Sunday 17th of October 2021

australia's shame...


human rights...


Countries should unite against China's growing economic and geopolitical coercion or risk being singled out and punished by Beijing, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has told the BBC. 

Mr Rudd said governments in the West should not be afraid to challenge China on issues such as human rights. 

Around the world, countries are navigating a new geopolitical order framed by the rising dominance of China. 

"If you are going to have a disagreement with Beijing, as many governments around the world are now doing, it's far better to arrive at that position conjointly with other countries rather than unilaterally, because it makes it easier for China to exert bilateral leverage against you," Mr Rudd told the BBC's Talking Business Asia programme. 

His comments come as relations between Australia and China have deteriorated to their worst point in decades. The relationship has soured following a series of economic and diplomatic blows dealt by each side. 

Australia has scrapped agreements tied to China's massive infrastructure project, the Belt and Road Initiative. It also banned Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei from building the country's 5G network. 


But it was really Australia's call for an investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic that set off a new storm between the two sides. 

China retaliated by placing sanctions on Australian imports - including wine, beef, lobster and barley - and has hinted more may come. 

Beijing has also suspended key economic dialogues with Canberra, which effectively means there is no high-level contact to smooth things out. 


A new battleground


Mr Rudd, who led Australia twice between 2007 and 2013, has criticised the current government's approach to China, saying that it has been counterproductive at times. 

"The conservative government's response to the Chinese has from time to time been measured - but other times, frankly, has been rhetorical and shrill," said Mr Rudd, who is now president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

The former Labor party prime minister believes it could risk the fortunes of a key Australian export to China: iron ore. 


"They [the Chinese leadership] will see Australia as an unreliable supplier of iron ore long term, because of the geopolitical conclusions that Beijing will make in relation to… the conservative government in Canberra.


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Jacinda Ardern's government will come under increasing pressure to muscle up to China as relations with the superpower return to the fore.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is sure to push the issue with New Zealand's leader when he visits Queenstown for talks with Ms Ardern on the weekend.

AAP can reveal dissent in Wellington, with MPs across the political spectrum dissatisfied with the government strong-arming a debate on Chinese human rights abuses.

This month, Labour used its majority in parliament to water down a proposed debate on whether atrocities committed against Uighurs in Xinjiang constituted genocide.

Instead, the parliament unanimously passed a motion condemning "severe human rights abuses".

One major party MP described that as "weak as water".

Another said the government was "totally beholden to China on trade".

"It's wholeheartedly ironic the debate was suppressed ... I think we will find that the parliament will have to revisit this issue again," another MP said.

Wellington is proud and protective of its relationship with Beijing, which produced China's first free trade agreement with a western nation, and which has not degraded in recent years as Sino-Australia relations have.

Still, China's embassy in Wellington "deplored" the parliamentary vote, saying it "will go nowhere but to harm the mutual trust between China and NZ".

Soon, Kiwi MPs may add their names to their dissent by joining the hawkish Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).

IPAC is a growing group of MPs in western countries, including Australia, that want western governments to push China harder to admit abuses and change its behaviour.

NZ has just two members; co-chairs National MP Simon O'Connor and Labour MP Louisa Wall.


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And while you're on the subjects of human rights, FREE JULIAN ASSANGE NOW %%%% and contemplate the picture above...

deaths in custody

Last week, 43-year-old Frank Coleman became the ninth Aboriginal person to die in police or prison custody since March.

Key points:
  • Frank Coleman died last week in Sydney's Long Bay Correctional Complex 
  • He is the ninth Aboriginal person to die in custody since March 
  • Human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson says Australia has not faced "sufficient scrutiny" over deaths in custody at the international level 

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains images of a person who has died.

His family say the regularity of such deaths is "incomprehensible" but they do not want the proud Ngemba man to be reduced to another statistic.

"He was an individual," said former partner Skye Hipwell.

"He deserves to be known as an individual, and this needs to be treated as an individual case."

Daughter Lakota Coleman wants to remember her father's infectious energy and his ability to win people over.


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not closing yet...


Indigenous people are still far more likely to be jailed, die by suicide and have their children removed than non-Indigenous people a year after the new Closing the Gap agreement was signed, according to the Productivity Commission.

