Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label human rights. Show all posts

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Political Tweets of the Week




Tuesday, 10 October 2017

National ID Database: so you think if you do nothing wrong you'll have nothing to fear?


“There is also a tendency for technologies to converge, allowing for the creation of devices with increased surveillance capabilities. CCTV, for example, may be combined with facial recognition technology….to identify individuals from their images. Another example is modern mobile phones, which combine telephonic services with GPS tracking software, digital visual and sound recording capabilities, and connection to the internet. A consequence of the convergence of surveillance technologies is the greater ability of surveillance users to compile detailed pictures of members of the public, making it increasingly difficult for individuals to maintain their privacy and anonymity.” [Victorian Law Reform Commission – Surveillance in Public Places: Final Report 18, 2010]

This month the Turnbull Government, state and territory governments have agreed to add the photo IDs of all registered drivers to the Facial Biometric Matching Capability (FBMC) database (est. 16 November 2016) which already has access to passport photographs, visa application photos, airport surveillance images and arrest ID images from the criminal justice system.

Additional images will probably be harvested from social media and added to this database which is to be used with CCTV footage of the general population going about their daily lives when considered necessary by police and security services. The biometric 'map' of an individual's face created by FBMC being easily applied to searches of video footage from public venue, shopping centre, street and road cameras as CCTV technology is now capable of recognising faces of people, vehicles, animals and bags automatically.

FBMC will involve using a Face Verification Service , Face Identification Service, One Person One Licence Service and Facial Recognition Analysis Utility Service in identity matching, along with a the Document Verification Service, Identity Data Sharing Service and/or any other government identity matching or data sharing service and, of course one of the areas it will be used is in so-called crime prevention.

Use of this facial recognition database will also be available to authorised private sector agencies and, like many new tools it is likely there will be function creep so that photo IDs will be required by more government agencies and private businesses when interacting with individuals in the future.

The Facial Biometric Matching Capability database will function alongside the Biometric Identification Services (BIS) which features national identification capability using fingerprints, palm prints, foot prints and facial recognition, person identity and evidence image case management, image enhancement tools and record auditing, matching services of one to one, one to few, one to many, and many to many, as well as photobook, photo line-up and witness viewing services.

But what’s the worry? After all if you are an ordinary person not committing a crime you have nothing to fear. Right?

Well there is this on the horizon…………..


Criminologists at Monash undertake cutting edge research in the areas of risk and security that is theoretically sophisticated, innovative and highly relevant to areas of pressing national and international concern. The discipline hosts two recipients of the Australian government’s prestigious Future Fellowship Award, Professor Sharon Pickering and Associate Professor Weber, both undertaking programs of research on border policing. Their jointly authored book Globalization and Borders: Death at the Global Frontier was awarded Australia’s most significant criminology publication award in 2013. The Border Crossing Observatory is the online repository of all border-related research undertaken by Monash Criminology and our national and international partners. Criminologists at Monash have received multiple highly competitive Australian Research Council grants to investigate a host of risk and security related topics, amongst them, counter terrorism laws and policing, immigration and exploitive labour practices, deportation, regional security, and the gendered nature of border crossing and transnational law enforcement. Our risk and security research expertise includes the interrelated topics of borders, counter terrorism, state crime, transnational crime, irregular migration, human trafficking, risk and disability, and pre-crime. [my yellow bolding]

What is “pre-crime”?

Put simply, “pre-crime” activity is a crime not yet committed – it is the suspicion that an individual might be capable of breaking an unidentified law at some unspecified time in the future.

Such suspicion does not mean there is a need to charge, prosecute or convict for a specific crime. Intervention at “pre-crime” stage is supposedly risk containment.

You don’t have to be researching bomb-building or Googling how to buy a weapon online to commit a “pre-crime” activity - it can be your thoughts and political opinions spoken aloud or written down, as well as your actions at a public meeting or protest rally.

It can even be allegedly ‘guilty knowledge’ in that you knew the time and place a small environmental activist group was going to confront their local MP or you saw a person painting an anti-government picket sign ahead of a planned street march.

Going to the media – social or mainstream – with a genuine complaint against a government department might be considered a “pre-crime” if you visibly persist in seeking answers, redress or apology. You could easily be labelled "fixated" by police if a government minister takes offence and decides to complain.

If you make a small donation to a group the police or government consider problematic, troublesome or obstructive of the aims of government or big business you may at some time in the future be considered politically partisan and displaying “pre-crime” tendencies.

These are just some of the groups that are already complained about by big business and politicians: Environment Victoria, Wilderness Society (Australia, Victoria & Queensland), Friends of the Earth, Victorian National Parks Association, Australian Conservation Foundation, Lock the Gate Alliance, 350.org Australia, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth Australia, Politics in the Pub and GetUp! as well as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd.

Just belonging to a group or community association which speaks up on matters of social, economic, environmental or political concern could see you being eyed off as part of a potential conspiracy in the making.

In at least one Western country pre-crime can also manifest itself as a suspicion that you have come into a city centre with the intention of having a drink or two and you will be given a 48 hour direction-to-leave order.

With the notion of “pre-crime” there is no presumption of innocence and little more than lip service to due process if any arm of state or federal government decides you are a person of interest.

So how will pre-crime activity be monitored by police and security services? Well one of the methods used will be surveillance and this surveillance may involve use of the Facial Biometric Matching Capability database created by the Turnbull Government.

