Saturday, 31 May 2008

She took a gun to kill, but jury set her free


Catherine Smith leaves court.

AS CATHERINE SMITH emerged from the darkness, she pulled back the slide on the black semi-automatic pistol, her finger firmly on the trigger.

"I'll kill you, you bastard," she allegedly said, pointing it at her former husband, Kevin Smith.

Ms Smith, 58, said it had taken 30 years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the man she once loved to reach breaking point. That moment came on the evening of June 14, 2006, when the mother of six was charged with shooting her former husband outside a boarding house in Manly with the intent to murder him. Two shots were fired, but nobody was hurt.

It took just 25 minutes for the District Court jury to find her not guilty of attempted murder and that she had acted in self defence.

Outside court a jubilant Ms Smith said she was pleased about the verdict. Her lawyers called it a victory for battered wives.

Ms Smith, who the court was told had been diagnosed with chronic post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the years of abuse, had earlier pleaded guilty to possessing an unlicensed firearm. However Judge Greg Hosking chose to impose no sentence or conviction against her.

Much of what Ms Smith told the court she endured over her 30-year marriage is unfit to print.

The court heard Mr Smith had threatened her at various times with guns, a skinning knife, a fire poker and tortured her with an electric cattle prod. He held guns to her throat and between her eyes and shot at her on several occasions as she ran for her life. One evening she ran more than 25 kilometres along railway tracks to escape.

As Mr Smith strode confidently into the courtroom to give his evidence Ms Smith sat with her head down. She could not look at him and her body trembled.

His mantra throughout the marriage had been "If you leave me, bitch, I'll hunt you down and kill you", the court had heard.

She said she feared he would do just that if she did not get to him first.

Despite countless complaints, statement and letters Ms Smith and her family gave to police, Mr Smith has not been charged for any offences relating to abuse. Mr Smith had repeatedly denied the allegations of abuse put to him throughout the trial, describing them as "ridiculous". He told the jury: "I do not have a violent bone in my body." He agreed to give evidence only after being offered immunity from prosecution for anything he might say. That did not include immunity from perjury.

Judge Hosking ordered that transcripts from the trial be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine whether any serious indictable offences may have arisen from any of the evidence given.

Defence counsel Mark Dennis described Mr Smith as a "master manipulator", "a psychopath" and a man who was "capable of extreme violence and was prepared to take a life if the whim took him". In 2000 he was jailed for holding one of his sons and his partner for 27 hours until they revealed Ms Smith's whereabouts.

Outside court Ms Smith told reporters she thought they would still "be preyed on" by her former husband. "I just want him gone from our lives," she said.

Related:

Accused stepson abused by cruel and brutal man, jury told
THE prosecution says it is a case of attempted murder, but to the defence it is about the consequences of child abuse.

Dad denies abuse claims as stepson says he's sorry
A MAN who was critically stabbed by his stepson has denied a string of claims of physical abuse, saying he was blameless but admitting having used a belt to discipline him.

Haneef case human rights concerns: lawyer

The lawyer who represented former Gold Coast doctor Mohamed Haneef has told a Law Society function in Darwin that the case raises serious questions about aspects of Australia's legal system.

Mohamed Haneef was arrested and charged because he gave a mobile phone SIM card to a relative, who later launched a terrorist attack on Glasgow Airport.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) drew on special laws that had never been used before to hold and question Dr Haneef without laying charges.

His lawyer, Stephen Keim, says these specials laws raise serious questions about human rights.

"Detention without charge for 12 days in respect to a case that was sufficiently without substance, to be discontinued at the behest of a Commonwealth Senior Prosecutor, raises questions about the minimal human right content of the law as it relates to criminal investigation," he said.

He says the secrecy surrounding the case went against the principles of justice.

Mr Keim says lawyers were afraid to give journalists even basic details about the case, which made it difficult for open and impartial justice.

"The legislation does not prescribe or proscribe open hearings, the hearings were however conducted in an air of secrecy such as the parties to the hearing felt constrained about telling journalists the identity of the magistrate hearing the case and making the orders," he said.

Related:

$8m bill for bungled terrorism case
The federal police investigation of events surrounding the bungled Haneef terrorism-support case has so far cost $8.2 million and it's not over yet.

Thomas' lawyers fight retrial order
Lawyers for Victorian man, Jack Thomas, are opposing a court order that he be retried on terrorism charges.

Terror raid 'message'
COUNTER-TERRORISM police yesterday raided the homes of two Sydney men with allegedly extremist Islamic views to "send a message" they were being closely watched and dissuade them from any plans to engage in a terrorist act.

Palestinian exhibition axed after police visit
A police spokesman said the officers were from the operations' community contact unit and had come only to "say hi" to Friends of Hebron members. "They went to introduce themselves just to let them know who they are and what they are about. [Speaking with community groups] is part of their charter," he said. "When they got there the librarian was the only one there … they just had a quick chat to the librarian."

AFP colluded with Andrews: Haneef lawyer
Lawyers representing former [scapegoat] terror suspect Dr Mohamed Haneef have accused federal police of attempting to re-write history following claims investigating officers were caught unaware by a decision to cancel his work visa.

ASIO, police don't trust each other, report finds
A LACK of trust between the Australian Federal Police and ASIO has hindered co-operation between the anti-terrorism agencies, a report commissioned after the collapsed prosecution of the Sydney doctor Izhar ul-Haque has found.

Secret policemen's bill: $7.5m
Mr McClelland separately ruled out compensating or apologising to the Sydney medical student Izhar Ul-Haque, who a Supreme Court judge said had been kidnapped by ASIO officers. The conduct of ASIO in the case of Mr ul-Haque, who was cleared of terrorism charges, is being reviewed by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Ian Carnell.

Tough police powers outlive APEC
CONTROVERSIAL powers granted to NSW police during last year's APEC summit are likely to be made permanent - or at least available to police for any special event - under a proposal to be taken to state cabinet.

Push for overhaul of laws on terrorism
Anti-terrorism laws are just 'state sanctioned terrorism' aimed at 'innocent people' and using them as 'scapegoats' for Australia's 'alleged war on terror'. These laws were meant to project 'fear' in the community that we somehow need to be protected so that the government can wage war on innocent people for resources around the world unchallenged.

Report describes Habib interrogation
The agent said Mr Habib, a former Sydney taxi driver held at the US military prison at Guantanamo for more than two years, endured two 15-hour interrogation sessions with only a short break in between.

UN Torture Committee Blasts Australia
The Committee against Torture expressed concern about Australia's counter-terrorism laws. The Committee was also concerned that Australians knew about what was happening in Abu Ghraib, but did not act to stop the mistreatment. In a thinly disguised reference to the cases of Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks, the Committee expressed concern that Australia has failed to investigate claims of torture.

Habib mistreated but not in Aussie embassy
There was little doubt that Mamdouh Habib was badly mistreated after he was detained by Pakistani and US authorities in the wake of the September 11 attacks and no doubt whatsoever that he was taken to Egypt against his will, a Federal Court judge has found.

Hicks media gag order ends
As part of the deal, he was also banned from speaking to the media after his release in December 2007.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Eurekster Social Search Swicki Back On Line


Oh Swicki, you're so fine,_You're so fine, you blow my mind, Hey Swicki! Hey Swicki!_Oh Swicki, you're so fine,_You're so fine, you're back on line, Hey Swicki! Hey Swicki!_Oh Swicki, you're so fine,_You're so fine, you blow my mind, Hey Swicki! Hey Swicki!

Social/wiki search engine provider Eurekster has been down for the past week and users will be very happy that the company is back on line today.

We hope that the company will return for good to provide the site search functionality that many have come to depend on. So things look great for the company and our friends that provide the News and Reviews Swicki on our site here at Publik. Thanks.

Hey Swicki_Now when you take by the ooooh_Everyone gonna know_Every time you move, a little rhythm gonna show_There's something you can use,_So don't say no Swicki So, come on and give it to me any way you can_Any way you wanna do it I'll treat you like a fan_Oh, please Eurekster please_Don't leave us in a jam Swicki.

Oh Swicki, you're so fine,_You're so fine, you blow my mind, Hey Swicki! Hey Swicki!_Oh Swicki, you're so fine,_You're so fine, you're back on line, Hey Swicki! Hey Swicki!_Oh Swicki, you're so fine,_You're so fine, you blow my mind, Hey Swicki!

