Thursday, December 20, 2018

Offshore detention hit with lawsuits

A child asylum seeker who was allegedly raped on Nauru and a former Manus Island detention centre guard are suing the federal government. In a writ filed with the Victorian Supreme Court, lawyers for an unnamed Iranian boy claimed he was raped three times by a fellow detainee in 2014. Maurice Blackburn’s Dimitri Ioannou said the boy, who was 10 at the time, now lives with severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and “lives in fear”. In documents filed with the same court, former G4S manager Roderick St James alleged the security contractor and the government exposed him to an unsafe work environment, and that he was “required to work in unsafe and excessively stressful conditions which included exposure to threatened and actual violence from detainees at the centre”. In 2013, St George was attacked during a riot.

Senior figures in the Victorian Liberal Party have been caught describing colleagues and party members in racist and homophobic language in text messages. In a series of messages published by The Age, former Victorian Liberal vice-president Marcus Bastiaan refers to “fag Catholics” in the party who are “so far in the closet, if they end up coming out they will blow up big time with lots of secrets”. In a Facebook message thread, steering committee chair Paul Mitchell refers to members of Indian background as “curries”. While lawyers on behalf of both men denied authoring the messages, The Age asserted that it “has seen live versions of the Facebook message threads and text messages from two sources”.

State and territory energy ministers have hit out at federal energy minister Angus Taylor for vetoing a national zero-emissions policy outlined by the New South Wales government. At a Council of Australian Governments energy summit on Wednesday, Taylor shut down a proposal from NSW energy minister Don Harwin to seek advice from the Energy Security Board on achieving zero net emissions by 2050. Writing in the Australian Financial Review ($) on Wednesday, Harwin said “we need to end the ‘climate wars’ and put science, economics and engineering ahead of ideology”. Before the meeting, Taylor’s proposal for a nationwide standard electricity price was undermined by a warning from the Australian Energy Market Commission that the plan would likely raise electricity prices.

Social services groups and anti-poverty advocates have criticised the federal Labor Party for failing to commit to increasing the Newstart allowance should they win government. A push for the party to promise increasing Newstart failed at the party’s national conference in Adelaide earlier this week, with the party agreeing instead to review the payment within 18 months of taking office. Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union media officer Jeremy Poxon called the decision “incredibly disappointing”, saying “we’ve almost chewed Labor’s food for them and done all the work for them on this” and that “more than half a million Australians will needlessly struggle to survive over those 18 months”. Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie also spoke out against the review, saying “you can’t be taken seriously about tackling inequality without providing this relief to people who have the very least in the country”. An ACOSS-commissioned poll in June found almost 70 per cent of voters supported increasing the Newstart allowance, which has not been raised in real terms in more than 20 years.

And federal politicians will cast votes in parliament via smartphone starting next year. The Herald Sun reported ($) on Wednesday that federal parliamentarians will be able to vote on bills, divisions and motions via an app, allowing a faster counting of votes and the display of results on screens in the chamber. While parliamentarians will need to be physically present in the chamber to vote, the new process will not require MPs to leave their seats and be counted by tellers. Given that government politicians are apparently incapable of understanding the existing voting process, introducing smartphones into the mix can only have good results.



“Depending on who you ask, Snowy 2.0 is either vital to shore up Australia’s energy security as the shift to renewables gains pace, or it’s a mysterious white elephant that’s worsening the dearth of investment it seeks to solve. Some of the split is ideological – how big should the government’s role in energy be? However, much of the public debate lies in the unknown, as the full details of the business case have been withheld by Snowy Hydro because of commercial concerns.”


“It’s easy to die in the pocket universe of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, but the realisation is difficult. The final story follows a stagecoach with a metaphysical destination, where the passengers debate right and wrong. The entire scene is bathed in a glaucous blue-grey light that’s as otherworldly as Buster Scruggs, but more convincing. The Coens remain true deceivers.”


“Melbourne’s NGV has been working on an exhibition of Escher’s work for the past three-and-a-half years, but Sato and his award-winning design studio, Nendo, only came on board as equally billed collaborators at the beginning of the year. This means that the exhibition has been living and evolving in Sato’s mind for an intense 11 months.”


“Celebrity chef Pete Evans’ new documentary on his paleo diet has been slammed by medical professionals, with one pleading for parents not to involve their children. The Magic Pill documentary follows five patients suffering from type 2 diabetes, asthma, cancer and autism who adopt the paleo diet for five weeks. It presents their chronic conditions to have drastically improved.”


“Celebrity chef Pete Evans has again caused a stir with his advice, recommending his fans start their day by staring directly into the sun ... ‘Every day I love to immerse myself in an experience within the cleansing ocean water as well as a brief gaze into the radiant light of the early rising or late setting sun’, he [said].”


“In case you’ve been living under a rock, let us catch you up: the Small Mammal House at the Smithsonian National Zoo is home to a colony of naked mole-rats, and for the last several months they’ve been engaged in a quiet – but brutal – battle for political supremacy. Naked mole-rats are one of just two eusocial mammalian species, which means they live much like colonies of bees or ants: one queen reigns supreme over everybody else, and challengers must fight and kill her for their own shot at rulership.”

Alex McKinnon
is Schwartz Media's morning editor.