Surely this couldn’t possibly happen in Australia? you say. Think again. 

We already keep individuals in gaol long after their court-imposed sentence has been fully completed under continuing detention legislation, have preventative detention without charge and control orders which can be applied to both minors and adults, police are known to use spyware to enter, monitor and control home computers and, in certain circumstances your home can be entered and searched without your knowledge by police and security services.

And here in Australia we have a history of unwarranted surveillance based on an individual's political association (1950s Cold War era) and political dissent (1960s & early 1970s Viet Nam War era) as well as virtually unchallenged unlawful use of coercive powers (Border Force 2014 to 2017).

Police and security agencies are constantly pushing for more legislation which would allow amongst other matters the creation of a raft of pre-emptive, punitive measures based solely on suspicion and an individual’s “pre-crime” tendencies.

Right now in Australia governments are all about political and physical control of the population - they are not about human rights, 'civil liberties' or a free, open and democratic society.

As a society Australia has been sliding down that slippery slope towards an authoritarian destination for years now and in 2017 we appear to have reached the bottom of the slope.

“For years, there’s been ample evidence that authoritarian governments around the world are relying on technology produced by American, Canadian, and European companies to facilitate human rights abuses.  From software that enables the filtering and blocking of online content to tools that help governments spy on their citizens, many such companies are actively serving autocratic governments as "repression’s little helper."
The reach of these technologies is astonishingly broad: governments can listen in on cell phone calls, use voice recognition to scan mobile networks, read emails and text messages, censor web pages, track a citizen’s every movement using GPS, and can even change email contents while en route to a recipient. Some tools are installed using the same type of malicious malware and spyware used by online criminals to steal credit card and banking information. They can secretly turn on webcams built into personal laptops and microphones in cell phones not being used. And all of this information is filtered and organized on such a massive scale that it can be used to spy on every person in an entire country.” [Electronic Frontiers Foundation, accessed 7 October 2017]

“Australia’s leading privacy and civil liberties organisations condemn the decision by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to provide all images from state and territory driver’s licence databases to the federal National Facial Biometric Matching Capability.
The creation of such a comprehensive national facial database is an unnecessary and disproportionate invasion of the privacy rights of all Australians, is the foundation for suspicionless, warrantless mass surveillance and is fundamentally incompatible with a free and open society.

David Vaile, Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation said, “This government has proven it is blind and deaf to privacy and personal information security threats. Make no mistake – this database will affect all Australians, even the most conscientious and law-abiding. It will likely generate massive ‘false positive’ lists that will flood our very effective police and security services with useless distractions. We’ve already seen calls for ‘scope creep’ to cover welfare enforcement, and there’s every reason to expect this capability will come to be used to identify people with unpaid fines and other minor issues that have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” [Electronic Frontiers Australia, 6 October 2017]

“Every single portion of human rights activism overlaps, manifests or is exercised with the use of technology. That alone caused attackers and adversaries to recognize that technology itself is a good vehicle to get to these people and interfere with them or cause them harm.” [Claudio Guarnieri of Amnesty International quoted in Threat Post at Kapersky Lab, 4 October 2017]

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

"Dear neighbours, Writing to you like this is taking me well out of my comfort zone but the government has made it necessary because of the postal survey. I am writing to seek your approval for my partner and I to marry."


The Daily Examiner, Letter to the Editor, 15 September 2017:

Same-sex plea

Here is the text of a letter I will be sending to all my immediate neighbours: 

“Dear neighbours, Writing to you like this is taking me well out of my comfort zone but the government has made it necessary because of the postal survey. I am writing to seek your approval for my partner and I to marry.

Some of you may know us or know of us. We have lived in Yamba for two years now and settled well into the community. You may know Dean from when he worked at the cafe in town, or at the bottle shop. You may have seen me working with Landcare or at the museum, and I’ve been pretty active opposing the installation of traffic lights at Treelands Drive. Maybe you’ve seen us together doing the shopping at Coles, enjoying the beach or sharing a drink with friends at the Pacific of a Friday afternoon.

In other words, we are ordinary people going about our lives in an ordinary way, and striving to put back in to the community when we can.

All we ask now is that our relationship be granted the same respect (including legal rights but not just that) that others are able to take for granted when they marry.

This is not make-believe, we are not just playing house, we have been together for 15 years and cannot imagine not being together. We have been together through good times and bad, holidays, illness, family celebrations like weddings, the arrival of new nieces and nephews, and we have supported each other through tough times too like the loss of loved ones.

We would dearly love to declare and celebrate our relationship very publicly with our family and friends.

We have no other agenda. No scheme to infiltrate schools and indoctrinate children. I was a teacher for 24 years and wouldn’t dream of supporting anything I thought could be harmful to them. We don’t seek to restrict anyone’s religious freedom. I am more than happy to respect the beliefs of others, I just don’t want them imposed on me.

The postal survey must seem a terrible waste of time and money to most of you.

I agree. It is not how I would have preferred to see this question resolved. But it is here and while it might seem of little import to most of you, and will have no direct effect on most of you, to Dean and I it is critically important. The thought that it might not be approved is to be honest a bit scary and pretty hurtful.

We respectfully ask you to consider what I have said and return your postal ballot with a YES response.