Original Lyricks Toni Basil

Related:

Eurekster Swicki
Build a swicki! A swicki is a custom social search portal on the topic of your choice. With every search, vote and click, your swicki generates more relevant results and turns into a valuable asset for you and your community. Take a tour to find out more about how swickis work. A custom search portal_Around the topic of your choice_Powered by your community......

Trouble at Eurekster? Things Don't Look Good

Social/wiki search engine provider Eurekster has been down for the past two days and users are wondering if the company will return to provide the site search functionality that many have come to depend on. Things look rough for the company.

Teen to walk free after setting boy alight

A 14-year-old Sydney boy will receive a two-year suspended jail sentence for splashing a nine-year-old with petrol and setting him alight.

The victim suffered third-degree burns to 20 per cent of his body when the teenager set him alight at Daceyville in eastern Sydney in 2006.

The offender, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty to maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm.

Judge James Bennett has adjourned a formal sentence to allow arrangements to be made concerning the teenager's case management.

But the judge explained the conditions of the sentence, which require the offender to continue taking anti-psychotic medication and receive treatment for mental illness.

He delivered a stern warning to the boy, saying he would go to jail if he did not comply with the sentence.

The teenager will be formally sentenced and released from jail within the next three weeks.

Petrol crisis fuels bus, train crush


Tight squeeze ... after work commuters board a train at Wynyard Station.

SOME rail passengers are being left behind on platforms and bus commuters are enduring long queues as motorists baulk at the soaring price of petrol and switch to public transport.

Morning peak-hour numbers on CityRail vastly exceed the State Government's "high-growth" predictions, and bus corridors are suffering a commuter crush.

There has even been a surge in demand for inter-city Greyhound coach services.

The rush for public transport comes as motorists begin to ration their petrol use. Sales of unleaded petrol fell by 4.4 per cent in the first three months of the year.

Garry Glazebrook, urban planning lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney, said traffic growth was beginning to slow because fewer people could afford petrol. "In Sydney, the price of petrol and the tolls combine with interest rates and inflation, and there is less room in the budget," he said. "Something has to give."

It is possible that a huge proportion are shifting to rail. In the 12 months to February, there were almost 1.2 million new passengers on the Bankstown line, a growth rate of 8.4 per cent.

In 2001, the Government's Transport Data Centre predicted a worst-case scenario in which the network was hit by 2 per cent yearly growth to 2021. In the year to February, that figure was more than 4.7 per cent.

Patronage climbed 7.4 per cent on the Inner West Line, 6.3 per cent on the Western Line and 6.2 per cent on the East Hills Line.

Trains are so full on the Bankstown and Western lines that some morning commuters are being left behind.

Meanwhile, patronage on the Hillsbus morning peak service to the city soared from 170,000-odd passengers in September 2005 to almost 300,000 in August 2007.

"We had about 65 buses in 2005 operating on the M2. It is now closer to 140 buses coming out every morning," said Hillsbus's chief executive, Owen Eckford. "We have reason to believe that growth is likely to continue."

A RailCorp spokesman, Paul Rea, said the increase in jobs was driving patronage. "This factor is so dominant that it makes it difficult to identify any correlation between movement in patronage levels and … factors such as changes in petrol prices."

But Dr Glazebrook disagreed: "There has not been a 6 per cent growth in jobs, because that would mean 15,000 more jobs."

The Government is pinning its hopes on its new underground metro lines to tackle the mounting crisis. Although it has invested in several infrastructure upgrades and the new Epping to Chatswood line, capacity improvements are still urgently needed.

Analysis released this week by the energy economics group EnergyQuest shows motorists are being squeezed by petrol prices and have resorted to self-imposed rationing. Consumption of unleaded fuel fell by 4.4 per cent in the first three months of this year. Overall, petrol sales fell by 1.2 per cent to 55.7 million litres.

Despite the reduced demand, increased importation and higher oil prices have taken the cost of petroleum imports to more than $1 billion a month, said EnergyQuest's chief executive, Graeme Bethune.

"There is no denying that record prices for petrol are causing Australian motorists to rapidly change their buying habits," Dr Bethune said. "Our research shows motorists are doing what they can to manage their fuel costs, by driving less and using the cheapest fuels they can find."

The higher petrol prices are proving a boon for Greyhound's coach services. The company's chief executive, Robert Thomas, said it experienced customer growth in the past 12 months well beyond any figures recorded over the past decade.

Greyhound garnered an extra 18 per cent of passengers in the year to April on its Sydney-Byron Bay route, and an extra 16 per cent on the Sydney-Canberra route. "Petrol is starting to really have an impact," Mr Thomas said.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Channel Seven guilty in Corby defamation


A Supreme Court jury has found Channel Seven guilty of defamation against Mercedes Corby.

Ms Corby is the sister of convicted drug smuggler Schappelle Corby.

She sued Channel Seven after the broadcaster's current affairs show Today Tonight falsely implied she was a drug dealer.

Jury's verdict is a win at last for Team Corby


Vindicated … Mercedes Corby with her lawyer Stuart Littlemore after she won a defamation case against Today Tonight.

MERCEDES CORBY won her defamation case against Channel Seven last night, a jury finding that a total of 28 defamatory meanings had been conveyed in three Today Tonight programs and a television news story in February last year.

Of the seven defamatory meanings that Channel Seven and its co-defendants sought to defend on the grounds they were true, the jury found that only one - that Ms Corby was guilty of the crime of possessing marijuana - had been established.

As she walked out of the Supreme Court with her lawyers, Ms Corby said: "I am really happy, but I have still got more to do. I am really happy with the outcome thanks to my legal team."

Jodie Power, the former best friend of Ms Corby, went out the opposite entrance with Bryan Seymour, the Today Tonight reporter who interviewed her. Clearly distressed, she said: "At least I can walk out of here with my head held high. I did not have to lie about myself. I did not have to invent anything. There were no voodoos for this story." Seymour put his arm round her and said: "It's OK, dear."

Ms Corby, after a brief consultation in chambers with her barrister, Stuart Littlemore, QC, and solicitor, Bill Kalantzis, walked down Martin Place and, seeing Anna Coren, presenter of Today Tonight, give a live studio telecast of the program that had defamed her, paused to look in.

The defamatory statements by Ms Power followed a falling-out between her and Ms Corby in 2005 after the arrest of Ms Corby's sister Schapelle in Bali in October 2004. Schapelle Corby was charged with trying to smuggle 4.1 kilograms of marijuana into Indonesia, an offence that earned her 20 years' imprisonment.

The trial heard evidence that Ms Power, although claiming to want to help in Schapelle Corby's defence, became domineering and gave interviews to magazines such as Woman's Day for money. When Ms Power returned to Bali with presents from Woman's Day readers to give Schapelle Corby, the jailed woman would not see her and Ms Power blamed Mercedes for intervening. The two never spoke again.

The defamation case, before Justice Carolyn Simpson and a jury of four, lasted just over four weeks and was the first held under amended defamation laws. Instead of restricting a jury to deciding whether or not the alleged meanings are conveyed, the jury must now decide whether they are defamatory and whether or not the defence, in this case of truth, is established.

Justice Simpson, who appeared irked at times because of the antics of a somewhat truculent bar table, thanked the jury of three men and a woman for their attention and said they were "trailblazers" for the new legislation.

Ms Power said or implied on the Today Tonight programs that Mercedes Corby had: asked her to smuggle drugs into Bali; confessed to her that she had smuggled marijuana herself; had cultivated, sold, supplied and possessed marijuana; and had lied to the public about her family's involvement in drugs.

She also said or implied that Mercedes had been knowingly involved in her sister Schapelle's importation of marijuana into Bali.

Ms Power further said or implied that Ms Corby was a threat to her safety, and that she had denied her sister's Indonesian lawyers a chance to prove her innocence.

She said Ms Corby was guilty of the crimes of taking the illicit drugs cocaine, shabu, ecstasy and speed in the five-year period before February 2007, and that she was guilty of the crime of possessing those drugs.

Ms Corby launched defamation proceedings against Seven, the Seven Network, the producers of Sky News, Coren, a Today Tonight reporter, Bryan Seymour, and Ms Power.

Ms Corby, 33, admitted she had smoked marijuana but that was years ago when she was young and silly and that her marijuana smoking consisted of "a few puffs" - perhaps seven times - and three portions of an ecstasy tablet which added up to just one tablet.

