A new network has been launched calling on the Australian Government to support a UN Convention on the Human Rights of Older Persons.
Nils Melzer’s book about the persecution of Julian Assange – Nils Melzer, The Trial of Julian Assange, A story of persecution, must be heeded, due to Melzer’s extraordinary position and status as an independent international investigator and legal expert in complaints of torture and ill-treatment,  which has given him access to details and documents not previously available. That is probably why it is hard to get the book in Australia.
- Significantly remove local objection rights on all large developments (not just the ministers own "captains picks")
- Establish a state planning panel that approves these decisions bypassing any local council involvement
- The planning panel will not be subject to ANY appeal process - their decisions will be final
- Effectively removing Council and resident objections to quicken development led state construction recovery
These changes are aimed at being rushed through during state of emergency powers rendering parliament and locals unable to be heard.
Ratepayers Victoria are holding 3 FREE seminars for online attendance to hear more, hear from Councillors and know how to object to the proposed changes.
If we don't fight for our suburbs now, when?
To register please visit: https://www.ratepayersvictoria.com.au/
Dean Hurlston, President
Lynnette Saloumi, Secretary
Ratepayers Victoria Inc.
In this video, BBC journalist Orla Guerin interviews Azerbaijan President Aliyev, assuming that Azerbaijan press and politics are heavily censored, and presses him on that. He denies the accusation, then asks her why Julian Assange has been held inhumanely for years, if the British and western press are so free. The BBC journalist simply won't acknowledge the situation for journalists and the media in her own country, kind of proving the president's point.
This article can be printed on two sides of an A4 sheet from this file (but, please be warned, it costs a lot more to print it as colour rather than as black and white).
Dear Prime Minister Scott Morrison,
I am writing to you concerning the imprisonment, psychological and physical torture, in Britain, of an Australian citizen, Julian Assange, who has committed no crime. So far Julian Assange has endured more than eight and a half years of this, and if the United States' government has its way, this will continue for the rest of his life.
On 11 April 2019, shortly after Julian Assange was taken from the London Ecuadorian Embassy and placed under arrest, Foreign Minister Marise Payne issued a statement:
"I am confident, as the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt publicly confirmed in July 2018, that Mr Assange will receive due process in the legal proceedings he faces in the United Kingdom." 
If you, Prime Minister, or Marise Payne, have been able to closely follow the legal proceedings to which Julian Assange has been subjected for over one year now, in Woolwich Crown Court, you will be aware of the following:
For breaching bail on 19 June 2012 to seek asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy, which he is entitled to do under Article 14 of United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 , he was sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment,  the absolute maximum sentence for this offence;
On 13 September 2019, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser further extended Julian Assange's imprisonment when she ruled that Julian Assange would not be released on 22 September because of the United States prosecution's extradition request, the case for which, it had evidently not been able to fully prepare in the seven and a half years that Julian Assange had been imprisoned for at that point in time;
On every day of the hearing, even before Judge Vanessa Baraitser had listened to any of the testimony or cross-examination, she came into court with her judgement for that day pre-written! 
From the first day of the trial (25 February 2020) Julian Assange was brought in handcuffed, and "confined at the back of the court behind a bulletproof glass screen … from which it is very difficult for him to see and hear the proceedings." 
Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser "refused repeated and persistent requests from the defence for Assange to be allowed to sit with his lawyers." 
Reporting on these preceedings, on 22 October 2019, Craig Murray, who, until then, had been skeptical of claims that Julian Assange was being tortured, declared himself, "badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated ageing. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight." 
Craig Murray continued, "But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both. … his difficulty in making it was very evident; it was a real struggle for him to articulate the words and focus his train of thought." 
On 21 February 2020, during that single day, "Julian had twice been stripped naked and searched, eleven times been handcuffed, and five times been locked up in different holding cells. In addition to this, all of his court documents had been taken from him by the prison authorities, including privileged communications between his lawyers and himself, and he had been left with no ability to prepare to participate in [that day's] proceedings."  Julian Assange was subject to this sort of treatment for the duration of the trial.
"For months, he was denied [physical] exercise and held in solitary confinement [for 23 hours a day] … At first he was denied his reading glasses, left behind [on 25 February 2020 when he was arrested inside the Ecuadorian Embassy]. He was denied the legal documents with which to prepare his case, and access to the prison library and the use of a basic laptop."  
How is this 'due process'? How could this be procedurally fair to Julian Assange?
What I have written above describes only a fraction of the abuse and torture to which Julian Assange has been subjected, just since the court hearings began on 25 February last year. This follows seven years asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy, whence he fled from injustice and in fear for his life. The constraints of asylum have been described as 'arbitrary confinement' by Nils Melzer, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, after he visited Julian Assange in prison. 
In the last two decades alone, the United States, in a rampage of war-crimes leveraged on flagrant lies, has destroyed economies and caused the death of many hundreds of thousands in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine and elsewhere, apparently with impunity. In contrast, Julian Assange, who revealed many of these crimes to the world, and who himself has no history of violence, has been kept in solitary, stripped of his health, his clothing, his belongings, friends and family, and justice.
This is not 'due process' and certainly not procedurally fair. Unless this situation is rectified, Julian Assange, who is not a U.S. citizen, faces the prospect of being extradited to the United States, where he will face, in secret, a trial in the eastern district of Virginia, before a jury most likely to be made up from employees and the families of the U.S. intelligence agencies based in that area - in other words a rigged trial, hidden from public view.
Under such unfair trial conditions a guilty verdict is the expectation. Julian Assange stands to be sentenced for up to 175 years imprisonment in solitary confinement in the United States - a fate which he considers to be worse than the death penalty.
Like the many Australians who are well informed about Julian Assange, I consider this treatment of him by the British government an outrage. I would expect your government to act immediately to end this outrage:
If your government truly:
- cares for the welfare of each and every one of its citizens;
- believes in human rights;
- believes in the right to free speech;
- believes in the right of journalists to investigate matters of public concern and
- upholds the rule of law (Australian law, British law, International law and United States' law, including their constitutional right to free speech)
then I would expect of you the following:
To contact British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, advise him that an Australian citizen, Julian Assange, has been illegally imprisoned in Belmarsh prison and request that Julian Assange be released immediately, and assisted to return to Australia or to go to any place he chooses.
To communicate to Boris Johnson that if Mr Assange's detention were to continue, Australia would be raising the matter at the United Nations and, if neccessary, at the International Criminal Court.
 Although this statement can be found on Senator Marise Payne's web page through the link I have given above and on Facebook, I could not find this statement on what is currently Page 19 of the "Latest News" section of your web page, which currently contains news items dated from until 15 April 2019.
The above media statement continued: "We have made 19 offers of consular assistance to Mr Assange since 2019 that have gone unanswered. We will continue to offer consular support." As I have not seen the messages containing the offers of support that Senator Marise Payne said she made to Julian Assange, I cannot comment. I will endeavour to contact Julian Assange's support team for their response.
 "Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees" (1951) United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) at https://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10
 The 50 weeks imprisonment to which Julian Assange was sentenced on Wednesday 1 May 2019 would have lasted until Wednesday 15 April 2020 (if the day on which Julian Assange was sentenced is included). Both the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the BBC also reported on 1 May 2019 that Julian Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks imprisonment (see WikiLeaks' Julian Assange sentenced to 50 weeks' jail over bail breach at https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-05-01/julian-assange-sentenced-in-london-over-bail-breach-wikileaks/11064356 and Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder jailed over bail breach at https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48118908). See Sunday 22 September 2019, the day Julian Assange was supposed to be released, according to other cited reports is 'only' 24 weeks and 4 days from Wednesday 1 May 2019 - still an outrageous and wholly unjustifiable sentence. I have not been able to find an explanation for this apparent discrepency.
 "Beyond Words" (8/4/2020) by Craig Murray at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/04/beyond-words/
 "Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 1" (25/2/20) at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/02/your-man-in-the-public-gallery-assange-hearing-day-1/
 "Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day 2" (26/2/20) by Craig Murray at https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2020/02/your-man-in-the-public-gallery-assange-hearing-day-2/
 "@njmelzer/state-responsibility-for-the-torture-of-julian-assange-40935ea5d7c3">State Responsibility for the Torture of Julian Assange" (16/12/2019) speech by Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, at the German Bundestag in Berlin, 27 November 2019 (English translation) at https://medium.com/@njmelzer/state-responsibility-for-the-torture-of-julian-assange-40935ea5d7c3
Reform all aspects of how we treat our ageing population. More real, boots-on-the-ground funding for in home care. In home respite options. More support for carers, and recognition of the huge amount of unpaid work they are doing every single day. Complete overhaul of how income and assets are calculated, the scrapping of the "6 month hardship" rule. Streamlining the process for calculating daily fees and admission to long term placement. Specialised support and advocacy agency within the Department of Human Services, or an independent body, to assist carers to navigate the system. Go to Tara Kostezky's Campaign
Why is this important?
Our care of our ageing population is a National scandal, and a disgrace. There is an appalling shortfall of support services for both participants and carers in the home, lack of real in home respite options, chronic lack of available services in rural areas in particular, poor acknowledgement of the Carers Recognition Act in all dealings with government departments and the health care system...the list goes on and on.
Residential Aged Care is a nightmare to navigate for carers who are already exhausted by the time the need for facility care is needed. Carers will (quite naturally, given what the current Royal Commission is bringing to light, and of which those on the ground are already completely aware) avoid placing loved ones into care until it becomes apparent there is no other option left. And by that point, they are usually completely burnt out and overwhelmed. And then: they are confronted with the financial aspects of residential placement, at the time they are least able to do so.
Government department delays, an almost deliberately dense and complex process, conflicting advice from Centrelink, government run "advocacy" services, and My Aged Care: all of these are things with which carers are all too familiar. And there are many, many older members of our community who have no advocacy at all from family or friends who best know their needs. These poor unfortunates are thrown into the system, to be churned through, stripped of their assets, and forgotten. After all, who would care?
The financing of Aged Care is unjust and uses figures which are unrealistic for the poorest members of our society to meet. Unless the person is "fully concessional", they fall into the murky category of "partial concessional". Figures of $350 *per week* are not unheard of, ABOVE the 85% of the Aged Pension. Hardship can be applied for...but only after 6 months of trying to sell whatever tiny assets that person has (usually the family home). Families are being forced to sell assets well under market value due to the urgency of needing to come up with funds immediately. Reasonable debts, such as unpaid council rates, are NOT included in the calculation of what the asset is worth. The net effect of this on a broader scale is sinple: channelling the assets of the very poorest into the hands of the profit margins of our for profit Aged Care Homes. We already have a "death tax" in this country...except of course - again - this only applies if you are poor. The wealthy can simply pay the RAD and be done with it, and when the end comes, it is returned to them, as the very name suggests: Refundable Accomodation Deposit.
The effect on a larger social level is this: the traditional passing on of wealth to the next generation becomes out of reach of those who most need it.
And what does all this pay for? Ants in the wounds of the dying. Shocking abuse of a daily basis. Burnt out and cynical staff who can no longer actually give a damn, through their own need to survive emotionally, because profit is king and proper compassionate staffing ratios are expensive to maintain. Absolute human misery and suffering.
Why should anyone care about this anyhow?
The demographics of the coming two decades show very, very clearly that we are on the brink of a tsunami of the ageing population. Directly, or indirectly, you WILL be confronted with these issues.
And because none of this is fair, or just, or right, or - most importantly - compassionate to the slightest degree.
And if you can't find it in yourself to care for those reasons, here are two more: the economic aspects of this will have long lasting implications for our economy, and none of them are good with the system we now have in place. And the second reason? You will be old one day too. What sort of care do you think will be awaiting you when you no longer have any other options left? Go to sign at the Community Campaign
Anti-war lyricist and singer, Roger Waters, who is identified world-wide with Pink Floyd, discusses Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s latest extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court and why it makes him ashamed to be English. The British magistrate is acting like an American puppet, taking advice from the US barrister. He explains why he believes the UK and US are attempting to kill Julian, why the extradition case shouldn’t even be happening and is a mockery of British justice. He talks about the protest that Australian journalist, John Pilger, and he, led recently, before a crowd of a thousand people. No British mainstream media reported it. That is how they control the kind of information people need to know. He compared British head-in-the-sand behaviour with the mass protests in Chile against the neoliberal US-backed President Sebastián Piñera and how the military crackdown is reminiscent of the Pinochet era.
Nancy Pearcey argues that the trans-gender movement arises from similar philosophical perspectives that are enabling environmental destruction across the globe - in essence a devaluing of nature:
Here is further explantion of the huge significance of the judgement handed down against the US Democrats' attempt to charge Julian Assange with espionage and somehow prosecute a non-US citizen as if they were a US citizen. That successive Australian governments have allowed the US and the UK to go after Assange in absolute refusal of Assange's human rights is damning of our political class.
In a ruling published late Tuesday, Judge John Koeltl of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York delivered a devastating blow to the US-led conspiracy against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. In his ruling, Judge Koeltl, a Bill Clinton nominee and former assistant special prosecutor for the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, dismissed “with prejudice” a civil lawsuit filed in April 2018 by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) alleging WikiLeaks was civilly liable for conspiring with the Russian government to steal DNC emails and data and leak them to the public. Jennifer Robinson, a leading lawyer for Assange, and other WikiLeaks attorneys welcomed the ruling as “an important win for free speech.” Article by Eric London, first published on 31 July 2019 at https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/07/31/assa-j31.html. Illustrations by candobetter eds
Judge dismisses lawsuit
The decision exposes the Democratic Party in a conspiracy of its own to attack free speech and cover up the crimes of US imperialism and the corrupt activities of the two parties of Wall Street. Judge Koeltl stated:
If WikiLeaks could be held liable for publishing documents concerning the DNC’s political financial and voter-engagement strategies simply because the DNC labels them ‘secret’ and trade secrets, then so could any newspaper or other media outlet. But that would impermissibly elevate a purely private privacy interest to override the First Amendment interest in the publication of matters of the highest public concern. The DNC’s published internal communications allowed the American electorate to look behind the curtain of one of the two major political parties in the United States during a presidential election. This type of information is plainly of the type entitled to the strongest protection that the First Amendment offers.
The ruling exposes the illegality of the conspiracy by the US government, backed by the governments of Britain, Ecuador, Australia and Sweden and the entire corporate media and political establishment, to extradite Assange to the US, where he faces 175 years in federal prison on charges including espionage.
The plaintiff in the civil case—the Democratic Party—has also served as Assange’s chief prosecutor within the state apparatus for over a decade. During the Obama administration, Democratic Party Justice Department officials, as well as career Democratic holdovers under the Trump administration, prepared the criminal case against him.
The dismissal of the civil suit exposes massive unreported conflicts of interest and prosecutorial misconduct and criminal abuse of process by those involved. The criminal prosecution of Assange has nothing to do with facts and is instead aimed at punishing him for telling the truth about the war crimes committed by US imperialism and its allies.
The judge labeled WikiLeaks an “international news organization” and said Assange is a “publisher,” exposing the liars in the corporate press who declare that Assange is not subject to free speech protections. Judge Koeltl continued: “In New York Times Co. v. United States, the landmark ‘Pentagon Papers’ case, the Supreme Court upheld the press’s right to publish information of public concern obtained from documents stolen by a third party.”
As a legal matter, by granting WikiLeaks’ motion to dismiss, the court ruled that the DNC had not put forward a “factually plausible” claim. At the motion to dismiss stage, a judge is required to accept all the facts alleged by the plaintiff as true. Here, the judge ruled that even if all the facts alleged by the DNC were true, no fact-finder could “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Going a step further, the judge called the DNC’s arguments “threadbare,” adding: “At no point does the DNC allege any facts” showing that Assange or WikiLeaks “participated in the theft of the DNC’s information.”
Judge Koeltl said the DNC’s argument that Assange and WikiLeaks “conspired with the Russian Federation to steal and disseminate the DNC’s materials” is “entirely divorced from the facts.” The judge further ruled that the court “is not required to accept conclusory allegations asserted as facts.”
The judge further dismantled the DNC’s argument that WikiLeaks is guilty-by-association with Russia, calling the alleged connection between Assange and the Russian government “irrelevant,” because “a person is entitled to publish stolen documents that the publisher requested from a source so long as the publisher did not participate in the theft.”
Judge Koeltl also rejected the DNC’s claim “that WikiLeaks can be held liable for the theft as an after-the-fact coconspirator of the stolen documents.” Calling this argument “unpersuasive,” the judge wrote that it would “eviscerate” constitutional protections: “Such a rule would render any journalist who publishes an article based on stolen information a coconspirator in the theft.”
In its April 2018 complaint, the DNC put forward a series of claims that have now been exposed as brazen lies, including that Assange, Trump and Russia “undermined and distorted the DNC’s ability to communicate the party’s values and visions to the American electorate.”
The complaint also alleged: “Russian intelligence services then disseminated the stolen, confidential materials through GRU Operative #1, as well as WikiLeaks and Assange, who were actively supported by the Trump Campaign and Trump Associates as they released and disclosed the information to the American public at a time and in a manner that served their common goals.”
At the time the DNC filed its complaint, the New York Times wrote that the document relies on “publicly-known facts” as well as “information that has been disclosed in news reports and subsequent court proceedings.” The lawsuit “comes amid a swirl of intensifying scrutiny of Mr. Trump, his associates and their interactions with Russia,” the Times wrote.
It is deeply ironic that Judge Koeltl cited the Pentagon Papers case, New York Times Co. v. United States, in his ruling.
The DNC’s baseless complaint cited the New York Times eight times as “proof” of Assange and WikiLeaks’ ties to Russia, including articles by Times reporters Andrew Kramer, Michael Gordon, Niraj Chokshi, Sharon LaFraniere, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Eric Lichtblau, Noah Weiland, Alicia Parlapiano and Ashley Parker, as well as a July 26, 2016 article by Charlie Savage titled “Assange, avowed foe of Clinton, timed email release for Democratic Convention.”
The first of these articles was published just weeks after the New York Times hired James Bennet as its editorial page editor in March 2016. James Bennet’s brother, Michael Bennet, is a presidential candidate, a senator from Colorado and former chair of the DNC’s Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In 2018, Bennet signed a letter to Vice President Mike Pence noting he was “extremely concerned” that Ecuador had not canceled asylum for Assange, who was then trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
“It is imperative,” the letter read, “that you raise US concerns with [Ecuadorian] President [Lenin] Moreno about Ecuador’s continued support for Mr. Assange at a time when WikiLeaks continues its efforts to undermine democratic processes globally.”
In April 2019, after the Trump administration announced charges against Assange, the New York Times editorial board, under James Bennet’s direction, wrote: “The administration has begun well by charging Mr. Assange with an indisputable crime.” Two weeks later, Michael Bennet announced his presidential run and has since enjoyed favorable coverage in the Times editorial page.
Additionally, the father of James and Michael Bennet, Douglas Bennet, headed the CIA-linked United States Agency for International Development in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
On Wednesday, the Times published a brief, six-paragraph article on page 25 under the headline, “DNC lawsuit against election is dismissed.” In its online edition, the Times prominently featured a link to its special page for the Mueller Report, which is based on the same DNC-instigated threadbare lies that Judge Koeltl kicked out of federal court
Dear Prime Minister Scott Morrison,
I write to ask you to act to bring to an end circumstances faced by Julian Assange which certainly have already harmed his health and may well end his life if those circumstances are not rectified soon.
An investigation by the Australian Federal Police into Julian Assange ordered by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2010, found that he had committed no crime.
In spite of that, he was threatened with extradition to the United States to face, in its rigged court system - as attested to by former CIA officer John Kiriakou, amongst others - charges that the United States is not even prepared to reveal to the public. Julian Assange, who is not even a United States' citizen, could face many years of imprisonment - or worse - for merely having made known, through Wikileaks, information that the public should know about world events of recent years.
To prevent this, he sought asylum inside the London Ecuadorian Embassy in October 2012. Asylum was granted to him by former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa as required by International Law.
Unfortunately, Assange's asylum inside the Ecuadorian embassy has been turned by the British government into an illegal detention. This has been found twice - on 5 February 2016 and on 30 November 2016 by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. This illegal detention has now lasted six and a half years and has had terrible consequences for Julian Assange's mental and physical health. In all this time, he has seen no sunlight, had little exercise and has been refused medical attention - clearly a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of international law.
President Lenin Moreno, who succeeded President Rafael Correa in 2017, has made Julian Assange's already dire living situation worse - putting him under constant surveillance, denying him access to the Internet or even reading material and restricting visitors.
On top of this, there are rumours that the Ecuadorian government may soon expel Julian Assange from the Embassy. Should he be expelled he faces what he has endured so much up until now to avoid - extradition to the United States.
Surely, neither the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, nor his continued confinement under the degrading conditions he has been made to endure for so long, are alternatives that should be acceptable to an Australian government showing a basic duty of care to each and every one of its citizens.
I therefore urgently request that you act now to end the illegal detention of Julian Assange. You could despatch today a contingent of Federal Police to fly to London, go to the Ecuadorian embassy and escort Julian Assange back to Heathrow Airport and thence back to Tullamarine Airport. I doubt if any British government authority would dare obstruct a contingent of Federal Police clearly acting to uphold the law and to end such a cruel denial of basic human rights.
Should your efforts to free Julian Assange somehow fail, you could try to ensure that he receives fair judicial process in the United States. He should be given an attorney of his choice funded by the Australian government and the United States be asked to conduct the trial in public. Certainly any charges arising from what is already been revealed to the public through Wikileaks should be tried in public.
Only then, if found guilty by a fair-minded and impartial jury, could any of what Julian Assange has endured since 2010 be seen to have been deserved. However, I believe that he would almost certainly be found not guilty if such a trial were to occur and he would then be able to walk free.
So, I appeal to you, even at this late stage, to use the powers vested in you to end Julian Assange's ordeal and to ensure that justice and the rule of law ultimately prevail in this instance.
On Friday 5 April 2019, as revealed by John Pilger on Twitter from a high level source within the Ecuadorian Government, Julian Assange would shortly be expelled from the London Ecuadorian Embassy. Once evicted, he stands to be arrested by the UK police, extradited to the United States where he faces a secret trial based on a secret indictment. He may face many years behind bars - even the death penalty can't be excluded - all for just publishing, through Wikleaks, facts about world events that the public would be entitled to know in a fair and just world.
In 2010 then Prime Minister Julia Gillard, before Julian Assange was forced to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in October 2012, had ordered the Australian Federal Police to investigate Assange in the hope that they would find he had committed a crime. They found none.
In February 2016, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) stated that his detention was unlawful. This was reaffirmed by the Working Group in November 2015
An Australian government - if it was committed to the rule of law, free speech, human rights and democracy - could could act now to end the British government's illegal detention of Julian Assange in a matter of hours. It could send to London a contingent of Federal Police to escort Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian Embassy back to Heathrow Airport and thence to Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne.
Were the British government to dare attempt to interfere with Australian Federal Police escorting Julian Assange back to Australia, the outcry would be enormous - from within Britain, Australia and the rest of the world.
However, not one Australian government, that of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, nor any of the subsequent governments- those of Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull have enacted this basic duty of care towards Julian Assange. They have not even shown any sympathy for him, or interest.
Not one of the political parties with representation in parliament - The Liberals, the Nationals, Labor, the Greens, nor any of the Independent members have spoken up for Julian Assange. This seems an appalling failure of our parliamentary system and those members of Parliament who supposedly represent us. (One exception to this is the now demonised One Nation Party.)
What You Can Do
Give your first preference to candidates who promise to act for Julian Assange. With a federal election looming, it should now be possible to hold to account those elected members of Parliament who have behaved so shamefully towards Julian Assange. Where you are asked to vote for a sitting candidate from one of the major parties, ask him/her should vote for a candidate who has been silent - or worse - about Julian Assange. Where any other candidate asks for your vote ask him/her what he she intends to do for Julian Assange. Give your first and subsequent references to those who give the best responses and put the major parties last.
Attend protests for Julian Assange.
Post comments in support of Julian Assange on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Write articles in support of Julian Assange on any web-site on which you have an account.
See also: Be Ready To Act: WikiLeaks Source Says They’re Coming For Assange (5/4/19) by Caitlin Johnstone, The Gestapo Is Coming for Julian Assange (4/4/19) by Paul Craig Roberts.
Inside is the text of the public statement issued by the UN expert panel on Arbitrary Detention, which you will not find in most mainstream publications, which are seeking to obfuscate the UN opinion and its importance, with their own opinions. Julian Assange is a Victorian-born Australian citizen and asylum-seeker, recognised as a refugee by the UN. The Ecuadorian Embassy in London granted him refugee status, but the UK government stopped him from going to Ecuador by taking his passport and surrounding the embassy with police, day and night. What did Assange do? Assange famously published, on his Wikileaks, authentic film of US soldiers hunting down civilians with helicopters and machine guns as if they were in a video game. (Film: 'Collateral Damge' inside this article.) The US was so furious at this (and other very relevant exposures of its criminal secrets) that it mounted an international persecution of Assange. The mass media helped the criminal US by defaming Assange and they are still doing it because their owners support war and propaganda. Assange has been openly threatened with assassination by at least two US politicians. It is clear that in the biased US justice system, he does not stand a chance. To their great shame, successive Australian Governments have done nothing to help Assange. To my knowledge, only Senator Scott Ludlam in South Australia has criticised this abject failure to defend a great leader in the fight to stop wars by forcing transparency in government. (Please let me know of any other politician who has spoken up.)
GENEVA (5 February 2016) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been arbitrarily detained by Sweden and the United Kingdom since his arrest in London on 7 December 2010, as a result of the legal action against him by both Governments, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said today.
In a public statement, the expert panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation (Check the statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17012&LangID=E)
Mr. Assange, detained first in prison then under house arrest, took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012 after losing his appeal to the UK’s Supreme Court against extradition to Sweden, where a judicial investigation was initiated against him in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct. However, he was not formally charged.
“The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that the various forms of deprivation of liberty to which Julian Assange has been subjected constitute a form of arbitrary detention,” said Seong-Phil Hong, who currently heads the expert panel.
“The Working Group maintains that the arbitrary detention of Mr. Assange should be brought to an end, that his physical integrity and freedom of movement be respected, and that he should be entitled to an enforceable right to compensation,” Mr. Hong added.
In its official Opinion, the Working Group considered that Mr. Assange had been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth Prison in London, followed by house arrest and then confinement at the Ecuadorean Embassy.
The experts also found that the detention was arbitrary because Mr. Assange was held in isolation at Wandsworth Prison, and because a lack of diligence by the Swedish Prosecutor’s Office in its investigations resulted in his lengthy loss of liberty.
The Working Group established that this detention violates Articles 9 and 10 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and Articles 7, 9(1), 9(3), 9(4), 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Check the Working Group’s Opinion on Julian Assange’s case (No. 54/2015), adopted in December: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/A.HRC.WGAD.2015.docx
NOTE TO EDITORS:
The Opinions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention are legally-binding to the extent that they are based on binding international human rights law, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The WGAD has a mandate to investigate allegations of individuals being deprived of their liberty in an arbitrary way or inconsistently with international human rights standards, and to recommend remedies such as release from detention and compensation, when appropriate.
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Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (Republic of Korea) is the Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Other members of the Working Group are Ms. Leigh Toomey (Australia); Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Mexico); Mr. Roland Adjovi Sètondji (Benin) and Mr. Vladimir Tochilovsky (Ukraine). Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx
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The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
"This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation. Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community.
Published on Wednesday, 01 October 2014 10:44
... The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory."
Tony Abbott made a speech to the IPA in 2012 in which he referred to the Coalition as the "freedom party". However, as Prime Minister Mr Abbott now believes that "the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift" and that "there may be more restrictions on some so that there can be more protection for others."
I do not support a number of key elements in this Bill, and I am aware there are further even more controversial Bills coming before the parliament in the near future.
I question the premise of the government's general approach to this area of policy, which is essentially that freedoms must be constrained in response to terrorism; and that the introduction of greater obscurity and impunity in the exercise of government agency powers that contravene individual freedoms will both produce, and are justified in the name of, greater security.
So far the debate on this issue has occurred within a frame that posits a direct relationship between, on the one hand, safety and civility in our everyday lives and, on the other, the powers that impinge upon and make incursions into individual freedom.
If we want to continue our lives free from terrorism and orchestrated violence — so the argument goes — we have to accept shifting the balance between freedom and constraint away from the observance of basic rights and towards greater surveillance, more interference, deeper silence.
Let me say that no one should be fooled into believing it is as simple as that.
The truth is that the remarkable peace, harmony, and security we enjoy in Australia is in fact produced and sustained by our collective observance of freedoms and human rights, rather than existing in spite of such values and conditions. It is wrong to say that we have been complacent about security on two counts. First, because we have strong, well-resourced, and competent security agencies, and second because our commitment to a way of life that puts faith in freedom, respect and tolerance, that puts faith in democracy and the rule of law, is itself productive of peace and shared security.
These are the reasons we must be so careful when we legislate to constrain those freedoms — because contrary to the reductive argument that says we're making a straight trade of less freedom for more safety, the reality is likely to be, and indeed has proved to be many times in the past, that constraining our fundamental liberties achieves nothing more than making us less free and in fact does ourselves harm through licensing the abuse of powers.
In the wake of the past few weeks' delivery by government, assisted by many media outlets, of "existential threat" and "panic/don't panic" messages, many people in the Australian community feel understandably confused and anxious. Members of Australia's Muslim communities may fear that the PM's 'restrictions on some' message applies particularly to them. If that is the case, then surely it is an approach that can only foster fear, mistrust and division, the very opposite of what is needed in terms of investing in community harmony, safety and human security in its broadest sense.