Graeme East, Yamba

Sunday, 24 September 2017

"My daughter doesn't need my permission to get married. But she needs yours."


The Daily Examiner, Letter to the Editor, 15 September 2017:

Marriage certification

Those of us who thought, like the old song, that “love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage” have had a lot of confusing information thrown at us recently about same-sex couples and the way their non-marriages give them all the same rights as married people. My wife and I were surprised, therefore, to attend the Roads and Maritime Service Centre last week to change our car registration, where we were asked to produce our marriage certificate.

This led me to wonder what other equal rights might not be there, particularly when my daughter, currently unable to marry her long-time partner, gets to our age.

Will she be asked for a marriage certificate if her not legally recognised wife is in hospital, or worse? Australia Post apparently charges hundreds of dollars for a name change, but not if you can provide a – you guessed it – marriage certificate.

Those who oppose same sex marriage are resting their hopes on the oldies like me.

But if you think we are going to support discrimination against our own kids and grandkids, you are about to be very disappointed.

My daughter doesn’t need my permission to get married. But she needs yours. Please join me in voting YES.

Desmond Bellamy, Byron Bay

Friday, 22 September 2017

More wheels are falling off the Turnbull Government train


BuzzFeed News, 14 September 2017:

Australia's immigration detention regime is facing a crisis in healthcare staffing following the resignation of the surgeon-general of the Australian Border Force (ABF), and the departure of three senior medical staff on Nauru.

Rumours have circulated online for several days that the surgeon-general of the ABF, Dr John Brayley, who oversees the healthcare of asylum seekers in immigration detention, had resigned.

BuzzFeed News has now confirmed that the surgeon-general resigned last week. A senior immigration department source confirmed his resignation, although the department has declined to comment.

Brayley's department email now has an indefinite out-of-office message. His phone has been switched off and is no longer receiving voicemail. His Linkedin profile has also recently removed his position as surgeon-general as his current occupation.


Brayley's resignation comes at a difficult time for the department. The ABF is continuing to face allegations of medical treatment failures at detention centres. A whistleblower on Nauru recently warned that pregnant women on Nauru were being denied terminations.

The department is also facing further internal changes in the lead up to the creation of the new Home Affairs department that will see the ABF merge with agencies including the Australian Federal Police and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

Brayley's position — and extensive background in medicine — placed him uniquely to manage healthcare matters in the department and recommend appropriate clinical care for asylum seekers. But his position as surgeon-general also made him a focal point for criticism. He routinely received correspondence from advocates about asylum seeker healthcare matters.

Any decent federal government with an ounce of compassion would end this terrible situation on Manus and Nauru islands.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Turnbull Government's insistence on denying a basic human right to so many Australian citizens is a disgrace


The Guardian, 2 September 2017:

The former human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs has called for an end to the Northern Territory intervention and the government’s cashless welfare card trial, labelling them violations of international law.

The professor is one of 200 prominent Australians, including Cathy Freeman, Ian Thorpe and former disability discrimination commissioner Graeme Innes, to support a statement prepared with Indigenous elders that calls the intervention a “crushing” failure.

Speaking at the University of Melbourne on Monday, Triggs said the NT intervention had harmed Indigenous communities since its introduction 10 years ago.

  “Assault and sexual assault convictions are about the same as before. Domestic violence has significantly increased. Incarceration of juveniles is now at world record heights.

“We’ve had a 500% rise in Indigenous youth suicide since the years 2007-11,” she said.

The intervention, enacted in 2007 under the Howard government, suspended the application of the Racial Discrimination Act, enacted harsh penalties on alcohol and pornography, and removed customary laws in certain areas of the territory after reports of high rates of child sexual abuse.

In 2012, the Gillard government passed the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory Act, which extended the laws until 2022.

“The Act and its extension breach the Racial Discrimination Act, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the important Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Triggs said. 

“While it was nominally designed to protect children, it’s become a chilling act of political cynicism and opportunism, an overreach of executive decision-making, a failure of parliament and the manipulation of truth.”….

Speaking on Monday, Triggs also condemned the NT’s BasicsCard and the government’s trial of cashless welfare cards in Western Australia and South Australia.

“There are significant problems with the card [and] the evidence on the ground is to the contrary. It is wrong and illegal as a matter of international law to penalise Aboriginal Australians where the impact of the BasicsCard is racially discriminatory.”

Monday, 4 September 2017

Mocking ACL's Lyle Shelton and parodying anti-same sex marriage advertising is about to reach peak viral


Here are the latest in my timeline – enjoy!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Millionaire mining magnate Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest's cashless welfare card adopted by the Turnbull Coalition Government is not the answer


NITV, 14 August 2017:

The income management trial was set up in the east Kimberley in April 2016 to help curb problem drinking, gambling and domestic violence - elements that were present in the lives of 13 young Indigenous people who killed themselves over a three-and-a-half year period.

University of Melbourne development studies lecturer, Dr Elise Klein is researching the policy and told the inquest the compulsory program was rolled out without proper community consultation, silencing many Aboriginal voices and causing tension and frustration amongst a diverse population.

Dr Klein told the inquest via video link from Melbourne the scheme represents neo-colonialism and government overreach.

"It's explained as the 'white card'," she said.

"The card has been a symbol of disempowerment, a symbol of state intervention, punitive intervention over someone's life."

