Monday, August 26, 2019

Spies suppress Australia’s refugees

Foreign spies are attempting to silence asylum seekers in Australia, according to a top domestic intelligence agency. An Australian Security Intelligence Organisation spokesperson issued the warning following revelations by the ABC that Rwanda has a network of spies suppressing political dissent in refugee communities in Australia. Other countries implicated include China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, North Korea and Malaysia. Professor John Blaxland from the Australian National University said some countries blackmailed or coerced refugees and migrants so they did not speak out against governments in their former country. “Refugees who flee often have family connections remaining with [their] home country,” he said. “The government can choose to exercise that power over the minds of the residents in Australia concerning safety and wellbeing of relatives back home, and that can be a very difficult pressure to resist.”

On the subject of fleeing persecution: Hong Kong’s political unrest has led to a surge in applications from residents seeking to emigrate to Australia, with some migration agents reporting a doubling in inquiries. Hong Kong migration agent John Hu told Guardian Australia: “As these protests have gone on for a long time, we have people ringing us up, they are becoming more and more determined to get a visa for what we call a ‘plan B’.” News of the surge comes after one of the most violent evenings of the pro-democracy protests yet, as Hong Kong police on Sunday deployed tear gas and water cannons on protesters, with one officer using live ammunition in a warning shot. Some protesters had assembled makeshift barricades and thrown bricks and petrol bombs at police.

From one last stand to another: Sources have told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that George Pell will challenge his child sex abuse convictions in the High Court. Pell’s legal team reportedly advised him that the dissenting opinion of a judge in Wednesday’s Court of Appeal ruling provided reasonable grounds to have his convictions overturned. Pell, who has received sympathetic coverage from conservative media, has 21 days from the Court of Appeal judgement to formally lodge an application for special leave to appeal to the High Court. 

In sport: Allrounder Ben Stokes scored an unbeaten 135 to claim an extraordinary one-wicket victory for England in the third Ashes men’s cricket Test. Having lost the ninth England wicket 73 runs short of victory, Stokes and No. 11 batsman Jack Leach put on the second-highest 10th wicket partnership ever in a successful Test run chase that featured plenty of Australian mistakes, drawing the hosts level in the series with two Tests to go. 

Grief, anger and climate change
Joelle Gergis is one of Australia’s leading climate scientists. She says there is resistance to talking about emotions around science, but she feels grief and anger.


“Last year, when Breakthrough Media invited me and a select group of other Muslims to attend a ‘voice accelerator workshop’, the invitation described it as a grassroots initiative undertaken at the request of the Muslim community. We were to be taught how to use social media more effectively and would be given material we might share with our networks. The disclosure that the program was funded by the Department of Home Affairs’ Countering Violent Extremism Sub-Committee, under the Australia–New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee, was hidden in the middle of an eight-page registration form. It was never explicitly revealed to us that the material we were being asked to share was government messaging.”


“In a frank admission – rare for prime ministers, who like to impress they are confidently in charge – Scott Morrison has revealed what keeps him awake at night. That is the feud between our biggest customer and our closest friend. The problem for him is he doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of what to do about it, and as such it is a nightmare for the nation.”


“Silence is Jennifer Kent’s balm. She has spent about a year in Buddhist retreats over the course of her lifetime, refraining from speech for 15, 20 days at a time. She began this meditation well before she set about creating characters for her feature films – figures driven by grief, howling at the physical and psychological violence arrayed against them.”


“A dire lack of vital mental health services in the bush is pushing people to crisis point and forcing the flying doctors to swoop in to transport patients to city hospitals, new research has revealed. The absence of mental health support and intervention services in many remote parts of Australia is leaving those struggling to delay seeking help until they are in crisis, research by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday said.” Lifeline: 13 11 14


“Accountants based in regional areas are getting mental health first aid training to help them work with clients whose financial pressures are causing emotional distress. The training is proving particularly helpful to those who find themselves confidants to farmers and graziers struggling with drought and other issues.”


“‘I took off important time from business to visit the Great Wall at Mutianyu ... Yes, this is a huge achievement in building and labor expenditure as well as incredible length. But when you get there, it is really a pile of sloppily laid bricks. If it weren’t so long, there would be nothing remarkable about it at all.’”


Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.