[Speaker], I recognise the process by which this Bill has come forward – and of course I understand that it contains a number of amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act that represent unobjectionable adjustments put forward off the back of the Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia's National Security Legislation.
I am also grateful for the recent consideration of the draft Bill provided by the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security (JCSIS), and I believe the amendments the Committee has recommended represent improvements – but not, in my view, sufficient improvements.
One critical point to grasp is the fact that the proposed laws are not a response to recent events involving the emergence of Islamic State, and the existence of people with criminal intentions based on their adherence to an extreme and deranged world-view.
It was a surprise therefore to see the editorial in The Australian on Monday where, under the heading 'Homegrown terror threat needs new tools to fight it', it rushed to conclude, "The new counter-terrorism laws are not an attack on free speech; they are a protection against an evolving threat" before acknowledging that "Any new counter-terrorism laws should be scrutinised by the parliament" and that "There is also a role for the media and other non-government groups, to offer analysis of proposed laws alongside laws currently operating".
That analysis and commentary certainly should be occurring, but it's hard not to have the sense that there is too much fierce agreement in this space at the moment as a result of people believing that we currently face some completely new and unprecedented terror threat.
The reality is — as we have seen from very well publicised operations recently — that law enforcement agencies have clearly been able to operate effectively on the basis of existing laws and there has not been convincing evidence of inadequacies in the existing legal framework that warrant the broad extensions of powers we see here. I am particularly concerned that this Bill entrenches and amplifies the lack of protection for whistleblowers regarding intelligence information and penalise with up to 10 years jail the legitimate actions of journalists and others doing their jobs in holding the government to account in the public interest.
There have been numerous examples of governments, defence, intelligence and law enforcement agencies here in Australia and elsewhere abusing their powers that have only come to light via Wikileaks, Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers regarding for instance the improper mass surveillance of civilians, the misuse of our aid program, and spying on foreign governments, including for the commercial benefit of corporations.
There are concerns that the legislation does not make any distinction between someone acting to sabotage a security intelligence operation and potentially putting security officers' lives at risk, which should rightly attract significant penalties, and persons disclosing information in the public interest where no such danger is present, but which may for instance be politically embarrassing.
It is no comfort from the Explanatory Memorandum that there will be a prosecutorial discretion to consider the public interest when deciding whether to prosecute a person — this kind of consideration should attract a specific exemption in the legislation — otherwise there is a very real danger that the provisions will produce a chilling effect on the willingness of the media to report legitimate matters of public interest.
We are assured that the significant impunity for breaking the law that is granted to security officials engaged in SIOs only applies when the officers are carrying out their duties as authorised and is not a green light for corruption or abuse of power. It is unsatisfactory in my view that the external oversight of special intelligence operations is limited to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, rather than the more extensive oversight that applies to the AFP's controlled operations. The Member for Denison has highlighted the deficiencies in Australia's oversight of intelligence services relative to other countries such as the UK.
On the question of press freedom and media scrutiny, the editorial in The West Australian yesterday took issue with the new specific provisions, arguing that "they fail to strike a balance that does not unduly limit the ability of journalists to report on matters of national security. Any controls of this sort must be carefully considered and minimised. In this instance, there is a concern that the impetus to act on the terrorist threat may have led to the proposed laws being rushed and not considered as fully as they might have been."
And I would contrast the curious yet telling gulf between the nicely timed, neatly packaged and government facilitated media access to the recent AFP anti-terror operations and the utter silence, stonewalling and denial of access to operations that involve asylum seekers.
On this I agree with Mark Day, who wrote in Monday's Australian that,
"Last week we saw much commentary about how state and federal police provided on-the-spot video and still pictures of their raids against a terror group believed to be planning a random beheading in Australia.
How fortunate it was for the government that the raids came precisely as the parliament was considering new anti-terror powers — tougher laws to protect our freedoms by removing them. Raids of this nature involving 800 coppers for one arrest are obviously newsworthy. Police PRs were beside themselves with delight. You want pictures? How many? They fed the narrative of a government alert and anything but insouciant.
Now make the obvious comparison. For more than a year the government has refused to give any detail about any "on sea" activity related to people smuggling or asylum-seekers. This is because secrecy suits it. Secrecy is the government's starting point."
I understand that one of the legitimate bases for this Bill is the necessary adjustment to cover the kinds of technological change that have occurred over the last twenty years and I note the considered comments of the Shadow Attorney-General in this regard. I nevertheless have concerns about the scope of the provisions, especially in relation to computers and computer networks, including access to third-party hardware or communications. These provisions are the equivalent of a physical search warrant for a house that allows you to search an arbitrary number of other houses.
The JSCIS Report notes that public submissions were made by the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law calling for two categories of improvement in this area: the first being a 'minimal intrusion' test requiring other options for acquiring the required intelligence to have been used before ASIO has recourse to a computer network or third-party asset or communication; and the second being a further refinement in terms of scope so that a warrant would only access those parts of a target computer that are reasonably necessary for the acquisition of the relevant intelligence.
Unfortunately neither of these sensible proposals were taken up as recommendations. Instead the broad requirement that access must be 'reasonable in all the circumstances' was considered sufficient.
In my view, this is one of the clear areas where we may be licensing the potentially improper infringement of privacy and the possible misuse of personal information and communications without due consideration to the dangers involved, and without due care and restriction when it comes to those powers.
For an example of how this government regards the so-called balance between security and freedom, one can look to the proposed abolition of the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. The Prime Minister announced the abolition of this critical office and function earlier this year as part of its 'war against red-tape'. Other casualties of this bizarre war of self-harm include environmental protections, financial services safeguards, and the framework to address climate change and encourage the development of renewable energy. In this way, the so-called war on red tape is unpicking the vital threads of our social fabric, our social compact.
With this Bill, the essential oversight of security legislation and powers is being undermined when it should be strengthened.
As others have noted, the Attorney-General was an active member of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security when the Committee issued a report with respect to the very legislation we debate here, calling for the assessment of the draft bill by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor. Of course, thanks to the government, that position has been vacant since April, and was to be scrapped.
I am glad that as a result of the outcry on this aspect of security oversight in particular, the government has reversed its position – though unfortunately not in time for this Bill to have been appropriately scrutinised.
I believe that at the very least this legislation should incorporate sunset clauses so that the provisions can be subject to review and discontinuance if not found to be necessary.
[Speaker], I want to conclude by returning to the point I made at the beginning about what is really at issue when we expand the capacity and power of state agencies to infringe upon the privacy and freedom of citizens, and at the same time constrain the ability of citizens to examine and discuss the use of those powers.
There is a lot of talk about the danger of complacency when it comes to security threats, including terrorism. I don't see evidence of that complacency, and none has been put forward. Australia is a remarkably secure and peaceful nation. Our law enforcement, intelligence, and defence agencies and personnel do excellent work on our behalf.
If there is any complacency, it is in relation to the very real dangers that lie in failing to recognise, value and speak up for our fundamental rights, values and freedoms. We have seen what happens when state agencies exercise improper power without effective safeguards; without effective oversight and accountability mechanisms.
We'd do well to reflect upon this now as we consider changes in this Bill and in others that seek to re-set our laws and values in ways that may not only be ill-designed to protect us from the dangers and horrors we seem inclined to over-state, but might in fact wear and fray the fabric of our freedom, trust, and faith in government.
The plain truth:
- 10,000 years ago humans and our livestock occupied just 0.01% of all the land-air vertebrate biomass on earth.
- Now humans and our livestock occupy 97% of all land-air vertebrate biomass.
- Humans and our livestock now consume over 40% of earth’s annual green land biomass production.
- 1 million people born every 4½ days. People live longer.
What does this mean?
- 50% of All Vertebrate Species will be gone by 2040.
There is no embed function for the following film, but it is very worth looking at:
What have we done?
- 90% of Big Ocean Fish gone since 1950.
- 50% of Great Barrier Reef gone since 1985.
- 50% of Fresh Water Fish gone since 1987.
- 30% of Marine Birds gone since 1995.
- 28% of Land Animals gone since 1970.
- 28% of All Marine Animals gone since 1970.
- 50% of Human Sperm Counts gone since 1950.
- 90% of Lions gone since 1993.
- 90% of Monarch Butterflies gone since 1995.
- 93 Elephants killed every single day.
- 2-3 Rhinos killed every single day.
- Bees die from malnutrition lacking bio-diverse pollen sources.
- Extinctions are 1000 times faster than normal.
What’s going to happen to us?
- Ocean acidification doubles by 2050.
- Ocean acidification triples by 2100.
- We are on track in just 13 years to lock in a near term 6°C earth temp rise.
- Mass Extinction will become unstoppable and irreversible in 40 years.
- Permian mass extinction of 95% of life took 60,000 years 250 million years ago.
- Dinosaurs mass extinction took 33,000 years after asteroid impact.
- Anthropogenic mass extinction will take 300 years max.
- This mass extinction is 100x faster than anything before us.
- Antarctic meltdown now irreversible and unstoppable.
- Arctic methane burst is irreversible and unstoppable within current system.
- It takes 10 times as much rated “green” energy to displace 1 unit of fossil energy.
- Efficiency and conservation only causes more growth within our current system.
World Bank says we have 5-10 years before we all fight for food and water.
What we are doing right now!
- We combine bacteria DNA with plant DNA and eat it.
- We are eating stuff that never, ever existed on earth before.
- We put man-made, computer designed, synthetic DNA into our food.
- We put nano metals and nano particles into our food.
- We put poisonous pesticides and herbicides directly into food cells.
- There are thousands of different chemicals in our foods.
- We are turning into genetic mutants because of our food.
- We are wiping out all life on earth because of our food.
- After mass extinction, genetically modified trees may be all we leave behind.
WHY THERE IS NO GREEN ENERGY
Our “green” energy hi-tech future requires:
- conflict minerals,
- rare earth elements,
- heavy metals,
- nano metals and graphite.
Search for “rare earth mining in China” on YouTube and see what special hell your solar panels and wind turbines produce in Mongolia. China can do this because they have undercut all the world’s production of Rare Earth Elements (REEs) with low wages, low currency and no environmental enforcement. They can do this because they ignore the radioactive thorium that comes with mining high-value, heavy rare earth elements. Rare earth elements can’t profitably be mined outside of China without using radioactive thorium, the mining by-product found with heavy rare earth elements. We can’t afford to mine REEs while treating thorium as radioactive waste instead of as a profitable energy source. Burning thorium will pay for heavy REEs and provide the low-carbon base power “green” energy requires.
Graphite is used in all of our so-called “green” powered batteries and is mined in China emitting deadly fine air particles resulting in a lethal smog that washes down from the skies in an ash laden rain that covers crops and water. China recently shut down several graphite mines because of the pervasive smog. Graphene, a nano-material produced for batteries, is water soluble and can cut through human/animal cells. Both graphite dust and graphene are deadly to humans because of their small size. You don’t want to breathe this stuff.
Solar cell manufacturing produces 3 green house gases that are over 10,000 times worse than C02. They require all kinds of deadly liquid acids to manufacture. Solar panels lose efficiency at the rate of 1% per year lasting 20-25 years. The expensive inverters they require have to be replaced every 5 to 10 years up to 4 times over the life of the panel. The new thin cell panels use nano materials and are even more toxic with shorter lifespans. It doesn’t matter how “clean” the latest experimental solar panels are because existing manufacturing plants will stay open to recoup major investments. Manufacturing just five wind turbines produces 1 ton of radioactive residue and 75 tons of toxic, acidic water used to leach out the required neodymium. Wind turbines only work at 25% of their rated capacity 90% of the time. Over 2 million children died in the Congo for the conflict minerals green energy needs. Thousands of people die in Chinese mines every year for the minerals green energy needs. Prof. Jian Shuisheng of the Jiatong-University estimates the production of just 6 solar panels requires one ton of coal. Since green power is intermittent, it would take at least 10 times the rated amount of “green” energy to displace just one equivalent unit of 24/7 fossil energy because your so-called 100 Watt solar panel delivers zero Watts at night and batteries are heavy toxic $energy hogs. One company in the U.S. cut down 5 acres of trees to build a solar farm to power a plant for the production of plastic bags. Green power will not be enough. Part-time energy and billions of batteries adds up to death to all life on earth just from destructive ecological inertia.
Ozzie Zehner explains “Green Illusions” in a series called, "Talks at Google":
Tim Garrett explains why in a three-part lecture:
- one dollar equals 10 milliwatts
- why we can’t decouple growth from emissions.
- why efficiency & conservation leads to more energy growth.
Did you know that the new $2 billion Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave desert is a death ray that ignites birds in mid flight? When their bodies fall to the ground, they leave smoky trails in the sky called streamers. These birds are attracted to the bugs who are attracted to the shiny, pretty lights, just like us. It is estimated as many as 30,000 birds per year will die this way during huge migrations at just this one green power plant. Bigger solar plants of the same type are in the works including one near Joshua Tree, next to a wildlife sanctuary. During Ivanpah’s construction, up to 3,000 endangered desert tortoises suffered a temporary loss of legal protection and were allowed to be killed by heavy diesel equipment and materials. Thousands of slave workers die in China’s mines every single year to help produce the exotic minerals used in its construction. This is referred to as the “Green Economy”. If we changed the whole planet to green power, we would kill the earth we call home.
Civilization is slowly collapsing while the earth is quickly dying. My credentials? I cut grass in a trailer park in Canada.
This article was orginally published in the Independent Australia.
Imagine that you had a place to call home. A place to which you had an undeniable birth right. A place to which no matter where you roamed you could always return and be welcome. A place where familiar faces would always greet you with open arms.
Imagine then that this place also provided with a little effort all your food and other needs. Imagine also, that this place was a garden paradise, cultivated by your family for generations a cultivation to which you also could contribute.
Imagine that this is then suddenly all taken away. The friendly faces of loving and caring friends and family are replaced by the cold faces of a desperate, greedy and violent people. You, and your community, are forcibly removed. Abused and killed in the process.
Over the ensuing years you watch as, midst much ugly dispute, the garden paradise is divided up and transformed. In some places the transformation is slow; in others it is rapid and dramatic. The landscape is dug up, aided by machines that belch filth and which leave enormous permanent scars.
The land that was once a mother to you and your people is changed forever. The society which nurtured you and your people permanently changed — if not extinguished.
Gammage’s fundamental point was the ‘sophisticated, successful and sensitive farming regime integrated across the Australian landmass’ – described by him as ‘a majestic achievement’ – ended with European settlement. And it is this crime that is, perhaps, still denied by many.
Not only was it a crime, but it hints at the errors of our society.
Australians now are not born with a home as an undeniable birth right.
They do not inherit the security and comfort of knowing that, come what may, there will always be a place where they are welcomed. Instead they are born dispossessed. Born into a country which has been neatly parcelled out to private owners.
A home for most Australians now is something insecure, something that takes many a lifetime to attain, and for some is never attained. Something that can coldly and callously be taken away when one is most vulnerable, due perhaps to the loss of a job or an inability to work due to personal injury or distress.
Banks can repossess if payments are not made — and even if this never happens, all those with a mortgage must live under the oppressive anxiety of this threat.
And even once a home is owned it is not safe. If one struggles to pay council rates, the home can be forfeited.
Again the essential trait of our society comes forth. Just when one is most vulnerable, our society allows them to be kicked while down. Once homeless, for tens of thousands of Australians, there is nowhere to go.
‘Authorities’ do not tolerate them on the streets, or in the parks. Even if they manage to live in these places they are subject to violence and sexual abuse.
How Australia has changed since European settlement! How it has progressed!
And now we find it is not just Australia, but the same pattern is occurring across the world. The masses are dispossessed whilst a small elite gain wealth and power, in the end corrupting the very institutions intended to check their power.
The Ancien Régime, the aristocracy, is re-establishing itself. We return to an age whereby common people are serfs – people without rights, who live in constant insecurity, slaves to their masters who possess everything, if not the people themselves.
Once again ‘commoners’ must begin the fight for basic human rights. These are the right to trial for protection against arbitrary imprisonment. These rights have been stripped back under the guise of anti-terrorist laws, along with mass surveillance. And it turns out really to be a means of protecting the privileges of the elite against even non-violent protest (even conservatives are worried about this).
Then, if a people like the Crimeans find themselves as pawns caught between two covetous global powers – both of which seek only to exploit both people and resources – and have to choose one side over the other in a legitimate referendum, propaganda machines are invoked, one power accusing the other.
This is the society we now live in. This is modern Australia, as it is the modern world.
And it is not the first time we have been here. Writing during an earlier time of inequality (if it in fact is distinct from the processes active now) Rousseau declared:
“The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”
Whilst many aspects of his 1754 Discourse on Inequality may be questioned, perhaps there is some truth to the statement above?
Is there a solution?
So what can be done? At very least we should allow the most dispossessed, the homeless, to be visible and to protect themselves as best they can.
This can be easily done by allowing homeless people legitimate access to public land to erect tents or swags, and communities of tents, should they so choose. Thus protected from discrimination by ‘authorities’ they may be able to establish protective relationships between themselves.
It is quite possible, likely even, that tent cities – perhaps even slums - may arise, but this itself is necessary if we are to make the problems of homelessness visible to people and government. Such visibility might be the first step towards better solutions.
Would such communities be an improvement? I believe they would be. The Occupy tent encampment in Melbourne was just such a ‘tent’ city. And it was occupied by at least some genuine homeless, and many marginalised in other ways.
Occupy's tent city, October 2011, Melbourne (courtesy Graham Miln)
The Occupy community was highly organised. It was kept clean and elections were held for organisers in the community so as to ensure pathways were kept clear.
Others participated in 24 hour ‘security’ patrols (in shifts) around the perimeter. This was necessary because the biggest problems arose not within the camp, but from everyday people passing by who would occasionally try and thump a few of the occupiers.
The response of occupiers to the one incident of internal violence I witnessed in the camp has led me to believe that evictions can be dealt with non-violently simply by a crowd of people standing around the perpetrator and shouting “shame” repeatedly until he or she leaves.
Coal seam gas protestors in Australia’s Northern Rivers region were recently living in a large tent camp (on a private property) quite happily and comfortably. Why cannot our poor be able to do this?
Bentley Blockade camp, NSW
It is entirely possible that living in a tent city may actually offer the homeless better and safer conditions than in built accommodation especially given accusations that the homeless are being exploited by unscrupulous landlords.
In any case, tent encampments are not unprecedented in Australia. They were certainly common during the 1929 Great Depression. In fact, in early days, most Australian cities and towns were tent cities.
And apart from reducing vulnerability, legitimate homeless camps may also offer many other benefits in relation to delivering needed services and other assistance.
If allowed, homeless camps would not be unique to Australia as a developed nation.
As many early immigrants to Australia were haunted by the squalor of cramped London living, most Australian cities were designed with vast parkland areas. These offer more than enough space to accommodate our homeless whilst not excluding other uses.
The only barrier seems to be the sensibilities of the modern gentry and local authorities.
I don’t have kids but I am disturbed about the Heart Foundation’s Active Healthy Kids very poor report card for Australian children last week. It said that Australian children are largely unfit because of a lack of exercise and that this deterioration has happened in the last couple of decades. Natasha Schranz author of the Foundation's inaugural report has graded Australian children at a disgraceful D minus. Contributing to this terrble score was a D for "active transport", meaning not nearly enough walking or bicycle riding to and from school.
Prisoners of chair and screen
81 % of Australian children do not get the required 60 minutes of physical exercise per day. 26% are not involved in organised sport, 71% are too sedentary, Discussion in the media focused on the seduction of screens such as tablets, computers television and phones. As an adult , I know how screen activities can sap the time in which one could be outside in the sunshine exercising, however there is more to this than the wonders and availability of very attractive technology.
Deprived of open space and adventure
A generation ago and before that, there was a lot more open space which enticed children outdoors when they were not in school. Incidental activity, exploring interesting places in nature or in the local neighbourhood is not just beneficial but essential to children in developing their imaginations, experiencing and dealing with unpredictable situations without rules and the directions and supervision of an adult. This used to be easy to access in the street, in vacant land, parks and the private backyard and friends backyards. There was plenty of space to explore in the suburbs.
There is a huge difference between sitting on the couch in front of a screen from 4- 6.30pm and actively playing in the local environment. It is not necessary to have a strenuous game of basketball for the body and mind to register a level of exercise and a 3 dimensional experience . Furthermore sitting is supposed be the most unhealthy thing to do for hours on end and it makes you fat! For that reason I will not make this a very long article.
Victims of blinkered planners and growth lobby
The push to make our cities more crowded by increasing the population very fast, densifying suburbs and removing private space including backyards is not going to help this terrible situation with the health of Australia’s children. It has to make it worse. Our politicians show no care at all for the welfare of Australia’s citizens. I understand that many of Melbourne’s’ private schools have built all over their playing fields and now have to bus their students to public areas to play sport. I suppose the children just sit during lunch hour because with no sports areas they could not spontaneously start a ball game.
It’s unnatural, anyway for children to sit all day at desks listening to teachers and severing all their avenues of expressing themselves physically adds insult to injury.
A child living in an apartment, will naturally turn to his/her tablet or phone for entertainment if the only outside alternative is a concrete balcony. A trompe l'eouil on the back wall of the 2x3 metre couryard, however far it backons cannot acccommodate the need of a child to run. We have not made Australia better over the past 50 years. The "age of entitlement is over" and for what? What really have we gained as a society?
Massive decline in children's fitness
Two generations ago, we had a nation very well represented in international sport partly because, I believe most children had a chance at participating even if it was just making a “100 in the backyard at Mum’s” or hitting a tennis ball on a broken -down asphalt court, but now it seems we have a generation of unfit young people unlikely to live as long as their parents. The social engineers and economists are always complaining about the aging population but if people start dying younger, the achievement of longer life expectancy will be just a nostalgic memory.
Two most powerful points that come across in the speeches below against the impending Act are that the Labor Party was willing to go along with the Act regarding greater powers for arresting people who are intoxicated and dangerous. A related motion to divide the Act into two was unfortunately defeated. The Liberal Party lawmakers were accused of rolling this one reasonable change together with an unreasonable change to the Sentencing Act. The Second powerful point against the impending Act was that it is designed to stop unions from impeding the hiring of scab labour. This seems to be true. Given that Workers' Conditions have been eroded since the Howard Government in conjunction with vast increases in numbers of worker immigrants, this question of scab labour is bound to come up more frequently and desperately in Victoria, as businesses close down, cost of living rises (power, housing, water etc) and employers seek to drive wages down. The Liberal Members response to this last point was to use arcane theoretical examples, such as pretending that those against the Act would be wanting to allow people to stop members of the public from buying chocolates from shopkeepers they did not like. Below are the Speeches against the Bill for the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment.
- Second reading
Debate resumed from 12 December 2013; motion of Mr CLARK (Attorney-General).
Mr PAKULA (Lyndhurst) -- It gives me no pleasure to rise to speak on the
#match3" id="match2">#FF0000">Summary #match3" id="match2">#FF0000">Offences #match3" id="match2">#FF0000">and #match3" id="match2">#FF0000">Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013. However, it gives me some
pleasure to indicate to the house that Labor will oppose the bill, #match4" id="match3">#FF0000">and it will
oppose it proudly. We will oppose this bill because it amounts to the potential
criminalisation of all forms of protest in the state of Victoria. This is a bill
which represents the Premier's impersonation of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, #match5" id="match4">#FF0000">and which
represents his attempts to be a poor man's Campbell Newman.
This is a draconian, antidemocratic #match6" id="match5">#FF0000">and unnecessary bill.
In an even more cynical, tricky and unworthy move, the government has tried to
combine its draconian move-on powers with its alcohol-exclusion orders
provisions. I say very clearly that we think the alcohol-exclusion orders are
unenforceable and unworkable. They are not sufficiently offensive for us to
oppose them, but we think the bill ought to be split. We are calling on the
government to split the bill. The two effects have absolutely no commonality
between them whatsoever. If the bill is split, we will vote for the
alcohol-exclusion provisions, which are part 3 of the bill, but if the
government does not agree to split the bill, it is our intention to move a
motion to do just that.
Mr O'Brien interjected.
Mr PAKULA -- The Treasurer interjects. We will come to the subject of how
tough this is on alcohol-fuelled violence during the course of the debate.
It is important to look at the detail of the move-on powers. Which circumstances
will give rise to police and protective services officers (PSOs) having the
power to move protesters on under the threat of arrest? All a police officer or
a PSO needs in order to move someone on is to suspect on reasonable grounds that
the person: has committed an offence in that place, is causing a reasonable
apprehension of violence to another person, is causing or is likely to cause an
unreasonable obstruction to others, is present for the purpose of procuring or
supplying drugs, or is impeding or attempting to impede any person from lawfully
entering or leaving premises or parts of premises.
We heard from the Attorney-General as reported in the Melbourne Leader on 17
February. The Attorney-General is reported to have said that the laws target
serial law-breakers. The Attorney-General is quoted as saying:
- Every Victorian has the right to protest and express their views.
- However, when individuals resort to unlawful tactics that threaten the
livelihood of law-abiding businesses (and) employees ... they must be held to
That is what the Attorney-General said. But let us be clear: this is not a law
that applies solely to violent or unlawful protests -- it applies to any
protest. All that any police officer or PSO needs in order to break up a
protest, to move someone on or to arrest someone is a reasonable suspicion that
the person is causing an unreasonable obstruction, is likely to do so, or is
impeding or attempting to impede someone.
Mr O'Brien interjected.
Mr PAKULA -- The Treasurer interjects incessantly with his mantra, as if this
is some sort of brilliant -- --
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! It is disorderly to respond to
Mr PAKULA -- I say to the Treasurer that this is the same old nonsense that
the Tories have been going on with for 100 years, and it is the same old
nonsense that they resort to when they are in strife. This is the
same line that former Leader of the Opposition Robert Doyle ran in 2002 when he
was trying to save the furniture.
Let us go to examples of what would be covered by these move-on laws. They
include the lock-the-gate protest and the anti-fracking protest, which was
supported by The Nationals and the member for Bass. Those protesters could
easily be moved on or arrested under the powers provided in this bill. The
anti-McDonald's protesters in Tecoma could easily be moved on or arrested under
Mr O'Brien interjected.
Mr PAKULA -- The Treasurer says, 'They should be moved on'. That is right,
because anyone's protest is illegitimate in his view. If the government believes
a picket is illegal, it will order the police to move the protesters on.
That is what the Treasurer is saying. The nurses who were protesting during
enterprise bargaining agreement negotiations when the member for Hawthorn was
Premier could be moved on under these powers. The Baiada picket, where workers
were being horribly exploited, could be moved on under these powers. Taxi
licence holders protesting on the steps of Parliament could be moved on under
Teachers and even lawyers standing outside the County Court protesting against
legal aid cuts could be moved on under these powers. Paramedics could be moved
on under these powers. Anyone holding a protest outside a member of Parliament's
office could be moved on under these powers. Protesters holding a protest
outside 104 Exhibition Street could be moved on under these powers. On 28 June
2006 there was a protest in Liebig Street, Warrnambool, outside the office of
the member for South-West Coast and the now Premier came out. I refer to an
article in the Warrnambool Standard of June 2006, which says:
Dr Napthine's speech to workers was drowned out by crowd members shouting
'Out, out, out' as he said that since the federal government had been elected
in 1996 wages in real terms had increased ... Persistent heckling forced Dr
Napthine to retreat from the street into his office.
That is the kind of protest the government would like to see stopped and people
moved on or arrested because of some kind -- --
Mr O'Brien -- Garbage!
Mr PAKULA -- The Treasurer says, 'Rubbish'.
Mr Wynne -- 'Garbage' he said.
Mr PAKULA -- He said, 'Garbage'.
My question to the Treasurer is: how would he know. Is he suggesting that once
this power is provided that the government can control which protests are moved
on and which are not?
Mr O'Brien -- Don't you trust the courts?
Mr PAKULA -- It has got nothing to do with the courts.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member should address his
comments through the Chair.
Mr PAKULA -- The Treasurer says, 'Don't you trust the courts?'. All that needs
to happen is that a policeman or protective services officer (PSO) on the ground
at the time forms a view about the nature of the protest and moves them on.
Even during a protest like the Plug the Pipe protest, an issue so beloved by the
members for Benalla, Swan Hill and Seymour; they could all be told to move on,
then be arrested, then have their names kept in a register and then have orders
issued against them.
The Treasurer behaves as if it is only the opposition, only the Labor Party,
that has formed this view about the move-on powers. Let us have a look at some
of the groups who have written to me and written to the government who are
opposed to these powers. They include the St Kilda Legal Service, the Federation
of Community Legal Centres Victoria, the Peninsula Community Legal Centre,
Youthlaw, Western Suburbs Legal Service, the Independent Riders Group and the
Law Institute of Victoria. Geoff Bowyer, the new president of the law institute,
has said these laws could:
- have a significant and devastating impact on the homeless who, by the nature
of their situation, are forced to gather in public places, often returning to
a familiar spot after being moved on.
The Human Rights Law Centre has described the potential for misuse as being very
high. This is not something that has just been dreamt up by the Labor Party or
by unions; this is widely opposed throughout the legal fraternity by the Human
Rights Law Centre, the law institute, the Independent Riders Group and all
manner of members of this community because they are draconian laws and they are
It is interesting to recall what government members said when they were in
opposition. On 9 December 2009 the member for Benalla talked about the
'democratic right to protest' of the Plug the Pipe protesters, but now he wants
to take that right away for
others. I suppose it does not matter for the member for Benalla because he is on
his way out of here.
On 10 November 2009, the member for Malvern, now the Treasurer, said:
- It is important to note the fact that there is a very important right to
lawfully protest. We on this side of the house would not seek to do anything
which would interfere with that lawful right.
