Australian Politics 2016-10-19 15:54:00

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Australia's human rights record condemned by a "rapporteur" from the world's most corrupt organization

U.N. "rapporteurs" (travelling critics) also regularly single out Britain for criticism on human rights grounds.  But if Britain is deficient, so is most of the world.  Mr rapporteur is totally superficial in his report below.  He thinks it is bad that old bag Gillian Triggs was asked to resign but does not mention her egregiously biased behavior that led to that request. 

Note that she was asked to resign, not made to resign.  Most other places she wouldn't have been given the option.  Mr rapporteur doesn't mention that, of course.

But he is a theologian by background so logical twists and turns can be expected of him, I guess.  He has no discernible social science background at all.  But he is a Frenchman who teaches German so maybe that is something.  It would be amusing to see what he says about Germany.  Free speech is dead in "das vierte Reich"



Australia lacks adequate protections for human rights defenders and has created "an atmosphere of fear, censorship and retaliation" among activists, according to a United Nations special rapporteur.

Michel Forst, who released an end-of-mission statement on Tuesday after a fortnight in Australia, said he was "astonished" by numerous measures heaping "enormous pressure" on public servants, whistleblowers and ordinary citizens.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has rejected Amnesty International’s claims that the treatment of refugees on Nauru amounts to deliberate and systematic torture. Vision courtesy ABC News 24.

Increased secrecy provisions, especially with regard to immigration and national security, were hampering the ability of journalists and human rights defenders to hold public institutions to account, he said.

The new metadata retention regime, which enjoyed bipartisan support, had "serious implications" for journalists and media outlets, Mr Forst said. He also heard evidence that freedom of information requests were being delayed and frustrated.

Mr Forst also condemned the secrecy requirements of the Australian Border Force Act, elements of which he said contravened human rights principles, including freedom of expression, and called for the laws to be reviewed.

The special rapporteur reserved particular opprobrium for ministers' attacks on Australian Human Rights commissioner Gillian Triggs, who last year resisted enormous pressure from the Abbott government to resign over alleged political bias in a report on children's detention.

"I was astounded to observe what has become frequent public vilification of rights defenders by senior government officials, in a seeming attempt to discredit, intimidate and discourage them from their legitimate work," he said. He called for an inquiry into the treatment of Professor Triggs.

Mr Forst condemned "anti-protest legislation" in Tasmania, NSW and before the West Australian Parliament targeted at environmental activists, which he said would contravene Australia's international obligations.

He also accused the Abbott-Turnbull government of targeting advocates involved in environmental, immigration and land rights causes through the "drastic defunding" of groups, such as the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples.

"Other contractors, such as Save the Children, have been subjected to raids and egregious allegations of misconduct, removed from operations and had their personal and professional reputations targeted by politicians and media," Mr Forst concluded.

Mr Forst will present his final report to the Turnbull government and the UN Human Rights Council. Australia is seeking a seat on that council and the scathing report may have implications for the bid, although Mr Forst would not personally comment on that prospect.

A spokesman for Attorney-General George Brandis said the government welcomed the opportunity to engage with the special rapporteur but considered Mr Forst had "not presented a balanced view of the situation of human rights defenders in Australia".

The Turnbull government "will consider the special rapporteur's recommendations in the same way as it considers recommendations from all United Nations mechanisms", the spokesman said.

Australia has come under a barrage of criticism from international human rights observers, mainly over the offshore processing of asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru. On Monday, Amnesty International went so far as to accuse the Australian government of deliberate torture.

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Nauru rejects ABC report

The government of Nauru has labelled the ABC "an embarrassment to journalism" following a Four Corners report on the island's regional processing system, accusing the broadcaster of racism, political activism and insulting residents.

The Nauruan government asserted Australia was in fact the more violent nation and said the ABC should instead campaign for "no refugees to be allowed into such a violent society as Australia".

The Four Corners program was informed by a major Amnesty International report, released last night, that claimed Australia's regional processing regime on Nauru amounted to the intentional torture of refugees.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull strongly denied the accusation today. "I reject that claim totally. It is absolutely false. The Australian government's commitment is compassionate and it's strong," he told ABC radio.

In its statement, the Republic of Nauru's "media and public information" unit claimed the children who appeared in the program were "coached" and the interview process "stage-managed". Despite this, "viewers could clearly see that the refugees featured were well dressed, well-groomed and healthy", the statement said.

No children were in detention on Nauru, the government said. This is technically true because the processing facility is designated as an "open centre" and asylum seekers are free to move around the 21 square kilometre island. The government said children generally lived with their families in safe accommodation close to shops, and that Nauru was less violent than Australia.

