Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Queensland to repay Indigenous workers’ stolen wages

A class action against the Queensland state government, seeking to recover wages stolen between 1939 and 1972 from more than 10,000 Indigenous workers, has been settled for $190 million. Lead applicant Hans Pearson argued that the state government owed him and other Indigenous workers wages withheld by the state government over 33-year period under the Protection Act. It was also argued that the government made unauthorised withdrawals and welfare fund deductions. Pearson launched the class action in 2016 along with 300 others, before it grew to 10,063 claimants. Pearson’s nephew and Aboriginal activist, Noel Pearson, said at the time that his uncle’s fight was “as important as Mabo”. After news of the settlement, Hans Pearson told the ABC, "It's fantastic, justice has been done. I'm very happy. I applaud the Queensland government for doing this. I was mad at them for a time, but things happen."

Australian student Alek Sigley, accused and detained by North Korea for being a spy, has denied any intelligence gathering activity. Sigley, who was undertaking a master’s degree at Pyongyang’s Kim II Sung University, went missing on June 25 before being banished from the country on July 4. Swedish officials used their nation’s unique relationship with North Korea to help secure his release. North Korean state media said Sigley had committed “spying acts” after content from Sigley’s public blog and social media posts appeared on NK News, a website that focuses on reporting North Korea. Sigley said in a statement the accusations were “pretty obviously” false and that “the whole situation makes [him] very sad”. While he plans to continue his academic research and work related to the country, he had no plans to return to North Korea.

Building managers for Victoria’s sky rail project are facing court over allegations of theft and corruption. Seven people have been accused of various illegal activity, including stealing and reselling tonnes of copper, falsifying timesheets, obtaining property by deception, and directing government-funded labourers to renovate the private home of CPB Contractors manager Steven Winter. Off the back of these charges, Victoria’s Coalition and the Greens are calling for an independent investigation by the state auditor-general to ensure other infrastructure projects are not being similarly rorted. 

Queensland’s attorney-general Yvette D'Ath is referring the “mistake of fact” defence used in rape cases to the Queensland Law Reform Commission to take steps to change the law. The defence allows defendants to claim they had an “honest and reasonable but mistaken belief” that consent had been given, and is seen by rape victims and activists as a legal loophole. The legal defence is 110 years old and academic studies show it has been used by repeat male offenders. Lawyer Bri Lee and law professor Jonathan Crowe conducted the most recent study, which found many cases where the defence was applied, involved domestic violence, people with disabilities and children, or there were language barriers or alcohol intoxication. Lee and Crowe have been campaigning for the laws to be overturned, which Lee wrote about for The Saturday Paper in May this year. Lee said to the ABC, that under these outdated laws “it doesn't really matter if you obtain consent, so long as you think you have." 

Scott Morrison and the Laffer napkin
Scott Morrison’s tax cuts are based on an American theory of economics trialled in the 1970s. Mike Seccombe on why the Coalition perseveres with its reforms.


“According to Buxton, governments need to set a plan and stay the course – four to six storeys maximum, with 50 per cent site coverage – to get liveable cities and suburbs for the future. But, he said, developers and governments are in cahoots as profits from high-rise development are too great.”


“Williams spent her first 10 years between Kalgoorlie and the West Australian outback, where her father was a respected Indigenous elder. It was a childhood of two cultures. ‘What’s the best way to describe it?’ she ponders. ‘During Christmas there was always a pumpkin pie and turkey, and then a kangaroo tail and damper.’ Williams had two pet kangaroos, rescued as joeys from the pouches of roadkill. She jokes that ‘it is definitely a bit cliché’ – the story has become a favourite with foreign media.”


“The past is fraught territory, particularly when it comes to those territorial pasts marked by trauma. How can such histories be explored without proving overwhelming? It is a question raised at the beginning of Tara June Winch’s new novel, The Yield, in which August Gondiwindi flies back from London to Australia for her grandfather’s funeral. That homecoming – to ‘the saddest place on earth’ – compels her to confront a painful familial and colonial history from which she had taken flight.”


“The number of fully immunised Australian children has hit a record level, with close to 95% vaccinated against deadly diseases.
New data for the March quarter showed immunisation rates for all five-year-olds was 94.78%, up from 94.67% in the December quarter. The coverage rate for five-year-old Indigenous children was 96.66%, outstripping the national figure.”


“A fresh measles alert for NSW has been issued after a man was diagnosed with the disease upon returning to Sydney from Southeast Asia. The man spent time in Hornsby, Lane Cove, Lindfield, Sydney's CBD, Newtown and Erskineville while infectious between 30 June and 8 July ... More than 40 people have been diagnosed with measles in NSW since Christmas.”



“Volkswagen is bringing an end to its much-loved Beetle car this week at its plant in Puebla, Mexico. It's the end of the road for a vehicle that has symbolised many things over a history spanning the eight decades since 1938.”


Anna Horan is a Melbourne-based editor and writer.