Dr Klein said the system was chaotically introduced with design flaws, including a balance-checking mobile app for people who "didn't know how to use the internet let alone own a mobile phone"

Many of the children who claimed their own lives were inadequately fed, but Dr Klein said it was "naive at best" to think controlling parents' consumption would effectively combat this, insisting the card made money management "much harder" for people already living below the poverty line.

Dr Klein said many of the scheme's participants had told her using the card was like going back to the "ration days", referring to when Aboriginal people working on pastoral stations were paid in tea and sugar, as opposed to real wages.

"Young people watching this play out in their families can only feel extremely debilitated," she said.

The problem is compounded for jobseekers subjected to the coalition's controversial remote work for the dole scheme, which Dr Klein slammed as oppressive.

She called for bottom up, community-led development of services to address the complex social dysfunction plaguing Indigenous communities.

Earlier, one of the last people to speak to a 13-year-old boy before he killed himself, former Kununurra District High School deputy principal Jamieson Coltman, told the inquest child protection authorities failed to intervene despite reports of domestic violence.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

And so the vileness begins


HuffPost, 10 August 2017:

"In less than 48 hours the Prime Minister has gone from promising to call out extreme voices to guaranteeing their view. He calls that strong leadership. Strong leaders do not need to say I am a strong leader. They prove it with their actions."
Shorten's stunning rebuke of the Government's policy comes after reports the postal vote may be susceptible to voter fraud and that people living overseas or in rural or remote areas may find it difficult to get their vote counted.
Labor and the Greens have been leading the charge against the plebiscite in the parliament, and the day after his senior colleague Penny Wong delivered a scathing rebuke to the voluntary postal vote, Shorten himself rose in the House of Representatives to deal a stinging speech of his own.
Shorten directed his anger squarely at the PM during an impassioned plea for Australians to vote "yes".
While Turnbull has repeatedly said he is a supporter of marriage equality, he's also repeatedly stuck with his predecessor Tony Abbott's policy of a plebiscite on the reform.
He's maintained that position despite multiple LGBTQ advocates and mental health experts (hereherehere and here) demonstrating that a plebiscite would be accompanied by a harmful public debate which may further marginalise the gay community.

It is not hard to find the predicted vileness. Within hours of Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement and Tony Abbott’s anti-marriage equality presser it was popping up on the Internet on social media, in chatrooms and online forums.

I am not going to link to examples as some of those Neanderthal comments are explicit and all are distressing in their ignorance or open hate.

For some politically insane reason Turnbull & Co don’t seem to think they will be publicly called out over their actions.

In this belief they are wrong.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Are voters really going to trust the Australian Bureau of Statistics with the same-sex marriage plebiscite?


Well here we are. With a federal government so afraid of exercising its constitutional responsibility to make laws concerning marriage and fearful that the High Court might block any move to conduct a compulsory plebiscite without the parliament’s consent.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 2017:

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann confirmed the government would "ask the Senate to reconsider" the compulsory plebiscite, which was "clearly our preference".

But "if that were to fail, the government believes we have a legal and constitutional way forward" to commission a non-legislated, voluntary postal vote, he said.

And who is going to conduct this voluntary postal vote?

Why that national statistical agency which is intent on collecting, matching and monetising every piece of data it can on each and every Australian. The very agency which gave the nation #CensusFAIL in 2016.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 2017:

Ask the Australian Bureau of Statistics when it knew about its role in the postal plebiscite, ask if it knew at all, ask whether it has the capacity to conduct the plebiscite, and you'll be told it's saying nothing. It's referring all such questions to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.

Which is odd, because it's an autonomous agency used to speaking for itself. And the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister aren't the ministers it reports to. It reports to the Treasurer, through the Small Business Minister Michael McCormack. It was McCormack and the head of the ABS, David Kalisch, who kept the public updated during the computer meltdown that came to define the 2016 census.

At a cost of $122 million, the postal plebiscite would become the second-biggest project it's ever undertaken, after the $350 million census…..

Whereas in recent years the ABS has tried to hang on to the names and addresses of those that it surveys and link them to answers (in what many see as an invasion of privacy) each response to the plebiscite will have to be kept secret.

The ABS is, on the face of it, the wrong organisation to be conducting the plebiscite. So why it, rather than the Australian Electoral Commission?

One reason is that only governors-general can call elections, and the High Court is likely to decide that an AEC-conducted plebiscite is much the same as an election. The ABS already has the power to conduct surveys……. 

An ABS 'opinion poll' conducted without the authority of Parliament would be better able to withstand a High Court challenge than the AEC ballot conducted without the authority of Parliament.

On a practical level, the ABS is the worst-placed organisation to conduct such a postal plebiscite. It moves slowly. It needs (more than) five years notice to prepare each census. In recent years it has abandoned the commitment to total privacy that used to define it. And it is trying to move its surveys online.

The wrong organisation to be conducting the plebiscite?

It almost goes without saying that the high level of trust in the Australian Bureau of Statistics fell a few degrees after the 2016 Census debacle and it is likely that public confidence will be somewhat shaky with regard to its ability to run at such short notice what is less a plebiscite and more an unofficial national postal survey.

The ABS has issued this assurance:

The ABS assures Australians that there will be no personal identifiers on the survey form and all materials will be destroyed by the ABS at the end of processing.

However, not everyone will be comforted by this undertaking as so much can go wrong when such a large survey is conducted in such haste.

