Monthly Archives: October 2011
The Last Kinection – Next of Kin
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It had been a good start to the year for Channels Seven and Nines flag-ship current affairs programs Today Tonight and A Current Affair, but as viewers changed the networks pulled out the big guns.
Today Tonight Seven tell us is “Australia’s number one current affair program” and it seems they will do anything to protect that myth. They’d started the year well with consistent top ten appearances in the weekly ratings but by the time October had come around it had been months since they’d made the list. Of course it comes as no surprise that they took their tried and true hack journalism route to ratings glory. “Dole Bludgers” can be an easy target although in these troubled economic times that might mean too many viewers are, well, on the dole. “Muslim Extremists” are another classic target for TT and ACA but with the Arab spring being given favourable publicity around the world it was best avoided for now. Say hello to the political football any grubby journalist can make a pay cheque from, Asylum Seekers.
So it came as no surprise that on October 10th after months of struggling to climb the ratings top ten, Kylie Gillies opened up the week with this:-
Kylie Gillies: First tonight our investigation into how the Government is putting out the welcome mat for refugees. We’ve gone inside the so called ‘refugee resort’ where there’s no wire fencing, there’s no bars, and the inmates live in four star luxury…
Two weeks later ABC’s Media Watch would prove that virtually everything in the report was false, fabricated or used to mislead viewers. http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3346987.htm
Not to be outdone two weeks later Tracy Grimshaw fronted Nines ACA with “Asylum Seeker Heaven – Taxpayers footed a bill of nearly $800 million for detention centres last financial year, so A Current Affair investigated just why the system is costing us so much. In the process we discovered not only huge medical and security costs, but also luxuries like plasma TVs and internet cafes.”
More half truths and innuendo dressed up as journalism was trotted out pitching ill informed local residents against asylum seekers and using the created outrage to package together a nice report for a ratings win. Good news stories can sell but not on a nightly basis and when advertisers want ratings TT and ACA are all too willing to climb to the bottom of the barrel, fabricate a story and peddle fear to make a dollar.
It worked, TTs ratings for the Monday were the best they’d had for quite a while and the damage they had done to the community, the asylum seekers and the political debate would be lost in the joy of keeping their advertisers happy. One participant of the TT story who had been duped by the reporter went from outrage at asylum seekers to concern for them when told the real facts. The reality with any controversial debate is that the community is best served by the facts and not filled with fear by journalists and producers trying to make a buck out of the misery of others.
For too long ACA and TT have gotten away with being called “current affairs programs”, they are not! They are just the same as the sly and unethical journalists who brought the Murdoch empire to its knees in the UK. They will stop at nothing, obey no standard and break every rule in their attempt for ratings and the dollar grab. Such was the outrage in the UK over the behaviour of News of the World that it was forced to shut its door. The British public are better for it and their democracy better served by the closing of unethical hackers at News. The time has come for the same to happen to TT and ACA. And that starts with you!
The only way ACA and TT stay alive is by you watching. Even if you are doing so to see what hate they are peddling today you are helping their cause, lining their pockets and increasing the fear. Vote with your remote, when ACA and TT time comes around in your house change the channel. And in doing so be part of changing the tone of the debate that needs facts and responsible journalism to inform a solution that benefits us all.
If Monday nights 4 Corners on the ABC shocked you at the treatment of Asylum Seekers then not only should you write to your local MP, call the Immigration Minister and get involved in the debate. You should switch off ACA and TT and ensure that lies and fear are not the ratings winners of Australian democracy.
…the victim had long been subjected to domestic violence by her in-laws and she was finally hanged.
By Muhammad Hassan Hakimi & Ramin
A young woman was allegedly hanged to death by her father-in-law in western Ghor province, officials said on Sunday.
The 22-year-old was found dead on the outskirts of Chaghcharan late on Saturday, deputy police chief, Col. Abdul Rashid Bashir, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
He said the girl’s four in-laws had been arrested in connection with the murder. Her spouse was out of the province at the time of the killing, he said.
An area resident, who wished not to be named, said the victim had long been subjected to domestic violence by her in-laws and she was finally hanged.
Provincial Human Rights Commission Director Dr. Aqala Sharaf condemned the incident, saying efforts were being made to determine the cause.
Since the beginning of the year, she said, 24 cases of violence against women had been registered with the commission. The cases included domestic violence and forced marriages, she concluded.
In recent years there have been increased campaigns and awareness of the issues of Domestic violence and child abuse, yet the horror stories continue.
If you were able to sit through the entire episode of the recent 4 Corners on the abuse of disabled children you would have seen one of the most pressing issues we must tackle. But flipping open the papers the following day it was clear that Australia does not take seriously enough the issue of abuse and violence against the vulnerable. The ABC show chronicled the shocking story of sexual abuse of intellectually disabled children attending a Catholic school in Adelaide and the way it was covered up.
