February, 2019

Govt closes loophole in offshore laws

Labor has helped the government fast-track a bill to close a potential loophole in its offshore detention policy.

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The Senate cleared most of its schedule on Thursday to urgently deal with the bill, before politicians head off on a lengthy winter break.

Its substance is the subject of challenge in three High Court proceedings.

Attorney-General George Brandis said the urgent treatment of the bill did not mean it wasn’t considered legally solid.

“This government believes that the Act has a sound legal foundation,” Senator Brandis told parliament on Thursday.

The bill enhances the government’s statutory powers on regional processing agreements with other countries and “puts beyond doubt” its legal authority to implement the arrangements.

Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said one of the families involved in the legal battles had a young baby, born on Australian soil.

She accused the government of trying to strip the child of its time in court and urged the parliament to wait until the cases were concluded.

“What is so worrying about letting that baby have its day in court?” she asked the Senate.

Labor Senator Kim Carr reluctantly declared his support for the measures, despite the former government getting no help from the coalition when it tried to introduce regional processing in Malaysia.

“We will help this government out because we’re better than them when it comes to these questions,” he told the Senate.

However, Labor is concerned at the speed at which the bill was passed, having cleared the House of Representatives in an hour just one day earlier.

Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie echoed that concern, labelling the Labor-coalition agreement to fast-track the legislation “dangerous” and “rude”.

She believes it’s a “get out of jail free card” for the government.

The Greens failed to make several changes to the bill, including imposing mandatory reporting of abuse, journalist access to the centres and to limit detention to a maximum of three months.

The legislation comes after reports of sexual and physical abuse of women and children, and mental illness.

“More abuse, more torture, more children being driven to self harm, that’s what’s being allowed to happen in this parliament today,” Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said.

‘Overjoyed,overwhelmed’, Autistic boy and mother get residency after deportation fight

Townsville nurse Maria Sevilla and her son Tyrone are celebrating tonight after receiving formal notification from the Government that they will be granted permanent residency after months of anxiety and uncertainty for the family.

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“I’m overjoyed, ecstatic, overwhelmed, over the moon – everything,” she told SBS News.

“This afternoon my solicitor called me and he told me about it (permanent residency).”

The 10-year-old autistic boy and his mother were facing deportation before the Immigration Minister Peter Duttond intervened to say they would be granted visas and not be deported last month following media attention on her case.

Even after the Minister intervened, Ms Sevilla said she had not felt secure until today’s decision was finalised.

“You know half of me tried to be positive and half of me tried to say that I need to be realistic – I don’t have the piece of paper to say he is really going to grant us permanent residency,” she said.

“Now we have the piece of paper and now I think it really is time to celebrate”.

Ms Sevilla said her son had thankfully not been aware of the legal drama of the recent weeks, which had taken a toll on her.

“He was just playing outside on his scooter while I was sitting by the bitumen crying and he does not have any clue what is happening,”  she said.

The mother and son were at risk of being deported to the Philippines, after Sevilla’s application for a three-year Skilled Provisional Work visa was rejected last September. they had been living in Australia for the last eight years.

The original rejection was based on Tyrone’s medical condition, which the Department of Immigration said could be a “significant cost” to Australian tax payers.

A spokesman for the Minister said last month that Mr Dutton had stepped in to grant permanent visas, “subject to standard immigration checks and the receipt of required documentation”.

The news follows the presentation of a petition with 122,000 signatures to Mr Dutton, who had ministerial discretionary power to overrule the department under the Immigration Act.

Speaking to SBS in April, Ms Sevilla said most of her family lives in Australia and Tyrone’s condition will deteriorate if they are sent back to the Philippines.

 

Messi faces Pekerman 101 matches after Argentina debut

Former Argentina coach Pekerman gave Messi his international debut 10 years ago and took him to his first World Cup finals in Germany in 2006.