What happened to those noble sentiments?
Mr O'Brien interjected.
Mr PAKULA -- The Treasurer keeps saying, 'Lawful' as if it is only illegal
protests which are targeted, but that is not the case.
Mr O'Brien interjected.
Mr PAKULA -- Treasurer, unlike you, I have.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member should address his
comments through the Chair.
Mr PAKULA -- On 15 March 2010 the Leader of The Nationals, now the Deputy
- Any information gathered on protesters by the government or private security
firms must be destroyed.
- There's something very wrong in Victoria when local communities are subject to
this sort of bullying and intimidation from a government.
Now he wants police to record and keep the very same information against
We have already heard the Treasurer say today that those anti-McDonald's
protesters in Tecoma ought to have been moved on and ought to have been arrested
if they did not move on when they were told to. That is the way this government
wants to treat communities; that is the way this government wants to treat
protests in this state. Every Victorian should understand the way in which the
government is seeking to stifle protest in this state. Police and PSOs can give
a move-on order to a group; and if it is not complied with, every member of that
group can be arrested, their names recorded, their names retained and 12-month
exclusion orders applied for. Nothing unlawful needs to be happening.
Mr O'Brien interjected.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! I ask the Treasurer to cease
Mr PAKULA -- Can I take up the interjection?
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! No.
Mr PAKULA -- Acting Speaker, let me make the point without the interjection.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member for Lyndhurst should
address his comments through the Chair.
Mr PAKULA -- In the case of industrial picketing, Acting Speaker, this power
applies even to legally protected industrial action. That has been made clear by
the government. It applies to picket lines against which no orders have been
granted, and it applies to picket lines against which no orders have been
sought, so no-one needs to have gone to court, and no illegal declaration needs
to have been made about the picket line. When the Treasurer sits here and says
that it is only about illegal pickets, that is pure sophistry on his part. No
order has to have been made against the picket, and no order has to have been
applied for against the picket. The determination of whether or not it is
illegal is simply in the hands of whoever is on duty at the time.
Mr O'Brien interjected.
Mr PAKULA -- All that in fact needs to have happened, Treasurer, is that a big
Liberal Party donor needs to have made a call to your office or to the Premier's
office, after which you make the call and say, 'Get these people out of here',
as we know occurred before.
Mr O'Brien -- On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I find the comments of the
member for Lyndhurst offensive and require them to be withdrawn.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member for Lyndhurst has been
asked to withdraw.
Mr PAKULA -- I will withdraw. I think it is extraordinary that the Treasurer
is so thin-skinned given the accusations and the allegations he throws around in
this house day in and day out.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member for Lyndhurst will
address his remarks through the Chair.
An honourable member -- Withdraw.
Mr PAKULA -- I withdraw. Day in, day out this Treasurer -- --
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member for Lyndhurst has
withdrawn. The member for Lyndhurst to continue.
Mr PAKULA -- Day in, day out this Treasurer comes into this place and makes
all sorts of unfounded allegations, not just against members of this Parliament
but against people who have no connection to this Parliament. He does it under
privilege, and he never repeats his allegations outside.
Mr O'Brien -- Struck a nerve, didn't I?
Mr PAKULA -- Well, can I say that I have never asked him for a withdrawal. The
fact is that all that needs to happen is that police need to reasonably suspect
that someone has been impeded or -- --
Honourable members interjecting.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! I ask the member for Monbulk and the
Treasurer to cease interjecting.
Mr PAKULA -- All that needs to happen for this law to be activated is for
someone on the ground, a police officer or a protective services officer, to
reasonably suspect that someone is or may be impeded or obstructed, or that
someone might attempt to impede or obstruct. It applies to every example I have
cited. In regard to the courts, the courts only get involved after the moving on
The government picks a bunch of examples and says, 'That would not happen in
reality'. But as I have indicated, once the power is granted, unless the
government knows something that the opposition does not, the government does not
get to pick and choose which forms of protest and which types of protesters get
Every community rally and every community protest can be subject to these laws,
unless there is a phone call.
We heard interjections from the Treasurer. The government wants Victorians to
believe that this bill is about drug dealing. Why then is it not confined to
that? The government wants Victorians to believe that the bill is about violent
or unlawful protest, but the fact is the police already have the power to deal
with unlawful behaviour, violence or trespass. The government wants Victorians
to believe that this is about things like
east-west link protesters, but by the Linking Melbourne Authority's own
admission those protests have not cost the project even one day of lost time.
This is about all the other protests -- the lawful ones, the peaceful ones, the
inconvenient ones -- --
Mr O'Brien interjected.
Mr PAKULA -- Do you have Tourette's? You just go on and on and on with the
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member for Lyndhurst!
Mr PAKULA -- This is about the protests that cause the government political
embarrassment. This is about the ones where the government's mates make a phone
call and say, 'Call off the dogs'. This is about a government wanting to pick
and choose which protests it sees as worthy and which it sees as inconvenient,
where these powers will be activated. It is unwarranted, unnecessary,
antidemocratic and draconian, and it runs counter to every faux noble sentiment
coalition MPs expressed in opposition.
Those sentiments were convenient to them then, but we know, by virtue of the
introduction of this bill, that they did not mean them. If you applied all of
those quotes that I referred to earlier to this law, you would see there is an
inexplicable degree of dissonance. If you took the comments of the Treasurer,
the Deputy Premier and the member for Benalla at face value, you would think
those people could not support the introduction of this bill.
Turning to the alcohol-exclusion orders, they are a meritorious idea. The
opposition says quite openly that they are a meritorious idea. The notion of
barring people from drinking alcohol if they have committed heinous crimes in
which alcohol is a significant factor is a meritorious idea. But it is a good
idea which is being incompetently executed. It is an idea the utility of which
has been almost fatally undermined by the government's brainless obsession with
If you look at the provisions of the bill, it will not achieve, on any planet,
the objectives that the government says are the objectives of the bill.
Does the government, for example, leave it to judges to assess the merits of a
particular case and to look at how serious the offence was? Does the government
leave it to judges to assess whether the offender has priors? Does the
government leave it to judges to assess how big a factor alcohol was in the
commission of the offence and then leave it to judges to decide how long to
exclude the offender from licenced places for? No. It is a mandated period of
two years even if in the circumstances a judge might find that the appropriate
exclusion period was one year or indeed three years. The judge does not get to
make any of those decisions. The government has said that in every case it is
two years. Whether or not two years is right or justifiable, no matter how big a
factor alcohol was, no matter what
priors the offender has, it is two years, two years, two years.
Does the government provide licensed venues with any kind of information about
who the excluded people are? Does the government provide licensed venues with a
list of names of people who have been excluded? Does the government provide
licensed venues with photographs of people who have been excluded? Does the
government provide any additional resources whatsoever to enforce these
alcohol-exclusion orders? The answers are no, no, no and no. No-one who runs any
licensed venue will have any idea, either by name or picture, of who the
excluded people are. There are no additional resources for anyone to enforce
this law. It is totally and utterly unenforceable.
Most importantly, I ask: is it the drinking of alcohol that is barred? Is it the
purchase of alcohol that is barred? The answer is no.
Mr Clark interjected.
Mr PAKULA -- I say to the Attorney-General that that would clearly make too
much sense for this government. If someone who is excluded wanders across the
road to the European and orders a coffee or a poached egg, they will have
committed an offence -- because it is a licensed venue. Someone else can buy
that person a sixpack of beer and that is fine, but if they go across the road
and order a coffee at a licensed venue, they will have committed an offence. The
Treasurer was saying by interjection before that the Labor Party does not want
to deal with alcohol-fuelled violence. I ask: are the streets really safer if a
violent drunk cannot purchase an egg or if a violent drunk cannot order a coffee
at 8 o'clock in the morning? Are the streets really safer in those
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr PAKULA -- Every licensed venue, morning or night, whether or not the
offender -- --
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr PAKULA -- The Attorney-General is soft on boiled eggs. Seriously, it is
just a mantra repeated over and over again in the face of all the evidence. In
the face of a rising crime rate, in the face of overflowing prisons, in the face
of a court system collapsing and, in the face of legal aid falling apart,
members of this government keep running around beating their chests, saying, 'We
are tough on crime', while the crime rate goes up. What an absolute triumph! No
licensee of any venue, morning or night, whether or not the offender is trying
to buy alcohol, will have any information provided. There are no extra resources
for Victoria Police. This is just the epitome of an all-show, no-go confidence
trick. It is an absolute sham.
As I indicated at the outset, there is nothing in the provisions relating to the
alcohol-exclusion orders that could not be rectified, amended or fixed by a
government whose members applied some common sense and competence to them. If
the government is prepared to split the bill, opposition members will vote for
the alcohol-exclusion orders. If the government will not split the bill, in the
consideration-in-detail stage the opposition will move its own motion to do just
that. There is nothing in the alcohol-exclusion orders part of the bill that
cannot be fixed by a government whose members know what they are doing.
However, the move-on powers are irredeemable. They are draconian. They are quite
simply Bjelke-Petersen-era laws. They mean that we have set off down the
Mr O'Brien interjected.
Mr PAKULA -- I say to the Treasurer that those people protesting outside
McDonald's in Tecoma are not thugs, nurses are not thugs, paramedics are not
thugs and taxi protesters out on the steps of Parliament are not thugs. I will
tell the house who government members believe is a thug. They believe that a
thug is anyone who opposes their agenda. Anyone who opposes this Treasurer's or
this Attorney-General's agenda is in their eyes a thug -- and they are
determined to shut those people up, to silence them and to haul them off to
jail. They want to haul off to jail taxi protesters, McDonald's Tecoma
protesters and Lock the Gate protesters. In the eyes of members of this
government these people are all thugs and enemies of the state because they have
the temerity to stand up to this government and to stand up for their rights.
Members on this side of the house want to make it very clear that we do not
believe that people protesting about a McDonald's in Tecoma are thugs, we do not
believe nurses are thugs, we do not believe teachers are thugs and we do not
believe paramedics are thugs. We do not believe that people who are standing up
for their basic rights and exercising their lawful right to protest are thugs.
With these laws, we have set off down the slippery slope. Today members are
debating a set of laws which infringe the vital right to protest that exists in
a democracy. It is a hard-fought-for right, a vital right and the hallmark of
any free society. These laws fundamentally offend the principles that all the
so-called lovers of freedom opposite claim to hold so dear. Members of the
Liberal Party believe in freedom
for their mates, but they do not believe in freedom for the people who might
have the audacity to stand up for themselves #match7" id="match6">#FF0000">and oppose the government's agenda.
The Labor Party will defend the right of people to protest, because these laws
do not only deal with unlawful #match8" id="match7">#FF0000">and violent protest. These laws criminalise
lawful protest, they criminalise peaceful protest #match9" id="match8">#FF0000">and they criminalise any
protest the government finds offensive. We will oppose these move-on laws, we
will oppose them proudly #match10" id="match9">#FF0000">and, if we are elected in November, we will repeal
Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) -- It is my pleasure to rise to support the Summary
#match11" id="match10">#FF0000">Offences #match11" id="match10">#FF0000">and #match11" id="match10">#FF0000">Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013. What a load of rubbish we have just
heard from the member for Lyndhurst -- talk about Chicken Little saying, 'The
sky is falling in' -- about what we are doing to keep people safe #match12" id="match11">#FF0000">and ensure
that businesses can get on with what they need to do, which is provide jobs.
We have seen day in and day out in this place that the Labor Party is very quick
to stand up and talk about what is happening with jobs in our state. Yet time
and again outside various business premises in our state we have seen the rights
of those businesses being impeded by protesters who are not protesting lawfully
and are not peaceful. I will come to that in a minute.
The bill protects people's right to express their views and interests in a
legitimate way and continue to protest; however, it extends powers to deal with
people who are impeding others from lawfully accessing a premises, who have
committed an offence in a public place, who are causing others to have a
reasonable fear of violence or who are endangering safety or engaging in
behaviour that is likely to cause damage to other people's property.
Mr Pakula interjected.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member for Lyndhurst has had his
Mr SOUTHWICK -- This is not about those people who want to peacefully protest
and express their views. This is about the unlawful thugs who support the Labor
Party. It is about the union mates who support and fund the Labor Party. The
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union has been out there engaging in
unlawful behaviour on building sites and has actively sought to disrupt business
and ensure that business comes to a standstill while union protesters are there.
We saw that with the Grocon action, which led to losses of $500 000 a day -- a
total of $10 million worth of damages -- due to inactivity as a result of the
union blockade that brought the streets to a standstill.
We saw it with the east-west link protests, which the member for Lyndhurst says
did not cost taxpayers a dollar.
Let me draw to the attention of the member for Lyndhurst the fact that the
police response to try to keep people safe covered 2575 8-hour shifts and is now
estimated to have exceeded $1.65 million in taxpayer money. Police have
pinpointed 10 people who broke the law in their efforts to prevent construction
of the east-west link from taking place. This is not about a peaceful protest.
It is about demonstrators stopping an economic activity that provides jobs and
ensures that Victoria remains open for business.
The Labor Party wants to shut the door and say, 'No, we're going to look after
our union mates'. I refer to Baiada Poultry in Laverton, which lost over $1
million in spoilt chicken as a result of protesters. They locked the doors
during that protest. A small business owner who had two trucks inside the
facility was not able to access the facility to get his spoilt chicken, and he
lost his small business as a result of being locked out of that plant.
Electricity was shut down and no diesel was allowed into that plant, and as a
result of the protest that small business and many other small businesses lost
I now turn my attention to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign
protests. We have seen a series of BDS protests. Opposition members are shaking
their heads, and so they should be. Firstly, in December 2010 we saw a protest
in Melbourne Central shopping centre. The protesters had agreed with police that
they would peacefully protest -- this comes to the crux of what this law change
is all about -- but they then went into Melbourne Central, completely took over
the shopping centre and protested until activists had to be removed from that
site. In the second incident protesters went to the Park Hyatt Melbourne hotel
and continued that behaviour.
Mr Pakula interjected.
Mr SOUTHWICK -- I will come to that.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member for Caulfield should
speak through the Chair.
Mr SOUTHWICK -- In February 2011 there was another protest where police again
had to physically remove protesters who were impeding business at a store. It
shut down the whole shopping centre precinct for a number of hours. A number of
small businesses were affected as a result of this.
In April 2011 a Jericho cosmetics store, a small business, closed because of two
previous protests. The business owners decided to close the store because they
were not going to deal with protesters again. That was not good enough for the
protesters; they wanted to get someone, so they went to the Max Brenner store.
The Max Brenner protest involved physical confrontation with police members, and
the demonstrators were moved on. There were altercations with police, and 10
police members sustained minor injuries as a result of the protest -- so much
for the claims of a peaceful protest from the Labor Party.
In the fourth protest, again in 2011, the police public order management unit
was brought in to help police at the event with the intention of making arrests.
At this stage no arrests were made. The protesters could not get close to the
store because they were surrounded by police trying to protect the shop owners
and the businesses, so the protesters decided to take up positions on the ground
and first levels of the shopping centre.
On this occasion Melbourne Central was again stampeded by these protesters and
shut down for a number of hours. Not one store, not two stores, but the whole of
Melbourne Central was shut down as a result of this.
A fifth protest took place at a subsequent time. Some protesters went into the
Max Brenner store while others waited in another wing. The protesters who went
into the store had jumpers on and appeared to be consumers. At a given time they
took off their jumpers and were wearing shirts with protest slogans. They
chained themselves to the chairs and tables in the store and the protesters in
the other wing came into the store. An altercation took place and 19 arrests
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr SOUTHWICK -- Here is the kicker for the vocalists on the other side: all
the 19 protesters arrested were let off under the current laws because in those
circumstances they were not breaking the law. They could chain themselves to
furniture in the store, shut it down for hours, block traffic and block people
from coming into the store, but they were all let off because the current law
does not provide for move-on powers. The current law does not provide for those
who shut down businesses and aggressively protest, but the Labor Party is happy
for these protesters to continue aggressively doing what they are doing --
shutting down businesses one after the other and targeting businesses in
Honourable members interjecting.
The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McCurdy) -- Order! The member for Yuroke!
Mr SOUTHWICK -- If opposition members were genuine, they would distinguish
between what are genuine, peaceful protests and what is a disgraceful attempt to
shut down and disrupt a business and harm not only that business but its
employees, the shopkeeper, shoppers and everybody else around the store.
This legislation is designed to restore activity, restore confidence and give
police necessary powers. Opposition members should be standing up for the
Victorian policemen and women who have to deal with these disgraceful
activities. They should be standing up for those Victorian police who have to
cop it on the chin time and again. The police have told us there is nothing they
can do under the current laws. Under these new laws we are giving them the
opportunity to do something about it -- arrest those behaving disruptively, stop
that sort of activity and allow businesses to get on with what they do best. The
bill is designed to allow businesses to be successful, not be shut down, and to
provide jobs, not cut jobs, as the Labor Party wants to do.
Mr MERLINO (Monbulk) -- The Labor Party vehemently opposes the Summary
#match13" id="match12">#FF0000">Offences #match13" id="match12">#FF0000">and #match13" id="match12">#FF0000">Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013. I oppose this bill on behalf of the
community I am proud to represent. Labor opposes this bill because it is grossly
antidemocratic. The bill seeks to criminalise all forms of peaceful community
protest. The single biggest issue in the Dandenongs is the establishment of a
McDonald's franchise in Tecoma. As many members would be aware, it is the
subject of a massive #match14" id="match13">#FF0000">and peaceful community protest.
On Tuesday members of my community -- local mums #match15" id="match14">#FF0000">and dads -- protested on the
steps of Parliament House against McDonald's in Tecoma. During debate on this
bill, as the shadow Attorney-General, the member for Lyndhurst, was on his feet
leading Labor's opposition to the bill, the Treasurer said the McDonald's
protesters should have been moved on. That is the truth of what is behind this
legislation. I tell the Treasurer that every single person in Tecoma #match16" id="match15">#FF0000">and right
across the Dandenongs will be made aware of his comments.
Mr O'Brien interjected.
Mr MERLINO -- 'Terrific', the Treasurer says. He can rest assured that that
Eleven hundred and seventy submissions opposed the application to council, and
they did so because this McDonald's would be completely and utterly out of
character with the Dandenongs and would set a disastrous precedent. Council
unanimously opposed the application. The Victorian Civil and Administrative
Tribunal (VCAT), in a reprehensible decision, overturned that democratic
decision of council. The Napthine government has done nothing to resolve this
issue. Indeed in this bill the government seeks to blame and curtail the rights
of the Dandenong Ranges community.
The failure of VCAT and this government has not deterred the community. There
have been public rallies of thousands and thousands of people, almost daily
protests and a petition of well over 100 000 signatures. A survey was conducted
and every house in Tecoma was doorknocked with one question: 'Are you for or
against the proposed McDonald's in Tecoma?'. Almost 90 per cent opposed it.
The people of Tecoma and the Dandenong Ranges do not want it, and in our
democratic society they have every right to have their voices heard and to
protest peacefully against this inappropriate development. They have been a
constant presence at the construction site -- and good on them, I say.
On 16 July last year McDonald's issued a writ against eight protesters who
became known as the Tecoma 8. On 18 July McDonald's obtained an interim
injunction in the Supreme Court that included not only the original eight
protesters but anyone else who had obstructed a vehicle or trespassed in the
previous two weeks. 'Anyone else' -- does this sound familiar? On 28 July, 3000
to 4000 people turned out to protest on the streets of Tecoma -- local
residents, mums and dads, who do not want this facility built.
The law firm Maurice Blackburn took up the case. It stated:
- Maurice Blackburn represented the 'Tecoma 8' pro bono because we believe
peaceful protest is fundamental to civil rights and democracy.
- We believe the legal action and tactics being used by McDonald's Australia to
stop protesters in Tecoma, Victoria, were an affront to civil liberties.
- An interim Supreme Court injunction restricted the movement of people who had
protested against the development. The final orders sought by McDonald's
involved a group being appointed as representatives of a much larger group. If
made, they were likely to be so broad in their application that they could
have applied to people who did not know they were subject to them ...
- This case went beyond Tecoma.
- The orders were intimidating for many community activists because they bound
an ill-defined class of people, and were structured in such a way that, if
successful, could have had significant implications for other community
Following mediation McDonald's abandoned the lawsuit. The Napthine government,
through this draconian and antidemocratic bill, is seeking to do what McDonald's
failed to do. The Napthine government is acting against the community of the
Dandenong Ranges, and this bill is an affront to those people. It provides
powers to police to move on one person or many, to break up community protests
and to arrest protesters if they have a reasonable suspicion that someone is
impeding or attempting to impede. Deputy Speaker, when you have 4000 people
marching down Burwood Highway, it is a bit hard, don't you think, not to be
If the police choose to move people on, as the Attorney-General said in his
- ... police and PSOs may give one direction to an entire group rather than
having individually to direct each person in the group to move on.
If those 4000 local residents marching down Burwood Highway are told by police
to move on and they choose not to, they could be arrested. They will be ordered
to give their names and addresses. Those names and addresses could be retained,
and then the police could apply for an exclusion order -- an exclusion order for
4000 local residents -- to say that they cannot congregate around Tecoma to
express their concern about the McDonald's.
Through this bill this government is criminalising the peaceful community
protest of thousands of my constituents. Labor will never support this.
Through this bill the government wants to destroy the local campaign to stop
McDonald's in Tecoma. Just a few minutes ago the Treasurer exposed the truth of
that. He wants the protesters to be moved on, he wants the police to -- --
The DEPUTY SPEAKER -- Order! The member knows it is disorderly to respond to
interjections, and I would suggest that he does not respond to the interjection
from the Treasurer.
Mr Pakula -- The Treasurer is not even here!
The DEPUTY SPEAKER -- Order! I am the Chair here. I have said it is disorderly
to respond to interjections. It does not matter when the interjection was, it is
disorderly to respond to it.
Mr MERLINO -- I refer to comments from Maurice Blackburn, which acted pro bono
on behalf of the Tecoma 8. Maurice Blackburn lawyer Elizabeth O'Shea said this
about the bill:
- It effectively criminalises a range of behaviours that are fundamental to
freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. The right to protest has resulted
in hard-won freedoms we all enjoy and curbed excesses of corporate and
political power. Why is the Victorian government so frightened of people
congregating to express their views?
Why is the Napthine government so afraid of my community in the Dandenong
Ranges? Labor is opposing this bill and, as the shadow Attorney-General pointed
out, if we are elected to government in November, Labor will repeal the
I challenge the future Liberal candidate for Monbulk to make that same
commitment in the lead-up to this election. I will be putting that to the future
Liberal candidate for Monbulk, everyone in Tecoma will be putting that to the
future Liberal candidate for Monbulk, #match17" id="match16">#FF0000">and we will find out if that candidate has
the same view as the Treasurer, the Premier, the Attorney-General #match18" id="match17">#FF0000">and everyone
on the government benches who feels that it is appropriate to produce a piece of
legislation that is so antidemocratic, so like what Joh Bjelke-Petersen would
have produced in Queensland many years ago. That is what this government has
produced. Labor will oppose the bill, #match19" id="match18">#FF0000">and Labor will repeal the legislation if
elected in November.
Mr NEWTON-BROWN (Prahran) -- The Summary #match20" id="match19">#FF0000">Offences #match20" id="match19">#FF0000">and #match20" id="match19">#FF0000">Sentencing Amendment
Bill 2013 is yet another election commitment being fulfilled by the coalition
We promised we would set up banning notices for people convicted of violent
assaults in licensed premises and give police and licensees the tools they need
to make sure that they are safe when people socialise on licensed premises. This
is what we are doing with this bill, but it also goes much further. As we heard
during the harangue by the member for Monbulk over the last 10 minutes, the bill
also gives police the power to move people on.
Much misinformation has been spread, both in the chamber today by the members
for Monbulk and Lyndhurst and more generally by the union movement. There has
been a lot of froth and bubble about rights being protected and the freedom of
people to demonstrate and protest. This bill does nothing to impinge on those
rights. Peaceful demonstration is a cherished part of our democracy, and it is
not impacted by this bill. The right to protest or demonstrate is not absolute.
The members for Lyndhurst and Monbulk seem to think that those rights should not
be tempered in any way.
The new human rights commissioner, Tim Wilson, took up his post this week. He is
one of my constituents. In one of his first interviews he said that freedoms are
not absolute; they must be tempered by the impacts they have on other freedoms.
In other words, freedom cannot impinge on other rights which are as legitimate.
Therefore it is okay to exercise your right to demonstrate as long as that right
to demonstrate does not impinge on other people's rights not to be intimidated,
threatened, harassed or attacked. It is not okay to demonstrate if that involves
forcibly preventing people from entering their workplace. It is not okay to
demonstrate if that involves punching police horses or running over people in
Are these the freedoms that the member for Monbulk is seeking to protect?
Because every one of those things happened at a demonstration at the Myer
Emporium site in 2012. I went for a walk down there when the picket line was in
force, and I have to say it was an intimidating sight.
Large numbers of workers were blocking the entrance to the building site, there
was a lot of yelling and screaming, and the Grollos sustained an attack on them
which went on for weeks. The police had inadequate powers to move on the violent
As an aside and by way of disclosure, I worked for the Grollos for three months
as a labourer on one of their building sites. I was an undercover lawyer. I was
working in construction law, and I was sent to learn about construction hands
on, so I worked at the State Electricity Commission headquarters site in
Flinders Lane. It was quite an experience. I went through various trades --
concreting, steel fixing, installing conduits -- but my cover was blown early
on, perhaps by the neat creases my mother had ironed in my overalls. Despite
this, the workforce was happy to have me there and I learnt a lot.
There was a little bit of gentle bastardisation -- I was given a homemade hammer
made out of a bit of water pipe, which was balanced like a sledgehammer -- but I
was happy to endure that and was certainly happy to be out in the open air,
learning a bit about the practicalities of the area of law in which I was
One thing that struck me, however, was the loyalty of the Grollo workforce. It
was like one big family. Workers were looked after, and those with special needs
were looked after. It was not about fighting for awards and conflict between
boss and worker; it really was an atmosphere of respect and mutual care that
permeated that workforce. So it did not surprise me to
hear that the Grollo workforce united against those union picketers. People were
drawn in from outside that site to protest, and the Grollo workforce, many of
whom were union members, actually asked the picketers to go away. All they
wanted to do was to turn up to work for their employer and do the job for which
they were being paid.
I refer briefly to an article by Daniel Grollo which was published in the
Financial Review this week. He set out the sequence of events that led to this
picketing, which he said started 12 years ago when the Grollos took a stand
against lawless behaviour by unions. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and
Energy Union (CFMEU) secretary at the time simply said, 'We'll just smash them',
and that is what they tried to do. Mr Grollo noted that many of his
subcontractors and suppliers could not stand the heat, could not stand the
weight of the campaign against them, and he is thankful that there will soon be
a royal commission to put the construction industry under the microscope.
Mr Grollo shed light on the CFMEU 'business model', stating that the standard
practice is for the CFMEU to demand that a construction company employ a union
colleague that it nominates. Once that occurs, if the company caves in and
agrees, the union then has a foothold to take control of the operations and shut
down the site industrially, should there be any challenge to the union's power
in the future.
August 2012 was when the CFMEU marshalled those thousands of workers from other
building sites. It made the claim that Grocon was anti-union and had shocking
safety standards when in fact the federal safety watchdog had just recognised
Grocon as having the best safety systems across the whole industry. Certainly
the employees of Grocon did not support the union's claims on safety. They were
spurious claims with a spurious basis on which the violent picket line was
The Grocon workers themselves went public, put their necks on the line and wrote
an open letter, simply asking that the basic rights that the union leadership
enjoyed also be extended to the workers on the Grocon site -- that is, to be
able to go to work, to have the respect of the union, of the workers and of the
company, and for business to continue without these sorts of illegal
Therefore the question has to be asked: is this what the ALP is seeking to
protect? Is it seeking to protect the rights of people to demonstrate in a way
which is illegal and which is against the interests of those workers who wish to
enter their workplace in a legal manner? It is clear that there are numerous
other examples as well. The Max Brenner case is another high-profile example of
an inappropriate demonstration, with the boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS)
organisation protesting outside the Max Brenner stores.
Again, this was a disgusting and in this case also a racist campaign that simply
overstepped the mark and had a terrible impact on the business of Max Brenner.
It scared customers away. Is this really the freedom the ALP wishes to protect
-- freedom for the BDS organisation to protest against businesses such as Max
The coalition government is prepared to stand up for the Jewish community -- for
the whole community -- when it is attacked by unlawful picket lines and unlawful
demonstrations that overstep the mark, from free speech to impacting on those
other rights we also hold dear.
With this legislation a clear message is being sent: peaceful protest #match21" id="match20">#FF0000">and
peaceful demonstration is encouraged -- it is part of our democracy -- but the
community does not think it is okay to stop people going to work through fear
#match22" id="match21">#FF0000">and intimidation, the community does not think it is okay to violently attack
police who are trying to uphold people's rights to go to work #match23" id="match22">#FF0000">and the community
does not accept that protest can be used for ugly, racist attacks on decent,
law-abiding people. The bill should be supported by the opposition, #match24" id="match23">#FF0000">and I
commend it to the house.
Mr WYNNE (Richmond) -- I rise to make a contribution to the Summary #match25" id="match24">#FF0000">Offences
#match26" id="match25">#FF0000">and #match26" id="match25">#FF0000">Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 following the superb contributions by the
shadow Attorney-General #match27" id="match26">#FF0000">and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
In doing so I reiterate the fundamental position of the Australian Labor Party
that not only do we oppose this bill but that if we are given the honour of
being elected at the end of this year, we will repeal this bill as one of our
first actions in government.