In 60 days time the ABS intends to have distributed the survey quesion to all registered voters, received the answers back in the post, collated those answers and published the result on 15 November 2017.

It may be that the most attractive thing about the ABS for the Turnbull Government is that its recent history might make some voters think twice about participating in this postal vote and, therefore deliver a participation rate that can be repudiated as not being genuinely representative if most Liberal and Nationals MPs and senators still want to block marriage equality becoming law.

A challenge to this government poll was lodged with the High Court of Australia on 10 August 2017, by lawyers acting on behalf of independent MP Andrew Wilkie, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and lesbian parent Felicity Marlowe.

The defendents are listed as the Commonwealth of Australia, Minister for Finance, Treasurer, Australian Statistician and Electoral Commissioner.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Why am I so angry about this postal vote in Australia to decide on marriage equality?


This following was tweeted by @liamesler within days of the Turnbull Government’s announcement that is has asked the Australian Bureau of Statistics to conduct a voluntary non-binding, national postal survey (not federal parliament authorised plebiscite) of citizens 18 years of age or older on the question Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?"


Sunday, 13 August 2017

United Nations mixed response to Australia's human rights record


“Attacks against the Australian Human Rights Commission

60. The Special Rapporteur was informed about the attacks made by some politicians against the Australian Human Rights Commission and, in particular, its President, Gillian Triggs, which are particularly troubling given the prestige and respectability this Commission enjoys internationally. Following the Commission’s inquiry into the harm caused by the detention of migrant children, its President has faced public intimidation, questioning her integrity, impartiality and judgment. On several occasions in the recent past, efforts to weaken the financial resources and capacity of the Commission have resulted in budget cuts, which have been amplified by the additional functions assigned to it.

61.For the Special Rapporteur, this situation is even more unacceptable given the fact that Australia sponsored Human Rights Council resolution 27/18 on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights, in which the Council states, in paragraph 9, that national human rights institutions and their respective members and staff should not face any form of reprisal or intimidation, including political pressure, physical intimidation, harassment or unjustifiable budgetary limitations, as a result of activities undertaken in accordance with their respective mandates, including when taking up individual cases or when reporting on serious or systematic violations in their countries.

62.The fact that the Commission handles more than 20,000 inquiries and 2,000 complaints each year, the vast majority of which are resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, confirms its exemplary work, particularly with respect to racism and racial discrimination. It should be held up by politicians, as well as journalists, as a good example of the functioning of democratic institutions in Australia.”

United Nations, Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xe... by clarencegirl on Scribd


Friday, 11 August 2017

Nationally-televised interview with Liberal MP for Goldstein Tim 'Freedom Boy' Wilson that lasted just 22.55 seconds and 66 words


New Matilda, 3 August 2017:

Sky News journalist Peter van Onselen had invited the loyal Liberal Party politician onto his program to discuss marriage equality, a burning topic in politics at the moment as Wilson’s colleagues seek to try and delay or sink momentum for enabling legislation.

Wilson is gay, so he’s an obvious choice for an interview, and van Onselen wasted no time in getting straight to the point.

VAN ONSELEN: Thanks very much for your company, do you like the idea of a secret ballot in the party room?

TIM WILSON: Thanks Peter. I said everything I had to say on this issue and I make no plans to make any other comment at this time. I’d rather talk about something else that actually matters to the Australian population – the economy, energy prices, what’s going on with Labor’s tax slug, you pick it, I’m happy to talk about it. I’ve said what I’ve said on this issue.

VAN ONSELEN: Tim Wilson thanks for your company.

TIM WILSON: [Pause] That’s alright, pleasure.



Does this interview rank as the shortest Australian political interview on record?

Monday, 7 August 2017

So why might the far right of the Liberal and National parties being pushing for a postal plebiscite on same-sex marriage?


The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) states this of national plebiscites:

Plebiscites

An issue put to the vote which does not affect the Constitution is called a plebiscite. A plebiscite is not defined in the Australian Constitution, the Electoral Act or the Referendum Act. A plebiscite can also be referred to as a simple national vote.

Governments can hold plebiscites to test whether people either support or oppose a proposed action on an issue. The government is not bound by the 'result' of a plebiscite as it is by the result of a Constitutional referendum. Federal, state and territory governments have held plebiscites on various issues.

Under s. 7A of the Electoral Act, the AEC can conduct a plebiscite as a fee-for-service election, with the AEC entering into 'an agreement, on behalf of the Commonwealth, for the supply of goods or services to a person or body'. The rules for a plebiscite or fee-for-service election are normally contained in the terms of the agreement between the AEC and the person funding the election.

Military service plebiscites were held in 1916 and 1917 but, as they were not proposals to amend the Constitution, the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution did not apply. Voters in all federal territories were permitted to vote. Both the military service plebiscites sought a mandate for conscription and were defeated.

The first thing to note about a national plebiscite is that its outcome is not binding on the federal parliament or on any MP or senator.

Additionally, voting in a national plebiscite can be voluntary, unless otherwise stated in any legislation authorising a specific plebiscite. As was the case in the National Song Poll in May 1977 at which 7.59 million people or est. 90%+ of registered voters cast a voluntary ballot.