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The final image of the pair at the tournament had Messi sitting head bowed on the bench as Pekerman overlooked him when making substitutions and the team lost to hosts Germany in a shootout following a 1-1 draw after extra time in the quarter-finals.

Messi will be looking to ensure it is Pekerman left staring at the ground at the end of Friday’s match at Vina del Mar with 2014 World Cup runners-up Argentina progressing to the semi-finals.

But, with 100 caps under his belt, Messi has nothing but praise and gratitude towards Pekerman and has often said: “He gave me a lot of advice that I don’t forget.”

It should be an open match which both Messi and Pekerman will be looking forward to given the attacking inclinations of both men and their teams after struggling to overcome defensive tactics from their group rivals and only shining intermittently.

“Colombia has a game that can favour us… because they play and come out (of defence) more than the majority of our rivals up to now,” Argentina winger Angel Di Maria told Reuters.

“I think we’ll have more room to move up front… They have great players who also need mobility. We’re expecting an end to end match.”

Pekerman is now working with another classy number 10, James Rodriguez, top scorer at last year’s World Cup and the man some believe should have been named best player instead of Messi.

“We all know they have good players but I think it’s going to be 50-50 because Colombia also play, that’s why it will be a nice match,” Rodriguez told reporters.

“I think it’s obvious that in these three (group) matches I had little room, they were tight matches, intense, with a lot of friction and with little space I can’t play much.”

It will be the countries’ ninth meeting in the tournament, known as the South American Championship until its revamp in the late 1980s, with Argentina coming out on top in six.

In two previous Copa America clashes in Chile, Argentina won 9-1 in 1945 in the teams’ first ever meeting and 2-1 in 1991 when they won their 13th and penultimate title.

(Reporting by Santiago Torres and Camila Ramirez; Writing by Rex Gowar, editing by Ed Osmond)

‘Cruel’ NSW mother jailed over son’s death

She lied to police, saying her seven-year-old son fell off his pogo stick.

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Now this Sydney mother will spend more than 10 years behind bars over the brutal abuse of the child, and standing by as he lay dying from a head injury.

Justice Ian Harrison on Thursday said the 27-year-old’s failure to help was “profound, cruel and selfish” as he sentenced her to a maximum of 14 years in jail.

The timid and gentle boy “must have suffered significantly” in the months before his death under a brutal bootcamp-style regime which included corporal punishment, neglect, and starvation, the NSW Supreme Court heard on Thursday.

But Justice Harrison accepted the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was genuinely remorseful and was under the influence of a domineering new boyfriend at the time.

The boy died in May 2013, about 24 hours after suffering a serious head injury allegedly inflicted by the boyfriend, who also cannot be named.

The Supreme Court heard the couple went about their business “as if nothing had happened”, making no attempt to call for medical help.

The boy was “in dire need of medical attention” but “was left relatively unattended for almost 24 hours”, Justice Harrison said.

The mother first told investigators the boy had fallen from a pogo stick at her boyfriend’s music studio in the southern Sydney suburb of Oatley.

She later admitted the story was a fabrication and pleaded guilty to a litany of charges, including manslaughter on the grounds of criminal negligence, in March this year.

Court documents tendered at the time detailed months of torment the boy suffered after his mother began seeing the man in January 2013, including starvation and beatings.

He was struck repeatedly with a wooden plank, denied food and drink, and one time made to run until the point of collapse.

The court heard the mother had been influenced by the boyfriend’s belief her son didn’t have a mild intellectual disability and simply needed toughening up.

In handing down a minimum sentence of 10 years and six months, Justice Harrison said the mother had “failed in her maternal duty”.

However, the mother had been a good carer prior to the relationship and Justice Harrison cited expert evidence she showed signs consistent with Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages form positive feelings about their captors.

He also accepted the mother was genuinely remorseful and had good prospects of rehabilitation with ongoing therapy.

A sentence discount of 40 per cent was applied for the woman’s early guilty plea and her willingness to give evidence against her former partner, who will stand trial for murder later in the year.