Why do we make this commitment? We do it for some very fundamental reasons. This
bill essentially erodes the hard-fought-for rights of people to protest in this
state. Its genesis is a deep, abiding and visceral hatred by this government of
people who seek to show dissent, people who seek to organise themselves, people
who are part of organised labour, people who are part of the trade union
movement. We see this demonstrated every day by this unelected Premier when he
comes in here at question time. There is nothing that excites this Premier more
than bashing the Labor Party and the trade union movement. These are the only
two things in life that give him pleasure. It is the same old shtick by this
All this morally bankrupt government can do is bring forward this sort of
legislation that essentially erodes the fundamental rights of citizens in our
stand up and protest when they see decisions proposed by this government that
are wrong. It is wrong in relation to the east-west tunnel, which is a
fundamental mistake that has been made by this government. I support the right
of members of my community to protest peacefully against the east-west tunnel
every single day. I support the people of the community of Tecoma if they want
to stand up and express their views about decisions made and about how their
community ought to operate in the future. I also support the right of members of
the trade union movement to peacefully protest to ensure their fundamental
rights are protected. That is why we oppose this legislation. It is draconian
and antidemocratic, and it echoes back to those very dark days of the
Bjelke-Petersen government. Who could ever forget those days when, if more than
two people -- three people -- congregated together it was an illegal act. We see
the views of this deeply conservative Attorney-General echoing through this
legislation. That is very clear to us.
There are a number of aspects to this bill that I think are extraordinarily
dangerous. The first is that in the context of this bill a police officer or a
protective services officer (PSO) merely needs to suspect on reasonable grounds
that a person has committed an offence in that place or is causing a reasonable
apprehension of violence in another person, is causing or is likely to cause an
undue obstruction to others or is present for the purposes of procuring or
supplying drugs. The bill refers to reasonable grounds. I was very concerned
after having recently read a really excellent brief provided to, I think, all
members of Parliament by the Fitzroy Legal Service.
It provided a brief to us to inform the community of the potential impacts of
The briefing paper was provided by Meghan Fitzgerald, the solicitor for the
Fitzroy Legal Service, and is endorsed by no less prestigious organisations than
the Salvation Army; the Council to Homeless Persons; the Victorian Drug and
Alcohol Association; HomeGround Services, one of our major and distinguished
emergency housing providers; Youth Projects; Justice Connect: Homeless Law; Flat
Out; the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service; and others. These are prestigious
organisations, particularly the Salvation Army. They have noted that very deep
concerns have been expressed about the potential impact of this particular bill
on the most marginalised communities.
It is not surprising that I would deal with this issue, given that I have a long
history of working with and supporting marginalised communities, not only in my
own electorate but more generally across the state. What strikes me particularly
about this bill is the aspect of it that goes to the question of someone causing
or being likely to cause an undue obstruction to others.
I will tell the house the story of where I was on Sunday. I went down to
Enterprize Park to represent my party and to acknowledge the tragic death of a
homeless man called Mouse, who had been stabbed to death in the viaduct
underneath the railway line at the park.
I went to that event with members of the Salvation Army and with the Lord Mayor
and other distinguished people. I was simply there to acknowledge the fact that
not only had dreadful harm being done there but to say more broadly to the
community that homeless people are welcome, that there is a place for homeless
people in this city and that this poor 42-year-old man's life had not been taken
in vain. I was there to say that we as a community were prepared -- and there
were perhaps 200 to 300 of us present -- to stand up together and say, 'No, your
life actually did amount to something, Mouse. We do acknowledge your life, and
in the future we need to do better when we are trying to deal with homeless
people in this state'.
Certainly the legacy of this government thus far is a very sad legacy when it
comes to addressing homelessness.
What does the bill mean for those displaced people? Causing unreasonable
obstruction is one of the tests for whether a PSO or police officer can move
somebody on. The people who are sleeping under that viaduct may well, in the
context of this bill, cause unreasonable obstruction. They may offend people
because they are living in the public realm. This is where they live. I invite
any member to go over to the substation in Fitzroy Gardens at the back of this
Parliament House at lunchtime today, because what they see might offend them.
There will be homeless people sleeping around that substation tonight. Members
may find that offensive and an unreasonable obstruction. Indeed Victoria Police
could find that an unreasonable obstruction as well and move those people on,
but move them on to where? They have nowhere to go, and that is why they are
sleeping in parks.
That is why people are sleeping in vulnerable conditions underneath the viaduct
at Enterprize Park.
The bill is completely unreasonable. It is unjustified that this piece of
legislation is before the Parliament. It will deleteriously impact upon the most
vulnerable people in our community. I refer not only to homeless people but also
to my friends in the Aboriginal community, who also live in the public realm
because that is how they choose to congregate. Smith Street is a major
connection point for members of Aboriginal communities moving through Melbourne
and seeking to link up with relatives and friends. There is absolutely the
potential that someone will create an unreasonable
obstruction #match28" id="match27">#FF0000">and the police will be able to move them on.
I submit that this piece of legislation is deeply rooted in the most
conservative elements of this government. It is a shameful piece of legislation.
It seeks to vilify #match29" id="match28">#FF0000">and criminalise organised labour in this state, which is a
shameful thing. Indeed it has the real potential to inflict very severe harm on
the most marginalised in our community -- people who live their lives in the
public realm. Shame upon the government!
Dr SYKES (Benalla) -- I rise to contribute to the second-reading debate on the
#match30" id="match29">#FF0000">Summary #match30" id="match29">#FF0000">Offences #match30" id="match29">#FF0000">and #match30" id="match29">#FF0000">Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013. I wish to make it very
clear that I strongly endorse the bill. It is yet another plank in our
government bringing law #match31" id="match30">#FF0000">and order to Victoria #match31" id="match30">#FF0000">and delivering what most people
want -- that is, to be able to feel safe in our community #match32" id="match31">#FF0000">and go to work safely.
We have heard the rhetoric from those on the other side. Crouching Tiger pounced
today. After a series of insipid performances, the member for Lyndhurst launched
into a tirade that was high on emotion, passion and rhetoric but out of touch
with what most Victorians want. As I said, most Victorians want to be free from
dangerous and threatening situations. They want to be able to walk the streets
and go to work without threats to their safety. They do not want taxpayers
dollars to be wasted on controlling violent protesters, and they do not want law
enforcement officers to be put at risk of injury as a result of the unruly and
at times absolutely disgraceful behaviour of some protesters.
The member for Caulfield drew on some examples, and I encourage people to read
his contribution in Hansard, because it is quite clear that a number of these
protests have been expensive to deal with and that serial offenders -- people
who continually break the law -- have been identified.
I think it was the member for Prahran who indicated that under the current laws
there are problems with bringing those people to justice. We saw the Leader of
the Opposition standing shoulder to shoulder with the Construction, Forestry,
Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). At the same time, through the media and other
means, the outrageous, illegal behaviour of members of the CFMEU has been
exposed -- --
Honourable members interjecting.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER -- Order! We listened to the member for Monbulk, and now he
should listen to the member for Benalla.
Dr SYKES -- The people I represent have had a gutful of this sort of
behaviour. They strongly endorse the action being taken by the Liberal-Nationals
coalition government. I also reject the assertion -- --
Honourable members interjecting.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER -- Order! Interjections are part of debates, but the
language has to be appropriate for Parliament. The calling of names across the
chamber will not be tolerated.
Dr SYKES -- Thank you, Deputy Speaker, for that welcome protection. The member
for Lyndhurst's opening assertion that this legislation will potentially
criminalise all forms of protest in Victoria is outrageously out of touch with
the reality. I reiterate that people who protest peacefully will continue to
have that right -- that right will be protected.
On the subject of protesting, I note that previous members have referred to a
role I have played in protesting, in particular my role in the Plug the Pipe
We protested peacefully, and yet members of the then Labor government referred
to us as 'ugly, ugly people', 'quasi-terrorists' and a 'sorry bunch of people'.
Just to make it clear that that is not a figment of my imagination or a
reflection of the passing of years, my staff checked with the parliamentary
library this morning. The library came back with the following information to
validate the statement I just made:
- Peter Batchelor first referred to the pipeline protesters as ugly, ugly people
when they were brought into the gallery on 5 February 2008 ...
Mr Holding referred to The Nationals as a 'sorry bunch of people' and that the
protesters had 'quasi-terrorist threats' on 21 November 2007 ...
That is documented. It is a fact that those on the other side, who at this stage
say they are going to stand up and purport to represent the people, made those
outrageous accusations against people protesting legally. Of course, as history
has shown, the Labor Party was thrown out of office. The former Labor Premier
resigned, as did the former member for Thomastown and the former member for
Lyndhurst. And of course our government plugged the pipe.
We can also refer to a more recent protest experience, where under the existing
legislation it would be fair to say that I and, I believe, some members of the
opposition may have felt unnerved when we were seeking to go from Parliament
House to the Windsor Hotel. Members of Parliament in the state of Victoria
were seeking to cross from this building to the Windsor Hotel to participate in
a function being conducted by members of the Jewish fraternity. We had to
assemble in this place and walk across that street surrounded by a cordon of
police -- police on either side -- and three police horses leading the way. I
felt uncomfortable about that, and I observed protesters attempting to injure
those horses and in the process making MPs of this state feel threatened. This
legislation is about protecting the rights of the majority of Victorians and
enabling peaceful protest but saying that violence, threatening behaviour and
serial offending are things we have had enough of and that those involved should
Moving on to the alcohol-exclusion orders, this is again sensible legislation.
We have all heard of the consequences of alcohol-fuelled violence. Like many
others, I have personal knowledge of it.
One my footy teammates, Terry Keenan, was in a pub celebrating a football
victory in the Goulburn Valley and as a result of someone being affected by
alcohol he was king hit. He went down and as a result suffered severe brain
damage. Ultimately his life support was turned off. I should say that in that
case the person who allegedly threw the punch was not found guilty, but it is an
example of a situation where alcohol-fuelled violence resulted in tragic
consequences. I and many others miss our good mate TK.
This legislation is about toughening up on people who are perpetrators of
alcohol-fuelled violence. It will enable exclusion orders to ensure that these
sorts of things are limited. It is part of an overall package where we seek to
provide the legislative ability to toughen up on people. However, in cases of
alcohol-fuelled violence and protesting it is about producing a cultural change,
getting acceptance of that and as a community rejecting the idea that
alcohol-fuelled violence is okay.
It is about rejecting the idea that there is a need to get fully tanked and then
do things that are unacceptable. It is about rejecting non-peaceful protest.
I imagine many of us have travelled to other parts of the world where people do
not enjoy the democracy we have. They realise that what we have here is special
and needs to be protected. That is why we are putting in place legislation that
further addresses the issue of alcohol-fuelled violence but importantly also
protects the right of people to protest peacefully. It absolutely rejects the
ability of people to be violent and disgraceful and to put people at risk and
cost taxpayers money. It is totally unacceptable behaviour in our democracy.
Ms GARRETT (Brunswick) -- It is with great passion that I rise today to speak
on this draconian and disgraceful piece of legislation that has been put before
Having heard a passionate contribution from the member for Benalla about the
Plug the Pipe protest and the journey those people went on and having seen the
passion on the member for Seymour's face, as we stand here it is worth noting
how people feel when there is something that strikes at the heart of their
community -- when they are concerned that something is going to destroy or
impact negatively on their community. In such cases people come together,
organise and stand up for the rights of that community.
It is very similar to the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, which
has to have a funeral plan offered to its members because so many people die on
building sites. That is why it gets so passionate about occupational health and
It is so relevant to members of the Maritime Union of Australia, which lost an
entire generation of people because they loaded asbestos off the wharfs, day in,
day out, and which stood with Bernie Banton when the James Hardie company tried
to get out of this country without paying for its obligations and when there
were thousands of people protesting in the streets about that issue. We on this
side of the house, and we hope those on the other side of the house, feel pretty
passionate about those issues. Clearly we feel that people have the right to
come together to organise and stand up for occupational health and safety and
stand up for just compensation when people are injured or die at the hands of
We in this place operate under a solemn covenant with the people of Victoria. We
are given a great privilege to make laws -- to debate laws and pass them. That
covenant means that we must stand here and protect the rights and freedoms of
the citizens of this state, particularly those who have a small voice.
This must be done especially when it is inconvenient, politically embarrassing
or hard for those who hold the reins of power, because to fail to do so is to
break the covenant the government makes with Victorians to look after their
rights and their freedoms.
To go back to the Plug the Pipe protests, these clearly caused the former
government a considerable amount of political pain. They were embarrassing,
difficult and hard to manage, but the former government did not introduce
legislation to take away the right of those people to protest. The former
government understood that people have the right to protest, particularly when
it is embarrassing and inconvenient to government.
This Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that the checks and balances that
remain in our democracy are upheld. Hard-fought freedoms and rights can be torn
away in an instant, and that is what this legislation does. This legislation
gives police an extraordinary and unchecked power to move protesters on if they
suspect the protesters have committed an offence, if there is a reasonable
apprehension of violence, if a protester is likely to cause an unreasonable
obstruction to others or is impeding or attempting to impede any person from
lawfully entering or leaving premises or part of premises. These are huge,
sweeping, discretionary, unfettered powers that will apply to all protests.
- An honourable member interjected.
Ms GARRETT -- Read the legislation. In the checks and balances of our
democracy we do not allow this Parliament to have unfettered -- --
Mr Burgess interjected.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER -- Order! The member for Hastings will get his turn.
Ms GARRETT -- We have courts and tribunals which are independent from
government and which are there to ensure that the rights and freedoms of
citizens are protected and are not subject to the whims of the government of the
day. It is always tempting for any government to come in here and hack into
those rights and freedoms because it is politically inconvenient and
embarrassing for those rights and freedoms to be upheld. People who stand up and
say, 'We dislike decisions of this government' cause the government pain, so no
doubt it is always tempting for members on that side of the chamber to squash
that sort of dissent. But a test of true character for those who hold the reins
of power is that they do not give in to that temptation, that they understand
there is a broader matter of principle and a broader responsibility and that
they are custodians in this place of democracy, which as we know is a fragile
beast and can be trampled on and dismantled very quickly.
We have had some very passionate contributions. The Deputy Leader of the
Opposition spoke at great length and with great measure about what has happened
in his community regarding the proposed McDonald's in Tecoma. We have talked
about what has happened with nurses protesting and having thousands of people in
the street protesting about health issues. We have talked about paramedics and
the ambulance crisis that is crippling this state.
Time and again people have to take to the streets to have their point heard and
to ensure that the broader community understands these issues. We have had
protests by taxi licence holders and teachers, and we have had anti-fracking
protests in regional Victoria. These are all important, precious expressions of
our democratic rights, and they are vehicles by which people can achieve change
when things are wrong. Let us face it: no government has all the answers. No
government under our democratic system should be able to dictate everything.
This is a vibrant democracy with those checks and balances.
This gets back to this government's obsession with the union movement. We have a
fundamental right as citizens in this country to have freedom of association,
and there is a reason we have this right. It has been a hard-fought -- --
Honourable members interjecting.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER -- Order! If the members for Monbulk and Gembrook wish to
continue their conversation, they can take it outside the chamber.
Ms GARRETT -- It has been a hard-fought right, because for many centuries
those without bargaining power were exploited and treated appallingly. They came
together collectively to organise, to address the power imbalance and to demand
proper terms and conditions of employment. This is a noble, fundamental right.
It is a fundamental right for those workers who are given the benefit of that
It is a fundamental tenet of our democratic system that we have checks and
balances, that the powerful members of our community do not always have the
final voice, and that people can stand together and say, 'This is unacceptable.
We demand outcomes that benefit the collective, the whole or more than just
those who hold the reins of power or the reins of money'. This is what is so
deeply disturbing about this legislation. It gives so much unfettered and
unchecked power to police to move people on, and not just move them on but to
take their names. They can be in a book for 12 months. Shut it down!
This is not said lightly by members on this side of the house, but this
legislation is similar to that introduced by a former Premier of Queensland, Joh
Bjelke-Petersen, whereby if two people were together, it was an unlawful
association. This is a very slippery slope that will impact dramatically on the
rights of all of our citizens. Those of us who have lived in Queensland or know
people there are aware of the dark days when civil liberties and rights -- --
Mr Pakula interjected.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER -- Order! The member for Lyndhurst should listen to the
member for Brunswick.
Ms GARRETT -- We stand here proudly as a party united with our brothers #match33" id="match32">#FF0000">and
sisters in the trade union movement. We stand here proudly with the citizens of
Victoria who want the right to be able to call on this government to change its
legislative agenda #match34" id="match33">#FF0000">and to implement policies to protect their communities. We do
so with passion #match35" id="match34">#FF0000">and pride. If we are elected in November, this legislation will
be repealed. We call on this government to reflect on its covenant with the
Victorian people. Once again we are here debating an absolute breach of that
covenant. Those opposite should hang their heads in shame.
Mr WATT (Burwood) -- I rise to speak on the Summary #match36" id="match35">#FF0000">Offences #match36" id="match35">#FF0000">and #match36" id="match35">#FF0000">Sentencing
Amendment Bill 2013. I have sat here for the whole debate #match37" id="match36">#FF0000">and listened to the
empty rhetoric from those on the other side. The member for Brunswick has been
the only one on the other side who has provided any real substance or has not
The member for Brunswick has quite clearly put it out there and she has exposed
why those on the opposite side are so opposed to this bill. I think I heard the
words 'union', 'CFMEU' and 'brothers and sisters' scattered throughout the
speech. It was all about the masters of those on the other side who are pulling
the strings, organising their preselections, deciding who comes into this place
and deciding what they will say. It is all about those on the other side who are
dancing to the tune of their masters, and that is why they are so opposed to
Honourable members interjecting.
I will put it simply, because there are many on this side of the house who want
to contribute to this very important bill, the #match7" id="match6">#FF0000">Summary #match7" id="match6">#FF0000">Offences #match7" id="match6">#FF0000">and #match7" id="match6">#FF0000">Sentencing
Amendment Bill 2013. I will confine my comments to 5 minutes. This bill is
nothing more than a Trojan Horse ridden by the ghost of Joh Bjelke-Petersen. I
remember the times of Joh Bjelke-Petersen. I remember the flight of many
Queenslanders who got caught up in peaceful, legitimate protests on the streets
at a time when not even five people could congregate without breaking the law
because of the conservative bent of an illegitimate government in Queensland.
This bill stinks of that.
I remind the house of the legitimate protests of ordinary Victorians that have
occurred and will continue to occur, whether it is a single Victorian, such as
the one who has been sleeping on the steps of Parliament for weeks on end now,
or hundreds and thousands of Victorians who want to legitimately express a view
about whatever it is that is of concern to them -- government policy, opposition
policy or whatever it might be. They all have a right to protest and they should
not be exposed to the type of draconian legislation that we are now sadly
debating in this house. I am proud to be a member of an opposition that has
declared unequivocally that in the event of its winning the election in November
it will repeal this insidious legislation.
Let me remind the house of the kinds of protests that this bill will seek to
scuttle. Taxi licence holders protested peacefully late last year outside the
office of a member for Northern Metropolitan Region in the Council.
The member called the police on that peaceful protest of family members who,
under this government, were going to lose their livelihood and perhaps their
house. That is the attitude of this government. Is it any wonder that today we
are confronted by this bill and this insidious Trojan Horse, which will allow
this government to take action in relation to protests by ordinary Victorians?
Many Victorians do not have access to the ears of government through any means
other than their own voices and their own presence. They seek to collectively
take a stand for what they believe is right. Whether I agree with them or not,
whether the government agrees with them or not, everyone has the right to do
that. It may be taxi licence holders or it may be textile, clothing and footwear
workers who are losing their jobs marching down the street. It may be people
like my mother, who did that. It may be people disputing a pipeline. You only
have to ask the previous Minister for Water about how peaceful some of those
protests were. This bill will mute every single one of those protests.
That is what the government is attempting to do today. The objective of this
bill is to demonise organised voices that come together with a common belief to
exercise a democratic right in between elections.
This is what democracy is about. Those on the other side pretend that this is
somehow about letting ordinary people get on with the business of everyday life.
I will stand up to my death to protect and preserve the rights of people to
voice their opinions, whether I believe in those opinions or not. Many people in
the 1970s and 1980s, and even up until the 1990s, protested on the streets
against nuclear war and the build-up of nuclear weapons. Those were legitimate
voices, whether I agreed with them or not -- which I happened to do. That was
legitimate protest, and this bill cuts through and ignores all of those
I ask this government whose voices it wants to hear in between elections.
Does it want to just hear the voices at the business lunches it has, where
people can buy
access and have their voices heard through lobbyists? If government members
think that is sufficient to ensure a viable, thriving democracy, then they have
sorely misunderstood their role in government and the importance and
pre-eminence of citizens -- of every Victorian, whether as a lone voice or as
part of a collective of 100 000 people -- to be able to exercise their rights
and protest against any decision at any time peacefully, legitimately and with
Members of this government will rue the day they start applying this law to
people who have a legitimate concern and are under suspicion at the whim of an
authorised officer. They might be mothers who are crying over the deaths of
their sons because of ambulance delays, they might be taxi licence holders or
they might be workers at Golden Circle. This week 120 workers at Golden Circle
are on a picket line because this government is failing the manufacturing
This government has been happy to not say even one word in support of those
workers in Mill Park whose factory is closing down in March with the loss of 120
jobs to Queensland. Theirs is a legitimate protest because this government has
no plan to save jobs. These are the voices of people in my community for whom I
will advocate #match8" id="match7">#FF0000">and support their right to express their protest to the death.
Members of this government should be ashamed of themselves.
Ms KANIS (Melbourne) -- The member for Ferntree Gully ranted at us for 10
minutes about unions and what we will and will not do. He has now left the
chamber, but let me clarify Labor's position on this bill. Labor will oppose the
bill. We oppose the bill because it amounts to criminalisation of all forms of
protest in this state. I emphasise the word 'all'. In our view the bill is
draconian, antidemocratic and unnecessary.
What is also awful about this bill is the fact that it is a cynical, tricky and
unworthy wedge device. The government has combined the move-on powers in the
bill with its alcohol-exclusion order provisions.
While we believe the alcohol-exclusion provisions are unworkable and
unenforceable, they are not offensive to us. We are calling on the government to
split the bill. If the bill is split, as the member for Lyndhurst outlined in
his contribution, we will vote for the alcohol-exclusion provisions that make up
part 3 of the bill. However, we defend the right of Victorians to protest. We
oppose the move-on powers contained in the bill, and if elected, we will repeal
The member for Ferntree Gully in his contribution was waving papers around and
yelling at us, but he did not
talk about the bill in any depth or detail at all. The bill increases the scope
and breadth of police move-on powers and substantially narrows the current
exceptions to these powers that protect protest, freedom of expression and
freedom of assembly. The bill also introduces exclusion orders that can be made
against specific individuals banning them from attending particular public
places if a certain number of move-on orders have been made against them in a
specific period of time.
Currently a member of the police force or a protective services officer (PSO) on
duty at a designated place can give a direction to a person or a group of people
in a public place to leave that public place, but the move-on powers currently
in law have exceptions. The bill increases the situations in which a move-on
direction can be given. It empowers police or PSOs to request that a person or a
group of people move on in a whole range of situations.
This is what we in the Labor Party find so objectionable, because in our view
these powers make all forms of protest in Victoria potentially unlawful.
The current legislation says that move-on powers do not apply to people who,
alone or in a group, are picketing a place of employment, demonstrating or
protesting about a particular issue, or speaking, bearing or otherwise
identifying with a banner, placard or sign, or otherwise behaving in a way that
is apparently intended to publicise the person's view about a particular issue.
The changes made by this bill would limit these exceptions. The practical
implication of this is that a protest exemption to the move-on powers would no
longer apply in picket or blockade situations.
In our view these changes would mean that protest action that attempts to more
directly achieve protest objectives, through picketing or blockading entrances
in particular, will be subject to move-on powers and the provisions which allow
for arrests for breaching move-on directions will lead to an increased
criminalisation of all such forms of protest.
We have heard a lot of discussion from the other side about unlawful protest.
This bill increases the gamut of what an unlawful protest is. In our view that
is not acceptable. In Victoria and in any democracy people have a right to
peacefully and forcefully express their views. It is quite interesting that this
bill is being brought in at a time when this government is facing more and more
protest on the streets about its agenda. We are seeing the rise of community
action against this government because the community is so disgusted with what
is happening. It is telling that this bill attacks the basic democratic right to
I would like to read a quote from a submission by the Flemington and Kensington
Community Legal Centre to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee in
relation to this bill because it articulates what is at stake. The submission
- Where violence or aggression has occurred during protest activity --
and I emphasise this --
- police already have an array of offences available to charge if they deem
- Victoria is free from the sorts of political violence associated with less
free, more authoritarian and non-democratic countries elsewhere.
- We have [been] successful in balancing concerns about disruptions and violence
during protests with the right to freedom of movement, freedom of expression,
peaceful assembly and freedom of association so far in Victoria.
- Non-violent interventions in all their forms are the last form of protest
action for Victorian citizens who feel that, according to their conscience and
beliefs, they need to make a stand and put their bodies, as it were, 'on the
- We may not agree with all of the reasons for a particular protest and we can
argue the facts back and forth as any good democratic society should. But
generally, and as history has most often proven, they are good and courageous
people, and if we criminalise the option of intervening in an injustice
occurring, we reduce the role of these brave people throughout our history who
have dared stand up to greed, destruction, injustice or exploitation.
In my view the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre in its
submission captures the danger of this bill. We are a free and democratic
society in Victoria, and we do not want to see the struggles that occur in
societies in which people are restricted from protesting. This bill goes too
We have all been inconvenienced by protests, student occupations, rallies or
protest marches through our streets, but this bill suggests that inconvenience
is too great a price to pay. I put it to you, Acting Speaker, that that
inconvenience is a good price to pay for a community and a society that allows
people to express their views. That temporary inconvenience is something we need
for people to have their voices heard. It is okay for us here in Parliament; we
can get up, say what we like and have our voices heard, but many people in our
community do not have that opportunity. The only thing they can do is protest.
To restrict protests in this way attacks the democratic basis of our community,
and that is why we do not support these move-on powers. Let me be absolutely
clear: we will repeal these move-on powers when we are elected to government.
Ms HUTCHINS (Keilor) -- I rise to speak on the Summary #match19" id="match18">#FF0000">Offences #match19" id="match18">#FF0000">and #match19" id="match18">#FF0000">Sentencing
Amendment Bill 2013. Labor will be opposing this bill because, quite frankly, it
amounts to the criminalisation of organised labour. The government's intent is
to stop democratic processes going forward. Government members do not want to
hear when someone is objecting. They do not want to have people on the streets
objecting to their cuts #match20" id="match19">#FF0000">and changes.
They want to shut things down so that those who want to have a say will feel
threatened by the law through the clauses proposed in this bill. Previous
speakers have called on the government to split the bill into two parts so that
the alcohol-exclusion provisions can be dealt with separately. However, as
previous speakers on the other side of the house have indicated, the government
does not intend to do that. It wants to tie up all of these issues to hide the
fact that it wants to stop the right of Victorians to protest.
The move-on laws are absolutely objectionable to us, as they should be to
members of any democratic state. The bill extends the circumstances in which
people can be directed to move on, and it applies some of these circumstances to
previously excluded persons such as protesters.
Under these laws a protective services officer or a police officer has the power
to move on protesters under threat of arrest if they merely suspect on
reasonable grounds that the person has either committed an offence in that
place, is causing a reasonable apprehension of violence to another person, is
causing or is likely to cause an unreasonable obstruction to others, is present
for the purpose of procuring or supplying drugs, or is attempting to impede any
person from lawfully entering or leaving a premises or parts of a premises.
Some of the speakers on the other side of the house have talked about applying
common sense. We already have laws in place to deal with all of those situations
which police have the right to act on. What the government really wants to do is
shut down the voices
of common people who want to exercise their right to protest.
Those opposite say, 'Let us apply common sense to these situations'. I draw the
house's attention to a common-sense example. Over summer there was a protest in
the suburb of Taylors Hill in my electorate. In fact it was a protest that
affected my family. My brother came home from work and he could not enter his
house. The protest involved about eight kids who live on his street. They had
blockaded his door with bikes and were chanting, 'Set Gus free' -- Gus being my
nephew, who was banned from playing with kids on the street. They were there
protesting for an hour. If those opposite want to talk about common sense, I
would ask them if the purpose of this bill is to stop kids such as those in
Taylors Hill from protesting against parents' decisions to stop a kid from
playing? In common-sense terms, if this bill passes, that is the sort of protest
that could be stopped. That is the sort of protest where police could move in.
The police could ask such kids for their names and addresses, and they could
actually fine them $720 for breaching this law. That is how absolutely
ridiculous these laws are. No common sense is being used. Currently the
government wants to market this provision to Victorians as a bill that is about
drug dealing, violence and unlawful protest, but really the scope is much wider.
I think my example of the kids protesting in the streets of my electorate over
the right of their friends to have a play goes to the core of how ridiculous
this bill is. The government wants to shut people down for having their say.
I have been a unionist since the day I started work, and I have never attended
so many rallies as I have in the last 12 months, out in front of this place and
in the streets of Melbourne -- people using their right to protest against the
cuts this government has put in place.
Mr Watt interjected.
Ms HUTCHINS -- No, what you want to do as a government is shut down the right
of people to speak, shut down the right of nurses to protest and shut down the
rights of teachers, health workers, disability workers and taxidrivers -- they
are all the people whose voices you want to shut down when they disagree with
what the government is doing to their wages and conditions and the provision of
services they put in place. That is what this is about -- shutting down
democracy and people's voices -- and it is an absolute disgrace.