Besides being voluntary a plebiscite can also be a mail-out ballot as was the Election of Delegates to the Constitutional Convention some twenty years later in December 1997, at which 6 million ballot papers were returned, scrutinised and counted – that is to say only 50.04% of all eligible voters actually voluntarily voted and an est. 1.13% of these cast informal ballots.

A parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage was calculated as costing $17 million in 2016. A stand-alone same-sex plebiscite was estimated to cost up to $525 million in that same year.

An important point to note about a national plebiscite on same-sex marriage is that it is unnecessary as s51 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act gives federal parliament power to make laws regarding marriage and, parliament exercised that right as recently as 2004 when it changed the definition of marriage in order To ensure that same sex marriages are not recognised as marriage in Australia, inclusive of those performed under the laws of another country that permits such unions.

So one can see why far-right federal MPs and senators would be in favour of a voluntary plebiscite, particularly a postal one.

It may cost taxpayers more but the chances of a high voter participation rate is not as certain and, if the government of the day doesn't like the results of the ballot it can decide to not to act on them.

These parliamentarians probably believe those voters who will be less likely to return a postal ballot will not be those strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, but those who are undecided, neutral, or disinterestedly in favour of rewriting the Marriage Act to allow gay couples to wed.

In the minds of zealots like Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott this is probably seen as giving their cause a fighting chance and absolving them of any responsibility for continuing to actively oppose same-sex marriage.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The travesty that is Australia's asylum seeker offshore detention policy -"If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here."


It seems the truth will out.

After the United States completes its vetting of asylum seekers held in overseas detention by the Australian Government it is not obliged to take even one of those individuals U.S. immigration officials have examined.

In May 2017 the Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed 268 people had completed their second-stage security interview with US officials: 220 in Nauru and 48 on Manus Island.

U.S. immigration officials halted screening interviews and departed Nauru on 14 July 2017, two weeks short of their scheduled timetable and a day after Washington said the US had reached its annual refugee intake cap.

However, under the original agreement once that vetting is completed Australia becomes obliged to resettle between 20 and 50 people under a U.S. "Protection Transfer Arrangement" in Costa Rica set up to resettle refugees from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Prime Minister Turnbull verbally changed that undertaking to an open-ended number of people the Trump Administration might be “very keen on getting out of the United States”.

There is no indication that the U.S. Government intends to complete its vetting of those detained on Nauru and Manus islands.

The Washington Post, 3 August 2017:

The Washington Post has obtained transcripts of two conversations President Trump had with foreign leaders: one with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and another with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
The transcripts were prepared by the White House but have not been released. The Post is publishing reproductions rather than original documents in order to protect sources. The reproductions below also include minor spelling and grammatical mistakes that appeared in the documents………………


JANUARY 28, 2017 FROM 5:05 TO 5:29 P.M. EST.

TURNBULL
Good evening.

TRUMP
Mr. Prime Minister, how are you?

TURNBULL
I am doing very well.

TRUMP
And I guess our friend Greg Norman, he is doing very well?

TURNBULL
He is a great mutual friend yes.

TRUMP
Well you say hello to him. He is a very good friend. By the way thank you very much for taking the call. I really appreciate it. It is really nice.

TURNBULL
Thank you very much. Everything is going very well. I want to congratulate you and Mike Pence on being sworn in now. I have spoken to you both now as you know. I know we are both looking to make our relationship which is very strong and intimate, stronger than ever – which I believe we can do.

TRUMP
Good.

TURNBULL
I believe you and I have similar backgrounds, unusual for politicians, more businessman but I look forward to working together.

TRUMP
That is exactly right. We do have similar backgrounds and it seems to be working in this climate – it is a crazy climate. Let me tell you this, it is an evil time but it is a complex time because we do not have uniforms standing in front of us. Instead, we have people in disguise. It is brutal. This ISIS thing – it is something we are going to devote a lot of energy to it. I think we are going to be very successful.

TURNBULL
Absolutely. We have, as you know, taken a very strong line on national security and border protection here and when I was speaking with Jared Kushner just the other day and one of your immigration advisors in the White House we reflected on how our policies have helped to inform your approach. We are very much of the same mind. It is very interesting to know how you prioritize the minorities in your Executive Order. This is exactly what we have done with the program to bring in 12,000 Syrian refugees, 90% of which will be Christians. It will be quite deliberate and the position I have taken – I have been very open about it – is that it is a tragic fact of life that when the situation in the Middle East settles down – the people that are going to be most unlikely to have a continuing home are those Christian minorities. We have seen that in Iraq and so from our point of view, as a final destination for refugees, that is why we prioritize. It is not a sectarian thing. It is recognition of the practical political realities. We have a similar perspective in that respect.

TRUMP
Do you know four years ago Malcom, I was with a man who does this for a living. He was telling me, before the migration, that if you were a Christian from Syria, you had no chance of coming to the United States. Zero. They were the ones being persecuted. When I say persecuted, I mean their heads were being chopped off. If you were a Muslim we have nothing against Muslims, but if you were a Muslim you were not persecuted at least to the extent – but if you were a Muslim from Syria that was the number one place to get into the United States from. That was the easiest thing. But if you were a Christian from Syria you have no chance of getting into the United States. I just thought it was an incredible statistic. Totally true – and you have seen the same thing. It is incredible.