During legal argument, Mr Littlemore conceded that merely to hold marijuana in one's hand amounted, technically, to possession, but did not necessarily amount to possession in any substantial sense. But all other allegations were denied. The proceedings, in which both sides called witnesses, were marked by rigorous cross-examinations by Mr Littlemore and Seven's legal team, which included Tom Hughes, QC, his son Tom Hughes and Kieran Smark, SC.

Related:

Corby informant paid $120,000 cash, court told
A former friend of Schapelle Corby was paid "something like" $120,000 in cash by Today Tonight for a fabricated story, a defamation jury heard today.

Corby loses sentence appeal
Convicted Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby has lost a final appeal to have her jail sentence reduced.

Corby may serve 9 more years before transfer: Indonesia
Convicted cannabis smuggler Corby has served less than four years of a 20-year sentence.

Jail work could cut Corby's sentence
THE convicted drug trafficker Schapelle Corby may be eligible for a prison job that could shave years off the 20-year sentence she is serving in an Indonesian jail.

Girls gone wild


Pub grub ... drunken women are more messy, than menacing.

Women are drinking more and behaving more aggressively. Sonia Harford asks why.

Not long ago, the women in Victorian prisons were there largely because of drug or property-related crimes.

But that picture is slowly changing, with a rising number of women being convicted for assault and other violent crimes.

Police statistics show that the rate of women arrested for crimes against the person - including homicide, rape, sexual assault, robbery and assault - increased from 2005 to 2007.

However, according to Australian Institute of Criminology figures covering Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, overall female offending rates increased only for assault between 1995 and 2006. The rate rose 40% for women, compared with 15% for male offenders.

Nationally, the imprisonment rate for women soared between 1984 and 2003, by 209% for women compared with 75% for men. So what's going on? Are women really becoming more violent?

While these figures point to a disturbing trend, those searching for the reasons behind it paint a complex picture of women's changing identities, and an apparent acceptance of an increasingly violent culture.

With traditional male and female roles under constant pressure, young women have been alternately admired and derided for their independence, risk-taking and showing a more aggressive side. At the same time, their lives have changed in other significant ways. Women now marry later (if at all), delay childbirth, enjoy their independent incomes and often play hard. Women are now more likely than ever to have a voice in business, government and relationships.

Popular culture carries the momentum, bringing feisty women to our television screens: Buffy, Roseanne, and Seinfeld's Elaine. And it has also brought images that didn't spare our sensitivities.

"I grew up taking in a lot of violence by watching news and current affairs on the ABC, and I believe I had a readiness to respond to this far more than my mother or grandmother had," says University of Melbourne academic and author Liz Conor. "Because of that indoctrination of violence, I came away thinking the world was a dangerous place."

The current generation of women may be less shocked by images of violence than previous generations, she says. "And young women witness the lack of redress of violence, particularly in football when the tribunals don't act. You have to ask, too, about violent video games like Grand Theft Auto. This is where they're allowed to act out their frustrations about being young."

Conor views female identity as inexorably shifting from discreet and self-effacing to assertive, with war service and the feminist revolution forming high-water marks. "Discreet is Edwardian, dainty was 1920s and interwar. Later, during wartime, women were involved in heavy work, and were also heroic and effective in espionage. They had physical endurance and skills that we've seen transfer to the sports field.

"Then feminism came along to say we were no longer to be dainty or fragile. This identity went out the window, it was wiped."

In alcohol consumption, too, women have taken to riskier behaviour. As the Rudd Government recently noted, women have caught up with men in terms of regular heavy drinking.

But the evidence of women taking on more "male" forms of crime, and the potential links between drinking and violence, are complex.

"Women populate public space now more than they once did, often in the company of men, and it would be interesting to track where violent incidents occur," says Dr Sue Davies, a senior criminology lecturer at La Trobe University.

Few jobs, sports and leisure activities remain inaccessible to women, and as well as rubbing shoulders with men, they can be rubbed up the wrong way. "The violence may well be happening in and around social venues where women drink and might get involved in violence with men," says Davies.

Criminologists and prisoner advocates emphasise there are many contributing factors to women's violence, including drug dependence and the influence of childhood abuse and family neglect. Many academic papers have also been devoted to women's treatment by police and the courts, and sentencing patterns.

In Australian Institute of Criminology data, the most common reasons female offenders gave for committing serious offences were: "I was drunk or high"; and "I lost my temper". Others included payback, seeking money for drugs, peer pressure, or for kicks.

"Girls these days are using speed and ice, destructive drugs that will intensify people's behaviour," says Davies. "There is no doubt drugs are a major part of female offending. But in crime statistics, drugs often get obscured when there's a more serious charge. If someone runs in waving a syringe, it's an armed robbery. The robbery may be recorded, but not the drug connection."

In Conor's view, feminists in the 1980s and '90s failed to be alert to women's drug and alcohol use, and violent behaviour. "We said it's nonsense, it's patriarchal, and that men consolidated power through violence. That was our political protest. We needed then, and we need now, to pay attention to alcohol and drug use among young women, too, particularly ice."

Professor George Patton, of Melbourne's Centre for Adolescent Health, has observed how young women over time "catch up" with men, particularly in recreational drug and alcohol use.

"The best example is tobacco use. For a long time we thought it was something boys came to earlier and used more heavily and longer. By the early 1990s, we'd seen an equalisation in the tobacco use rates, with girls even sneaking ahead. We've seen similar trends with cannabis use, and with drinking. In a couple of decades, girls have caught up to the boys."

He believes many factors have influenced the catch-up, including affluence and the marketing of alcohol products, particularly during puberty when "kids are acutely attuned to what their peers are doing and what they believe their peers are doing, and are acutely attuned to what they see in the media".

Hence the Rudd Government targeting brightly coloured "alcopops" with its dramatic tax hike.

The organisation ARBIAS (Alcohol Related Brain Injury Australian Services) warns that a whole generation of young women may suffer the harmful effects of alcohol within 10 years. Alarming statistics reveal that girls aged 12 to 15 are more than three times as likely as teenage boys of the same age to consume alcohol at least once a week.

Women are more susceptible than men to alcohol's effects. But apart from the physical price they pay for big nights out, women also labour under lingering cultural prejudices about acceptable feminine behaviour. Drunk women and violent women tend to attract attention - when Amy Winehouse walks into a lamppost, a photographer is usually on hand to capture her humiliation.

"Back in the '50s and '60s, women who did drink were linked with promiscuity, and I think that still carries over into a link with sexual risk-taking," says Dr Jo Lindsay, a Monash University sociologist who has researched Melbourne's club and pub culture. "That's been glamourised in shows like Sex and the City, and there's been more openness for women, but there's a negative side too."

The days of a modest sherry are long gone for many women. "Drinking habits are linked to gender, and we have seen a big shift. Alcohol is central to everyday life in Australia and an important part of being an adult. If you're a non-drinker now, it's very hard to participate socially."

It wasn't always so. In the 1950s and '60s, when the public bar was off-limits to females, women accepted a kind of social apartheid built on the high moral ground. Most women traditionally played a supporting role for men, which included limiting men's consumption of alcohol, says Lindsay. "They had to manage the drinking too, in terms of its impact on domestic violence and sexual assault, so drinking has been a dangerous thing for women in the past," she says.

"Clearly there's been a big change that goes along with second-wave feminism. Nightlife has been feminised and so has drinking. Women see it as their right to enjoy nightlife just as men do, and it's become an important part of work life to go out drinking. Also, the youth stage is so stretched out, with women having children later. It's not just the two years between high school and then motherhood, now young people have a lot more time to drink."

The downside, she says, is the compulsory drinking with peers that men have always been subject to. "You can't really get away with your one shandy."

Patton believes the perception of women drinkers as unfeminine has faded. "Alcohol and drug use is very much part of the lifestyle of celebrity role models that girls look to, and I think that's contributed to the social sanctions against drinking diminishing."

But are they? Feminist criminologists are quick to warn that women are often judged more harshly than men for seemingly inappropriate behaviour. "If women behave aggressively, it's more quickly pathologised as not being feminine enough," says University of Melbourne criminology researcher Antonia Quadara.

"If binge-drinking is seen as aping male behaviour, it's still seen as more problematic for women than it is for men. There's an association of women as uncontrollable. When they step outside rigid stereotypes of what's acceptable, they're seen as behaving worse than men."