We have heard government members opposing the rights of unionists to protest
even when they have legal protection in the process of workplace bargaining --
even when they can be out there demonstrating. It is a direct attack on the
democratic rights and freedoms of people, and I quote Elizabeth O'Shea, a lawyer
with Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who has represented not only a whole range of
asylum seekers in courts of law but also the protesters from Tecoma. She said:
- This is a direct attack on democratic freedoms that people have historically
fought hard to protect. It effectively criminalises a range of behaviours that
are fundamental to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
It is a freedom that I fought hard for many years to defend and will continue to
fight hard to defend in this place. I am proud to say that my history is steeped
in the actions of being able to protest against any government changes that may
affect workers' lives.
In 1998 a waterfront dispute here in Melbourne led to a three-week protest at
Webb Dock in which I was very involved, negotiating day in, day out with
Victoria Police at the time to ensure that that was a peaceful protest.
Mr Burgess -- Negotiating with the police?
Ms HUTCHINS -- I was negotiating for peaceful protests to proceed over three
weeks of protests at the waterfront, and I have to say it was a peaceful protest
during that time. The 1400 workers who were sacked from their jobs and were
fighting for the right to be reinstated ended up having the law on their side
after that protest. Through the Federal Court and the High Court they were found
to be acting in a lawful way to protect their jobs, and the actions of collusion
by both the company and the federal government at the time were found to be
unlawful. That dispute is part of Victorian and Australian history now, and it
demonstrates just how peaceful protest can bring about change and a better
The move-on powers in this bill are draconian, they are Bjelke-Petersen in style
and they mean we have set off down a slippery slope. They infringe the vital
rights that exist in a free democracy, and they infringe the right to protest.
Labor will defend the right of Victorians to protest.
We will oppose these move-on powers, we will oppose this bill #match21" id="match20">#FF0000">and, when we are
elected in November, we will repeal this legislation.
Mr BROOKS (Bundoora) -- It is a real pleasure to join in this debate on the
#match29" id="match28">#FF0000">Summary #match29" id="match28">#FF0000">Offences #match29" id="match28">#FF0000">and #match29" id="match28">#FF0000">Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013.
At the very outset I want to clarify and repeat the point that has been made by
the lead speaker and other members on this side of the house that the opposition
does not oppose part 3 of this bill, which relates to alcohol-exclusion orders.
If the government were to split this bill, we would support that part of the
bill through the house. We think it is a cynical ploy that the government has
attached that part to the remainder of the bill that relates to the move-on
powers at this point, because otherwise we would have
been able to have that alcohol-exclusion order part of the bill moved through
the house without dissension.
The remainder of this bill deals with the move-on powers that have been central
to the debate in the chamber today, and it has become very clear from listening
to the contributions of members opposite that this bill is all about the unions.
It has become very clear. The Attorney-General in introducing this bill did not
mention unions, but it has become very clear that members of the government have
not been able to help themselves today. They have been frothing at the mouth and
falling over themselves to speak, to condemn unions, to run out their lines
about the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and to tell
all of the horror stories they like to trot out under the cover of parliamentary
privilege. But we have seen the real reason that this bill has been brought into
I think they would have been much better off to have been up-front with the
Victorian public and specifically said that this bill is about curbing union
power. If that is the case that people have been making today, that is what they
should have said from the outset. They should be up-front with people.
I would have thought a bill that contained so much restriction on people's
freedoms, whether you agree with the restrictions or not, would have been
adequately covered, explored and discussed in the Scrutiny of Acts and
Regulations Committee (SARC) report. I would have thought that that committee,
considering the important role it plays, would have given this matter serious
discussion and provided members of this house with a thorough explanation and
discussion of the issues, in particular addressing the submissions that were
made to that committee. I went to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee
Alert Digest No. 1 of 2014 and the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities
report is restricted to three small paragraphs.
It concludes with the words, 'The committee makes no further comment'.
Interestingly I gather from the minutes there was a difference of opinion on the
committee because there was a vote that indicates that government MPs on this
matter decided to vote in favour of the report that went into the Alert Digest
and the Labor members voted against it. I can only assume from that that there
was a disagreement at SARC about the content of this report. It is a very brief
report. It is symptomatic of this very issue where a government is trying to
shut down debate and lawful protest. It shut down proper discussion of this bill
in the duly constituted committee process of this Parliament. It is an absolute
sham. SARC is not functioning properly.
Members of this house on both sides rely upon the Scrutiny of Acts and
Regulations Committee to provide it with the information the house needs to be
able to debate legislation properly, and we have heard contributions from
members opposite who do not understand parts of this bill and do not understand
the concerns about it. It is impossible to respond to the concerns that have
been raised in the community if you have not had the benefit of a SARC report
that explains what those concerns are. As I said, even if at the end of that
process you disagree with the report or those views, SARC should provide a full
If we go back to the last substantial changes to the Summary Offences and
Controlled Weapons Acts Amendment Bill in 2009 when Labor was in government, we
see that the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee published a fulsome
report in its Alert Digest No. 14 of 2009.
The report ran for some 14 pages, with 7 pages of discussion on the impacts on
the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. It is obvious that this
government, through the SARC process, has shut down any proper discussion of
these matters, despite a submission -- not from labour movement organisations,
not from unions, not from the CFMEU but from the Law Institute of Victoria --
- The legal effect of this bill, if enacted in its current form, would be to
limit the ability of individuals and groups to assemble and protest in public.
The Law Institute of Victoria said that. This is not the CFMEU or some union;
this is the Law Institute of Victoria. That is a fact that this government has
chosen to ignore, and it does so at its own peril.
The Victorian Council of Social Service also expressed concern about the bill's
- ... on vulnerable groups who are highly visible in public spaces --
this is in relation to the impact of potential move-on orders --
- including homeless people, people with mental health and drug and alcohol
issues, Aboriginal people and young people.
Similar concerns were expressed by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human
Rights Commission. Its submissions to the Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations
Committee inquiry and to the government were ignored, and I think that is a
The main concern I have with this bill, and which I share with members on this
side of the house, is that the threshold test -- the low bar that needs to be
over -- for a police officer or a protective services officer (PSO) to move
someone on or to potentially arrest them is that they need to have a reasonable
suspicion that someone is likely to cause an unreasonable obstruction or a
reasonable suspicion that someone is attempting to impede someone else. That
could be just about anything. Just about anything anybody does could fall under
that definition. I want to come back to that point, but I think it says
something about this government that when the manufacturing sector in this state
is dying, jobs are leaving this state, the crime rate is up, TAFE is in crisis
and ambulances cannot get their patients into hospitals, this Parliament is
debating the shutting down of protest action. That is what we are debating in
this Parliament today. The Victorian people would like us to be debating the
issues that really affect them, not the curtailment of their rights to protest.
It is absolutely outrageous.
I suggest to the member for South Barwon that the people of Geelong do not want
their rights to protest curtailed but are more interested in jobs for the future
-- highly skilled, high-wage jobs in the local community. My advice to the
member for South Barwon is that he focus on providing jobs for his community.
As I said, the test the bill provides for a PSO or a police officer moving
someone on or arresting them would see people who gather on the front steps of
Parliament House moved on or arrested. Over the last three years we have seen
many people protesting against the mean-spirited character and incompetence of
this government. In June 2012 and February 2013 hardworking teachers in
Victorian schools -- people who we entrust our children's education to -- fought
not just for their wages and conditions but also against the cuts this
government made to their schools. Under this bill they could have and probably
would have been moved on or arrested.
TAFE staff who protested in Treasury Gardens in September 2012 also could have
been moved on or arrested because there was a reasonable suspicion they might
impede or obstruct others.
My colleague the member for Ivanhoe and I, along with other members representing
nearby electorates, gathered at a protest in Burgundy Street to force the
government to fund the last stage of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness
Centre. Would that protest have been shut down or people moved on under this
bill? The nurses -- people who care for the sick and frail in hospitals -- who
rallied on the front steps of Parliament House, not just for their own wages and
conditions but also against the cuts that this government had made to the health
system, would have been moved off the front steps of Parliament House and told
to move on or they would be arrested. Taxidrivers, firefighters and other
hardworking Victorians will have their rights taken away from them by this mean,
In my local community just a week ago a group of 50 residents gathered at a
small local park that the local council -- dominated by Liberals, as it happens
-- wants to flog off to developers. A former member for Eltham is on that
council #match30" id="match29">#FF0000">and is driving that process. I imagine that most of those present --
children, older people, mums #match31" id="match30">#FF0000">and dads -- would never have been in a union or
have attended a protest before. They would have been affected by this law --
they could have been moved on #match32" id="match31">#FF0000">and arrested if they did not move on. This law is
an absolute disgrace, #match33" id="match32">#FF0000">and it should not be accepted by this Parliament. As I
said, it impacts on all Victorians by restricting their rights #match34" id="match33">#FF0000">and freedoms. It
is a bad law introduced by a desperate, rotten government, #match35" id="match34">#FF0000">and it should be
Ms HALFPENNY (Thomastown) -- Firstly, I would like to repeat what has been said many times by members of the Labor Party. That is that we have consistently asked that this bill be split into two parts -- one to talk about how to deal with alcohol-fuelled violence, and the other to talk about people's democratic right to protest. There are already laws to deal with obstruction and interference with trade, and it is not necessary to have laws that go further than that. The bill we are talking about today provides for the arrest, jailing and fining of people who are merely protesting and upholding their right to protest. There are already laws to deal with all those other things.
This legislation talks about people's fundamental right to protest.
They also have a right to only be accused and found guilty of things they have actually done. This legislation provides police with the ability, if they think that maybe -- they are not quite sure, but maybe -- somebody might at some stage in the future do the wrong thing, to issue a notice to move that person on, just on the basis that a person may be doing something that a police officer may think is not the right thing to do. Again, there are laws to deal with a protester who is doing particular things, but they have to be things that the person has actually done, not simply things that they are alleged to have done. The matter then goes to court to determine whether in fact that person has committed an offence, rather than relying on the belief, suspicion or who knows what of a police officer who was at the protest.
This is a very undemocratic piece of legislation. It is not just about industrial relations protesters. It is not just about workers pursuing their rights.
It is also about other protesters, whether they be trying to preserve historic buildings or complaining about a big corporation that wants to ruin their community and their enjoyment of life. These are the things that people protest about, and they have a right to do so. We on this side of the house are opposed to any legislation that reduces the democratic right of people to protest. As has been stated previously, the Labor Party has committed to repeal this legislation if elected in November.
Dear Mr. Ronalds,
I write on behalf of the Victorian and Tasmanian branch of Sustainable Population Australia. We are most alarmed by the prospect of the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill being passed by the Upper House of State Parliament.
We believe that this harsh legislation is completely unnecessary in a society which is continually being undermined and is struggling to maintain work and environmental standards. This legislation is a further and heavy blow to democracy placing ordinary citizens in a position of increased likelihood of coming up against the force of the law for simply using one of the few weapons left, the right to congregate to demonstrate a point.
This is of importance to our group as we are fighting to stabilise the population and to preserve our environment for future generations. This has involved attending public rallies for environmental causes. Governments need to be made aware of strong public opinion. The right for people to do this is in the interests of our shared future.
Please help to keep our democracy and vote “NO” when this legislation arises in the Upper House.
Jill Quirk, President , Sustainable Population Australia , Victorian and Tasmanian branch
P.O. Box 240 West Heidleberg 3081
Below are two speeches by Liberals arguing on behalf of the Bill. We have also published in another article, all the speeches we could find against the bill. Speeches against the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill (Victorian Parliament)You should read these to see why this is a problematic bill. Two most powerful points that come across in the speeches below against the impending Act are that the Labor Party was willing to go along with the Act regarding greater powers for arresting people who are intoxicated and dangerous. A related motion to divide the Act into two was unfortunately defeated. The Liberal Party lawmakers were accused of rolling this one reasonable change together with an unreasonable change to the Sentencing Act. The Second powerful point against the impending Act was that it is designed to stop unions from impeding the hiring of scab labour. This seems to be true. Given that Workers' Conditions have been eroded since the Howard Government in conjunction with vast increases in numbers of worker immigrants, this question of scab labour is bound to come up more frequently and desperately in Victoria, as businesses close down, cost of living rises (power, housing, water etc) and employers seek to drive wages down. The Liberal Members response to this last point was to use arcane theoretical examples, such as pretending that those against the Act would be wanting to allow people to stop members of the public from buying chocolates from shopkeepers they did not like. Go here to read the speeches against the Bill and to see who voted for it or against it.
SUMMARY OFFENCES AND SENTENCING AMENDMENT BILL 2013
Introduction and first reading
Received from Assembly.
Read first time for Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Liquor and Gaming Regulation) on motion of Hon. G. K. Rich-Phillips; by leave, ordered to be read second time forthwith.
Statement of compatibility
For Hon. E. J. O'DONOHUE (Minister for Liquor and Gaming Regulation), Hon. G. K. Rich-Phillips tabled following statement in accordance with Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006:
In accordance with section 28 of the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, (the 'charter act'), [Available here as a word doc and as a pdf file] I make this statement of compatibility with respect to the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013.
In my opinion, the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013, as introduced to the Legislative Council, is compatible with human rights as set out in the charter act. [CDB Editor: The clickable link gives you access to an extract of the actual 'rights'.] I base my opinion on the reasons outlined in this statement.
Overview of bill
The bill amends the Summary Offences Act 1966 by expanding the grounds on which police members and protective services officers (PSOs) may direct a person to move on from a public place, and enabling police members to apply to the Magistrates Court for an exclusion order where they have repeatedly been directed to move on from a public place. The bill also amends the Sentencing Act 1991 by creating a new alcohol-exclusion order that prohibits a person who has been convicted of a relevant offence, in circumstances where the person's intoxication was a significant contributing factor, from entering or consuming liquor in specified licensed premises in Victoria.
Human rights issues
Changes to move-on powers and the related exclusion orders
The bill expands the grounds on which the move-on powers under section 6 of the Summary Offences Act may be used. A person who is directed to move on from a public place by police members or PSOs must leave that public place and is prohibited from returning to it for up to 24 hours. The related exclusion orders also prohibit a person from entering a particular public place but for up to 12 months.
The amendments impose a limitation on an individual's right to move freely within Victoria as set out in section 12 of the charter act and may, in certain circumstances, limit the rights to freedom of expression (section 15),
["15. Freedom of expression
(1) Every person has the right to hold an opinion
(2) Every person has the right to freedom of
expression which includes the freedom to seek,
receive and impart information and ideas of all
kinds, whether within or outside Victoria and
(a) orally; or
(b) in writing; or
(c) in print; or
(d) by way of art; or
(e) in another medium chosen by him or her.
(3) Special duties and responsibilities are attached to
the right of freedom of expression and the right
may be subject to lawful restrictions reasonably
(a) to respect the rights and reputation of other
(b) for the protection of national security, public
order, public health or public morality."
and peaceful assembly and freedom of association (section 16).
["16. Peaceful assembly and freedom of association
(1) Every person has the right of peaceful assembly.
(2) Every person has the right to freedom of
association with others, including the right to form
and join trade unions."
However, for the reasons that follow these limitations are consistent with explicit or implicit internal limits on the rights or are reasonable and justified under section 7(2) of the charter act.
["7. Human rights—what they are and when they may
(1) This Part sets out the human rights that Parliament
specifically seeks to protect and promote.
(2) A human right may be subject under law only to
such reasonable limits as can be demonstrably
justified in a free and democratic society based on
human dignity, equality and freedom, and taking
into account all relevant factors including—
(a) the nature of the right; and
(b) the importance of the purpose of the
(c) the nature and extent of the limitation; and
(d) the relationship between the limitation and
its purpose; and
(e) any less restrictive means reasonably
available to achieve the purpose that the
limitation seeks to achieve.
(3) Nothing in this Charter gives a person, entity or
public authority a right to limit (to a greater extent
than is provided for in this Charter) or destroy the
human rights of any person."]
All of these charter act rights can be subject to restrictions, including to protect public order, public safety and the rights and freedoms of others. Section 15 contains an explicit internal limitation to this effect (section 15(3)), but the other sections may be implicitly limited in the same way (in accordance with the reasoning in Magee v. Delaney  VSC 407). In the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, from which each of these charter act rights is derived, there are express internal limitations for each of the rights in relation to measures that are necessary to protect public order, public health or morals, or the rights and freedoms of others (see article 12(3) on freedom of movement, article 19(3) on freedom of expression, article 21 on peaceful assembly and article 22 on freedom of association). Although these internal limitations do not appear in the relevant charter act rights, the internal limitations in the international covenant illustrate matters that may be considered to justify limitations on those rights in accordance with section 7(2).
The new grounds for the use of move-on powers are aimed at protecting public safety and order and the rights and freedoms of others. The grounds ensure there is an appropriate balance between the right to freedom of movement, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association of one individual and the protection of the rights of others, including the rights of others to freedom of movement, privacy, property rights and security. These are important objectives that are sufficient to justify the bill's careful and safeguarded provisions and any limitations those provisions may impose on these charter act rights.
The bill includes a range of safeguards that minimise effects on the relevant charter act rights and ensure any limitation is reasonable. A police member or PSO may tailor a move-on direction as required. For example, a direction can be given in respect of an entire public place, or just part of that place.
The duration of the direction cannot exceed 24 hours and need not be for the full 24 hours.
The making of an exclusion order by a court is discretionary and the court must be satisfied that an order would be a reasonable means of preventing that person from continuing to behave in a manner that would be the basis for another move-on direction. The court can tailor the scope of the order. For example, it may determine the nature and extent of the public place that the order applies to, and the duration of the order. Similarly, new section 6E(5) of the Summary Offences Act enables the court to allow a person to enter a place to which the exclusion order applies for specified purposes
where it is appropriate. Exclusion orders may also be varied upon application where the court is satisfied it is appropriate.
There are also specific safeguards around the enforcement of move-on directions and the related exclusion orders. For example, a person does not commit the offence of contravening a move-on direction where he or she has a reasonable excuse for doing so. A similar exclusion applies to the offence of contravening an exclusion order.
Section 6(5) of the Summary Offences Act excludes the use of move-on powers based on the grounds set out in section 6(1)(a) and new section 6(1)(f) in relation to a person who is picketing a place of employment, demonstrating, protesting or publicising his or her view about a particular issue. That exception will no longer apply to the grounds in sections 6(1)(b) and (c) nor to the remaining four new grounds.
Those grounds are more closely related to unlawful conduct and a move-on power on those grounds should not be excluded simply because a person is engaged in picketing, protest or publicising a view. The application of these grounds in such circumstances will assist police in protecting the rights of others and maintaining public safety and order.
Power to require name and address
The bill creates a new power enabling police members and PSOs to require a person being directed to move on to provide their name and address. The right to privacy set out in section 13 of the charter act is relevant to this power. However, in my view this provision is compatible with the right to privacy as it is lawful and not arbitrary. Police will only be able to utilise this power where they intend to direct a person to move on.
This new power will enable police to keep track of when a person has been repeatedly moved on for the purposes of applying for a related exclusion order. It will also assist police in determining whether a person contravenes a move-on direction. The use and disclosure of that information would be subject to the usual protections under the Information Privacy Act 2000.
The bill inserts a new power into the Summary Offences Act, which provides that a police member or a PSO may, without warrant, arrest a person if the officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the person is or has committed an offence against section 6(4) of the Summary Offences Act (contravention of a move-on direction). In my view these provisions are compatible with the right to liberty as the grounds for arrest are clear and appropriate, and cannot be regarded as arbitrary.
Section 6(4) also provides safeguards that minimise interference with liberty by expressly limiting the reasons for which a person may be detained in custody.
Alcohol-exclusion orders prohibit a person from entering into a range of licensed premises including nightclubs, bars, restaurants, reception centres and major events. These orders limit the right to freedom of movement and are relevant to the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
Alcohol-exclusion orders are aimed at protecting public order and the rights and freedoms of others, including the right to life and the right to liberty and security of a person.
The orders may only be made after a person has been convicted by a court of a relevant offence and the court is satisfied that the offender's intoxication significantly contributed to the commission of the offence.
There is a clear and rational connection between the limitation on the right to freedom of movement and the purpose of the order. Before making an order, a court must be satisfied that the person was intoxicated at the time of the offending. Further, that intoxication must have significantly contributed to the offending. Thus, any person subject to an order has demonstrated through their offending that they are a risk to public safety when intoxicated. The alcohol-exclusion order will reduce that risk by ensuring the person cannot enter or consume liquor in many places where they could otherwise become intoxicated in public.
The effect of an alcohol-exclusion order reflects the significant contribution of alcohol to that offending. Applying the order to a narrower range of licensed venues could channel those subject to the order towards those licensed venues not covered by the order and thus place the public at those venues at risk. The strong, mandatory scheme provided for in this bill is also intended to provide a clear and powerful deterrent against others committing relevant offences. The deterrence of a discretionary scheme would be undermined by cases where an order is not made.
As with the move-on-related exclusion orders, there are safeguards to ensure alcohol-exclusion orders do not inappropriately limit other rights. Courts may create conditions where appropriate allowing a person to enter licensed premises for specified purposes. Such purposes might include employment, reaching accommodation, or attending particular events where appropriate.
Section 89DG allows a person subject to the order to apply for its variation throughout the duration of the order. Given this capacity to adjust alcohol-exclusion orders appropriately if justified by a person's individual circumstances, I do not consider that they create an unreasonable limitation on the right to freedom of movement when balanced with the important objectives of the orders, including public safety and protecting the rights of others.
Offences for contravening exclusion orders
New sections 6G of the Summary Offences Act and 89DF(1) and (2) of the Sentencing Act make it an offence to contravene a move-on-related exclusion order or an alcohol-exclusion order.
Sections 6G(3) and 89DF(4) have the effect of placing an evidential onus on the accused where the prosecution adduces proof that the accused was present in court when the order was made, or proof of service of the order on the person. The right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law is relevant to these provisions. However, the right is not limited. Where the accused points to evidence that puts knowledge of the order at issue, the prosecution will still have a legal onus to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused knew or was reckless as to whether the order was in place.
Edward O'Donohue, MLC
Minister for Liquor and Gaming Regulation
Minister for Corrections
Minister for Crime Prevention
Ordered that second-reading speech be incorporated into Hansard on motion of Hon. G. K. RICH-PHILLIPS (Assistant Treasurer).
Hon. G. K. RICH-PHILLIPS (Assistant Treasurer) -- I move:
That the bill be now read a second time.
Incorporated speech as follows:
This bill makes important changes to the law to better protect the community from lawless behaviour on our streets and to deter and prevent alcohol-fuelled violence.
First, the bill amends the Summary Offences Act to give police clearer and more effective move-on powers and to create longer lasting exclusion orders.
Secondly, the bill delivers the government's election commitment to ban those convicted of alcohol-fuelled violence from licensed premises for two years.
Clearer and more effective move-on powers
Move-on powers provide police and PSOs with a useful tool for safeguarding the peaceful enjoyment of public spaces by all, as well as defusing situations that threaten public order and safety. Police and PSOs are currently able to direct people to move on from public places for a range of reasons. These include where they reasonably suspect that a person is breaching or is likely to breach the peace, or is endangering or is likely to endanger the safety of another.
The bill provides further grounds on which these powers may be used. Police and PSOs will be able to direct a person to move on from a public place if they suspect on reasonable grounds that a person:
has committed an offence in the place;
is causing a reasonable apprehension of violence to another person;
is causing, or is likely to cause, an unreasonable obstruction to others;
is present for the purpose of procuring or supplying drugs; or
is impeding, or attempting to impede, another person from lawfully entering or leaving premises or part of premises.
These new grounds will provide greater certainty for police members and PSOs as to when they may exercise move-on powers, and expand the range of circumstances in which such directions may be given.
Move-on powers may be applied in relation to one person or many.
The bill clarifies that police and PSOs may give one direction to an entire group rather than having individually to direct each person in the group to move on.
The bill continues to protect legitimate rights to lawful protest or demonstration, but it makes clear that if protesters go beyond legitimate expression of views and instead resort to threats of violence or seek to impede the rights of others to lawfully enter or leave premises, police will have the power to order those protesters to move on.
To this end, the bill provides that move-on powers may be used in respect of people engaged in picket lines, protests and other demonstrations. However, the existing ground relating to breach of peace and the new unreasonable obstruction ground will not apply in those situations.
These grounds are excluded because of the scope for dispute about their application in the context of demonstrations. Police will instead be able to rely on the impeding access ground and other grounds to deal with protesters who blockade or otherwise impede access to or from premises or who resort to threats of violence or to illegal conduct.
The bill will also improve the enforcement of move-on directions. For example, the bill expressly provides that police and PSOs may arrest a person who contravenes a move-on direction. The bill also assists the detection of such contraventions by providing that police may require a person being directed to move on to provide their name and address. Currently, police are unable to do this in many cases, making it difficult to detect contraventions of the move-on directions where the person returns a few hours later. This change will also enable police to keep a record of people who are repeatedly moved on.
Move-on-related exclusion orders
Move-on powers can keep a person away from a public place for up to 24 hours, but no more. Consequently, a person may return to the place and engage in the same conduct the very next day. This can be a particular issue where police know that people are returning to a certain area repeatedly, such as for the purpose of buying or selling drugs.
The bill addresses these situations by enabling police to apply to the Magistrates Court for an exclusion order against an individual.
The making of an exclusion order will be discretionary, and the court may only make an order if it is satisfied that:
a person has been repeatedly directed to move on from the same public place or part of a public place; and
an exclusion order would be a reasonable means of preventing that person from continuing to behave in a manner that would be the basis for another move-on direction.
If a court decides to make an exclusion order, it can specify a duration of up to 12 months. During that time a person will be prohibited from entering the public place specified in the order. However, the bill does allow the court to create conditions allowing a person to enter the place if there is a good reason for doing so and the court considers it appropriate in all the circumstances.
Once an exclusion order is in place, it will be an offence to contravene that order. The offence will carry a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.
These exclusion orders will give police a new tool for addressing low-level street drug dealing and for breaking up gangs that gather in public places to threaten people or engage in criminal behaviour.
The government made an election commitment to ban those found guilty of committing a violent offence while under the influence of alcohol from licensed premises for two years.
This bill makes amendments to the Sentencing Act 1991 to give effect to that commitment.
A high proportion of violent behaviour is caused by people who have had too much to drink. These measures will better protect the public from the recurrence of such behaviour and create a strong deterrent to the offender and to others.
Under the requirements, a court must make an alcohol-exclusion order where it is satisfied that:
a person has been convicted of a relevant offence;
the person was intoxicated at the time of the assault; and
the person's intoxication significantly contributed to the commission of the offence.
These orders will apply to most indictable offences against the person, ranging from homicides to intentionally causing injury, as well as to sexual assaults such as rape or indecent assault, and to offences such as threats to kill and assaulting police.
Alcohol-exclusion orders will prohibit the offender from entering specified licensed premises or consuming liquor in any licensed premises anywhere in Victoria for a period of two years. Where an offender goes to jail for their offence, the exclusion will apply from the time they are released from jail. Where an offender is sentenced to a community correction order of longer than two years, the court will be able to impose alcohol treatment conditions that will continue to operate after expiry of the alcohol-exclusion order.
The licensed premises from which persons are excluded are the same as those covered by alcohol-exclusion conditions made under a community correction order pursuant to section 48J of the Sentencing Act 1991. These include nightclubs and bars -- including pubs -- as well as licensed restaurants and cafes. Bar areas of other licensed premises will also be covered, including hotel bars and bars at sporting grounds and clubs. A person is also prohibited from entering major events covered by a relevant liquor license, such as the formula one grand prix.
Provision is made for the court on application to vary the exclusion conditions in circumstances where that is justified, such as where a person lives above licensed premises or works at licensed premises. A court may also allow a person to enter licensed premises for a specified purpose if there is a good reason and the court considers it appropriate. However, the courts cannot allow a person to drink on those premises.
Contravention of an alcohol-exclusion order will be an offence, carrying a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.
Alcohol-exclusion orders will send a clear message that drunken, violent behaviour will not be tolerated in Victoria and that those who engage in it will face significant consequences for their personal and social life, in addition to whatever other sentence they receive.
I commend the bill to the house.
Debate adjourned on motion of Ms MIKAKOS (Northern Metropolitan).
We have published Part 2 of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 here to give some convenient access to the rights accorded there. Obviously people need to read the whole act to see how these rights are defined and how and if they may be enforced. All acts passed by the Victorian Parliament are supposed to be compatible with these rights.
Extract from Victorian Human Rights Act 2006
[You can also download a word.doc copy of the full act here.]
PART 2—HUMAN RIGHTS
7. Human rights—what they are and when they may
(1) This Part sets out the human rights that Parliament
specifically seeks to protect and promote.
(2) A human right may be subject under law only to
such reasonable limits as can be demonstrably
justified in a free and democratic society based on
human dignity, equality and freedom, and taking
into account all relevant factors including—
(a) the nature of the right; and
(b) the importance of the purpose of the
(c) the nature and extent of the limitation; and
(d) the relationship between the limitation and
its purpose; and
(e) any less restrictive means reasonably
available to achieve the purpose that the
limitation seeks to achieve.
(3) Nothing in this Charter gives a person, entity or
public authority a right to limit (to a greater extent
than is provided for in this Charter) or destroy the
human rights of any person.
8. Recognition and equality before the law
(1) Every person has the right to recognition as a
person before the law.
(2) Every person has the right to enjoy his or her
human rights without discrimination.