The Commission today released its first batch of annual data on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.


But it can’t say how progress on ten of the 17 targets is going due to a lack of new figures to compare against the baseline data being used.

“The Agreement is now 12 months old, but the most recent available data for monitoring these socioeconomic outcomes are only just hitting the commencement date for the Agreement,” commissioner Romlie Mokak said.


“It is likely to be some years before we see the influence of this Agreement on these outcomes.”

The federal, and state governments - alongside 50 peak Indigenous organisations - reached a historic agreement to address the inequality faced by First Nations people last July.

The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap is intended to be a proper partnership, to move beyond what Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt described as a decade of failings.

Among its 17 ambitious targets, the Agreement is aiming to reduce the Indigenous incarceration rate by 15 per cent in the next decade.

But the Productivity Commission’s report said the rate of Indigenous prisoners rose from 2077.4 per 100,000 people in 2019, to 2081 in June 2020.


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criminal? kids...


SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: Data from Australia’s criminal justice system shows clearly that we’re failing to rehabilitate children, while making them more likely to reoffend. And yet kids as young as 10 are still being charged with criminal offences. Warwick Jones investigates.

A 10-year-old Aboriginal girl wearing pigtails and a school uniform walks into the Geelong Children’s Court, dwarfed beside two welfare workers. It’s late autumn, 2015. The girl’s been taken out of her grade four class to come before the court charged with stealing a phone.

She’d been removed from her family home and placed into state care. On the day of the alleged offence she was found in a neighbour’s car trying to call her mum.

The girl’s lawyer, Mr Ali Besiroglu, is at the time a senior solicitor at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service. He’s also a father to three kids not much younger than his client.

Besiroglu pleads with the police prosecutor to withdraw the case, but he refuses. So while they’re waiting for the magistrate, Besiroglu walks his client over to the prosecutor’s table and introduces him to the young girl he has up until this point only read about.

“This man is the prosecutor,” Besiroglu tells her. “He’ll be talking to the magistrate. The magistrate will sit up there,” Besiroglu points to the bench, “he’ll decide what happens here today. We’ll sit over there, and I’ll be telling the magistrate your side of the story.”

The prosecutor is polite to the girl. But he is angry at Besiroglu. “Why’d you have to pull that stunt?” he asks once the girl left. But it’s not a trick. The decision to prosecute a 10-year-old child shouldn’t be easy.

“Her case clearly highlighted to me that there needs to be reform,” Besiroglu said. “She was so small, she was scared, she was confused, and it was clear to me that whatever conduct she had engaged in, it wasn’t criminal.”

And Besiroglu is far from alone. In courthouses and legal chambers around the country the conversations are the same. Young children should not be in the criminal justice system.


Get them while they’re young

IN VICTORIA, the law allows for children as young as 10 to be charged with a crime, brought before the court, and locked up. The age a child can be held criminally responsible in every Australian state and territory is 10 — one of the lowest in the Western world and in breach of international human rights law.

In May, Victoria’s Youth Justice Minister, Ben Carroll, released a strategic plan outlining the state government’s 10-year vision for the youth justice system. The plan aims to reduce the number of young people in the system and improve community safety.

But the 53-page document makes no commitment to raise the age of criminal responsibility, instead abdicating the decision to the Council of Attorneys-General who are currently reviewing the age.

Yet there is a unified voice amongst experts calling for the government to raise the age of criminal responsibility. Smart Justice for Young People — which represents more than 40 legal, social, and health organisations in Victoria — is calling for the age to be raised to at least 14. As are academics, child’s rights groups, and Children’s Commissioners around the country.

Today, kids under 14 who are brought before the courts are presumed to be ‘doli incapax‘ — that is, they don’t have the capacity to commit crime because they lack a guilty mind. It’s up to the prosecution to prove that the child knew that what they were doing was seriously wrong.


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not only in australia...


This spring, the Biden administration announced it would seek public comment on student race and school climate, which was roundly viewed as a precursor to restoring an Obama-era directive to reduce racial disparities in discipline practices. Those guidelines, which were rescinded by former Secretary Betsy DeVos, have been variously described as a critical means of protecting students’ civil rights and a dangerous overreach by the federal government that prevented schools from keeping students safe.