She sporadically dabbed her eyes with a tissue as the sentence was read aloud.

She will be eligible for parole in May 2024.

Life insurance commissions to be slashed

The industry superannuation sector does not believe proposals to shake up the framework of life insurance go far enough.

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Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has taken on board recommendations made by the financial services industry to improve life insurance, a sector the corporate supervisor believes is dogged by bad advice and high commissions.

Mr Frydenberg believes the commissions charged for life insurance policies have not been in the best interests of consumers.

The proposals, which include limits to both upfront and continuing commissions, will be considered in the context of the government’s response to the financial system inquiry chaired by former bank chief David Murray.

Treasurer Joe Hockey recently said a response to that inquiry was still a few months away.

An industry-commissioned review by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission recommended several measures designed to improve consumer outcomes, including a significant modification to upfront commissions.

But Industry Super Australia does not believe the proposals adequately tackle the serious problems exposed by ASIC.

Its director of public affairs, Matthew Linden, says they fail to address superannuation savings being drained by “extraordinarily costly” personal life polices that attract commissions.

Under the plan, the cost of life insurance policies will be cut and upfront commission rates reduced from 120 per cent of premiums to 60 per cent by 2018.

Consumer Action boss Gerard Brody said a proposed three-year review should be seen as an opportunity for further change – “not mission accomplished”.

Financial Services Council head Sally Loane said the package included a new remuneration model, development of a code of conduct, more product choice and a review of statements of advice.

NAB Wealth group executive Andrew Hagger praised the leadership of Mr Frydenberg in what he described as a complex process.

HK rejects Jetstar joint venture bid

Hong Kong regulators have rejected an application for a budget airline joint venture involving Australia’s Qantas and China Eastern Airlines, saying it could not be considered a local carrier.

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Two years after Jetstar Hong Kong applied for the airline licence, the southern Chinese city’s Air Transport Licensing Authority denied the start-up’s application, saying on Thursday its majority foreign ownership meant its main place of business was not in Hong Kong.

Under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which came into force after China took back control of the city from Britain in 1997, airlines operating out of Hong Kong are required to have their “principal place of business” in the city.

In a 150-page ruling, a five-member panel said it “is of the view that JHK cannot make its decisions independently from that of the two foreign shareholders.”

Qantas Airways Ltd, Shanghai-Based China Eastern Airlines Corp and local partner Shun Tak Holdings Ltd each own a third of the $US198 million ($A257.14 million) venture. Shun Tak joined the venture about a year after it was first announced in an attempt to win regulatory approval.

The licensing authority held an inquiry earlier this year into the application after Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair and Hong Kong Airlines objected to the application.

Qantas’ Jetstar brand also operates in Singapore, Vietnam and Japan. Jetstar Hong Kong had planned to fly short-haul routes to mainland China, Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia to capitalise on rising numbers of Chinese travellers, including tens of millions that pass through Hong Kong each year.

Hong Kong is a self-administered region of China with its own legal and financial system.

ABC chief says network is ‘on the side of Australia’

ABC boss Mark Scott has responded to criticism of the public broadcaster’s editorial choices, saying the ABC is on Australia’s side.

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The comment was in response to remarks by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, questioning whether the ABC was on the side of Australia or its enemies, after it allowed a former terror suspect to air his views during a live broadcast.

The ABC has admitted it made an error of judgment by allowing Zaky Mallah, jailed for threatening federal government officials in 2003, to speak on its Q&A program on Monday.

In a speech tonight, Mr Scott will say it is not weak to call the ABC’s decision-making in this instance “the wrong call”.

“The risks and uncertainties of having him in a live-programming environment weren’t adequately considered before the decision was made to accept his application to be in the studio audience,” he will say.

“In any team, you can be playing on the same side, but often you will be playing in a different position, with a different role and responsibility.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Thursday “heads should roll” at the national broadcaster.