(3) Every person is equal before the law and is
entitled to the equal protection of the law without
discrimination and has the right to equal and
effective protection against discrimination.
(4) Measures taken for the purpose of assisting or
advancing persons or groups of persons
disadvantaged because of discrimination do not
9. Right to life
Every person has the right to life and has the right
not to be arbitrarily deprived of life.
10. Protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or
A person must not be—
(a) subjected to torture; or
(b) treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or
degrading way; or
(c) subjected to medical or scientific
experimentation or treatment without his or
her full, free and informed consent.
11. Freedom from forced work
(1) A person must not be held in slavery or servitude.
(2) A person must not be made to perform forced or
(3) For the purposes of sub-section (2) "forced or
compulsory labour" does not include—
(a) work or service normally required of a
person who is under detention because of a
lawful court order or who, under a lawful
court order, has been conditionally released
from detention or ordered to perform work in
the community; or
(b) work or service required because of an
emergency threatening the Victorian
community or a part of the Victorian
(c) work or service that forms part of normal
(4) In this section "court order" includes an order
made by a court of another jurisdiction.
12. Freedom of movement
Every person lawfully within Victoria has the
right to move freely within Victoria and to enter
and leave it and has the freedom to choose where
13. Privacy and reputation
A person has the right—
(a) not to have his or her privacy, family, home
or correspondence unlawfully or arbitrarily
interfered with; and
(b) not to have his or her reputation unlawfully
14. Freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief
(1) Every person has the right to freedom of thought,
conscience, religion and belief, including—
(a) the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or
belief of his or her choice; and
(b) the freedom to demonstrate his or her
religion or belief in worship, observance,
practice and teaching, either individually or
as part of a community, in public or in
(2) A person must not be coerced or restrained in a
way that limits his or her freedom to have or adopt
a religion or belief in worship, observance,
practice or teaching.
15. Freedom of expression
(1) Every person has the right to hold an opinion
(2) Every person has the right to freedom of
expression which includes the freedom to seek,
receive and impart information and ideas of all
kinds, whether within or outside Victoria and
(a) orally; or
(b) in writing; or
(c) in print; or
(d) by way of art; or
(e) in another medium chosen by him or her.
(3) Special duties and responsibilities are attached to
the right of freedom of expression and the right
may be subject to lawful restrictions reasonably
(a) to respect the rights and reputation of other
(b) for the protection of national security, public
order, public health or public morality.
16. Peaceful assembly and freedom of association
(1) Every person has the right of peaceful assembly.
(2) Every person has the right to freedom of
association with others, including the right to form
and join trade unions.
17. Protection of families and children
(1) Families are the fundamental group unit of society
and are entitled to be protected by society and the
(2) Every child has the right, without discrimination,
to such protection as is in his or her best interests
and is needed by him or her by reason of being a
18. Taking part in public life
(1) Every person in Victoria has the right, and is to
have the opportunity, without discrimination, to
participate in the conduct of public affairs,
directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Every eligible person has the right, and is to have
the opportunity, without discrimination—
(a) to vote and be elected at periodic State and
municipal elections that guarantee the free
expression of the will of the electors; and
(b) to have access, on general terms of equality,
to the Victorian public service and public
19. Cultural rights
(1) All persons with a particular cultural, religious,
racial or linguistic background must not be denied
the right, in community with other persons of that
background, to enjoy his or her culture, to declare
and practise his or her religion and to use his or
(2) Aboriginal persons hold distinct cultural rights
and must not be denied the right, with other
members of their community—
(a) to enjoy their identity and culture; and
(b) to maintain and use their language; and
(c) to maintain their kinship ties; and
(d) to maintain their distinctive spiritual,
material and economic relationship with the
land and waters and other resources with
which they have a connection under
traditional laws and customs.
20. Property rights
A person must not be deprived of his or her
property other than in accordance with law.
21. Right to liberty and security of person
(1) Every person has the right to liberty and security.
(2) A person must not be subjected to arbitrary arrest
(3) A person must not be deprived of his or her liberty
except on grounds, and in accordance with
procedures, established by law.
(4) A person who is arrested or detained must be
informed at the time of arrest or detention of the
reason for the arrest or detention and must be
promptly informed about any proceedings to be
brought against him or her.
(5) A person who is arrested or detained on a criminal
(a) must be promptly brought before a court; and
(b) has the right to be brought to trial without
unreasonable delay; and
(c) must be released if paragraph (a) or (b) is not
(6) A person awaiting trial must not be automatically
detained in custody, but his or her release may be
subject to guarantees to appear—
(a) for trial; and
(b) at any other stage of the judicial proceeding;
(c) if appropriate, for execution of judgment.
(7) Any person deprived of liberty by arrest or
detention is entitled to apply to a court for a
declaration or order regarding the lawfulness of
his or her detention, and the court must—
(a) make a decision without delay; and
(b) order the release of the person if it finds that
the detention is unlawful.
(8) A person must not be imprisoned only because of
his or her inability to perform a contractual
22. Humane treatment when deprived of liberty
(1) All persons deprived of liberty must be treated
with humanity and with respect for the inherent
dignity of the human person.
(2) An accused person who is detained or a person
detained without charge must be segregated from
persons who have been convicted of offences,
except where reasonably necessary.
(3) An accused person who is detained or a person
detained without charge must be treated in a way
that is appropriate for a person who has not been
23. Children in the criminal process
(1) An accused child who is detained or a child
detained without charge must be segregated from
all detained adults.
(2) An accused child must be brought to trial as
quickly as possible.
(3) A child who has been convicted of an offence
must be treated in a way that is appropriate for his
or her age.
24. Fair hearing
(1) A person charged with a criminal offence or a
party to a civil proceeding has the right to have
the charge or proceeding decided by a competent,
independent and impartial court or tribunal after a
fair and public hearing.
(2) Despite sub-section (1), a court or tribunal may
exclude members of media organisations or other
persons or the general public from all or part of a
hearing if permitted to do so by a law other than
Note: For example, section 19 of the Supreme Court
Act 1986 sets out the circumstances in which the
Supreme Court may close all or part of a proceeding
to the public. See also section 80AA of the County
Court Act 1958 and section 126 of the Magistrates'
Court Act 1989.
(3) All judgments or decisions made by a court or
tribunal in a criminal or civil proceeding must be
made public unless the best interests of a child
otherwise requires or a law other than this Charter
25. Rights in criminal proceedings
(1) A person charged with a criminal offence has the
right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty
according to law.
(2) A person charged with a criminal offence is
entitled without discrimination to the following
(a) to be informed promptly and in detail of the
nature and reason for the charge in a
language or, if necessary, a type of
communication that he or she speaks or
(b) to have adequate time and facilities to
prepare his or her defence and to
communicate with a lawyer or advisor
chosen by him or her; and
(c) to be tried without unreasonable delay; and
(d) to be tried in person, and to defend himself
or herself personally or through legal
assistance chosen by him or her or, if
eligible, through legal aid provided by
Victoria Legal Aid under the Legal Aid
Act 1978; and
(e) to be told, if he or she does not have legal
assistance, about the right, if eligible, to legal
aid under the Legal Aid Act 1978; and
(f) to have legal aid provided if the interests of
justice require it, without any costs payable
by him or her if he or she meets the
eligibility criteria set out in the Legal Aid
Act 1978; and
(g) to examine, or have examined, witnesses
against him or her, unless otherwise provided
for by law; and
(h) to obtain the attendance and examination of
witnesses on his or her behalf under the same
conditions as witnesses for the prosecution;
(i) to have the free assistance of an interpreter if
he or she cannot understand or speak
(j) to have the free assistance of assistants and
specialised communication tools and
technology if he or she has communication
or speech difficulties that require such
(k) not to be compelled to testify against himself
or herself or to confess guilt.
(3) A child charged with a criminal offence has the
right to a procedure that takes account of his or
her age and the desirability of promoting the
(4) Any person convicted of a criminal offence has
the right to have the conviction and any sentence
imposed in respect of it reviewed by a higher
court in accordance with law.
26. Right not to be tried or punished more than once
A person must not be tried or punished more than
once for an offence in respect of which he or she
has already been finally convicted or acquitted in
accordance with law.
27. Retrospective criminal laws
(1) A person must not be found guilty of a criminal
offence because of conduct that was not a criminal
offence when it was engaged in.
(2) A penalty must not be imposed on any person for
a criminal offence that is greater than the penalty
that applied to the offence when it was committed.
(3) If a penalty for an offence is reduced after a
person committed the offence but before the
person is sentenced for that offence, that person is
eligible for the reduced penalty.
(4) Nothing in this section affects the trial or
punishment of any person for any act or omission
which was a criminal offence under international
law at the time it was done or omitted to be done.
The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) joins the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ (RANZCP) in condemning the recent announcement by Queensland Health to introduce ‘lock-up’ security measures to all adult mental health hospital inpatient facilities in Queensland, and the expansion of the use of ankle bracelets.
This week, Queensland Health ordered the State’s 16 mental health inpatient facilities to be secured, and a new ‘locked-door’ policy to be adopted effective 15 December 2013.
“We fully understand the need for safety and security, but a decision to lock all mental health units, as a knee jerk reaction to address issues of absconding, is a retrograde and draconian solution. It seems that no consideration has been given to the rights of those who are voluntarily admitted for treatment and care”, says Adjunct Associate Professor Kim Ryan, CEO of the ACMHN.
“We need to be working towards a mental health system that supports people with mental illness to live rich and meaningful lives. The Newman government can’t cut costs and pare back services, and not expect there to be a consequence. The cost of installing locks and electronic security could be better spent providing more support and staffing to the units”, said Adj. Assoc. Prof Ryan.
“We also need to continue to address stigma associated with mental health issues; the media surrounding the decision by Queensland Health has inferred that all people with mental health issues are a risk to themselves or others – this is simply not the case”, Adj. Assoc. Prof. Ryan said.
Dr Murray Patton, President of the RANZCP, says these plans go against the principles of least restrictive care.
“For patients, being locked into a ward is affiliated with more anger, irritation and depression, hardly the goals of the mental health system”.
The RANZCP is calling on Dr Michael Cleary, Queensland Health's deputy director-general who ordered the security upgrade, to reverse this decision and establish a process of consultation with the mental health units regarding the actions being taken to address incidents of absconding.
Industrial Capitalism has become a normative ethic in Britain and Anglophone societies. It has been conflated and massaged to fit a political idea that it represents a positive evolutionary development which is inevitable in human societies unless artificially or accidentally blocked. From this stems the notion of ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ societies, promoted almost without question in schools, churches and mainstream media. The presumption about the ‘developing’ societies (which were generally stable non-industrialised ones prior to the disruption of industrial development with or without colonization) is that they were deprived and ‘stunted’. Industrial development in such a construction is presented as a form of normalization; a restoration to health and a normal growth curve. From this view it becomes ‘normal’ to ‘develop’ into an industrial capitalist society. Social costs are minimized in a kind of “Coasian” equation (see citation below) where all changes which increase available capital are treated as a positive benefit to the whole society. This logic justifies almost anything which will assist that transformation, notably changes to the land-tenure or property-law system. 
“In the eighteenth century, when the British economy entered an unparalleled era of expansion, Britain’s Parliament began operating according to Coasian principles and reorganized property rights en masse. In the nineteenth century, when most common-law doctrines reached their modern form, doctrines of equity (enforced through the Chancery Court) dominated the conveyance of land. These doctrines were designed to protect beneficial interests, not to maximize productivity. Efficiency became a dominant doctrine in the English legal system only after Parliamentary intervention.”(Bogart and Richardson, p.7)
Coasian economic theory was originated by Ronald H. Coase in “The Problem of Social Cost”, Journal of Law and Economics, 3: 144, 1960. The theory assigns value arbitrarily, according to the highest dollar profit probability. It takes no heed of non-monetary values and therefore is unresponsive to social cost or individual equity. 
To the inhuman 'invisible hand', is attributed the responsibility and authority for the impacts of such decisions. But there is no redress against the ‘invisible hand’. As Block points out below, referring to property law: “Whatever the judge decided would endure; there could be no opportunity for mutually beneficial exchange” [after the decision was made].
“And what was the advice to the judiciary which emanated from this new outlook? Judges were to rule in such a way as to maximize the value of economic activity. Under a zero transactions cost regime, it really wouldn't matter -as far as the allocation of resources was concerned - which of two disputatious parties received the rights in question. If they were given to the person who valued them more, well and good. If not, the loser would be able to pay off the winner so as to enjoy their use. But in the real world of significant transactions costs, in contrast, the juridical determination was absolutely crucial. Whatever the judge decided would endure; there could be no opportunity for mutually beneficial exchange, ex post.” (Block: Property Rights: A Reply to Demsetz, p.63)
The impact on civil society has been enormous. No human value, no environmental value may prevail over a financial win. This is a recipe for corporate dominance. Block makes this clear:
“From these deliberations emerged, especially in the writings of his followers, the ‘Coasian’ public policy recommendation. The jurist must ignore tradition, property rights, ownership, and the niceties of Lockean homesteading theory upon which all were based, and instead make his award solely in order to maximize wealth. That is, he should find in favor of the disputant who values the rights in question more strongly; the one who, had he lost the court battle in the zero transactions cost world, would have successfully bribed the winner. 
Newman, Sheila, Demography, Territory, Law: The Rules of Animal and Human Populations, Countershock Press, 2013.
 Block, Walter, 1995. “Ethics, Efficiency, Coasian Property Rights, and Psychic Income: A Reply to Demsetz,” in The Review of Austrian Economics, Vol.8, No. 2 (1995): 61-125, ISSN 0889-3047, http://miawa.org/journals/rae/pdf/rae8_2_4.pdf: “In this new view, property rights became the handmaiden of so called economic efficiency. The very determination of private property became dependent on cost considerations. Another way to put this is that in the pre-Coasian days, property rights were exogenous to economics. Thanks to Coase and his followers (Demsetz 1966, 1967; Posner 1986; Landes 1971, 1973, 1979),' this is no longer true. Now, if anything, economics is the independent variable; property rights have become indigenous on it.’ It is an indication of the ideological nature of the Nobel Prize of Economic Sciences that Ronald Coase (1910-2nd September 2013) won it in 1991 for work which has been used to argue for the primacy of economic ‘efficiency’ over social organisation in transaction costs and property rights for the institutional structure and functioning of the economy. His work has been used as an excuse to marginalise civil and human rights by making it legally acceptable for the interests of big business and the wealthy to over-rule everyone else’s financial, social and environmental interests. In other words, all conflicts can be resolved through money and if what you want to conserve does not make money, then if someone wants to destroy it to make money, then they will have that right. It is obvious that natural amenity, wildlife, houses with gardens, decent working conditions – anything that stands in the way of someone making more money – must fall away before the Coasian bulldozer. The theory does not stand up to natural science, the laws of thermodynamics and ecology, however it has been co-opted into everything from international aid and development to local planning.
 Bogart and Richardson, 2008, “Making Property Productive: Reorganizing Rights to Real and Equitable Estates in Britain, 1660 to 1830, NBER Working Paper No. 14107
Issued in June 2008. National Bureau of Economic Resarch, Cambridge, MA., p.2 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14107
 “Even mere preferability, let alone legal justice, runs into problems of interpersonal comparisons of utility. As we have seen, there is no warrant, anywhere within the corpus of value-free economics, for us to compare the utilities of one group of people-e.g., "worshippers" with another, "cancer patients'-and to claim that one outweighs the other.” Block, Walter, 1995, op.cit.
 Block, Walter, 1995, op.cit.
Power centralised to Commonwealth means that Australia is no longer an authentic federation
There is general consensus among scholars, political commentators and others that over time a centralisation of power has occurred at the Commonwealth level in Australia [Bell, 2006 p171, Brown,2006 p12, Emy, 1997p387, Peters, 2006,p57, Twomey & Withers, 2007p.4, Wiltshire,.2006,p189]. Arguably, Australia is no longer an authentic federation. Federal structures legitimated in the Australian Constitution Act [ACA] (usually known simply as ‘The Australian Constitution’) are retained, established ‘norms’ of intergovernmental relations continue but power is firmly in the hands of the Commonwealth government and associated elites. I will argue below the Australian system of government thereby also fails to adhere to the principles of the rule of law and that Australian governments are failing to perform the primary function of government: to protect and secure the welfare of the people residing within their jurisdiction.
Power and authority
To have the power to govern is not the same as to hold legitimate authority to do so. In order to examine the ways in which the present system of government in Australia violates the principles of the rule of law, these principles will first be briefly described. How the Australian system of government violates these principles is then outlined. And, finally, strategies are suggested as preliminary approaches needed to break down the barriers to reform. If and how these violations can be corrected is conditional upon the successful removal of these barriers, with the Australian society finding a set of shared principles upon which to base a revised theory of government.
States and Governments
The concept of ‘State ’ is indispensable in the understanding of our current political world. States are the principal actors on the international stage and by far the most significant actors on their own territory”. [Skinner, 2011] It is also central to any understanding of the rule of law. Government is ‘state’-based. In mainstream discourse, government and state are often used interchangeably, as synonyms. They are not.
“Government is the means through which the authority of the State is brought into operation” [Heywood 2000, p40]. Hence ‘government’ is inseparable from the State: it cannot exist without a ‘state’.
According to the fictional theory of state as outlined by Skinner, “the conduct of government is morally acceptable if and only if it basically serves to protect the welfare and safety of the person of the state, that is to say our person – the fictional person – we are considered together as the person of the state. …. The duty of our rulers”, the government, “is to promote the good of that person”. This raises “the spectre of the common good… over and against theories of individual rights.”
The State, “the fictional person endures beyond the lifetime of any of us present” has, as originally posited by Hobbes, an artificial eternity of life. [Skinner, 2011] [Hobbes,1651]. This theory of the State places the common good to the fore and provides a specific meaning to the role of the demos in the state, a democratic state. The fictional person – every individual as one is the raison d’état - constitutes the state. According to the fictional theory of state, the legitimate authority to govern is to assure the well-being and security of the state’s ‘person’.
Pogge  and [Held 1996] in outlining their differing views on cosmopolitanism share with many other theorists the view that the primary political unit is the individual and therefore the criterion for legitimate authority to govern lies in the observance of human rights. Is the State the collective in the form of a fictional person or a multitude of individuals? How can authority be vested in either the collective in the form of the almost eternal fictional person or the multitude of individuals? Power vested in the people as a whole is the sine qua non of democracy.
Rule of law and rule by law
Aristotle concludes government is better exercised through the rule of law than by the ‘rule of men’ “… it is preferable that government be by or in accordance with law, since (i) laws are products of reason(s) not passion(s}, (ii) the sovereignty of a ruler or assembly tends to tyranny [i.e. rule in interests of a section, not common good, (iii) equality demands that each mature person have some share in governing, and (iv) rotation of offices and office-holders is desirable and can hardly be managed without regal regulation.” [Finnis, J. 2010 paraphrasing Aristotle’s Politics III:15]
Not only is law based on reason, but it is based on reasoning applied and tested by many people to the accumulated experience of a society of people over time: hopefully accumulated wisdom.
Rule by law as protection against tyranny implies ruling in the common good, equality and political liberty, limitations on length of office, if not specifically representation and regulation: all elements of democratic liberal theory.
The ‘rule of law’ is then when primary and supreme authority of the state is vested in the law [Finnis, J. 2011]. The rule of law is independent of government[s]; it applies equally to the rulers and the ruled. It must be “administered fairly, rationally, predictably, consistently and impartially. Improper external influences, including inducements and pressures, are inconsistent with each of these objectives.” [Spiegelman2003]
The rule of law is different from rule by law. The rule of law “is not merely the opposite of the lack of law, of anarchy…. [it] is not the systematic and constant application of laws – that is rule by law” [Stephens1999]. It is based on reason, developing shared understanding over time: creating an accepted wisdom to protect the society/State/individuals as a whole. It cannot be imposed, requires nurturing and commands respect: the lore of binding rules.
As a self-proclaimed liberal democratic nation with a federal system of government, recent and contemporary governments in Australia are in flagrant violation of many, if not most of the principles inherent in those claims. The rule of law as outlined above is the overarching principle of good democratic government and it is not operating. In the Australian system of government, it is strictly rule by law as opposed to democratic rule of law. The two major parties, Labor and the Non-Labor coalitions have effectively captured the executive and legislature, the parliament, at both Commonwealth and state levels. Competition for executive power, increasingly adversarial nature of daily politics inside and outside of parliament, masks the fact that both ‘sides’ of politics share an interest in maintaining the level of power now acquired at the central level and face common challenges in setting agenda to govern when much of the decision making power over much of what was previously confined to the nation-states is increasingly in the hands of international ‘forces’ and they have lost the capacity to engage with and gain authentically the support of the public.
Power ever more distant from the people: Central government saps states of power
As stated in the introduction, there is little or no discernible authentic division of power between the Commonwealth and the state governments: power is firmly in the hands of the Commonwealth government in direct violation of this defining principle of federation. Federalism is a form of democratic government: it is premised on the sharing of power. The federal division of powers is one of the primary measures to prevent the concentration of power in the hands of the few. This polarisation of power in the Australian government is inextricably linked to a much broader upward spiral of power and wealth that is occurring globally [Pogge,T 2011]
Inaccessible justice system
The inevitable consequence of the concentration of the power and wealth in the hands of the few is the disempowerment and impoverishment of the many: this of itself is a form of tyranny.
“The fundamental rational of liberal democracy is to guarantee its citizens political liberty and equality of legal status… Both together entail measures to ensure all citizens have effective access to, and fair and humane treatment in and by the courts [Emy 1997 p. 393] This is put forward as an argument to advance the case of a limited bill of rights.
Neither of these ‘rights’ are guaranteed nor protected by the Constitution or by legislation. In the reality of the average wage earner, access to the justice system is severely compromised for most Australians due to the costs involved. Many in the legal profession and the courts are of the elites. While space prevents providing detailed evidence to this effect, the ex-High Court Judge Michael Kirby confirmed that access to the justice system is “the really central fault of our legal system” – “the problem really is a structural problem and if you want to do something really, you have to do something revolutionary.” It should be noted that, aside from the prohibitive costs of seeking redress in the justice system, the amount of legislation being passed by government has increased enormously over the last ten years. The amount, length and complexity of legislation contribute to a lack of understanding within the community.
Two party stranglehold on power makes change very difficult
If the above diagnosis is correct, how can these violations of the rule of law or democratic practice be corrected? “…any substantive amendment [to the Constitution] requires bipartisan agreement and the efforts by the major parties to mobilise consensual support amongst a sometime truculent electorate” [Emy, p.392] As stated above, the major parties have a shared interest in maintaining the level of power [and wealth] acquired as they are competing for the same prize. There is no incentive to diminish the power in the prize. Proposals for change to the current powers of the parliament are unlikely to be tabled in the current Commonwealth parliament. Even reforms not requiring constitutional amendment will require bipartisan agreement and are unlikely to impact or lessen the powers of the current parliament.
There is no evidence of impending popular uprising only of disaffection, even alienation. The something ‘revolutionary’ mentioned by ex-Chief Justice Kirby to render the system of justice more affordable and accessible is not so easily identified. Power and wealth once acquired are rarely relinquished without coercion or struggle. The legal profession is unlikely to accept the basic wage for their services. There are some signs of a mounting number of issues causing increased activism in some quarters but effective mechanisms of campaigning in the public domain are lacking. Mainstream media are largely controlled by powerful elites with vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The ‘social media’, while effective in reaching those with declared interests in a given subject area, are in fact not very effective in reaching an audience as diverse as the Australian electorate.
Reasons to reform the Australian government system
The main reasons to initiate reform of the Australian system of government are a moral ones: the alleviation of preventable human suffering through better government; to improve the security and well being of people residing within the jurisdiction of the Australian state; to establish the rule of law with a system of government established with the consent of the people.
Reform is required to halt and reverse the current polarisation of power and wealth that has for corollary the disempowerment and impoverishment of many. As a willing member of the Anglo-US axis of power, Australian governments are complicit in oppression caused by the phenomenon of globalisation within and beyond Australian borders.
Structural reforms required to system
The structural reforms proposed in much of the literature – the creation of new states or regions, the strengthening of local government, tax reforms to redress the vertical imbalance by the reinstatement of state fiscal powers have been unable to demonstrate how they can be achieved in reality. The number and breadth of proposals indicate that it is structural reform of the system of government, of the political system itself that is required.
Strategies and starting points in the Australian Constitution Act (ACA)
Before forming a proposal for structural reform, it is necessary to identify a strategy to break down the barriers to reform. It is also necessary to find a starting point. The Constitution - the Australian Constitution Act (ACA) - is a possible starting point for two reasons. Firstly, it is the foundation document of the consolidation of Australia as a nation-state – for better or worse – it is a shared point of reference. While it may not have been accessible to all of the people all of the time, it must become so to legitimate any significant reform. Firstly, in order to assist with understanding as to why revision/reform is required and demonstrate respect for what has gone before in order to promote respect for the process and for the revised Constitution. Secondly, because the ACA enshrines principles that should be retained, if the Australian people wish to build on what is, to create a genuinely democratic federation. The principles of the separation of powers, of federalism itself, of electoral representation and referenda, based on sound reason, all aspects of the ACA can be revised to reflect that which has been learned from experience over more than a century and with reasoned expectations of political participation from all sections of contemporary society.
Constitutional Revision – The Preamble
A proposal to revise the Constitution – a task accomplished by the Helvetic Confederation in the 1990s - would not be welcomed by the major parties, which between them, have a strong parliamentary majority. Even if a proposal of substance to bring positive reforms were put to them, it still would not succeed if it impinged in any way on their current powers. It is in their vested interest to preserve the status quo. The only proposal to which they may be amenable – with sufficient electoral pressure and underpinned by strong moral incentive – would be a revised Preamble to the Constitution. While a revised preamble may initially have no immediate ramifications, a preamble that clearly and succinctly outlines the principles of government supported by a wide audience would be a stepping stone to raising the debate for a revision of the Constitution itself as one coherent document.
Practical alliance of State with Local and Regional government and institutions
On another front, those with the most to lose or who have lost already, may fight the next battle better. Local government is subject to radical change through state legislation. State governments, despite appearances, have lost fiscal and other powers. The so-called residual powers that is the Constitutional powers of the states have been neutralised through High Court judgements ruling in favour of the Commonwealth.
If the States’ politicians wish to regain and retain power within an Australian federation, they need to ally themselves with, not try to control, the regional institutes and local governments that are effectively under their regulation. Winning hearts and minds in those areas by effective institutional support and improved service provision is something valuable of itself. It is a strategy that would assist both the powerful and the less powerful: with institutional and electoral support, State politicians could also better defend their position in the federation.
Focussing the assets that one has on doing what is required as opposed to wasting effort on lobbying and negotiating for that which may not succeed, is amounts to preventing losses and consolidating one’s own power.
An indication that there is shared interest across the States to initiate a strategy of some kind for reform is the establishment of the Council for the Australian Federation (CAF) in 2006. This represented a small step to draw attention to the fate of the federation. Setting up institutions, however, is the political equivalent to the bureaucrats calling a meeting. The impact will not be felt in the wider Australian electorate. A joint state level strategy faces nonetheless the barrier of the two-party system. Will politicians be willing to break ranks within their parties to support the reinstatement of state powers in the federation? Or does it require significant electoral success by smaller parties and/or a rise in the number of Independent Members to strengthen state-based initiatives for reform?
The need for reform is urgent; the scale of reform required is significant. The barriers will be difficult to dismantle. The successful passage of any reform to the federation requires a paradigm shift reversing the impacts and repercussions of three decades of neo-liberal capitalist practices. Success will be conditional upon the political good will and cooperation of current elites [parliamentarians, federal court judges, and major capitalist lobbies, [media moguls, business, mining, professional associations, etc.] and/or the art of persuasion or tools of coercion to elicit the requisite cooperation. Legitimate positive democratic reform will require the sound understanding and the good will of many of the diverse interest groups within the Australian community to identify and validate authentically shared values and beliefs that can underpin the principles for a federation reformed or a nation refocused on democratic government and a more humane society.
 When used with a capital ‘State’ refers to the national entity: the nation-state. When used with a small ‘s’ ‘state’ refers to a federated unit within the nation-state.
 The Australian public is said to be more likely to accept a revised Preamble rather than change the main text of the Constitution. The former is symbolic and not enforceable by law where contested concepts are present. However, the recognition of Aboriginal people and of local government is a way to lead in to the need for significant Constitutional changes by ‘amendment’ or indeed the need for a new Constitution.