Conor believes perceptions of drunk or violent women are governed by "a class reading, rather than a gender one; they are seen as trash".

Victoria Police inspector Paul Ross insists that, on Melbourne's nightlife streets, women and men are treated equally when drunk or violent. Despite the statistics, he hasn't witnessed any great change in rates of female offending in the inner city.

In his experience, drunk women are more at risk of being victims of violence or sexual assault, than perpetrators. "Becoming inebriated puts women in a high-risk category, particularly late at night, and they should be mindful of that."

Lindsay also takes a moderate view. She doesn't believe, on the whole, that Australian women are violent, and says it's often overlooked that many women do drink just a little. In her view, there's no need for "moral panic" about young women's drinking and subsequent behaviour.

"I don't think we're like Britain, where the 'ladette' stuff is really strong. I was in Manchester a few years ago, and it was St Patrick's Day and there was mayhem on the streets. Women were throwing things, getting arrested, screaming. I don't think we see that here.

"For men, drinking is often a licence to be aggressive. Women in Australia just don't do that, we're not like football players who glass their girlfriend."

Even at the Melbourne Cup, when they're sitting ducks for press photographers, women are more messy than menacing. "They're just hilariously toppling on their heels, or having a wee in the car park. They're hardly a public danger!" says Lindsay.

Correction

This story incorrectly attributed to the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing that 60% of female drinkers aged between 15 and 17 had reported drinking a pre-mixed alcoholic drink, compared with 14% in 2000. In fact, the figures were taken from a research report commissioned by the Department of Health and Ageing, Alcohol Consumption Patterns Among Australian 15-17 Year Olds.

- May 29, 2008

Quote: Nice piece especially about adolescence and violence on TV seemingly quite allot these days. When teaching social-skills in schools becomes a habit, then kids, all kids equally, could learn the social skills needed to avoid the 'advertising' and 'peer pressure'. Especially if substances all had labels with warnings.

Both victims and offenders have some of the same burdens and that is to learn social skills at the earliest intervention, especially if their parents don't have them to pass on. Then when all kids learn them they as parents can pass them on. Saving teachers down the track. That way both the potential offender and the potential victims would have learned not to be so. The potential offenders learn as much as the potential victims in how not to be a victim and to avoid, survive or escape and offenders not to take and go down the snake and to avoid, survive and better improve themselves by giving and climbing up the ladders. Potential offenders learn communication, conflict resolution, self worth and that violence does not win. Also how to balance substances, indulgence and boredom better.

So do the potential victims learn those things, as well as not to leave one self vulnerable, not to provoke others unnecessarily, or at least find the right time to use dialogue and by shifting gears back down to neutral if possible, to avoid a temper. Then all children can learn how valuable they are and in turn how valuable you are which cuts down offending and reduces the risks of suicide. All it takes is to pay one extra teacher in each school to keep at least 5% of people out of the hospital, prison, and the morgue. And to label the dangers like legal ethyl alcohol for what they really are over and above corporations and governments making profits. Principals need not complain about widening the curriculum if an extra teacher is paid out the savings made from the current fodder for the victim industry, which is billions of dollars.

Corporations shouldn't be killing their customers and there should be more consideration about what is legal and what is not in terms of the balance, limit, moderation, and lethal capacity of the substance. Love is a drug, money is a drug, sex is a drug, and chocolate biscuits are a drug what aren’t? If you are allergic to royal jelly, peanut butter or penicillin you could die. What if you're allergic to alcohol? What then? Ah??? Calling..... Dr Alex Wodack.


Related:

Alcohol causes a quarter of boat deaths: study
A study into Australian boating fatalities has revealed that alcohol is behind more than a quarter of fatal accidents.

Calls for binge warnings on alcohol packaging
The Public Health Association (PHA) says warnings about the dangers of binge drinking should be pasted on all forms of packaged alcoholic drinks.

Support for booze public education
A SURVEY of 1000 Australians found more than three-quarters of those questioned about attitudes to drinking said there was not enough public education about the dangers of alcohol, despite the Rudd Government's promise of a multimillion-dollar binge-drinking strategy.

Message on a bottle for binge drinkers
BOTTLES of alcoholic drinks could soon carry graphic pictures warning of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption as part of the Federal Government's latest series of measures to cut down on under-age and binge drinking.

Teachers urge Govt to stem school violence
New South Wales teachers say the State Government should be putting more resources into tackling violence in public schools, after it was revealed 252 official reports of assault or serious threats were made last year.

Principals agree: cut out social subjects
"The curriculum is far too crowded and we know from our research that not all schools can do what is being asked of them," she said. "The social responsibilities being placed on primary schools are ever increasing, taking time and resources away from our core business."

Shot man having psychotic episode

A Canberra man shot by police and left a quadriplegic was warned at least twice to stop advancing before a federal officer fired his gun, an ACT court has heard.

Jonathan Anthony Crowley, 40, is suing, for unspecified damages, the commonwealth, the ACT government and the police officer who shot him when he was having a psychotic episode in late 2001.

Mr Crowley believed he was Jesus Christ and had 1,000 years to save the earth when he took to the streets of Chapman in southern Canberra on December 11 wielding a 1.2 metre-long kendo bamboo stick.

He was shot in the neck after attacking an Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer who was trying to arrest him.

The ACT Supreme Court heard from an eyewitness to the shooting for the first time on Thursday.

Leonard Richter was working with his father installing an air-conditioning unit in a house in Chapman on the day Mr Crowley took to the streets with the stick.

Mr Richter told Justice Hilary Penfold he heard a commotion and rushed outside where his father told him he had been hit by a man with a stick.

He saw a police car arrive at the scene and two officers confront Mr Crowley.

"One officer attempted to spray the gentleman (Mr Crowley)," Mr Richter told the court.

"That didn't thwart his actions."

The court has heard senior constables Glenn Pitkethly and Ben Willis were first on the scene after leaving a command point just 800 metres away.

Mr Richter said Mr Crowley struck the officer with a "quite heavy, forceful" blow.

After Snr Const Willis fell into some bushes Snr Const Pitkethly tried to strike Mr Crowley with his baton which then "ended up on the ground".

Snr Const Pitkethly then took a number of steps backwards before pulling out his firearm, Mr Richter said.

"I distinctly remember hearing: 'Stop or I will shoot' at least two or three times," he said.

But Mr Crowley "just kept coming ... as if the officer didn't have a gun".

Then "the officer shot ... pulled the trigger".

Last week, former NSW Police assistant commissioner Norman Hazzard told the court the officers should have stayed in their police car and waited for back-up before confronting Mr Crowley.

Asked by Snr Const Pitkethly's lawyer, Peter Semmler QC, how he would have felt had the police "run off", Mr Richter replied: "I would have been very disappointed".

"Police are supposed to protect the public."

However, under cross-examination from Mr Crowley's lawyer, Bernard Gross QC, Mr Richter said he could have "unconsciously" absorbed some of the details from his father's account of events.

Thursday is the last day of the hearing for nine months.

The hearing will resume in late February 2009 due to a lack of civil court dates before then.

Underbelly 'gun for hire' gets 20 years


Sean Sonnet showing off his biceps for the benefit of court artists in 2004.

A gunman hired by multiple murderer Carl Williams to kill an underworld rival at the height of Melbourne's gangland war has been jailed for 20 years.

Justice Betty King today jailed Sean Jason Sonnet, 39, for a minimum of 16 years after he was found guilty of conspiring to murder former lawyer Mario Condello in September last year.

Justice King said Sonnet was a "gun for hire" who was prepared to carry out the killings for money.

"This was to be a cold blooded execution of a human being in a very public area," she said.

When his jail term was read out, Sonnet hurled a tirade of expletives at Justice King, accusing her of denying him a fair trial and labelling her a "fg dog" and a "fg black widow".

The Supreme Court jury had heard police uncovered a plot to kill Condello by accident after they bugged the car of a suspected drug trafficker.

Police arrested Sonnet and his accomplice Gregg Hildebrandt near the Brighton Cemetery in Melbourne's south during the early hours of June 9, 2004.

Sonnet was found to be carrying two loaded handguns as he and Hildebrandt waited for Condello to walk by with his dog. But the pair was acting on mistaken information because he wasn't living in the area at the time.

The jury heard gangland figure Carl Williams hired Sonnet to murder Condello in revenge for the killing of his friend Andrew Veniamin.

