

“The Australian government’s focus on CCS and other low-emission technologies sets Australia up to capitalise on our natural assets and become a carbon storage superpower, building on the position we have established as an energy superpower over more than half a century.”

CCS – which traps carbon dioxide emissions produced by factories or power plants before they are emitted into the atmosphere and injects them underground – has been a divisive area of climate policy, but is being targeted as a priority for the federal government’s emissions-reduction road map.

The Greens and environmental advocates oppose the inclusion of CCS in the Emissions Reduction Scheme, which awards credits to entities that cut pollution by employing one of the approved techniques, as it would direct taxpayer dollars to fossil fuel companies and potentially delay the massive research and development push needed to switch heavy industry to clean fuel sources.

There are also fresh questions about the technology’s prospects of functioning at scale after Chevron’s giant Gorgon CCS project in Western Australia this year failed to meet a crucial target of capturing and burying at least 80 per cent of the carbon dioxide released from its gas reservoirs, despite several years of work and spending more than $3 billion.

Supporters of CCS argue it is a necessary and unavoidable component of the world’s decarbonisation goals to avoid the worst and most immediate impacts of global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency say carbon capture is needed now to start reducing the pollution from difficult-to-abate industrial processes like cement production.

If it proceeds, Moomba could eventually have the capacity to stash as much as 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

Gordon Ramsay, a Sydney-based energy analyst with the Royal Bank of Canada, said Moomba was expected to be a low-cost CCS project due to Santos’s position as a leading operator in the mature Cooper Basin.

“Santos has existing CO2-separation equipment at Moomba that is already being used to meet Australian domestic gas pipeline gas specifications,” Mr Ramsay said. “Santos also has a number of existing wells that can be repurposed for CO2 injection, and it has depleted reservoirs with proven rock seal in which it can safely store hydrocarbons.”




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