At issue is the school-to-prison pipeline—a term often used to describe the connection between exclusionary punishments like suspensions and expulsions and involvement in the criminal justice system. Black and Hispanic students are far more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled, and Black and Hispanic Americans are disproportionately represented in the nation’s prisons.

Is there a causal link between experiencing strict school discipline as a student and being arrested or incarcerated as an adult? Research shows that completing more years of school reduces subsequent criminal activity, as does enrolling in a higher-quality school and graduating from high school. Yet there is little evidence on the mechanisms by which a school can have a long-run influence on criminal activity.

To address this, we examine middle-school suspension rates in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where a large and sudden change in school-enrollment boundary lines resulted in half of all students changing schools in a single year. We estimate a school’s disciplinary strictness based on its suspension rates before the change and use this natural experiment to identify how attending a stricter school influences criminal activity in adulthood.

Our analysis shows that young adolescents who attend schools with high suspension rates are substantially more likely to be arrested and jailed as adults. These long-term, negative impacts in adulthood apply across a school’s population, not just to students who are suspended during their school years.

Students assigned to middle schools that are one standard deviation stricter—equivalent to being at the 84th percentile of strictness versus the mean—are 3.2 percentage points more likely to have ever been arrested and 2.5 percentage points more likely to have ever been incarcerated as adults. They also are 1.7 percentage points more likely to drop out of high school and 2.4 percentage points less likely to attend a 4-year college. These impacts are much larger for Black and Hispanic male students.

We also find that principals, who have considerable discretion in meting out school discipline, are the major driver of differences in the number of suspensions from one school to the next. In tracking the movements of principals across schools, we see that principals’ effects on suspensions in one school predicts their effects on suspensions at another.

Our findings show that early censure of school misbehavior causes increases in adult crime—that there is, in fact, a school-to-prison pipeline. Further, we find that the negative impacts from strict disciplinary environments are largest for minorities and males, suggesting that suspension policies expand preexisting gaps in educational attainment and incarceration. We do see some limited evidence of positive effects on the academic achievement of white male students, which highlights the potential to increase the achievement of some subgroups by removing disruptive peers. However, any effort to maintain safe and orderly school climates must take into account the clear and negative consequences of exclusionary discipline practices for young students, and especially young students of color, which last well into adulthood.


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lack of care....

Lucy* was scrolling through Facebook when she suddenly discovered her daughter had died by suicide.

WARNING: This story contains details that readers will find distressing.

"I read that my daughter was deceased and I screamed and I couldn't breathe," she said.

"I tried to get hold of people and I couldn't get hold of anybody and it was just sitting and waiting … all night, to find out whether it was the truth and what had happened to my baby."

Lucy's teenaged daughter, Courtney*, was in Victoria's residential care system at the time, having been taken from Lucy several years ago by authorities due to safety concerns.

Lucy, an Aboriginal woman, said she had been in an abusive relationship back then, one which she had since managed to escape.

The ABC understands Courtney's primary family contact during her time in care was a different relative to Lucy.

Lucy is angry her daughter died in the care of a department that she feels failed to offer "proper care", and is hoping a coronial inquiry into Courtney's death will ensure other families don't experience the same grief she now carries.


It's a grief that was compounded by the fact that she first discovered the death after Victoria Police amended a missing persons alert about her daughter, before officers had visited her home to break the news.

The ABC understands Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton apologised over the matter to the state's Aboriginal Justice Caucus.

Lucy said the Department of Fairness, Families and Housing later reached out to her.

"They apologised and I was very angry that my daughter had lost her life in their care and [the representative] had no understanding," she said.

"And then they sent flowers ... that I threw in the bin."

Another shock lay in wait for Lucy, as she discovered her daughter had been battling severe mental health issues for months, including a previous suicide attempt.

"I had no idea that [Courtney] had tried to take her life before. If I'd known so I would have tried to be in her life more and I would have checked on her more," Lucy said.

"That's their role, that's why I thought she was OK.

"Their care of duty as adults and people who took her from me is to look after her."


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