Condello was shot dead in the driveway of his Brighton home in February, 2006.

New sex offender laws passed in Victoria

Sex offenders who have committed crimes against adults will remain under close supervision after their jail term ends under a new Victorian law passed through state parliament.

Corrections Minister Bob Cameron said the extended supervision scheme previously only applied to sex offenders with child victims, but now those with adult victims have been included.

"These new laws will ensure high risk sex offenders with adult victims can be supervised post-sentence with limitations on where they live and requirements such as constant electronic monitoring," Mr Cameron said after the legislation's passage on Wednesday night.

Conditions of the law include that the offender reports to and receives visits from authorities, does not move house or travel interstate without permission and undergoes directed rehabilitation.

Related:

Serial rapist gets indefinite sentence
A serial rapist and paedophile whose crimes date back to the 1970s has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in jail.

Reduced sentence for female sex offender
A 35-year-old Melbourne woman who had sex with a 15-year-old boy has received a reduced jail sentence because treatment is not available to female sex offenders in custody.

New jails ahead of crackdown
TWO new jails will be built in Victoria under a $600 million budget initiative designed to ease overcrowding in the state's prison system. The sex-offenders wing to be upgraded at Ararat Prison houses some of the state's worst pedophiles, including Brian Keith Jones, or Mr Baldy. He and others have completed their sentences but are deemed such a risk to the community that they are housed outside the prison walls but inside its perimeter, under extended supervision orders.

Tough new laws for sex offenders
Under the new laws, serial rapists could be made to wear electronic bracelets or be confined to houses within prisons.

Abusers free without treatment
HIGH-RISK sex offenders who need and want treatment are released without it because the state's only rehabilitation centre is ridiculously under-resourced, says a psychologist who worked on the program for a decade.

WA sex offenders missing out on rehab
It has been revealed that over the past year more than 60 per cent of sex offenders released from Western Australian jails did not complete rehabilitation programs targetting their crimes.

Payouts to former detainee's likely

THE Department of Immigration has paid $620,000 to eight former detainees and has written to more than 130 others to say they may be next in line for compensation.

Department officials have told a Senate estimates committee the department sent 149 letters to notify individuals they "may have been unlawfully detained".

The development is a sequel to a series of inquiries triggered by the controversy over the department's mishandling of the cases of the Australian resident Cornelia Rau, who was unlawfully detained, and Vivian Alvarez Solon, an Australian citizen who was deported to the Philippines.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman's office identified 247 cases of suspected unlawful detention, which are now being processed by the department.

But a spokesman for the department last night challenged a claim by the Greens senator Kerry Nettle that the department could end up paying more than $10 million in unlawful detention claims.

Such a figure was not representative of the cases still to be settled and as the department had dealt with the most difficult cases first it was likely that payouts for remaining cases would be lower.

The Government estimates it may be liable to pay compensation in 135 cases. The spokesman said the department was still trying to find about 60 people among those identified by the Ombudsman, John McMillan.

The Immigration Department has sent letters to 54 former detainees advising them to get legal advice about compensation for their detention, the department said in response to questions from Senator Nettle.

Senator Nettle, who based her $10 million estimates on what the Government had paid so far, said the compensation "confirms that the cruel policy of mandatory detention is a huge waste of money".

She called on the Federal Government to scrap mandatory detention and deal with immigration matters while the individuals in question lived in the community.

The Immigration Department's chief lawyer, Robyn Bicket, confirmed that Ms Rau was paid $2.3 million in compensation last month after her damages case was finalised in March.

It was also revealed that the Federal Government, the Queensland Government and the detention centre operator GSL were still bickering about who was liable for legal costs associated with Ms Rau's case.

"We do have ongoing arguments between the parties as to who should pay what," the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, told the hearing.

Alcohol causes a quarter of boat deaths: study

A study into Australian boating fatalities has revealed that alcohol is behind more than a quarter of fatal accidents.

The study looked at boating fatalities between 1999 and 2004 when 241 people died in Australian waters.

It found that human error was behind nearly 75 per cent of those accidents, and that one in four victims had a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.

Maurene Horder from the National Marine Safety Committee says the findings should serve as a warning to other boat users.

"it really is quite alarming and it's a bit of a wake-up call I think for all of us," she said.

Study launched

Meanwhile a nationwide study has been launched to test how boating accidents are linked with the amount of time recreational boat users spend on the water.

The study was unveiled at a maritime safety conference in Adelaide today, and will require about 4,000 volunteers across Australia.

Volunteers will be asked to keep a diary of their recreational boating habits over a period of 18 months.

Researchers will use the findings to help improve water safety.

Related:

Calls for binge warnings on alcohol packaging
The Public Health Association (PHA) says warnings about the dangers of binge drinking should be pasted on all forms of packaged alcoholic drinks.

Support for booze public education
A SURVEY of 1000 Australians found more than three-quarters of those questioned about attitudes to drinking said there was not enough public education about the dangers of alcohol, despite the Rudd Government's promise of a multimillion-dollar binge-drinking strategy.

Message on a bottle for binge drinkers
BOTTLES of alcoholic drinks could soon carry graphic pictures warning of the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption as part of the Federal Government's latest series of measures to cut down on under-age and binge drinking.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

NSW to act on corruption findings


'Seriously corrupt': Beth Morgan

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found former council planner Beth Morgan and her ex-lover, developer Frank Vellar, engaged in corrupt conduct.

Ms Morgan slept with and received bribes from Mr Vellar and other developers while assessing their applications.

She approved Mr Vellar's $100 million Quattro development during their affair.

The ICAC says the pair's actions could constitute criminal offences punishable by jail.

It has also recommended Planning Minister Frank Sartor suspend the consent granted for the Quattro development, which it says grossly exceeded council standards.

Mr Sartor says consent has already been suspended until June 18.

"If I have to exercise my powers to suspend the consent for another six months, then I will do so," he said. "I will have no hesitation in taking ICAC's advice on board."

Premier Morris Iemma acted swiftly on a previous recommendation to sack Wollongong Council in March.

The Greens say the ICAC investigation demonstrates the need for a wider look at corruption in the NSW planning process.

'Lovers' scheme'

ICAC Commissioner Jerrold Cripps QC called for prompt action in a statement earlier today.

He said Ms Morgan failed to properly asses the Quattro development application as part of a scheme with Mr Vellar.

The ICAC said Mr Vellar requested Ms Morgan be assigned to assess the application when she returned from maternity leave in March 2004.

It said she began a sexual relationship with Mr Vellar two months later.

The watchdog said he gave the planner gifts and benefits worth thousands of dollars, including cash, holidays and home appliances.

The findings are included in the second report released as part of ICAC's investigation of 14 people over Wollongong Council's planning processes.

The first report recommended the council be sacked in March, after 11 days of evidence about breaches of the council code of conduct on planning matters.

A final report will be released later this year.

Related:

NSW Labor faces royal commission call
The New South Wales Greens have called for a royal commission into state planning decisions, following a number of allegations the Government overrode advice to deliver huge windfalls to ALP donor.

Xenophobic racists reject Islamic school


Xenophobic racist Kate McCulloch

ABOUT 200 Camden residents cheered wildly as their council formally decided to reject an application for an Islamic school in their area last night.

Dressed in a hat decorated with Australian flags and a long yellow dress, a resident, Kate McCulloch, emerged from the meeting declaring a victory for "decency" - and insisted Muslims were incompatible with the local community.

"The ones that come here oppress our society, they take our welfare and they don't want to accept our way of life," she said.

Police blocked off the street outside the hall last night and about a dozen security staff kept guard inside the meeting. But no supporters of the Islamic school turned up and the crowd inside was unanimous in its opposition.

A council report recommended that the application be refused after more than 3000 submissions had been received from the public. The vast majority opposed the development. "Racist is just a word," Ms McCulloch said. "I have many English, Irish, Greek and Italian friends. I even have a Turkish friend who opposes this."

If the council had no cultural concerns, residents did. One, Simon McCarthy, said: "I've been rolled before and we came out here for the quiet life. The fact is that Camden has been a strongly white community for a long time and the people here are scared. I'm not a racist person - that's just a statement of fact."

Addressing the meeting, the Camden Macarthur Resident Group's spokesman, Andrew Wannet, said there had been "name-calling and abuse for anyone who opposed this development, even likening us to Nazis". Opposing residents' wishes were Muslims, the Greens and the "politically correct".