TURNBULL
Well, yes. Mr. President, can I return to the issue of the resettlement agreement that we had with the Obama administration with respect to some people on Nauru and Manus Island. I have written to you about this and Mike Pence and General Flynn spoke with Julie Bishop and my National Security Advisor yesterday. This is a very big issue for us, particularly domestically, and I do understand you are inclined to a different point of view than the Vice President.

TRUMP
Well, actually I just called for a total ban on Syria and from many different countries from where there is terror, and extreme vetting for everyone else – and somebody told me yesterday that close to 2,000 people are coming who are really probably troublesome. And I am saying, boy that will make us look awfully bad. Here I am calling for a ban where I am not letting anybody in and we take 2,000 people. Really it looks like 2,000 people that Australia does not want and I do not blame you by the way, but the United States has become like a dumping ground. You know Malcom, anybody that has a problem – you remember the Mariel boat lift, where Castro let everyone out of prison and Jimmy Carter accepted them with open arms. These were brutal people. Nobody said Castro was stupid, but now what are we talking about is 2,000 people that are actually imprisoned and that would actually come into the United States. I heard about this – I have to say I love Australia; I love the people of Australia. I have so many friends from Australia, but I said – geez that is a big ask, especially in light of the fact that we are so heavily in favor, not in favor, but we have no choice but to stop things. We have to stop. We have allowed so many people into our country that should not be here. We have our San Bernardino’s, we have had the World Trade Center come down because of people that should not have been in our country, and now we are supposed to take 2,000. It sends such a bad signal. You have no idea. It is such a bad thing.

TURNBULL
Can you hear me out Mr. President?

TRUMP
Yeah, go ahead.

TURNBULL
Yes, the agreement, which the Vice President just called the Foreign Minister about less than 24 hours ago and said your Administration would be continuing, does not require you to take 2,000 people. It does not require you to take any. It requires, in return, for us to do a number of things for the United States – this is a big deal, I think we should respect deals.

TRUMP
Who made the deal? Obama?

TURNBULL
Yes, but let me describe what it is. I think it is quite consistent. I think you can comply with it. It is absolutely consistent with your Executive Order so please just hear me out. The obligation is for the United States to look and examine and take up to and only if they so choose – 1,250 to 2,000. Every individual is subject to your vetting. You can decide to take them or to not take them after vetting. You can decide to take 1,000 or 100. It is entirely up to you. The obligation is to only go through the process. So that is the first thing. Secondly, the people — none of these people are from the conflict zone. They are basically economic refugees from Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. That is the vast bulk of them. They have been under our supervision for over three years now and we know exactly everything about them.

TRUMP
Why haven’t you let them out? Why have you not let them into your society?

TURNBULL
Okay, I will explain why. It is not because they are bad people. It is because in order to stop people smugglers, we had to deprive them of the product. So we said if you try to come to Australia by boat, even if we think you are the best person in the world, even if you are a Noble [sic] Prize winning genius, we will not let you in. Because the problem with the people —

TRUMP
That is a good idea. We should do that too. You are worse than I am.

TURNBULL
This is our experience.

TRUMP
Because you do not want to destroy your country. Look at what has happened in Germany. Look at what is happening in these countries. These people are crazy to let this happen. I spoke to Merkel today, and believe me, she wishes she did not do it. Germany is a mess because of what happened.

TURNBULL
I agree with you, letting one million Syrians walk into their country. It was one of the big factors in the Brexit vote, frankly.

TRUMP
Well, there could be two million people coming in Germany. Two million people. Can you believe it? It will never be the same.

TURNBULL
stood up at the UN in September and set up what our immigration policy was. I said that you cannot maintain popular support for immigration policy, multiculturalism, unless you can control your borders. The bottom line is that we got here. I am asking you as a very good friend. This is a big deal. It is really, really important to us that we maintain it. It does not oblige you to take one person that you do not want. As I have said, your homeland officials have visited and they have already interviewed these people. You can decide. It is at your discretion. So you have the wording in the Executive Order that enables the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State to admit people on a case by case basis in order to conform with an existing agreement. I do believe that you will never find a better friend to the United States than Australia. I say this to you sincerely that it is in the mutual interest of the United States to say, “yes, we can conform with that deal – we are not obliged to take anybody we do not want, we will go through extreme vetting” and that way you are seen to show the respect that a trusted ally wants and deserves. We will then hold up our end of the bargain by taking in our country 31 [inaudible] that you need to move on from.

TRUMP
Malcom [sic], why is this so important? I do not understand. This is going to kill me. I am the world’s greatest person that does not want to let people into the country. And now I am agreeing to take 2,000 people and I agree I can vet them, but that puts me in a bad position. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week.

TURNBULL
With great respect, that is not right – It is not 2,000.

TRUMP
Well, it is close. I have also heard like 5,000 as well.

TURNBULL
The given number in the agreement is 1,250 and it is entirely a matter of your vetting. I think that what you could say is that the Australian government is consistent with the principles set out in the Executive Order.

TRUMP
No, I do not want say that. I will just have to say that unfortunately I will have to live with what was said by Obama. I will say I hate it. Look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call because I will be honest with you. I hate taking these people. I guarantee you they are bad. That is why they are in prison right now. They are not going to be wonderful people who go on to work for the local milk people.

TURNBULL
I would not be so sure about that. They are basically —

TRUMP
Well, maybe you should let them out of prison. I am doing this because Obama made a bad deal. I am not doing this because it fits into my Executive Order. I am taking 2,000 people from Australia who are in prison and the day before I signed an Executive Order saying that we are not taking anybody in. We are not taking anybody in, those days are over.

