Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Child murderers and serial killers could be denied parole for decades under new Queensland laws

Child murderers and serial killers serving life sentences could be denied any bid for parole for potentially decades under new laws passed in Queensland.

The laws will give the president of Parole Board Queensland the power to make a "restricted prisoner declaration", blocking certain inmates from obtaining parole for up to 10 years, with no limit on the number of bans made.

State parliament passed the legislation on Tuesday evening despite concerns from the legal community the parole board sat "behind closed doors" and the powers "should only be vested in a court".

Described as the "toughest" parole laws in the nation, the state government said the measures were designed to limit unnecessary trauma for victims' families and the community caused by regular parole applications.

Under the new framework, the president of the board, an independent body, will have the discretion to declare that specific inmates – those sentenced to life for multiple murders or for murdering a child – must not be considered for parole for up to 10 years.

In a statement, Police Minister Mark Ryan said the government had carefully considered the rights of everyone concerned and it made no apology for taking this course of action.

The legislation was tabled in September amid the latest parole application by convicted murderer Barrie John Watts, who killed 12-year-old Sian Kingi in 1987. His bid was ultimately refused in October.

LNP Member for Ninderry, Dan Purdie — a former police officer —tabled in parliament earlier this year a petition with more than 70,000 signatures calling for Watts to be kept behind bars.

"This legislation is the direct legacy of that journey," he said. "The Kingis' pain and suffering will never go away, nor will the Morcombes be spared the trauma of losing their son Daniel at the evil hands of Brett Cowan.

"At least now these two Sunshine Coast families, and indeed families of victims all over Queensland, can be assured that there will be a legislative pathway to keep convicted killers and multiple murderers from ever menacing the community again."


Australian Ministers back vaccination rate to cushion consumer confidence

NSW Jobs and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres has insisted the emergence of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant should not dash hopes of a strong summer of trade.

As the state imposed tougher compliance measures for overseas arrivals on Tuesday, Treasurer Matt Kean said NSW remained committed to easing restrictions on December 15 in addition to a precautionary approach to handling the new variant threat.

The hospitality sector says patrons are not yet spooked by the news of the Omicron variant.
The hospitality sector says patrons are not yet spooked by the news of the Omicron variant.CREDIT:SAM MOOY

“We need to reopen as quickly and as safely as possible. I am confident that we can continue to bounce back better from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

The comments were echoed by Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello, who said the state’s world-leading vaccination rates and digital infrastructure gave NSW room to deal with new variants.

“It may be that QR codes are with us longer, if necessary, but that’s the beauty of being a contemporary society,” he said.

“We do have more levers at our disposal to combat variants ... and we’re a lot more advanced than we were with Delta.”

Among NSW residents aged 16 and over, 92.4 per cent are fully vaccinated, while 76.5 per cent of 12- to 15-year-olds have had both jabs.

Across the hospitality sector, businesses hoping for a Christmas boom period say the government’s calls for calm appeared to be reaching consumers, with no evidence of mass cancellations.

Wes Lambert, chief executive officer of peak body Restaurant & Catering Australia, said neither operators nor patrons were expected to give up on newly regained freedoms until directed to by the government. “As far as the industry can tell, patrons aren’t spooked by the news of the Omicron variant at this time and we haven’t heard of any mass cancellations just yet.”

Mr Lambert said the federal government’s decision to delay the arrival of more than 200,000 visa holders, including around 160,000 international students and 50,000 skilled workers, was “deeply troubling” given the skills shortage weighing on the hospitality sector. There are currently about 100,000 job vacancies in the sector Australia-wide.

“This perfect storm of high consumer demand and low staff will lead to more restaurants and caf├ęs being shut down over the Christmas period due to the lack of staff,” Mr Lambert said.

Mr Ayres said the two-week delay to the arrival of international students and workers was an appropriate precautionary decision by the federal government, but acknowledged the pressure it would place on small businesses.

“We know there will be constraints in the workforce for many months and finding workers will continue to be a challenge. So, the sooner we can re-engage with the global economy, the better.”

He said it was too soon to start thinking about additional restrictions. “But absolutely our approach should be different to the Delta outbreak. We have high rates of vaccination, and a lot more resilience in our communities,” Mr Ayres said.