The ABC initially ordered an internal review of the program, but allowed the program to be re-broadcast on Wednesday morning and made available on iView.

“Here we had the ABC admitting a gross error of judgment and then compounding that terrible mistake, that betrayal, if you like, of our country,” Mr Abbott said.

The prime minister said the ABC had given a platform to a “convicted terrorist and sympathiser” and then compounded the mistake by re-broadcasting the program.

“Heads should roll over this,” he said.

“We are not satisfied with an internal ABC inquiry because so often we’ve seen virtual whitewashes when that sort of thing happens.”

Speaking to the ABC’s 7.30 program, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull called the network’s decision to let Mr Mallah to appear on Q&A an “extraordinary error of judgment” and said his department will conduct an investigation into the matter.

“A lot of people would say the ABC let down its own standards,” he said. “Not so long ago [Mallah] nominated two female journalists and said that they should be publicly raped. Now what if he had said that again in the Q&A live audience?”

An ABC spokesman told AAP the broadcaster would co-operate with the inquiry “as required”.

Former ABC journo turned MP calls for sacking of executive producer

Former ABC journalist Sarah Henderson, now a federal Liberal MP, has called for the sacking of Q&A’s executive producer.

Ms Henderson says Peter McEvoy made a serious error of judgment by allowing convicted criminal Zaky Mallah to appear on the ABC TV program on Monday, putting his staff and other audience members at risk.

“This was too grave an error, the ABC has got to step up,” she told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“This was a clear and obvious stunt.”

The MP’s comments came as Kevin Andrews became the first federal government minister to boycott the program and encouraged his colleagues to do the same.

The ABC has admitted it was an error of judgment to allow Mr Mallah, jailed for threatening federal government officials in 2003, to participate in the broadcast.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said he thought the ABC made a “big mistake” in allowing Mallah to appear.

“I wouldn’t want to see the show shut down and the ABC punished forever and a day,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Shorten said he would be prepared to still appear on Q&A.

Kaushal bags five wickets as Pakistan all out for 138

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq was left to rue his decision to bat after winning the toss as Sri Lanka’s bowlers extracted enough movement from the P.

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Sara Oval pitch to dismiss their opponents in two sessions.

In reply, the hosts made a watchful start and reached stumps on 70 for one, losing of opener Dimuth Karunaratne (28). Kaushal Silva (21) and Kumar Sangakkara (18) were at the crease.

Pakistan’s pace spearhead Wahab Riaz suffered a blow on his bowling hand while batting which weakened the attack as the left-arm paceman was experiencing pain trying to hold the ball.

Kaushal, playing only his second test, came in as a replacement for the injured Dilruwan Perera and took all his wickets in the second session after fast bowler Dhammika Prasad picked up the first three.

Opener Mohammad Hafeez (42), who was hit on the back of his helmet by debutant fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera, was the highest scorer for the visitors, who won the opening test at Galle by 10 wickets.

An unchanged Pakistan lost Ahmed Shehzad (one) in the third over of the morning when the right-hander edged Prasad to first slip, where Kumar Sangakkara completed a sharp catch.

Hafeez and Azhar Ali (26) shared the only meaningful partnership of 46 for the second wicket.

Pakistan’s one-day captain Azhar looked fluent during his stay until he was originally given not out by the umpire to a caught behind appeal on the first ball of Prasad’s second spell.

However, home skipper Angelo Mathews called for a review and the on-field decision was overturned.

Younus Khan, playing his 100th test, was lucky to survive another review from Mathews off his own bowling but fell immediately after lunch to give Prasad his third scalp.

Pakistan’s hopes then rested on Misbah (seven) but the 41-year-old was run out after a misunderstanding with Sarfraz Ahmed (14).

Such was Kaushal’s impact on the innings that Sri Lanka did not need their main spinner Rangana Herath to bowl an over as the 22-year-old with a distinctive high-kneed run-up rose to the occasion on his home debut with figures of five for 42.