TURNBULL
But can I say to you, there is nothing more important in business or politics than a deal is a deal. Look, you and I have a lot of mutual friends.
Look, I do not know how you got them to sign a deal like this, but that is how they lost the election. They said I had no way to 270 and I got 306. That is why they lost the election, because of stupid deals like this. You have brokered many a stupid deal in business and I respect you, but I guarantee that you broke many a stupid deal. This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible.

TURNBULL
Mr. President, I think this will make you look like a man who stands by the commitments of the United States. It shows that you are a committed —

TRUMP
Okay, this shows me to be a dope. I am not like this but, if I have to do it, I will do it but I do not like this at all. I will be honest with you. Not even a little bit. I think it is ridiculous and Obama should have never signed it. The only reason I will take them is because I have to honor a deal signed by my predecessor and it was a rotten deal. I say that it was a stupid deal like all the other deals that this country signed. You have to see what I am doing. I am unlocking deals that were made by people, these people were incompetent. I am not going to say that it fits within the realm of my Executive Order. We are going to allow 2,000 prisoners to come into our country and it is within the realm of my Executive Order? If that is the case my Executive Order does not mean anything Malcom [sic]. I look like a dope. The only way that I can do this is to say that my predecessor made a deal and I have no option then to honor the deal. I hate having to do it, but I am still going to vet them very closely. Suppose I vet them closely and I do not take any?

TURNBULL
That is the point I have been trying to make.

TRUMP
How does that help you?

TURNBULL
Well, we assume that we will act in good faith.

TRUMP
Does anybody know who these people are? Who are they? Where do they come from? Are they going to become the Boston bomber in five years? Or two years? Who are these people?

TURNBULL
Let me explain. We know exactly who they are. They have been on Nauru or Manus for over three years and the only reason we cannot let them into Australia is because of our commitment to not allow people to come by boat. Otherwise we would have let them in. If they had arrived by airplane and with a tourist visa then they would be here.

TRUMP
Malcom [sic], but they are arrived on a boat?

TURNBULL
Correct, we have stopped the boats.

TRUMP
Give them to the United States. We are like a dumping ground for the rest of the world. I have been here for a period of time, I just want this to stop. I look so foolish doing this. It [sic] know it is good for you but it is bad for me. It is horrible for me. This is what I am trying to stop. I do not want to have more San Bernardino’s or World Trade Centers. I could name 30 others, but I do not have enough time.

TURNBULL
These guys are not in that league. They are economic refugees.

TRUMP
Okay, good. Can Australia give me a guarantee that if we have any problems – you know that is what they said about the Boston bombers. They said they were wonderful young men.

TURNBULL
They were Russians. They were not from any of these countries.

TRUMP
They were from wherever they were.

TURNBULL
Please, if we can agree to stick to the deal, you have complete discretion in terms of a security assessment. The numbers are not 2,000 but 1,250 to start. Basically, we are taking people from the previous administration that they were very keen on getting out of the United States. We will take more. We will take anyone that you want us to take. The only people that we do not take are people who come by boat. So we would rather take a not very attractive guy that help you out then to take a Noble [sic] Peace Prize winner that comes by boat. That is the point.

TRUMP
What is the thing with boats? Why do you discriminate against boats? No, I know, they come from certain regions. I get it.

TURNBULL
No, let me explain why. The problem with the boats it that you are basically outsourcing your immigration program to people smugglers and also you get thousands of people drowning at sea. So what we say is, we will decide which people get to come to Australia who are refugees, economic migrants, businessmen, whatever. We decide. That is our decision. We are a generous multicultural immigration nation like the United States but the government decides, the people’s representatives decides. So that is the point. I am a highly transactional businessman like you and I know the deal has to work for both sides. Now Obama thought this deal worked for him and he drove a hard bargain with us – that it was agreed with Obama more than a year ago in the Oval Office, long before the election. The principles of the deal were agreed to.

TRUMP
I do not know what he got out of it. We never get anything out of it – START Treaty, the Iran deal. I do not know where they find these people to make these stupid deals. I am going to get killed on this thing.

TURNBULL
You will not.

TRUMP
Yes, I will be seen as a weak and ineffective leader in my first week by these people. This is a killer.

TURNBULL
You can certainly say that it was not a deal that you would have done, but you are going to stick with it.

TRUMP
I have no choice to say that about it. Malcom [sic], I am going to say that I have no choice but to honor my predecessor’s deal. I think it is a horrible deal, a disgusting deal that I would have never made. It is an embarrassment to the United States of America and you can say it just the way I said it. I will say it just that way. As far as I am concerned that is enough Malcom [sic]I have had it. I have been making these calls all day and this is the most unpleasant call all day. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.

TURNBULL
Do you want to talk about Syria and DPRK?

TRUMP
[inaudible] this is crazy.

TURNBULL
Thank you for your commitment. It is very important to us.

TRUMP
It is important to you and it is embarrassing to me. It is an embarrassment to me, but at least I got you off the hook. So you put me back on the hook.

TURNBULL
You can count on me. I will be there again and again.

TRUMP
I hope so. Okay, thank you Malcolm.

TURNBULL
Okay, thank you.
END OF CALL

* My yellow highlighting.