Leichhardt Council, meanwhile, met last night to discuss the closure of a photographic exhibition about Palestinian refugees at the council library this month. A local pro-Palestinian group, Friends of Hebron, had condemned the decision to shut their exhibition as "an act of censorship" after a visit from counter-terrorism police, while the Jewish group Inner West Chavurah wanted to know why it was not invited to stage its own exhibition.

The council voted that all future events for the two groups would be vetted by a subcommittee of councillors and representatives from both organisations.

Cr Jamie Parker censured police for visiting the display. "That has been the most divisive thing about all of this. The police really need to think about the way they interact with the community."

Quote: We've seen it all before in Cronulla, these xenophobic racists are a product of war criminal John Howard and his government. We don't need xenophobic racists in Australia, a multi-cultural society with tolerance, for all people no matter what race, religion, creed or colour. Wake up Camden residents you've been brainwashed by the John Howard government into thinking some people don't fit. How could you? How dare you promote racist hatred in Australia !!! As if you didn't get on a boat to get here???

Related:

Palestinian exhibition axed after police visit
THE decision by a Sydney library to dump an exhibition about Palestinian refugees after a visit by counter-terrorism police the night before it opened has been criticised as an act of censorship.

Things can only get better, Howard tells party faithful
JOHN HOWARD told the Liberal Party it needed to keep a sense of historical perspective about its current woes, out of office federally and in every state and territory.

Australian state pardons man hanged for murder 86 years ago

An Australian governor gave a posthumous pardon Tuesday to a man hanged 86 years ago for the rape and murder of a young girl, after new research discredited the evidence used for his conviction.

Colin Campbell Ross, hanged in 1922 at the age of 28, was pardoned Tuesday by Victoria state Gov. David de Kretser.

Descendants of Ross and the 12-year-old victim, Alma Tirtschke, petitioned for the pardon.

Prosecutors alleged that Ross, who ran a wine saloon in Melbourne, gave Tirschke alcohol before raping and strangling her on New Year's Eve 1921. The only physical evidence connecting him to the crime were hairs on a blanket; prosecutors said the hairs were Tirtschke's.

While witnesses gave alibis for Ross, he was convicted and hanged four months later, protesting his innocence.

The pardon petition built on research by Kevin Morgan, who wrote a book about the case called "Gun Alley (Murder, Lies and the Failure of Justice)." Morgan arranged for forensic tests on the original hair samples and showed that the ones on Ross' blanket did not match Tirtschke's. He also gave new character evidence about the prosecution's main witness.

Victoria Attorney-General Rob Hulls said in a statement Tuesday that he referred the petition to the Supreme Court of Victoria and received an opinion "that there had been a miscarriage of justice in Mr. Ross' case."

"A pardon is not the same thing as a declaration of innocence," Hulls said. "In the circumstances of the case a retrial is not possible. A pardon is recorded against the conviction in recognition that the State forgives the legal consequences of the crime."

Tirtschke's niece, Bettye Arthur, was pleased with the pardon.

"It is a tragedy for everybody that the actual perpetrator was not caught and an innocent man lost his life," she was quoted as saying Tuesday.

Victoria state abolished the death penalty in 1975.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Army chief admits morale concerns over lack of combat?


Lance Corporal Jason Marks with his two children.

Lieutenant General Leahy was responding to public criticism from two infantry officers who have written in the Australian Army Journal.

The officers claim that some soldiers are sometimes ashamed to wear the Australian uniform and have been treated with "near contempt" by allies in Iraq and Afghanistan because they are involved in such low-risk missions.

One of the authors, Major Jim Hammett, says there is a widespread perception amongst troops that the army is "plagued by institutional cowardice".

In a separate article, Captain Greg Colton says there is frustration that the infantry are getting second rate operations ad compared to the special forces.

The officers say the policy of leaving Australian combat operations to SAS and other special operations troops is having a detrimental effect on the morale of regular infantrymen.

Lieutenant General Leahy has said he is aware that some infantry soldiers are not happy about being excluded from combat action, but he says that simply reflects the changing role of the military.

"What we've seen is the changing nature of war - this is no longer infantry wearing red jackets and white cross straps, taking on the army of another king," he said.

"What we're seeing now is that we're required to work in different populations to work to protect, to support and persuade.

"And the important work that our infantry are doing in the Solomon Islands, in East Timor, and other places, gives us a clear indication of that."

The Australian Defence Association (ADA) says the infantry should be given more combat roles.

ADA executive director Neil James says Australian officers are feeling inadequate as they watch other nations' infantry in combat against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"Basically, most of their duties are predominantly protective, and this is the problem," he said.

"They have fairly severe restrictions on what they're allowed to do, not just formally but informally, in that the role they're allocated is mainly protecting the engineers in Afghanistan."

Quote: Is this propaganda? If not then why not? Jim Hammett and Greg Colton, need to check out the Memorial Day Special Winter Soldier and tell us if they still think they missed out on something. You idiots!!! The best thing Lieutenant General Leahy and Neil James could do is fully educate the two infantry officers about the real dangers of war and or send them to take the place of fallen US soldiers on the front line if they don’t shut up. There could be another tact to this propaganda and that is if the military is ‘promoting’ Jim Hammett and Greg Colton to ‘strategically convince’ other military personnel and the country that they should be put on the front line instead and at more risk because they are about to be placed there anyway??? These resource wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, for the likes of Neil James, are about stealing their oil resources and have 'nothing' do with defence of this nation. If you want to defend Australia then change the name to the Humanitarian Aid Group instead of the guise of Defence Association and start helping people out instead of stealing oil that doesn't belong to you.

Related:

Memorial Day Special…Winter Soldier on the Hill: War Vets Testify Before Congress
War veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan came to Capitol Hill this month to testify before Congress and give an eyewitness account about the horrors of war. Like the Winter Soldier hearings in March, when more than 200 service members gathered for four days in Silver Spring, Maryland to give their eyewitness accounts of the injustices occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan, “Winter Soldier on the Hill” was designed to drive home the human cost of the war and occupation—this time, to the very people in charge of doing something about it. The name, Winter Soldier, comes from a similar event in 1971, when hundreds of Vietnam veterans gathered in Detroit, and is derived from the opening line of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, “The Crisis,” published in 1776: “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” In a packed public hearing this month, the soldiers testified before a panel of lawmakers from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Today we spend the hour hearing their testimony.

Slain commando's body on way home to Australia
The body of the Australian special forces commando killed in Afghanistan this week is on its way home.

US dockers strike over Iraq war
Union officials say about 10,000 longshore workers who handle cargo along the west coast of the United States have stayed away from work in a one-day protest against the war in Iraq.

Thousands take part in anti-war protests
Thousands of anti-war protesters have marched in Britain and the United States to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.

Aussies hurt as bomber kills 15
TWO Australian journalists were wounded in a suicide bombing that killed about 15 people in Afghanistan yesterday, just two days after an Australian commando was killed in battle.

IT'S ALL ABOUT OIL!
In 1998, Dick Cheney, now US vice-president but then chief executive of a major oil services company, remarked: "I cannot think of a time when we have had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian." But the oil and gas there is worthless until it is moved. The only route which makes both political and economic sense is through Afghanistan.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Detainees climb Villawood roof in deportation protest

The Department of Immigration has confirmed two Chinese nationals have climbed on to the roof of Sydney's Villawood Detention Centre.

The Refugee Action Coalition says the men are protesting against a decision to send them back to China.

Last week, federal Immigration Minister Chris Evans announced there would be 24 deportations from Villawood.

Staff at the centre, including an interpreter, are talking with the men, who are yet to make any formal demands.

Related:

Visas offered to 31 in long detention

The federal government is offering visas to 31 people who have been in immigration detention for more than two years.

Evans unveils new border security measures
Immigration Minister Chris Evans says new border security measures at international airports and sea ports will strengthen Australia's security. The new system will allow immigration officials to assess passengers' data before their flight or ship arrives in Australia.

1000 refugees receive protection, not detention
MOHAMMAD DAWLAT HUSSAIN is among 1000 refugees who can apply for family members to join them in Australia after the Federal Government scrapped temporary protection visas in Tuesday night's budget.