Sri Lanka also handed a debut to 23-year-old Chameera, who picked up his first test wicket when Zulfiqar Babar dragged a short ball onto his stumps.

The third and final test is in Pallekele from July 3-7 before the teams play five one-dayers and two Twenty20 matches.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Ed Osmond)

Horner rejects Red Bull axe reports

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has described as “total rubbish” reports that he could be sacked.

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It was suggested at the Austrian Grand Prix that Horner, who led Red Bull to four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships between 2010-2013, could be shown the exit door following the team’s troubled start to the season.

Daniil Kvyat’s fourth-placed finish in Monaco represents Red Bull’s best result this season, while he and teammate Daniel Ricciardo limped to an embarrassing 12th and 10th respectively at the team’s home race in Spielberg last Sunday.

“Unfortunately in Formula One there are always rumours, and this is total rubbish,” Horner said on reports he is set to leave the team.

“I’m fully committed to Red Bull and I love what I do. We’re working hard and my focus is trying to get the team back to where we were 18 months ago.”

Dietrich Mateschitz, the team’s millionaire owner, has been outspoken in his criticism of F1 this season, and he has threatened to pull his team out of the sport. But Horner insists Red Bull’s focus remains in F1.

“The situation is quite clear – Dietrich Mateschitz made some comments over the weekend and it’s exactly how he feels”, Horner added.

“He is frustrated and he is frustrated with the show. He is a fan as well and as a fan he has put a huge amount of investment into the sport over the last few years and he wants to see the sport go back to its glory days and see it have the same appeal and attraction that Formula One has previously enjoyed.

“At the moment we’re in a difficult position and hopefully we can turn that around. The intention is to be here and to sort out the issues in the sport and our own competitiveness.”

Climate Council welcomes landmark ruling after Dutch citizens sue government on emissions

The Climate Council of Australia has welcomed a landmark court ruling on greenhouse gas emissions after hundreds of Dutch citizens filed a lawsuit against the government.

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Councillor Professor Will Steffen told SBS the decision would give confidence to other action groups in Europe that felt their countries were not doing enough to combat climate change.

“There has been for quite a while talk about legal approaches to tackling the climate change issue,” he said.

“This is the first time I have seen what I think is such a significant legal ruling on governments in terms of cutting their emissions.”

Related reading

A judge in The Hague said the state must “ensure that the Dutch emissions in the year 2020 will be at least 25 per cent lower than those in 1990.”

Based on current government policy, the Netherlands will achieve a reduction of 17 per cent at most in 2020, which is below the norm of 25-40 per cent for developed countries, a summary of the ruling said.

The decision was a victory for environmental group Urgenda Foundation, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of nearly 900 Dutch citizens.

“The parties agree that the severity and scope of the climate problem make it necessary to take measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the summary said.

Australian position

Australian solicitor Sue Higginson, of  community legal centre EDO New South Wales, said the case was very ambitious and its outcome remarkable.

She said the Australian legal system was quite different from that in the Netherlands, making a case here unlikely.

“We don’t have the same words in our legal instruments as some of those European countries have,” she said.

“For example Article 21 of the Dutch Constitution provides, ‘It shall be the concern of the authorities to keep the country habitable and to protect and improve the environment.’

“Now that is a constitutional-enshrined obligation on the part of the Dutch government. So we don’t have those kind of provisions with the Australian constitution and we don’t really find those kinds of words or provisions even within our state constitutions.”

Ms Higginson said Australia’s environmental laws didn’t include such provisions either, so lawyers would have to find an alternative basis for a case.

“Our court doors are not just swinging open doors. There has to be a specific cause of action,” she said.

“So it would be really now be the challenge for good public interest creative lawyers to look for opportunities to whether in fact these avenues are there and we just haven’t discovered them yet.

“Or really, and probably more on point, our laws need to change to provide these avenues.”