Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Australia’s prison population soars

Australia’s prison population has hit a new high of 41,200 people, the end result of a 20-year rise in incarceration rates that has seen the number of people in Australian prisons more than double. Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Monday found the rate of people in custody has increased 40 per cent in the last five years, while 33 per cent of those currently incarcerated were unsentenced. Of particular concern was the continued rise in Indigenous incarceration rates; the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate in Western Australian prisons now exceeds 4000 per 100,000 adults, the highest of any measured demographic in the world. The figures coincide with the release of a withering assessment of Australia’s Closing the Gap targets from the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, who cited the Northern Territory’s paperless arrest laws and mandatory sentencing provisions in many states as examples of “current laws and policies [that] continue to contribute to the swift escalation in the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders”.

The government has overturned a ban on government loans to domestic mining projects, paving the way for national sponsorship of mine projects that struggle to attract private investment from major banks. Trade minister Steve Ciobo has directed ($) the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation to broaden its lending criteria, saying “Australia’s national interest is being harmed” by “shareholder activism” making banks reluctant to fund resources projects. The change came as leaked documents from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility revealed the body was considering $6 billion in loans to mine projects in central Queensland and the Pilbara. Labor Senator Murray Watts said the leak exposed NAIF’s chronic lack of transparency, writing on Twitter that the “only way we get info on NAIF is from leaks like this”.

The Indian government has lodged a complaint with three Australian government departments over an “offensive” lamb industry advertisement depicting the Hindu god Ganesh eating meat. Council of Indian Relations president Mohit Kumar said the Meat and Livestock Australia ad was “a very disrespectful and insensitive depiction” of the god, whom Hindus consider to be vegetarian in accordance with the principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence against all living things. The Australian Hindu community’s angry response to the ad has been picked up by overseas publications including the Hindustan Times and the International Business Times, while the Hindu Council of Australia urged the MLA to “withdraw the offensive ad immediately and extend an unconditional apology to not only the Hindu-Australian community but to members of all religious groups that are hurt by this nonsensical ad”.

And the architect of the UN Paris climate agreement has warned Malcolm Turnbull that “time is short” for Australia to come up with a workable carbon emissions policy, saying that “ten years of dithering is enough”. Appearing on the ABC’s 7.30 last night, Figueres said the government’s efforts to extend the life of the Liddell coal plant were evidence that “things are somewhat upside down” in Australia. Figueres, who oversaw negotiations that culminated in the 2015 Paris accord, is in Australia to speak on how cities have become a major driver of climate action in the wake of delays from nations like the United States.

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AN EXTRACT FROM BENJAMIN LAW’S NEW QUARTERLY ESSAY ON TRANSGENDER KIDS, ‘MORAL PANIC 101’
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The first white President

“To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies ... Trump truly is something new – the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific – America’s first white president.” the atlantic

What the rich wont tell you

“The people I spoke with expressed a deep ambivalence about identifying as affluent. They described themselves as ‘normal’ people who worked hard and spent prudently, distancing themselves from common stereotypes of the wealthy as ostentatious, selfish, snobby and entitled ... The ways these wealthy New Yorkers identify and avoid stigma matter not because we should feel sorry for uncomfortable rich people, but because they tell us something about how economic inequality is hidden, justified and maintained in American life.” the new york times

The last Nazi hunters

“The Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes is an austere, pale-yellow prison building nestled into the 18th-century city wall of Ludwigsburg in southwestern Germany. Once used by the Nazis to detain political prisoners, the building announces its contemporary tenants obliquely, with a small, silver sign ... Since it was created by the West German government in 1958, the Central Office’s mission has been to deliver Nazis to justice.” the guardian

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Q. 

Want a front-row demonstration of how the media outrage machine works?

“It seemed innocent enough ... a photo of the Prime Minister holding his baby granddaughter while watching the footy. But Malcolm Turnbull’s latest Facebook post has prompted a backlash online. The PM was branded ‘irresponsible’ for the photo, which showed him holding his granddaughter Alice, with a beer in his other hand at the AFL final between the Swans and Bombers at the SCG yesterday.”   news.com.au

A. 

If you got mad at the Turnbull-baby story, you’ve already been sucked in.

“Nothing brings a people together like a public shaming on social media, and in this case it was the original Prime Minister-shamers who were being shamed, bringing about an awe-inspiring shame-cycle that could well stay alive in the media for weeks, if properly stoked by an Andrew Bolt column or an Alan Jones editorial. There is only one small problem, and it is a small problem indeed in the era of post-fact news. So small it barely warrants noting, except by pedants. That is, the number of Facebook commenters who were ‘outraged’ by the PM holding a beer while cuddling a baby, numbered two.”  fairfax

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and finally:

The best signs from the weekend’s massive marriage equality rallies

“The outpouring of public support comes in the lead-up to the government’s controversial postal survey on marriage equality, the ballots for which are due to be mailed out in the coming weeks ... Junkee was on the ground at the Sydney rally, where we took photos of some of the best signs going around.” junkee

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor, and a former editor of Junkee.