Georgiou repeats call to scrap citizenship test
Liberal backbencher Petro Georgiou says Australia's controversial new citizenship test should not just be reviewed - it should be scrapped altogether. Immigration Minister Chris Evans says he has no plans to abolish the Howard Government-era test, but he is open to making improvements.

$8m bill for bungled terrorism case

The federal police investigation of events surrounding the bungled Haneef terrorism-support case has so far cost $8.2 million and it's not over yet.

But Australian Federal Police (AFP) commissioner Mick Keelty is adamant not all the money has been spent on pursuing the Indian-born Gold Coast medical registrar who was detained at Brisbane airport last July.

"It is not - believe it it or not - all about Haneef," he told a Senate estimates committee hearing.

The investigation - called Operation Rain - was the Australian response and provision of assistance to UK Metropolitan Police in relation to terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow in July 2007, Mr Keelty said.

"The expenditure of resources in assisting the UK metropolitan police and ensuring any Australian connections were appropriately investigated, in addition to the prevention of similar attacks in Australia, is not only an appropriate response but an obligation for the AFP.

"Our current expenditure on Operation Rain as at May 14, 2008 was $8.2 million."

The sum of $3.2 million was directly attributable to the specific investigation of Dr Haneef and related inquiries, Mr Keelty said.

"Over $5 million is attributable to the investigation of other persons of whom I will not be commenting due to operational sensitivities.

The case against Dr Haneef, charged with terror-support offences, collapsed when the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions admitted there was insufficient evidence to obtain a guilty verdict.

Despite that Dr Haneef was kept in detention by immigration officials, on the orders of the Howard government.

Following a federal court decision, Dr Haneef was released and returned voluntarily to India. The case is the subject of a review, ordered by the Rudd government, by former NSW Supreme Court judge John Clarke.

At its peak, Operation Rain involved 249 AFP officers, 225 Queensland police, 12 officers from the Attorney-General's department, 54 West Australian police, 40 NSW police, six Customs officers, two Northern Territory police, one Tasmanian officer, six translators, four other law enforcement agencies and two UK police posted to Australia.

The AFP had also responded to 29 national security hotline reports generated from Operation Rain, Mr Keelty said.

Preventive activities were not as transparent or readily understood as response to a terror attack, such as the 2002 Bali bombings, although they were equally important.

In some cases preventive operation outcomes were much more desired, he said.

"Operation Rain is an ongoing investigation and is also the subject of the Clarke inquiry commissioned by the government," he said.

"The AFP is providing full cooperation to the Clarke inquiry."

Related:

Thomas' lawyers fight retrial order
Lawyers for Victorian man, Jack Thomas, are opposing a court order that he be retried on terrorism charges.

Terror raid 'message'
COUNTER-TERRORISM police yesterday raided the homes of two Sydney men with allegedly extremist Islamic views to "send a message" they were being closely watched and dissuade them from any plans to engage in a terrorist act.

Palestinian exhibition axed after police visit
A police spokesman said the officers were from the operations' community contact unit and had come only to "say hi" to Friends of Hebron members. "They went to introduce themselves just to let them know who they are and what they are about. [Speaking with community groups] is part of their charter," he said. "When they got there the librarian was the only one there … they just had a quick chat to the librarian."

AFP colluded with Andrews: Haneef lawyer
Lawyers representing former [scapegoat] terror suspect Dr Mohamed Haneef have accused federal police of attempting to re-write history following claims investigating officers were caught unaware by a decision to cancel his work visa.

ASIO, police don't trust each other, report finds
A LACK of trust between the Australian Federal Police and ASIO has hindered co-operation between the anti-terrorism agencies, a report commissioned after the collapsed prosecution of the Sydney doctor Izhar ul-Haque has found.

Secret policemen's bill: $7.5m
Mr McClelland separately ruled out compensating or apologising to the Sydney medical student Izhar Ul-Haque, who a Supreme Court judge said had been kidnapped by ASIO officers. The conduct of ASIO in the case of Mr ul-Haque, who was cleared of terrorism charges, is being reviewed by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Ian Carnell.

Tough police powers outlive APEC
CONTROVERSIAL powers granted to NSW police during last year's APEC summit are likely to be made permanent - or at least available to police for any special event - under a proposal to be taken to state cabinet.

Push for overhaul of laws on terrorism
Anti-terrorism laws are just 'state sanctioned terrorism' aimed at 'innocent people' and using them as 'scapegoats' for Australia's 'alleged war on terror'. These laws were meant to project 'fear' in the community that we somehow need to be protected so that the government can wage war on innocent people for resources around the world unchallenged.

Report describes Habib interrogation
The agent said Mr Habib, a former Sydney taxi driver held at the US military prison at Guantanamo for more than two years, endured two 15-hour interrogation sessions with only a short break in between.

UN Torture Committee Blasts Australia
The Committee against Torture expressed concern about Australia's counter-terrorism laws. The Committee was also concerned that Australians knew about what was happening in Abu Ghraib, but did not act to stop the mistreatment. In a thinly disguised reference to the cases of Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks, the Committee expressed concern that Australia has failed to investigate claims of torture.

Habib mistreated but not in Aussie embassy
There was little doubt that Mamdouh Habib was badly mistreated after he was detained by Pakistani and US authorities in the wake of the September 11 attacks and no doubt whatsoever that he was taken to Egypt against his will, a Federal Court judge has found.

Hicks media gag order ends
As part of the deal, he was also banned from speaking to the media after his release in December 2007.

Mentally ill high in jail numbers

HALF the number of people in custody in Victoria have a mental illness, a study has found.

And of the 600 detainees in the survey, one in six was being treated for a mental illness at the time they were detained.

The study is part of a five-year, $3.5 million Australian Research Council-funded project by Monash University and the Victoria Police.

Senior lecturer at the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science at Monash University Stuart Thomas said that data in the first 18 months of the study had shown a high number of mentally ill people in custody.

"We're finding the rates of all the sorts of mental disorders are elevated in the police population and roughly one in six were in treatment around the time they were detained in the cells.

"Every second one has had some sort of contact with mental health services in the past," Dr Thomas said.

The study forms part of wider research into how police deal with the mentally ill.

"The project came about because we know that anecdotally that police have frequent contact with people who are mentally disordered in the community, but what really don't know is how frequent those contacts are, what the precursors are to those contacts, what the processes are when they're in that encounter, what kind of interventions are applied and by whom and what happens as a result of the interaction," Dr Thomas said.

So far, 310 police have been questioned about their experiences and attitudes towards the mentally ill. All 10,000 operational Victoria Police will be surveyed.

Dr Thomas will discuss his research at a three-day conference hosted by Victoria Police and the Australian National University from today in Melbourne.

The "Nexus Policing: Binding Research to Practice Conference" will examine research from Australian, New Zealand, North American, South African and British experts on topics such as forensic science, public transport safety, police integrity, management of sex offenders after release and how it can be applied to policing.

Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon said for the past six years Victoria Police had developed one of the largest applied research programs in the world of operational policing, partnering with 19 universities and 72 researchers.

"We have already seen the outcomes of these collaborative research projects improving ways in which Victoria Police conducts policing, achieving smarter ways of promoting safety through partnerships and networks" she said. "Through this conference and through publication and dissemination of research findings, I am confident of a positive impact upon policing generally, both here in Australia and internationally."

Related:

LINE IN SAND ON MENTAL HEALTH
“Patients under state control have had their social interaction reduced, and right to smoke removed. These vulnerable and isolated citizens, to whom the state owes a special obligation, are extremely distressed and have asked for community assistance,” said JA spokesperson Michael Poynder.

We owe prisoners more than jail
Prisons are too important to be left to jailers, for the simple reason that the standard prison magnifies social problems. It is a congregation of people with an accumu–lation of risk factors for crime.

Madness causing madness in prison hospital
“Fifty mental health patients held at the Long Bay Prison Hospital have from yesterday been locked in cells from 3.30 in the afternoon rather than the normal 9pm” said JA spokesperson Brett Collins.

Prison hospital lock-down: mental patients madness

“Prison authorities have ordered the removal of 28 officers from the prison hospital area as part of their ironically named “Way Forward”. This will lock patients into cells at 3.30pm instead of the current 9pm from April 2nd” said Justice Action Coordinator Brett Collins.

Judges depart Red Mass
Bishop Peter Ingham reminded the Judges about locking up the mentally ill in prison and that they should not be dishing out double punishment to them.