Aristotle “Politics – A treatise on Government” translated from the Greed by William Ellis. Publ by JM Dent&Sons Ltd 1928 – eBook edition
Bell, P (2006) “How Local Government Can Save Australia’s Federal System” in A.J. Brown & j. Bellamy (eds.), Federalism & regionalism in Australia 11: 171-184 Sydney, NSW: ANU Epress. Retrieved July 2012 from http://epress.anu.edu.au
Emy, H  “Unfinished Business: Confirming Australia’s Constitution as an Act of Political Settlement” in Australian Journal of Political Science; 32:3,383-400
Fenna, A  “Adaptation and reform in Australian Federalism”, in Tomorrow’s Federation -Reforming Australian Government, Kildea, P., Lynch, A and Williams, [eds], The Federation Press Ch.2pp. 26-42
Finnis, J  “Natural Law Theories”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2011 Edition) Edward N. Zalta (ed.) URL = Galligan, D.  “The Indirect Origins of Judicial Constitutions” The 2011 Annual Lecture in Law and Society, The Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, Oxford University. Podcast. Gallop, G  “The Future of Federalism” Keynote address: Institute of Public Administration Australia, Perth, Western Australia. September 2007 [Transcript] . Gallop, G  The COAG Reform Council: A View from the Inside in Tomorrow’s Federation -Reforming Australian Government, Kildea, P., Lynch, A and Williams, [eds], The Federation Press Ch.2pp. 43-52 Held, D. (2004) “Democratic Accountability and Political Effectiveness from a Cosmopolian Perspective” Heywood, A 2000, Key Concepts in Politics, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. Hobbes, T. 1651 “Of the several kinds of Common-Wealth by Instiution, and of the succession to the soveraigne power” in Leviathan or the Matter, Forme, & Power of a Commonwealth Ch.XIX: Project Gutenberg eBook released October 11,2009. Kirby, M.  Interview at a book launch of A J Brown’s Michael Kirby: Paradoxes and Principles at the ANU Faculty of Law, Canberra = podcast Patapan, H.  “Separation of Powers in Australia” Australian Journal of Political Science, 34:3,391-407 Pellet, A  “State sovereignty and the protection of fundamental human rights: an international law perspective.” Pugwash Online – Conferences on Science and World Affairs: Occasional Papers, 1:I at www.pugwash.org/reports/re/pellet.htm Peters, Mal  “Towards a Wider Debate on Federal and Regional Governance: The Rural Dimension” in Federalism & regionalism in Australia. Brown, A.J., & Bellamy, J. (eds.). Sydney, NSW. ANU ePress. Ch 4 pp57-70 Retreived July 2012 from http://epress.anu.edu.au Philpott, D  “Sovereignty” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sovereignty downloaded 12 September 2012 Pogge, T.  Cosmopolitanism and Sovereignty in Ethics,? 48-75 Pogge, T.  “Globationsation, Inequality and the State” lecture in The State of the State lecture series, Oxford University downloaded iTunes, 7 August 2012. Skinner, Q.  “The Genealogy of the State” lecture in The State of the State lecture series, Oxford University, downloaded iTunes 7 August 2012. Spigelman, CJ, NSW  “Address at International Legal Services Advisory Council Conference” quoted at www.ruleolawaustralia.com.au/principles Stephen, N.  “1999 Annual Lawyers Lecture, St James Ethics Centre” quoted on www.ruleoflawaustralia.org.au/principles accessed 12 July 2012. Sypnowick, C  “Law and Ideology” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2010/entries/law-ideology download September 15, 2012. Twomey, A & Withers, G. (2007) “Federalist Paper 1: Australia’s Federal Future: Delivering Growth and Prosperity. A Report or the Council or the Australia Federation” prepared at the request of the Premier of the Government of Victoria, S. Bracks. Wiltshire, K. (2006) “Reforming Australian governance: Old states, no states or new states” in A.J. Brown & j. Bellamy (eds.), Federalism & regionalism in Australia 12: 185-200 Sydney, NSW: ANU Epress. Retrieved July 2012 from http://epress.anu.edu.au
accessed 12 July 2012.
Galligan, D.  “The Indirect Origins of Judicial Constitutions” The 2011 Annual Lecture in Law and Society, The Foundation for Law, Justice and Society, Oxford University. Podcast.
Gallop, G  “The Future of Federalism” Keynote address: Institute of Public Administration Australia, Perth, Western Australia. September 2007 [Transcript] .
Gallop, G  The COAG Reform Council: A View from the Inside in Tomorrow’s Federation -Reforming Australian Government, Kildea, P., Lynch, A and Williams, [eds], The Federation Press Ch.2pp. 43-52
Held, D. (2004) “Democratic Accountability and Political Effectiveness from a Cosmopolian Perspective”
Heywood, A 2000, Key Concepts in Politics, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Hobbes, T. 1651 “Of the several kinds of Common-Wealth by Instiution, and of the succession to the soveraigne power” in Leviathan or the Matter, Forme, & Power of a Commonwealth Ch.XIX: Project Gutenberg eBook released October 11,2009.
Kirby, M.  Interview at a book launch of A J Brown’s Michael Kirby: Paradoxes and Principles at the ANU Faculty of Law, Canberra = podcast
Patapan, H.  “Separation of Powers in Australia” Australian Journal of Political Science, 34:3,391-407
Pellet, A  “State sovereignty and the protection of fundamental human rights: an international law perspective.” Pugwash Online – Conferences on Science and World Affairs: Occasional Papers, 1:I at www.pugwash.org/reports/re/pellet.htm
Peters, Mal  “Towards a Wider Debate on Federal and Regional Governance: The Rural Dimension” in Federalism & regionalism in Australia. Brown, A.J., & Bellamy, J. (eds.). Sydney, NSW. ANU ePress. Ch 4 pp57-70 Retreived July 2012 from http://epress.anu.edu.au
Philpott, D  “Sovereignty” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sovereignty downloaded 12 September 2012
Pogge, T.  Cosmopolitanism and Sovereignty in Ethics,? 48-75
Pogge, T.  “Globationsation, Inequality and the State” lecture in The State of the State lecture series, Oxford University downloaded iTunes, 7 August 2012.
Skinner, Q.  “The Genealogy of the State” lecture in The State of the State lecture series, Oxford University, downloaded iTunes 7 August 2012.
Spigelman, CJ, NSW  “Address at International Legal Services Advisory Council Conference” quoted at www.ruleolawaustralia.com.au/principles
Stephen, N.  “1999 Annual Lawyers Lecture, St James Ethics Centre” quoted on www.ruleoflawaustralia.org.au/principles accessed 12 July 2012.
Sypnowick, C  “Law and Ideology” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy at http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2010/entries/law-ideology download September 15, 2012.
Twomey, A & Withers, G. (2007) “Federalist Paper 1: Australia’s Federal Future: Delivering Growth and Prosperity. A Report or the Council or the Australia Federation” prepared at the request of the Premier of the Government of Victoria, S. Bracks.
Wiltshire, K. (2006) “Reforming Australian governance: Old states, no states or new states” in A.J. Brown & j. Bellamy (eds.), Federalism & regionalism in Australia 12: 185-200 Sydney, NSW: ANU Epress. Retrieved July 2012 from http://epress.anu.edu.au
While our government is condemned as being heartless and lacking compassion for asylum seekers, it must be considered in a national and global context.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution’. People leave their countries and seek asylum for many reasons—political persecution, ethnic persecution and gender-based violence. Overpopulation isn't one of them! (Originally published 30 July 2013, 11:23:16 +1000)
When the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established in 1951, there were approximately 1.5 million refugees internationally. At the end of 2012 there were 15.4 million refugees.
According to the latest figures there were 28.8 million IDPs (Internally Displaced Peoples) around the world, and global number has steadily increased from a total of around 17 million in 1997.
The annual UNHCR global trends in displacement report highlights that last year 7.6 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution, with a total of 45.2 million people around the world in situations of displacement, meaning that more people are refugees or internally displaced than at any point since 1994.
On an average day in 2012, 23,000 people were forced to flee their homes around the world, which is more than total number of people claiming asylum in Australia for the entire year.
Global population has swollen from just over 2.5 billion in 1951, to now 7 billion - and growing. There are no new frontiers to settle in.
Growth in numbers of refugees since Vietnam
The Vietnam War ended in 1975 but their troubles did not, and over two million people in Indo-China became refugees in the 1970s.
Over the next five years from 1976 there were 2059 Vietnamese boat arrivals with the last arriving in August 1981. From 1989 boats arrived at the rate of about 300 people per annum for the next 9 years—mostly from Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China.
The number of asylum seekers seeking refuge in all countries, including Australia, began to rise again in 2006. This was due to the state of emergency that was declared in Sri Lanka in 2005 and the US troop surge in Iraq in 2007. Afghanistan remained the main country of origin of asylum-seekers (36,600 claims versus 36,200 in 2011). Syria was the second largest, the conflict there reflected in a jump from 15th place in 2011 and a 191 per cent increase in asylum claims to 24,800.
Atrocious conditions in Somalia and Sudan have generated huge refugee flows, but number of East African "irregular entrants" known to be in Indonesia is tiny by comparison with South Asians and Middle East people. The scope and range of refugee sources is widening.
The majority of asylum seekers arriving in Australia irregularly by boat in recent years have been from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka.
Forced displacement has become a defining characteristic of sub-Saharan Africa, obliging people to abandon their homes and seek refuge elsewhere, often at the price of serious threats to their welfare and rights. The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, known as the Kampala Convention, breaks new ground in articulating the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), and the responsibilities of states, regional organizations, and other actors to uphold them.
With almost ten million people internally displaced across twenty-one sub-Saharan African states, the continent is home to one third of the world’s IDPs.
Australia's population growth
Australia's population in 1951 was nearing 8.5 million, and in 1975, Australia's population was less than 13.5 million people. Australia's current population growth of 1.8% is higher than that of the Philippines, Malaysia or India.
Due to the tight regulation on asylum seekers, Australia receives relatively less refugees compared to other countries. As the world’s sixth largest country, in 2009, Australia only accepted 0.6% of asylum seekers in the world.
This must be inconsideration to our environmental resources, and high domestic population growth.
Australia is a small nation on a large landscape. The allusion of having large frontiers, of boundless plains to share, and capable of inhabiting millions more people is attractive, but unrealistic.
The cost of supporting more than 40,000 asylum seekers expected to be in Australia next financial year is set to average more than $70,000 each person.
This is at a time our cities already are struggling with infrastructure short-falls. Lobby groups claim that the government needs to fund $500 billion debt for infrastructure needed due to population growth.
Papua New Guinea solution
The move to settle asylum seekers in PNG is likely to see a significant part of the cost of the asylum seeker problem carried in the foreign aid budget. Australia has agreed to a significant increase in direct assistance to PNG as well as carrying the cost of resettling asylum seekers there.
Mr Rudd said the policy was likely to be expensive in its early stages but would ultimately reduce the budget cost of asylum seekers over time as he anticipated it would lead to a drop in arrivals.
The capacity of the Manus Island detention centre will increase from 600 people to 3000 people. Mr Rudd signalled further facilities will be established in PNG, saying there would be
“no cap on the number of people who can be transferred to Papua New Guinea”.
2.3 percent population growth is a comfortable sounding figure but what this really means is that Papua New Guineans produce over two hundred and seventy thousand babies every year. It’s the equivalent of the entire population of the Chimbu Province.
Papua New Guinea faces many challenges in resettling refugees given many of its people already struggle to find jobs and housing.
The Asian Development Bank estimates only 5 per cent of PNG's population is engaged in formal sector employment. Approximately 85 per cent of the population live in rural areas, where they live a subsistence lifestyle or participate in the informal economy.
The causes of displacement
When all a nation's agricultural land and natural resources are used up, and there are more people than there are jobs, water, food and resources, there are only three choices:
a) live in life-threatening poverty,
b) leave for greener pastures,
c) force others to leave. This last is 'persecution'.
Refugees aren't just fleeing intolerance in a vacuum. They are fleeing overpopulation, plus the greed of corporations and developed nations' predation for dwindling natural wealth.
The refugee convention is hopelessly out of date now, based as it is on 1950's world outlook following World War when there were thousands of genuine refugees after that appalling war. We are living through only the beginning of what will degenerate into a world debacle of people 'gatecrashing' countries where life may hold a better future.
Skilled visas accounted for 68 per cent of the 2007-08 migration program, and family reunion 31 per cent. We should be taking more proven genuine refugees, not making them into a political football with random arrivals! Our population growth is a political decision, not inevitable!
Stable Population Australia say:
“Rather than aiming to resettle ever-increasing numbers of people, our policy aim should be to relieve the pressures that force migration in the first place, and help people live in peace and harmony in their homeland.”
Kevin Rudd recently observed that the world has changed since the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention was created.
Growing poverty in Australia – a political inconvenience
While Australia is viewed as a choice destination for asylum seekers, our cities are under considerable stress from being under resourced. According to ACOSS ,(Australian Council of Social Services ) Last year 2,265,000 Australians (12.8% of all people) are living below the poverty line after taking account of their housing costs.
Community groups decry the state of housing affordability and availability across the country. In Victoria, over 36,000 people are on the public housing waiting list. A report from Australians for Affordable Housing shows that Victoria has some of the least affordable housing in the country and highlights yet again the crippling impact that high housing costs are having on our community.
For the year ending December 2012, net overseas migration was 235,900. (not including the temporary migrants).
Family Planning initiatives
Last year the Government of the United Kingdom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with UNFPA and other partners, pledged $2.6 billion to make family planning available to 120 million women in developing countries by 2020.
Human displacement caused by conflicts from competition for dwindling resources can be avoided through sensible, global family planning. Overpopulation denies people the living standards they need, and the ability to live in harmony with others.
You may think that “austerity” is a hoax. A conspiracy of bankers and CEOs and neo-liberals to rob of us our rightful entitlements. But you obviously haven’t heard the news. This is not the 1930s. This austerity is not contrived. This austerity is for real. This austerity is geologically, not ideologically rooted. There is not enough real wealth to go around.
Mother Nature and Mankind: A Communication Breakdown
The relationship that counts
Perhaps you forgot about me.
No wonder. Your history books seem to dwell on tyrants and dictators and megalomaniacs and the
terrible things they do.
Yet I can do terrible things too. Especially when I am taken for granted or abused.
I know. I never commanded an army or ruled a nation.
I never sent 13 million people to the gas chambers or starved and murdered six million Ukrainians.
I never firebombed Hamburg, Dresden or Tokyo, nor dropped two atomic bombs.
I never raped Nanking or slaughtered a third of Cambodia’s population.
I never conducted a war of ethnic cleansing nor destroyed a culture and enslaved the survivors.
I never committed any of these atrocities. Yet I am the most merciless and indifferent mass murderer in
history. I am Mother Nature. And I really think we need to talk about our relationship.
Not the relationship you have with other people. Not about whether people treat each other with
enough respect or fairness or empathy. Not about whether they distribute the wealth equitably. No,
this is about our relationship, the relationship between you and me, nature and humankind.
You speak of coercion. Of “coercive” birth control measures, forced abortions, punitive laws, of mass
imprisonment and the violation of reproductive freedom. Of force, compulsion, duress, oppression,
harassment, intimidation, threats, arm-twisting and pressure by people against people.
But none of this matches my power of persuasion. I am talking about environmental coercion.
You can be constrained by many things in life.
You can be constrained by arthritic pain, and prevented from training for a marathon.
Or constrained by your budget from doing a lot of travelling or eating out.
Or constrained by your girth from fitting into the suit you wore to the prom.
Environmental coercion - the most oppressive kind
But environmental constraints brought on by overpopulation can be more confining than anything else.
They can confine you to a small urban apartment because overpopulation has driven up the cost of
shelter. They can force you remain indoors because of smog alerts. They can restrict your movement,
and your options because overpopulation has created a labour glut and your wages have been driven
down by competition. . They can reduce your per capita share of vital resources like clean water and
affordable food. Environmental coercion can make your life miserable. More miserable than the most
autocratic and unjust of governments.
You may think that “austerity” is a hoax. A conspiracy of bankers and CEOs and neo-liberals to rob of us
our rightful entitlements. But you obviously haven’t heard the news. This is not the 1930s. This austerity
is not contrived. This austerity is for real. This austerity is geologically, not ideologically rooted. There is
not enough real wealth to go around.
Go ahead and change the tax code, reform the monetary system and let the big banks fail. Make the
rich pay their share. But do you think your Occupy movement can persuade me to yield more how-
hanging fruit? Do you think that “justice”, “fairness”, and “equity” will suffice to make up for our non-
renewable resource short falls?
In just 13 years, Canadian governments will have to find $93 billion just to fund their unfunded
liabilities---the promises they have made to Canadian citizens to pay out their pensions and satisfy their
health care needs. All of this in addition to running other government programs and finding money to
repair the infrastructure that is crumbling all around us. Newsflash: the money can’t be found by
“taxing the rich”. Corporate taxes would need to double and even then, even if there was no capital
flight to kinder tax climates, even if total tax revenue increased, it would be a temporary fix. In the
United States, for example, if the income of every citizen making over $200,000 per year was
confiscated, it would provide only enough revenue to run the federal government for just 193 days.
Continuing economic growth - necessary, but not possible
The only way out is continued economic growth. Growth at robust rates. It is only through continued
economic growth that your social safety net can be maintained and your cities and bridges and physical
assets can be replaced or repaired. One problem. I haven’t got enough affordably accessible natural
non-renewable resources to fuel this growth. Especially when emerging economies like China and India
are demanding more and more from me. Something must give. Commodity prices will skyrocket.
Economic recoveries will be killed in their tracks. Conflict will ensue. Please don’t unleash a nuclear,
chemical and/or biological war upon me. I have taken enough abuse already.
Surely you can see this all coming. Surely you can see that the numbers don’t add up. I can’t continue to
meet your growing demands. More efficient technology will not bail you out. Just ask Mr. Jevons. And
be honest--- renewable energy alternatives cannot be scaled up anywhere near the level you require.
All you need is a calculator and an enema for your delusional optimism.
But you won’t do the math. And you think your agenda trumps mine. Sorry, but didn’t you know, I own
you. You are on a leash. You and your short-lived economic infidelities. Do you think I didn’t know? Do
you think I didn’t notice that your mind was not on me and my needs?
I gave you space and now you need more?
You tell me you need “space”. But I gave you a world of space, and what did you do with it? You filled it
up with 7 billion people---- 5 billion of whom are determined to live like the other two billion do!
You tell me that universal and free access to health care, a decent pension and education is your “right”.
But as Isaac Asimov observed, if you have 20 people sharing an apartment with two bathrooms, your
“right” to guaranteed and timely access to a bathroom is necessarily limited. You can make all the
speeches you want. You can run for the Democrats and make it a campaign platform if you like, or make
“Freedom of the Bathroom” a Constitutional right, but without more bathrooms or fewer people in the
apartment, that right is meaningless. As meaningless as the promise of sustainable Obamacare.
I suggest that you seek counselling. Since I won’t provide you with the means to add more bathrooms, I
suggest that you try reducing the number of people who share the apartment. Things can’t go on like
this. I am calling a taxi and packing my bags. You just won’t listen, and never have. I am tired of your
roving eye, your insatiable appetite and lust for more, and your lack of attentiveness. I deserve better
than this---and I know that I can go it alone. You need me, but I don’t need you.
I think you fundamentally misunderstand our relationship. You have the roles reversed. I am not your
servant. I have only so much to give, and you’ve already blown half the dowry. So don’t come crying to
me for more.
And frankly dear, I really don’t give a damn about your “rights”.
November 15, 2012
This is a fascinating video of a huge protest in Sydney on 5 August 2012 and we have put up a video of it with a number of interesting interviews from marchers, with comments from what they think of the Bashar Assad Government to how they don't like the Australian Greens policy on this matter and believe that we are risking World War Three by backing intervention in Syria. There is also some background on how Syria has been the long-term host one of the largest refugee populations in the world, which makes you wonder why it doesn't receive more support from Greens and Refugee activists. It must seem ironic that some candobetter.net EcoMalthusians are more inclined to give Syria that recognition! Please let us know if you have views on the democratic status of the Syrian government; we find it hard to judge. All comments and greetings welcome.
See also: Australians for Syria.
The video of this march also contains commentaries and is the product and published by Truth News with Reporter Hereward Fenton, who interviewed Naja (a Syrian Australian), Tim Anderson, and John Burgess (of the 911 truth movement). Thanks for your work at Truth News.
"On 5 August 2012 a rally was held in Sydney in support of the Syrian government by members of the Syrian community and Australians. Some four thousand people gathered peacefully at The Sydney Town Hall to express solidarity about the tragedy in Syria. A number of speakers, from various sections of the community, addressed the audience concerning the external forces that have invaded Syria and are fighting the [...]government. The people then marched peacefully to The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs in the Sydney city area, where more speakers addressed the people. Appreciation for Russia and China voting against the US proposed UN-NATO involvement were expressed. The meeting then peacefully dispersed." (Source: Commentary under video on Truth News)
Naja, Syrian-Australian protester speaks
Naja, a Syrian-Australian protester said,
"I would just like to say one thing to the Australian Government. The Syrian president - 75% of the people elected him and only the Syrian people can impeach him. I just want to say another thing, that Barack Obama ought to go back home. Hands off Syria! We just need to raise our voice and we're sticking with the President! ... He is a very popular leader, he's a doctor and he studied in England. He doesn't kill his people. We've got militants in Syria. They're terrorists. They're not free Syrian army. They're killing people. I've got my family back home. They're kidnapping people. After they kill them, they amputate their body parts and they send them home to - bodies without heads, without arms - and we've got to put a stop to it. We want him to stay in power. That's my message. "
Tim Anderson spoke powerfully on behalf of the Syrian Government
"People in this country are very ignorant of what's going on in Syria. That's understandable. That's not a crime in itself, but, what is not acceptable is the unethical use of this ignorance. All of those people from Hilary Clinton through the media through all sorts of silly people in this country - those people saying Assad must go - they have no ethical basis to make that sort of claim. They haven't understood that it's the foundation of the post colonial era, it's the foundation of human rights that a people have a right to self-determination and the Syrian Government is only for the Syrian people and no-one else. We see the result across the border in Iraq. What a tragedy in Iraq. What a great tragedy in Iraq! But we can't allow that to happen in your country. So I'm here just to say as a non-Syrian Australian, at least some of us here are in solidarity with you today."
Tim Anderson, author of Take Two, The Criminal Justice System revisited has the remarkable history of having been completely exonerated after erroneous conviction for the Hilton Bombing in 1978 (Fraser Government). The real perpetrators have never been found. Evidence that Australian security forces may have been responsible [in a false flag attack] led to the New South Wales parliament unanimously calling for an inquiry in 1991 and 1995. The Government of Australia vetoed any inquiry. You can read more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Hilton_bombing or here in an pdf file at http://www.reasoninrevolt.net.au/pdf/a000803.pdf with an interview of Anderson published in July 1991 that contains some very interesting comments on Asio and Special Branch activities in NSW leading up to this time.
Tony Backhouse on Australian Greens policy on Libya and Syria
Tony was also marching. Interviewed by Truth News, he said that he had originally joined the Greens because of their stance on Iraq and policy of peace and non-violence, which is a platform of the NSW branch constitution, but he has just resigned from them over their support for UN Nato intervention in Syria. He stated, "I see this as akin to starting World War Three in Syria. I find it totally hypocritical and that's why I've left."
Tony said that, to him, it seems this position was taken initially by Bob Brown and then by Christine Milne (NSW) and Adam Bandt (in Victoria) and that perhaps the Federal Greens are falling into line with the European Greens. It was what had been going on in Aleppo that got him to make his mind up. He added that he nearly left the Greens over their position on Libya especially after Gaddafi's house was bombed and his granddaughter and other members of Gaddafi's family were killed. He noticed in the week of this Australians for Syria protest in Sydney that Leon Panetta [23rd and current United States Secretary of Defense] had actually threatened Assad's family: "And I thought, this is just ridiculous. I can't support this. I mean, my party is supporting a military intervention basically in Syria against their own constitution!"
Commentary on Democracy, Refugees and the Australian Greens - Please contribute if you can
The beginning of this article was taken from Truth News and we left out these words,  "elected democratic." Whilst we support non-intervention in Syria and basically support the current government, we disagree that the Bashar Asaad Government was elected democratically, since there was no opposition. Maybe we are wrong. Please educate us. You can read more about the Syrian government here. Nonetheless we agree that Bashar seems to be a very popular president and Syria did recently hold a very well supported referendum in which Syrians voted yes for to have multiparty government recently, to remove the constitutional definition of the B'aath Party as the ruling party of Syria, and to limit the time a person could remain president to 14 years.
Bashar Asaad himself seems to be pretty enlightened in a terrible region where colonial intervention has from the 19th century consistently preferred dictators and continuously reduced the self-organising ability of peoples. Bashar Asaad's father was a more severe dictator but, still, his people were provided for, in an area where there are far worse, far more brutal dictatorships. To illustrate the unbalanced basis of foreign intervention encouraging civil war in Syria, the Western powers currently include Saudi Arabia as their ally against the Syrian Government. This is not just ironic, but it is shocking, because the Saudi Government is incontestably depraved, yet able to get away literally with murder, mutilation, suppression of subjects and shocking, institutionalised, bizarre ill-treatment and disenfranchisement - enslavement really - of women. It is truly unacceptable that the United States and NATO hob-nob with this monarchy. There has to be a better and more globally cooperative way to power down with oil than this.
With regard to the Syrian Government, a Syrian-based Catholic nun recently said,
I am not Syrian, but I have been living in Syria for today almost 20 years. Syria was under a kind of totalitarian regime but not in only a way a repressive way but it was that all the decision would be taken by few persons. But there was security, there was food, education and people were living - of course not in ... kind that they would say their thinking in a loud voice.
Now, this totalitarianism is not good, and it's obsolete, but if the armed insurrection is implementing another totalitarianism which is maybe worse because there is blood, they can behead you, they can cut your - in last week in our village they cut the fingers of a so-called 'collaborator', who is not ev[en] from the village. Then they behead him, they cut him in piece and they left him in the street, where even children would see it.
So this kinds of acts of atrocities cannot help people to really believe that what is happening is a strive for freedom.
The majority of the Syrian population, I say, is taken as hostage, and sometimes as a tool, as [?enemy] by these armed, insurrection armed...armed insurrection people. They come and they take place in the civilian areas.
Australians, particularly Greens and Refugee Action supporters, logically should be speaking out in support of Syria which has taken in and managed to deal fairly with an extraordinary number of refugees and asylum seekers from this tumultuous region where, bizarrely, the Greens have been supporting NATO backing for civil war.
According to the 2012 UNHCR country operations profile on the Syrian Arab Republic,
The Syrian Arab Republic hosts one of the largest urban refugee and asylum-seeker populations in the world. The Government and people of the Syrian Arab Republic continue to maintain a generous open door policy that allows Iraqi refugees to seek asylum and gain access to basic services such as education and primary health care. Moreover, the normalization of relations between Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic in early 2011 has led to a simplification of the visa process for Iraqis wishing to enter the Syrian Arab Republic.
UNHCR, with the support of the international community and in active partnership with the Syrian authorities, was able to maintain the protection space granted to refugees and asylum-seekers. With the assistance of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, it has continued to provide them with essential services and assistance. Source: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e486a76.html
If nothing else, the counter-intuitive stance on Syria of the Greens is yet another indication that the people leading the Greens these days are career politicians with ideas and principles a very long way from the original participants and founders of Green Party's in Australia. As to where Bob Brown stands or ever stood... some of us do wonder. For those among us who care about our country and realise that overpopulation will quickly deprive us of ecological conditions and human rights, it is baffling that the Greens, who have so let us down in matters of ecology and population policy, do not stand up for Syria and its generosity to refugees.
It has become an unwritten rule of political correctness that in order to criticize people or their ideology one must share a biological characteristic of the people being criticized. The inherent racism or sexism of this assumption is lost on those who insist upon it. Nevertheless the rule, in all of its absurdity, persists. Good arguments are routinely dismissed not on their merits, but by the fact that they are waged by someone thought to be racially or sexually disqualified to comment on the issue. This cannot apply here, for Madeline Weld, President of the Population Institute of Canada, is a woman, and she reproaches the fem-left for its collusion in the crippling of the Program of Action as set out by the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo 16 years ago. Ms. Weld asserts that the feminist wing of the so-called "Environmental Justice" movement be held to account for their part in scuttling effective population stabilization programs in developing countries. Take this Betsy Hartmann!
Population growth, development, and stability: Egypt as an example
Reports on the upheaval spreading like wildfire across the Arab world overlook a crucial factor underlying the collapse of the old order: overpopulation. Given the pivotal role that Cairo has played in unleashing the current rage, it is perhaps ironic that, 16 years ago, it hosted a conference convened precisely to address that issue. In September of 1994, Cairo hosted the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) under the auspices of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with great fanfare and even greater expectations.
Let's consider the situation in Egypt from a population perspective. In 1994, Egypt had 60 million people, now it has 85 million—a 42% increase in 16 years. The UNFPA projects 130 million by 2050. Rapid growth is fuelled by the youth of the population: one-third under 14 years of age, 20% between 15 and 29 years old, and only 5% over 65.
That Egypt can't cope with this growth is reflected in its staggering unemployment rate (83% for those between 15 and 29), its inability to educate its people (the over-15 illiteracy rate is 25% for men and 42% for women), its inability to provide adequately for its people (40% at or below the poverty level) and its inability to feed itself (it imports about half of its staples). The 3% of its surface area consisting of arable land (nearly all around the Nile Valley) is being encroached upon by development. The Nile River that irrigates the fertile land no longer reaches the Mediterranean Sea, thanks to overuse by Egyptians and their southern neighbours. The building of the Aswan Dam—to provide energy for a growing population—has reduced the silting and therefore the fertility of the Nile floodplain.
Egypt's population growth is destroying its ability to feed itself. In 1960, Egypt had 26 million people and was self-sufficient in almost all basic food commodities. In recent decades, it has depended on revenues from oil exports to import about half of the staple foods it needs. Now, with its oil reserves running dry (if you haven't yet heard about "peak oil", google it right after reading this article) and its growing population needing more oil for its own uses, Egypt is about to become an oil importer. But the oil exports paid for food subsidies which many Egyptians depended on, and the threat to discontinue the subsidies due to dropping oil revenues no doubt contributed to the unrest that eventually toppled the government. The fact that these biophysical realities are ignored in most reports about developments in Egypt does not diminish their importance or their consequences.