Government could intervene in wharf disputes ahead of Christmas

Australia’s ports face significant government intervention to end industrial action that could see goods and food imports locked up on docks ahead of Christmas if an agreement isn’t reached.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also foreshadowed a Productivity Commission inquiry into the efficient running of Australia’s ports, warning “inefficient ports are a tax on all of us”.

The Prime Minister said the government was keeping a close watch on the industrial action at Patrick Terminals, which has been paused until at least December 10, noting it had the potential to disrupt economic activity in addition to COVID-19 related pressures globally, with global shipping costs remaining high.

“We encourage the parties to this dispute to negotiate in good faith to resolve their issues. At the same time, I can assure you that the government will take action, if needed, to protect the Australian economy from serious harm,” Mr Morrison said. If the strikes restart in December the government would likely join Patrick to apply to the Fair Work Commission to bring an end to the dispute before Christmas.

The Maritime Union of Australia has been negotiating with Patrick, which is the largest port stevedoring firm in the country, on a new pay deal for almost a year. The process has seen repeated waves of legal industrial action that have contributed to periodic delays at its facilities.

Patrick has accused the union of trying to retain and build on clauses that effectively require the company to get workers’ agreement for new hires at some facilities while the union argues it is trying to maintain decent working conditions and job security for its members.

In late October Patrick asked the Fair Work Commission to tear up the enterprise agreement altogether on the basis it was unsustainable for its business. While it has committed to retaining some pay and holiday provisions on an interim basis, that would give Patrick a decisive upper hand in negotiations.

At the time, the union’s national secretary Paddy Crumlin said it was an intimidatory, bullying attack on the union. “It is being done in such a way as to try to defame the workforce in a most disgraceful fashion by distorting public perceptions of a legally sanctioned bargaining process,” Mr Crumlin said.

“The disagreements between the two parties are easily resolved and have been achieved within the industry with other stevedoring companies without them resorting to this type of character assassination.”

In early November the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released a major report showing that extremely restrictive deals between port operators and the union were cutting into productivity along with the union’s industrial campaign, damaging other businesses further down the supply chain.

Mr Morrison said that, in light of the report, the government was examining broader issues associated with the relative productivity of Australian ports.

“Ports are the gateway for our economy. Inefficient ports are a tax on all of us. Coalition governments ... have always understood this, and have always been prepared to take action to ensure our ports can serve our economy as best as they possibly can,” he said.


Yippee! Power crisis forces China to buy Aussie coal for first time in a YEAR

Crippling power shortages in China have forced the communist regime to back down from their ban on Australian coal.

Beijing blocked the commodity in November last to punish Canberra for suggesting and international inquiry should be held into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Chinese campaign of economic coercion - which also saw similar bans on key export sectors like barley, wine, cotton, seafood, timbre and copper - was meant to punish Australia for speaking out.

But the economic threat spectacularly back-fired on the authoritarian nation leaving China with widespread blackouts heading into winter, as it generates more than half of it's electricity through coal.

Tough-talking Wolf Warrior diplomats quietly softened their stance with tens-of-millions shivering and in the dark - allowing in 2.8 million tonnes of Australian coal in last month.

Commonwealth Bank Global Markets Research analyst Vivek Dhar on Tuesday said it 'looks to be a pragmatic move by Chinese policymakers'.

'Australian coal that was sitting at port stockpiles were cleared by Chinese customs last month to address an acute shortage in China's coal and power sector,' he said.

As well as being a concern for residents, financial firm Goldman Sachs estimated about 44 per cent of industrial activity was affected by power shortages.

The Chinese economy was hit with a perfect storm that compounded the energy crisis after it blocked dozens of coal ship from entering Chinese ports, leaving sailors stranded for months.

President Xi Jinping recently imposed price caps and restrictions on energy suppliers just before the cost of coal skyrocketed.

Metallurgical coal jumped from about $100 a tonne when the ban was introduced to $274 a tonne in October.

'Every million tonnes of coal has recently been costing China's steel mills more than US$400 million, compared with around US$250 million paid by steel mills everywhere else,' David Uren wrote last month in a paper for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

'The difference is entirely explained by China's embargo on Australian coal.

'Since China's mills use almost two million tonnes of coal every day, the premium it pays above coal costs in the rest of the world adds up to about US$2 billion a week.'




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