International Conference on Penal Abolition


The full agenda for ICOPA is now online, and pending any further changes, the line-up is looking like we're going to have a fascinating conference. With speakers coming to present papers from Brazil, Trinidad, Canada, Australia, USA, Belgium, Argentina, South Africa plus many more including the UK, we are really looking at a truly international conference.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Intervention 'a smokescreen for land grab'

A delegate at an anti-intervention conference being held in Sydney this weekend says the general feeling is that the intervention is all about taking land away from Indigenous people.

Greg Eatock from the Aboriginal Rights Coalition says about 150 people have come from Aboriginal communities from around Australia, including the Northern Territory, to call for an immediate halt to the intervention.

He says one topic that has been discussed is the exodus of Aboriginal people from communities into towns.

He says people at the conference believe that is a deliberate strategy by the Federal Government, which wants to take Aboriginal land and use it for mining.

"If you talk to many Aboriginal people you find they don't support the intervention, they're aware that when it was brought down this whole thing about child sexual assault was a smokescreen and they do support this campaign," he said.

Related:

Aboriginal land acquisition laws pass Parliament
The Queensland Parliament has passed laws overnight allowing the Government to compulsorily acquire Aboriginal land.

Budget to roll out new welfare card
Welfare plan: The new card will be initially rolled out in NT Indigenous communities. The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) says the Rudd Government's proposed welfare debit card is not the best way to help struggling families.

Union urges PM to act on Stolen Generations promise
The Australian Education Union (AEU) wants the Federal Government to follow Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations with a significant funding boost for Indigenous education in the Northern Territory.

Racism to blame' for Aboriginal health problems
The Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTAR) group says racism is directly to blame for many health problems in the Aboriginal community.

Union calls for $2.9b to fund education shortfall

The Education Union is calling on the Federal Government to provide an extra $2.9 billion in funding for public schools

Govt, union defend remote community schooling
The Centre for Independent Studies says Aboriginal students in the Northern Territory are finishing school with the numeracy and literacy skills of five-year-olds.

Police cannot cope with backlash
Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, has warned the Federal Government that many indigenous people displaced by the emergency intervention are creating unrest and straining police capacity.

2020 Indigenous youth delegate calls for national body
An Indigenous youth representative at this weekend's 2020 summit says a new national Aboriginal body should be created to avoid some of the add-hoc policies surrounding the federal intervention.

Call for new indigenous body
Former ATSIC Commissioner Klynton Wanganeen says he will raise the idea of a new national body to represent indigenous communities at the 2020 Summit.

Aboriginal delegation heads to UN
The National Aboriginal Alliance is taking its concerns about the Northern Territory intervention to the United Nations

Roxon signs off on Indigenous health pledges
Indigenous Australians will have access to the same health services as the rest of the population by 2018, under a Federal Government plan.

Indigenous welfare quarantine scheme gets go ahead
Parents in four Cape York Indigenous communities could soon have their welfare payments quarantined if they do not take care of their children and homes and do not stay out of trouble with the law.

Discrimination Act should apply to intervention: Calma

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner wants the Racial Discrimination Act immediately reinstated in the Northern Territory's Indigenous communities.

Aboriginal inmates '22pc and rising' of prison population
The Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health says new research is urgently needed to address the worsening rate of Indigenous incarceration.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Real estate agents punished for 'under-quoting'

Thirteen Sydney real estate agents have been disciplined for under-quoting house prices after a New South Wales Government investigation.

But industry advocates have rejected the findings, saying that the houses were sold at prices consistent with market forces.

The Office of Fair Trading fined 11 agents and issued two warnings for under quoting house values to attract more people at an auction.

The real estate agents are in areas including Epping, Double Bay, St George and Blacktown.

Minister for Fair Trading Linda Burney says the public prompted her to act.

"One of the reasons that we undertook the investigation was a result of a number of complaints," she said.

But Real Estate Institute of New South Wales president Steve Martin says in each case buyers ended up driving up the price

"I think it's a gross over-reaction," he said. "This is a clear case of buyers competing against each other."

The Government investigated 152 auctions in total.

Trouble at Eurekster? Things Don't Look Good

Written by Marshall Kirkpatrick / May 22, 2008 10:55 AM

Social/wiki search engine provider Eurekster has been down for the past two days and users are wondering if the company will return to provide the site search functionality that many have come to depend on. Things look rough for the company.

Eurekster provides a service called a Swicki, a search function that lets site owners identify what other sites in their community they would like to have included in their Swicki search results. We've used Swicki here at ReadWriteWeb for some time, as have many other blogs and online communities. The company offered revenue sharing from search ads. Eurekster says that more than 100,000 sites have created Swickis and traffic to Eurekster used to be strong.

What's Going On?

Both Eurekster and Swicki.com are down and users report to us that's been the case for the past two days. Traffic to the site has plummeted since the start of the year and key executives have departed. According to their LinkedIn profiles, VP of Engineering Blair Cassidy and VP of Product Development Tac Leung left the company in March and April respectively - but both are still listed on the company's management page. As we publish this, neither emails nor phone messages have been returned by the company. Channel Marketing Manager at Eurekster Alex Holmes sent out one Twitter message two days ago reading "temporary service outage on http://www.eurekster.com . Swickis will be back shortly."

Quote: This is a very good service and we hope they will be back to fill our Video News and Reviews sidebar. I also hope that it's not any other corporate interests that may feel competative buying them out of the social network?

Nude photo row to hinge on 'community standards'


Controversial: One of Bill Henson's

The Australian Arts Law Centre says police will have to prove there has been a major change in community standards in order to successfully prosecute Sydney photographer Bill Henson.

New South Wales Police yesterday raided a art gallery in Sydney's east and removed a number of Henson's nude photographs of a girl under the age of 16.

Centre executive director Robyn Ayres says a court will now have to define the community standard of indecency.

"Bill Henson has for years and years been photographing children and women naked and and it's never been considered an issue of indecency," she said.

"So have community standards changed that much that it is no longer acceptable to see children or young people photographed naked?"

Renters must pay for their own evictions

SYDNEY renters have plenty to gripe about. Not only are their rents soaring but they are also funding the legal machinery used by landlords to evict them.

The Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal is among a number of government services sponsored by interest payments from rental bonds lodged by tenants.

But tenants rarely use the tribunal to complain about lax landlords or unfair rent rises. The tribunal mostly deals with landlords' appeals to have rental contracts torn up, and these appeals are up by about 5 per cent from the same period last year.

Of the 14,400 appeals in the three months to March, there were only 130 relating to excessive rent rises, compared with 7900 relating to "termination."

"We think rental bond money should be put to purposes that advantage tenants collectively," said the policy officer for the Tenants Union of NSW, Chris Martin. "The cost of the administration of justice should be borne by the community generally, not by tenants."

As Sydney rents and interest rates have soared, the NSW Government has enjoyed a growing windfall from bonds lodged with the Rental Bond Board when renters move. Barely any of the money is paid back to tenants when they leave the property and reclaim the bond.

The board pays the same interest rate to tenants as a Commonwealth Bank Streamline account: 0.01 per cent. But with interest rates on fixed-income investments about 9 per cent, the board's own surplus is ballooning.

Last financial year, the board earned $42.5 million after investing $680 million from rental bonds. The tribunal is just one of the tenancy-related services it spends the money on.

Last year the board paid $30 million to the State Government's affordable housing program as part of a two-year, $40-million investment.

Part of the money was spent on 70 new rental properties for low- and moderate-income earners on the old Australian Defence Industries site at St Marys.

Mr Martin said it was "a little disappointing that this Government, which has not done enough on affordable housing policy … has tapped tenants".

The majority of applications for termination made in the tribunal do not result in evictions.

The tribunal's deputy chairwoman for registry and administration, Elizabeth Tydd, said that even though it was mainly used by landlords, it was nevertheless an important protection for renters.

Mr Martin, whose organisation is also partly funded by the board, nevertheless called for interest earned on rental bonds to be returned to tenants.

The number of new bonds lodged has been falling as tenants ride out rising rents by staying put. Inner-city tenants have been particularly inclined to settle, with the number of bonds lodged in areas such as Woollahra, Waverley, Leichhardt and Ashfield dropping almost 15 per cent since 2003. The Government has said it was planning to stop paying the 0.01 per cent interest on bond money, which amounts to just $80,000 a year on the $650 million it holds.