Some variant of the above applies to any number of countries where population growth looms large. It is why some countries can't pull themselves out of poverty and some are endlessly in conflict—and more often than not those two conditions overlap. Growth rates in the "least developed countries" or LCDs have fallen since 1994, but not spectacularly, from 2.7% annually to 2.3% (which means their doubling times are now 30 years instead of 26). That the Cairo conference had so little impact on population growth isn't because it couldn't see what was coming. The Programme of Action, the document that arose from the Cairo conference, was clear on the potential for trouble ahead. It specifically recognized that the large proportion of young people in many developing countries would result in extremely rapid growth at current fertility rates, and that this growth would cause enormous social and environmental problems that their governments were very poorly equipped to handle. And that is exactly what is happening right now—not just in those countries whose turmoil is currently dominating headlines. The impact of the population factor is not negated by the existence of corrupt and despotic governments, bad governance, unfavourable trade conditions, or anything else.
The International Conference on Population and Development: stymied by ideology
Why did the Cairo conference fall so short of the mark? Therein— precisely—lies the problem. There was really no mark because the Cairo conference fled from numbers. It focussed on the rights of women, the poor, and the disempowered. As it happens, the poorest, most disempowered women are often found in the countries with the most rapid population growth. But the Programme of Action offered no guidelines for governments or international organizations such as the World Health Organization to implement ethical, practical programs for slowing population growth and bringing population levels in line with the resource base available to support them. Instead, it stated that “All couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education, and means to do so.”
If the Programme of Action recognized that rapid population growth was taking many countries down a dangerous road at great speed, why did it refuse to actively promote the use of brakes? The usual suspect is the Vatican, whose "observer status" at the United Nations allowed it to participate at the Cairo conference where it did everything it could to put roadblocks to providing poor women with access to contraceptives and abortion. It sought alliances with Muslim countries over concerns about statements on topics like abortion, homosexuality, and sex outside of marriage. But the religious forces were the obvious and identified adversaries. They constituted a formidable but surmountable obstruction. The "P" in ICPD was essentially erased—thereby effectively sabotaging the conference—by those who purported to support its goals: the feminist and social/environmental justice alliance of the political left who constituted most of the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) participating at the conference.
The Cairo conference and its Programme of Action were stamped with the same taboo of the feminist and social justice left that has, for the last several decades, snuffed out any serious public discussion about population growth which had been so much a part of the early days of the environmental movement. This attitude in fact made them strange bedfellows of the Vatican and other religious interests at the Cairo conference. While not explicitly stated in the Programme of Action, it was implicitly understood that anything remotely resembling demographic targets was racist, anti-woman, anti-poor, and flirting with eugenics.
Putting the development cart before the population horse
With the "P" sidelined by ICPD's refusal to countenance population control, the emphasis for a path out of poverty fell on the "D." It was assumed that development would lead to a reduction in population growth. Poverty would be eradicated through "through sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development" (implicitly assuming that the Earth would support this sustained economic growth along with the rapid population growth that was inevitably going to occur for some time). Population growth would be slowed through "education, especially for girls; gender equity and equality; infant, child, and maternal mortality reduction; universal access to reproductive health services, including family planning and sexual health."
The wishful thinking that the indirect effects of development alone can overcome the problems created by rampant population growth is based on a belief in a silver bullet known as the demographic transition. The idea is that parents have fewer children when they see that those they have are likely to survive and at the same time, with increasing rural to urban migration, they realize that children cost money rather than provide free labour. The trouble with the demographic transition theory is that it is treated like a law of physics when in fact it is only one of many possibilities. A major problem is the slowness at which it kicks in. The lag time between the child mortality rate falling and the desired family size also dropping can be very long indeed. In western and middle sub-Saharan Africa, the desired family size is still six children. In the countries of Chad and Niger, it is over 9. With no international consensus for governments to promote small families, "freely and responsibly" continued to be defined by cultural values, which remained strongly pronatalist in many countries. Consequently, many countries fall into the demographic trap on their unhurried path to the demographic transition: the large families beget poverty and impede development—negatively impacting the environment, food security, the government's ability to provide services, social stability, and the likelihood that these countries will ever actually achieve the demographic transition—at least not in the happy way envisioned by the Cairo conference.
Given the subordinate status of women in many developing countries, their lack of access to education, and the absence of cultural values that include family planning, one might have asked just how "freely and responsibly" they would actually be to plan the size of their families. Early marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), and honour killings, all effective tools in subjugating women, are still widely accepted cultural practices (despite both real efforts and lip service to abolish them). A significant part of a woman's "decision" (insofar as it even occurs to her that she has any say in the matter) may be based on what her husband or mother-in-law wants, or what the local mullah or priest has to say. Wealthier people are more likely to know about contraception and to have the means to access services. On average, the wealthiest women are four times more likely to use contraception than the poorest. In some countries, the rate is 12 times higher. Without education programs that let the poor know about contraception and its benefits, they are much less likely than the rich to want contraceptive services or use them if they are even available. And without the political will on the part of governments to make them available, the poor are often unable to access services.
That political will is sorely lacking in many countries and the international community. While 55% of all population assistance went to family planning in 1995, the proportion of current funding has plummeted to 5%. Over half of current funding goes to AIDS programs. The prevalence of contraceptives of what the UNFPA defines as the "least developed countries" or LCDs is only 28% and 22% for "any method" and "modern methods", respectively, 16 years after the Cairo conference.
The consequences of wishful thinking
Not surprisingly, population growth has remained rapid in many of the UNFPA-defined "less developed regions". As a result of population pressure, widespread environmental deterioration has occurred, through deforestation, erosion and salination of overused land, falling water tables, depletion of the water and fish stock in rivers, pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Rather than being subjected to government or international initiatives promoting small families, the poor in many countries are being subjected to the "coercion" of their deteriorating environment. And while population control programs can be quite benign (such as those in Thailand, Kerala in India, Bangladesh), environmental coercion is often very cruel. The environment is also totally impervious to political pressure from the right or the left, from religionists or Marxists. It is completely indifferent to ethics, human rights, public opinion, and the pronouncements of religious leaders.
The Fund for Peace has published a Failed State Index annually since 2005. The number of states with a score of 100 or more (out of a maximum 120) was 7 in 2005 and 15 in 2010. Rapid population growth is closely associated with a high ranking. For 2010, 15 of the top 20 failed states had population growth rates between 2 and 4% a year (which would result in doubling times of 17 to 35 years); in 14 of them, at least 40% of the population was under 15. Nineteen of the top 20 failing states (and forty other countries) depend on the UN World Food Programme for food. All of the top 20 failing states are depleting their natural assets (forests, soils, aquifers) to sustain their rapidly growing populations. Deteriorating infrastructure—roads, power, water, sewage systems—is another feature of failing states.
Unfortunately, as evidenced by the violence seen in many struggling countries (e.g., Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, and many others), the concept of human rights tends to fall by the wayside when too many humans are fighting over the same dwindling resources. Failing states are highly likely to experience a breakdown in law and order and the loss of personal security, in which women often face extreme discrimination and brutalization. The viciousness of atrocities committed in states in a downward spiral are almost beyond our capacity to comprehend. Both the prevalence and brutality of rape, often committed with weapons or other implements, are staggering.No population control program in any country has ever come close to inflicting upon women the horrors that millions of them have experienced during the environmental and social collapse of some of the world’s most overpopulated and conflict-ridden regions.
Conflicts in failing states often spread to neighbouring countries, as when the genocide in Rwanda spread to the DRC, where at least five million people lost their lives. Nevertheless, as in the DRC, most of the deaths are often caused by the war's indirect effects, such as hunger and disease. Hunger and disease are likely to be significant agents of mortality in future conflicts over dwindling resources.
Who's the bad guy?
China used genuine coercion in addition to persuasion and education in its population control program and is often singled out for particular reprobation. But those who deplore China's policies should perhaps compare China with countries like Rwanda, the DRC, Somalia, and Haiti, all of which illustrate the coercion of environmental, political and social collapse. Would a China with 400 million more people—the number of births it estimates to have averted—be a better place? It could well be argued that the world owes China a thank you for the 18 million tons of carbon dioxide it averted each year by preventing those 400 million births. Every country that has taken deliberate measures to reduce its rate of population growth (China, Thailand, Bangladesh, Iran—now unfortunately reverting to pronatalism) is better off than if it had not done so).
The world's population is still increasing by almost 80 million each year, about 220,000 each day. Virtually all of the growth is happening in the developing world. Rapid growth in developed countries (such as Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia) is driven by immigration from developing countries. Many who call themselves green say that consumption, not population, is the problem. Understandably, poor people in developing countries want a higher standard of living. By definition, increased prosperity means more consumption, when those now underfed get more to eat, those now uneducated go to schools and universities, those now unemployed have jobs and consume more products, those now walking drive cars and need more roads. But such an increase in consumption by billions of people will have an enormous environmental impact.
Human beings have already appropriated to themselves all the land that is in any way suitable for agriculture. They have converted the habitat of other species to their own uses, depleted the oceans of much of their fish stocks, and introduced pollutants into every part of the Earth. Such has been our impact that scientists say we are causing the sixth great extinction. There is no greater favour we could do to ourselves, future generations, and all life on Earth, than reducing our numbers.
It is also by no means clear that we will be able to feed all the extra people. There is not likely to be another green revolution. That the green revolution was a one-time breathing space that would allow humans to slow the growth of their numbers was recognized by Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work on increasing crop yield. Borlaug said that the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control must unite in a common cause. Unfortunately, the fight for population control was sidelined, and population growth ate up the gains of the green revolution.
Deadly ethics? Questions for Betsy Hartmann
The concern over human rights as implicitly interpreted in the Programme of Action of the Cairo conference raises several hard ethical questions. Do ethics operate in a vacuum or are we obligated to consider the consequences of our ethical choices? Does the right of a woman to have as many children as she chooses trump the right of her own and other people's descendants to have a liveable environment? Does it trump the right of the global community in general to live on a healthy planet? Do those of us now living have any obligations to husband resources for future generations? Does the human species have any ethical obligations to non-human life—to protect Earth's biodiversity? These questions, however, were never addressed in the Programme of Action—an irresponsible act of avoidance.
Those concerned with population growth have, over the past decades, offered many olive branches to the feminist and social/environmental justice left. But the latter have not changed their stance one iota. Perhaps uncharitably, I have concluded that their major concern is not for the dispossessed or the environment, but to retain the purity of their Marxist-oriented ideology. Whatever their intentions, the impact of the population taboo enforced by the social justice left is the same as that of the abortion politics used by the primarily religious right. They synergize to deprive poor women of access to birth control that is affordable and specifically suitable to their needs.
Dislodging the dogmatists
Many population activists are ready to take on the dogmatically based religious injunctions against family planning and abortion. But when it comes to the dogmatically based feminist and social justice arguments against population control, we often fail to challenge their faulty premises and misguided conclusions. We have allowed them to appropriate for themselves the moral high ground on this issue, which they have held not with reasoned arguments, but with unsubstantiated accusations of racism, sexism, colonialism, not wanting to share the wealth, and other ad hominem attacks. We have allowed ourselves to be intimidated by these bully tactics to the detriment of all living things—human beings and the biodiversity of Earth. It is time to drive the ideologues off the territory they are illegally occupying with a "fact-based revolution" —by simply presenting the facts, fearlessly and persistently.
At the Cairo conference in 1994, the world fled from numbers. But, as current events in Cairo and elsewhere are showing, we can't flee from the consequences of those numbers. The Marxist feminist/social justice ideology that denies the population factor and vilifies those who address it is as long-lived as some of the dictators in the Arab world and, like them, finds itself on shaky ground, because ideology cannot trump reality. An ideology that claims to promote social justice but does not recognize that the Earth is finite is more than unethical. It is dangerous to those now living, to future generations, and to all life on Earth. It must be overthrown. We have all the weapons we need: arguments based on hard facts and actual data.
Let the charge of reason begin!
February 24, 2011
New wave of asylum seekers could be coming our way
As the nation panics over a small number of asylum seekers, we're left to wonder how Australia will respond to the millions of anticipated "climate change” asylum seekers? How are we to respond?
According to the Australian Greens, Australian society, culture and the economy has benefited, and will continue to benefit, from immigration of people from around the world. We won't continue to benefit if immigration continues to drive our population growth beyond sustainable limits. The environment, and ecological forces, and Nature's devastating powers transcend humanitarian concerns and economic requirements of an economy that needs to be fed by constant growth. We still haven't, despite advances in science and technology, solved the limitations of nature, and we still can't harness extreme weather or reign in natural disasters.
The Australian Greens are being inconsistent with their environmental and climate change policies by supporting limitless population growth.
Australia's fragile food security
The Chief Scientist's report to PMSEIC (Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council Oct 2010) on food security, reported that we currently feed nearly 40 million people on top of our own 22.5 million. If our population grows to 35–40 million as planned, and climate change reduces food production, we can expect to see years where we will import more food than we export.
We can no longer rely on increased water, land and energy use to drive the transformation of food production systems.
The PMSEIC report suggests increased challenges to the important food exporting industry including land degradation, population growth, long-term climate change, competition for arable land in peri-urban areas, scarcity of water, nutrient and energy availability.
With the high level of foreign investment in agricultural production much of our food production is committed to overseas consumption. There are now a large number of properties owned by middle eastern companies using them as feed lots to prepare animals for the live stock export trade. WA is responsible for 50% of live animal exports. There is also feedlot livestock for export to Indonesia and the USA.
In 2008, following prolonged drought, our wheat exports dropped to nearly match the level of our domestic consumption. Wild fish catches are declining in Australian waters and productivity in the agricultural sector declining.
Status of Refugees – at present
According to the United Nations Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention), a refugee is someone who is outside their own country and cannot return due to a well-founded fear of persecution because of their: This definition does not at present include those fleeing from climate change, overpopulation or natural disasters.
From the Australian Human Rights Commission webpage:
Governments have traditionally approached climate change as an ecological problem, or more recently, as an economic one. So far, the social and human rights implications of climate change have not been widely recognised .....As a signatory to the major international human rights instruments, Australia has an obligation to protect people against the threat that climate change poses to human rights. But the challenge is to develop a response to climate change that distributes rights and responsibilities equally.
...a human rights-based approach to policy development could, and should, be adopted to provide a standard for evaluating policy and resource allocation.
Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is a person with a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Environmental and climate change factors are largely irrelevant. Will it be changed?
Surely there needs to be a lot more emphasis and policies, on "responsibilities" , not just rights. There is a lot of talk and words related to "sustainability" and mitigating climate change, but little is being done in real terms, especially in Australia.
The Hon Tony Burke MP is Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. He is not a minister for Sustainable Population any more! There is a lot of use of the word “sustainable” but little action.
Australian Greens – “No human being is illegal”
The Australian Greens want an immigration program that is predominantly based on family reunions and other special humanitarian criteria as defined by international human rights Conventions. They want migrants to be given access to a full range of culturally sensitive, appropriate health services including a comprehensive medical examination on arrival.
They are also lobbying for the planning for climate change refugees with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region.
It is vital that Australia needs to develop a considered, long-term approach to asylum seekers and refugees because many of them could be heading our way.
Australian Greens Deputy Leader Senator Christine Milne thinks so. Australia is historically one of the biggest contributors to the climate crisis. Whether we are legally obliged to or not, we certainly have a moral obligation to help those who climate change will hurt or displace. However, we are not responsible for their over population, their unsustainable environmental use, or their cultures that encourage fertility.
Environmental refugees set to increase six-fold
Norman Myers of Oxford University has estimated climate change will increase the number of environmental refugees six-fold over the next fifty years - to 150 million.
Australian climate scientist Dr. Graeme Pearman, has predicted that a 2°C rise in temperature would place 100 million people “directly at risk from coastal flooding” by 2100.
Asia Pacific region
Most of the 22 nations in the Pacific are low-lying atolls, with limited land space, small populations and little financial resources. More than 50% of Pacific Islander people live within 1.5 kilometres of the shore. They are all under threat of natural disaster and rising sea levels.
The Asia Pacific region is home to over 60% of the world's people, of which according to the United Nations two-thirds of whom live in extreme poverty. With such large proportion of the current population living in poverty, climate variability already has a significant impact on the health and livelihoods of people across Asia.
Climate change will exacerbate natural disasters, health problems and threats to water and food security. It will undoubtedly affect the lives of those who are without social and economic resources to adapt to the changes in climate.
At the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), António Guterres- G-Magazine report , predicted that climate change will become the biggest driver of population displacements within the not too distant future. The numbers we're talking about are astronomical. His agency predicts between 50 and 200 million people to have moved by 2050.
A report suggests billions of people will starve by the year 2050 - ABC online , unless farm productivity lifts around the world.
Food production must be lifted or many people could go hungry, and there is a lot of pressure on food industries and farmers to increase their efficiency and output. Australian food security expert Professor Peter Langridge has similar views. However, there are limits to what Nature can continue to provide.
Norman Borlaug – the father of the “green revolution”
Norman Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970 for his "green revolution" that revolutionised food security for millions of people and for many nations. In his acceptance speech, he warned the world in the clearest terms that his breakthrough had not tamed what he termed the "Population Monster". He merely bought us about 40 years respite in which to do something about it.
With bipartisan support for a "big Australia" and ongoing economic immigration, there seems to be little empirical or pragmatic difference between the Australian Green's altruistic and moral justification for population growth, and the demands of our capitalistic economic growth argument.
Is it because Australia’s political elite, including the Australian Greens, can no longer say ‘NO’ to immigration or accepting asylum seekers? Our sovereignty is not being given due respect, or being sufficiently honoured.
Our first priorities should be to the Australian voters, citizens, our descendants, and any obligations to help other nations should be primarily through aid, crisis assistance, providing skills ( not poaching them!), health and family planning advice, training towards permaculture farming.
" Every woman, should be able to have the number of children they wish for. In most places this is way less than the actual number they have. For me this is a moral right. " S. Gardiner
This is to inform feminists that I consider it my sovereign human right not only to drive a car, but to drive it is as fast as I want to, and into areas which they arrogantly claim should be car-free zones. I should also have the right to take on as many passengers as I want to, even if my car is designed to carry just a few. I also consider it my right to fish wherever and whenever I want to, and to catch as many fish as I see fit. As hunter gatherers we fished without restriction for hundreds of millennia, and therefore this too must be considered a fundamental human right. Conservative Mormon commentator Glen Beck recently said the rights stipulated in America's foundational documents were inalienable because they were God-given. Since our Creator gave us those rights, no human being or elected body of human beings can take them away. I was born free, and I will not be chained by sustainability laws that would make me behave responsibly.
Perhaps many feminists believe, that in the interests of some totalitarian utopia, that these freedoms should be sacrificed for the collective good. But coercion must be rejected on practical, as well as ethical grounds. The answer is that if men like me are given the opportunity to be educated, career-oriented and prosperous, we will throw off the shackles of self-centeredness and freely decide in our own good time (50-100 years perhaps), to voluntarily drive slowly and respectfully, take on just one or two passengers and be content with catching one or two fish in the designated season. We know that strategy worked with cigarette smoking. After decades of health warnings, smokers out of their own free will suddenly decided that it was inconsiderate to blow smoke into other people's faces in pubs, restaurants, planes and theatres. Coercion was not necessary. Moreover, studies showed that those smokers who were highly educated, independent and prosperous were the very first ones to quit killing the rest of us with secondary smoke. Sure it took three decades to work itself out, but what was the death of millions from lung cancer compared to the alternative of having coercive laws imposed on all of us?
It may indeed take 50 years for women across the world to become independent, educated, urban, rich, secure and free of patriarchal religious programming. Eventually, though, they will choose to give birth to only one child for each seven families --- or whatever it takes to drive us down to 100 million global consumers or less---a number that would still exceed carrying capacity by a factor of ten. But so what? The biosphere can wait. We are only losing 100 species a day from human overpopulation---we still have 10 million species in the bank. So what's the rush? Peak oil? Peak water? Peak everything? Don't worry, human ingenuity will solve it. Meanwhile, of course, I must be free, as a man, not to use a prophylactic. For me this too is a moral right. Not so? There you go again, trying to interfere with my rights.
OK, say I am wrong. Say that by insisting on my human rights that our own species will become extinct. So what? Life would not be worth living without the freedom to do as we please. Give me liberty, or give me extinction. Better dead than red, as they used to say in the 50s. It's a slogan I still live by.
If you don't like my attitude, take it up with God. He's the guy who gave me my rights, remember.
Seriously: A question. If the Chinese OCPF law is coercive, what was Mao's policy of encouraging women to have 5 or 6 children? Is it only laws which are coercive? Or can an envrionment of human overpopulation be even more coercive than coercive laws? An environment created by the sum total of individual haphazard decisions? Is it not possible that any regulatory environment fashioned by "coercive" laws is less coercive than the laissez-faire environment that forced the creation of those regulations? Are not laws of any kind "coercive"? Do do not laws imply regulation of people by law-enforcers who have the power to punish transgressors? Why are some behaviours deemed as inalienable rights while others are deemed provisional privileges? Does not changing context dictate changing standards?
I am a consequentialist. I believe that if an action or behaviour is intrinsically "right" or "wrong", "good" or "bad", then surely its consequences must be assigned those same attributes. And if that is the case, then the consequences of an action or a behaviour which is thought be a 'right' should be weighed against the loss of rights that it may involve. It is really just a math problem. Only the calculus of what is good for the greatest number must factor in all those lives yet to come which may be foreclosed by a given behaviour (eg. the "right" of women or their husbands to have as many children as they choose). We need to design a population policy that takes into account not the wishes of individual people for a given family size, but the number of kids which will not cause our extinction. The laundry list of countries or states which have lowered their birth rates to "replacement" levels from Costa Rica to Iran to Kerala through voluntary measures does not impress me, because replacing our currently unsustainable population is not an option. Even shrinking it to 2 billion is not enough. We need to go much, much lower, much more quickly than that. So far, Jack Alpert's calculations of a sustainable target http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTWduFB_RX0 ( a global population of less than 100 million) are the most realistic. But that damns Jack with faint praise. A good case can be made for 2-3 million. No, I am not out of my mind: 2-3 million. But that is another discussion.
Australians have found it very hard to protest against high immigration because of constant subtle messages from government and media implying that they had no right to object. They have been given the idea that there was nothing special about them that gave them the right to object. They only lived here. Although only Australians might vote in governments, the importance of this was subsumed to a cult of plutocracy, where governments prioritised commercial and corporate demands over the wishes of the actual electorate. The mainstream press (the ABC, the Murdoch Press, the Fairfax Press) promoted a cult of elite authoritarianism and the official alternative press never really encouraged questioning of this process on issues of real dissent. And the elite authorities all endorsed 'multiculturalism'. One has only to glance at the membership of the Multicultural Foundation of Australia to realise how true this is.
Pino Migliorino, Chairman of the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia, cited by John Marlowe in "Immigrants calling for more immigrants - dare one criticise and we will brand them 'RACIST'!", says:
"In 1989, we showed international leadership and created a National Multicultural Policy, the principles of which are still relevant. We then retreated from this vision and began a discourse about integration rather than about dialogue, which, similar to the principle of assimilation, implies that one side has more rights than the other simply because they were there first, or what is worse, because they are superior."
For me there are two problems created through the policy of multiculturalism as practised in Australia, and they are not really about 'culture' in the sense of 'ethnicity'.
They are both political problems to do with democracy and the civil rights that should go with citizenship.
1. The first problem is that, in a democracy, the incumbents -"those who were here first" - the citizens - are members of a community which should have the right to self-government. The right to self-government should not be limited, except by the citizens themselves. I believe that multiculturalism has been used as a way of blurring the fair expectation of civil rights for a citizen by implying that citizenship - or 'being here first' - carries no special rights.
Citizenship should be clearly different from the state of being an immigrant, tourist or visitor. In many countries (such as France) even being a 'permanent immigrant' means having the right to stay in that country only for up to one year. To be a 'permanent immigrant' with the same sense that term has in Australia, the person needs to become a citizen. It is problematic that being a permanent immigrant, according to the Australian definition, carries similar rights to citizenship in Australia, if it does not also carry the expectation of membership of a community that recognises itself as a political entity of members sharing responsibility for their community and its territory and is able to act to preserve these. An approach to this ambiguity is made in this article Rubenstein, Kim “Constitutional issues associated with integration: the question of citizenship,” Bureau of Immigration and Population Bulletin No 11, 1994, pp 41-43.)
Although citizens in Australia have far fewer straightforward rights than European citizens (who mostly have Civil Codes setting out their rights at law), an Australian citizen can vote. can run for office, (although our corporatised media dominates elections) has a right to primary and secondary education, and to hospital and medical treatment.
Australian citizens also did have, until recently, relatively good industrial relations laws. Premier Kennett in Victoria in 1996, allowed Victorian State industrial Awards to be dismantled and turned over to the Federal system, then Primeminister Howard undermined Australian industrial rights to conciliation and arbitration under s.51 xxxv of the Australian constitution, with his WorkChoices, which sought to bring as many people as possible under s55xx of the constitution, applicable to corporations and thus outside the jurisdiction of s.51xxxv. With this protection gone, Australian working conditions can now be easily undermined by labour hired overseas at lower wages and imported here as immigrants.
Australians used to own most of the resources in this country, as a group of citizens. Increasingly, many of these resources, assets and commodities have been privatised. This takes them out of effective control by citizens, see Justice Michael Kirby's skilful argument, here, in "Why privatisation is wrong." Population growth, in raising demand for resources, assets and commodities, makes them attractive acquisitions for corporations, political parties and wealthy elites. This is why those elites defend high immigration and why their media attack its critics.
Australians once also had chief rights to study in Australian universities, with only limited places allocated for foreign students, who were usually on scholarships, not coming as 'cash cows'. The commercialisation of universities contributed not only to lower ethical standards, but it also caused a preference for high fee-paying foreign students. This created competition for Australians who found that they had to borrow more to meet higher fees themselves. Where fees for Australians remained lower than those for foreign students, the numbers of places available for Australians declined.
In France and other European countries, universities are still free to citizens, places for foreign students are still limited, and they still come on scholarships.
Australians also used to have exclusive rights to purchase 'built property' , i.e. houses, in Australia. This right protected them from having house prices bidded-up by foreigners with better currency, such as happened with Japanese buyers in Hawaii. Unfortunately we have lost this protection recently as well. Just have a look at the National Foreign Investment Review Board's Annual General Reports over the years to see how much Australian Real Estate has gone into foreign hands. Over the past twelve years particularly, loosening of the foreign acquisition, land and house-buying laws, (begun under Primeminister Fraser) has seen Australian property flogged mercilessly via the Murdoch and Fairfax press property dot coms on the internet, and has also seen a huge number of solicitors, migration agents, bankers, real-estate agents, property developers and schools and universities touting property, migration and education in Australia over the internet.
Much of this seems to have been achieved by bringing in lots of immigrants to raise demand for Australian land, housing, jobs and education, thus pricing these things more and more beyond the reach of the majority of local people, who should be in control of what is happening to them.
Australians have found it very hard to protest against this high immigration because of constant subtle messages from government and media implying that they had no right to object. That there was nothing special about them that gave them the right to object. They only lived here. Although only Australian citizens may vote, a growing cult of elite authoritarianism - of a plutocracy - was promoted by the mainstream press - the ABC, the Murdoch Press, the Fairfax Press - and the official alternative press never really encouraged questioning of this process on issues of real dissent. And the elite authorities all endorsed 'multiculturalism'. One has only to glance at the membership of the Multicultural Foundation of Australia to realise how true this is.
In its turn, the policy of multiculturalism had been used to make citizenship ambiguous. The statement quoted above, from Pino Migliorino is typical in questioning the idea that "one side has more rights than the other simply because they were there first." This kind of introduced ambiguity has stifled protest by angry citizens at this obvious erosion of their rights, and the power of Australian citizens to govern their own country. To call the citizens of a self-governing community, "those who were here first," is to diminish the role of the community and thereby of its right to democratic self-determination; to imply that those who come here do not come to join that community, but some other community, governed perhaps by big business and the elite authorities, (who tend to own the very assets, commodities and resources for which population growth inflates the prices).
Erosion of democratic expression
2. The second political problem is the use of multiculturalism as a foil for growing the population without democratic consultation and implying that those who do not want more people must be anti-'multicultural' /racist.
As if it were not bad enough for Australian citizens to have their legitimate expectations of citizenship thus belittled and put aside, a second prong has been found for multiculturalism by the creation of a racist straw-man. The racist straw-man is trotted out and set on fire by the corporate press, the ABC, and the elite authorities any time that Australians object to population growth because of environmental and cost-of-living concerns as they see green spaces filled with houses, expensive and unwanted desalination plants replace clean and free running water, and native animals trapped by expanding infrastructure. And the elite authorities reliably receive support for this destructive process from the oddest sources.
Here is an example
Damien Lawson, FoFA [Friends of the Earth] National Climate Justice Coordinator, signed an open letter declaring that: 'We are shocked and angered that the ACF has supported Labor MP Kelvin Thomson's calls to cut Australia's migration rates". The letter concludes by calling on 'the ACF and Kelvin Thomson to withdraw their anti-migrant statements'. (28) The issue has since been addressed by the group's National Liaison Officer, Cam Walker:
[A]s always happens when population and the environment comes into the mainstream debate, it becomes a useful smoke screen for people
and organisations with racist agendas who can then call for limitations on population growth, while purporting to be concerned about the environments. [Source: Walker, Matthew P.A., "Population growth in Australia: how environmental groups are responding," People and Place, April 1, 2010.
If multiculturalism were simply a policy for giving people a fair go, no matter where they came from, whilst preserving the democratic rights of citizens to self-government, it would be a fine thing. But isn't that the purpose of human rights and citizens' rights in a functioning democracy anyway? And, can you enforce human rights without citizens' rights? No, you can't. So, why not have a policy for citizens' rights?