"There are fights in Australian schools on a daily basis and there is crime in Australia. The Australian news shows acts of crime each night that are far more violent that anything Nauru has experienced," the statement said.

"So on this basis, Four Corners should be campaigning for no refugees to be allowed into such a violent society as Australia. Clearly they would not advocate this because it would – in context – be incorrect, yet they are willing to falsely portray Nauru as an unsafe nation, which it is not."

The program also used footage of a now-defunct hospital and failed to mention the "new $27 million state-of-the-art medical facility to which refugees have unrestricted and free access" or the newly-constructed school, the Nauruan government said.

"Last night's Four Corners program on the ABC was yet another example of the ABC's biased political propaganda and lies, and was an insult to the people of Nauru," the statement said. "This report was an embarrassment to journalism. From start to finish it was denigrating, racist, false and pure political activism."

In a statement, the ABC said it stands by the Four Corners report and rejects Nauru's claims. "It was an important story of obvious public interest," the statement said. The ABC also noted interviews with children were conducted remotely because Nauru "routinely refuses journalists access to report on offshore processing".

Nauru regularly accuses its critics of following a political agenda and doing the bidding of advocates. It routinely refuses access to the regional processing centre and denies journalists visas to Nauru, but in a note penned in August, President Baron Waqa said media outlets should not be surprised.

"After their dishonest campaign against us, they expect us to open our arms and allow them to visit and create more trouble within our borders!" he wrote.

One of the main arguments of the Amnesty International report was that Australia, rather than Nauru, was primarily responsible for the conditions inside the regional processing centre and the systemic problems in health, education and justice faced by asylum seekers and refugees on the island.

Mr Turnbull acknowledged there were sad stories on Nauru but indicated the government would not be dissuaded from its harsh policies to deter boat people. "There are 1200 people … from whom we can never hear because they drowned at sea [under Labor's policy settings]," he told ABC radio.

Under questioning at a Senate estimates hearing last night, Department of Immigration and Border Protection secretary Michael Pezzullo also denied Amnesty International's allegations.

"I refute categorically, both on behalf of my own department, and by way of explaining government policy in this regard, that it's not the Australian government's position, more the position of this department, that we flout any laws, international or otherwise," he said.

"As to the notion, inference or implication that we use torture as some sort of instrument of state policy, I personally find it to be offensive but, in any event, what I find to be offensive is not relevant. It's objectively in our view not true."

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Australia seen grabbing uninterrupted GDP growth record

Australia is forecast to enjoy at least another two years of solid economic growth, extending a quarter of a century without recession and dodging the deflation that dogs so many of its rich world peers. The latest Reuters poll found analysts expect Australia’s A$1.6 trillion ($1.2 trillion) of gross domestic product (GDP) to expand by 2.9 percent this year, unchanged from the July poll.

Growth was seen at 2.8 percent next year and 2.9 percent in 2018, a result that would see Australia capture the Netherlands’ crown for the longest run without a recession. Surging export volumes, record low interest rates and an historic boom in home building have already underpinned growth of 3.3 percent in the year to June.

A recent revival in the value of commodity exports also promises to boost company profits, national income and tax receipts in coming months. Surging prices for coal alone could eradicate the country’s trade deficit and add 2 percentage points to nominal GDP. The worst also seems to be over for a long slump in mining investment, which subtracted a huge 1.6 percentage points from GDP growth in the year to June.

Policymakers at the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) believe three quarters of the mining downturn has now passed and its drag on growth will greatly diminish for here on.

“The Australian economy’s output performance, in aggregate, has been resilient in what remains a challenging environment,” said Westpac senior economist Andrew Hanlan. He is tipping economic growth of 3 percent for both 2016 and 2017.

“That said, downside risks persist. World growth is sluggish, and global financial sector vulnerabilities remain.”

At home, jobs growth has turned sluggish and heavily weighted to part time work, restraining wage growth and adding to downward pressure on inflation. Indeed, underlying inflation slowed to a record low of 1.5 percent in the year to June and looks likely to have remained very subdued in the third quarter.

Analysts forecast consumer price inflation would run at just 1.2 percent for 2016 as whole, well under the RBA’s target of 2 to 3 percent. Yet they also expected it to pick up to 2.1 percent next year and 2.4 percent for 2018, a welcome outcome that would eliminate the need for more rate cuts.

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APOLOGY: I have undergone surgery and experienced a prolonged cable service outage within the last 24 hours so I am putting up less than I usually would -- JR

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