Domestic Violence and the sexual abuse of women and children is not a new issue to anyone, but perhaps this exposure of the horrific assaults on disabled children highlights more than ever the need to tackle this issue. People much wiser than I have written about the issue for decades, campaigns have been waged, community workers battled and some funding allocated. But the inroads into the issue are simply not good enough for what is an epidemic size problem. Of the figures on child abuse that all Australians should find the most alarming. It is widely believed that before they are 18 years old 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused. Think about those figures for a moment…
To understand them more easily imagine a typical Australian classroom of ten year olds in year 4. In that classroom of between 20 and 25 children, 3 of the girls and 2 of the boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18; if they haven’t already. We would not tolerate a situation where we look at a classroom of kids and accept that 5 of them will die of cancer before 18, or 5 of them will be killed in motor vehicle accidents or 5 of them would die from a preventable disease such as Malaria. We have tackled these problems either wiping them out in the case of preventable diseases, increasing survival rates for cancer and educating about driver safety. We did all of these things when as horrible as they are none of those problems ever reached the level that child abuse is at.
This is a National disgrace, a failure of leadership and an all to eager approach of sweeping things under the carpet and failing the victims and the support workers and organisations. Victims of child sexual abuse are NEVER responsible for the suffering they endure. But if we are to accept, and we do, that these figures are accurate then more alarming is the number of abusers that exist in our community. We have been quick to point the finger at Indigenous Australian’s and took the bizarre step of sending the Army into the Northern Territory. We have often marginalised minority groups as oppressing their women or having a culture where it is inherent. But there is a truth we must admit as all Australian’s, we have a national crisis in child protection and we have failed past and present generations. If we do not act decisively now then we will be failing the future generations whose protection we hold right now in our own hands.
Faced with figures of 1/4 of all Australian girls and 1/6 of boys I will not accept that the War in Iraq, the childish approach to the asylum seeker debate or even the economy are more important issues than the protection of children. Yet those issues are front page on a daily basis, they attract billions of dollars in funding and are part of every election campaign. When has a politician ever gone to an election with child protection and well being even in their top five policies? It just doesn’t happen. If children were voting do you believe this would be the case?
But children can’t vote, so we must take the responsibility as adults, as parents and citizens of our National community to speak out and act on their behalf. Figures show that of the female children abused under the age of 18, 92% of the perpetrators will be men. The figure is only moderately lower for boys and generally when a female is involved they are accompanied by a male perpetrator as well. Meanwhile the support industry and community sector that help run women’s shelters, domestic violence support, family support and other key services are dominated by female workers.
It is NOT a generalisation to say the problem is not women and children, its men! The figures clearly back it up and it is time we, the men of modern Australia take a stand on this most important of issues. We are the first to beat our chest and say we’d deal with a child abuser, we write letters to editors about how we’d love just five minutes in a dark alley with a paedophile and we tend to think pretty dimly of those who raise their hand to their partner. But what are we actually doing about it? The problem isn’t getting better and it wont on its own.
It is time for a national dialogue on domestic and sexual violence, particularly among men. It is unacceptable that we continue to allow the children, in particularly of our society be victims to such abuse and stand idly by and do nothing. This is not about being a vigilante and confronting with bare knuckles the first man you suspect of being an abuser. This is about opening the door so the conversations can take place, so the support can be provided and so we get this issue on the political map.
Our first step must be the ability to speak openly and honestly within our circle of friends that abuse of any kind is unacceptable, criminal and should be reported to the police and community services. We need to create a culture of fathers, uncles, older friends, sports coaches and others speaking together and with children that they don’t have to suffer this crime. We need to drop the attitude that any woman or child ever “deserves it”. Nobody deserves to be abused, no court in the land would accept such a view and it is morally reprehensible.
The toll of abuse on our community is immeasurable, many victims suffer a life time of mental anguish and illness, drug dependency, such low levels of self-esteem that the abuse continues into adulthood or sadly become abusers themselves. This is a vicious cycle, a snow ball gathering pace and with it the number of victims. It is time to push back and we must begin the conversation now, man to man about what WE are going to do about this issue.
Men my challenge to you is this, speak about this issue not just with your female friends but with your male friends. Make it a priority that you become a facilitator to addressing this issue and not a silent witness. As you read this piece a child, many children and women are being abused in our country. The question is, are you going to speak about it so that tomorrow can be a better day for us all? You are not less of a man to think and speak out against abuse, it isn’t a “female” issue to be left to women’s groups. This is about men pulling their weight and understanding they have a vital role in protecting our society, not with violence, but by opposing it!
Income Management is a gross waste of funds. In both the NT and the new proposed ‘trial sites’, the estimated cost per recipient per year is more than $4500.
Income Management is discriminatory. The Prescribed Area People’s Alliance, representing communities across the NT have said, “The BasicsCard has disempowered us. It’s very racist. We are going backwards to the welfare days”. As the system expands across Australia, both Indigenous people and other already stigmatised groups will bear the burden.
Income Management unfairly disadvantages small businesses and co-operatives that do not have the resources to run the system or apply for a licence.
Your petitioners request that the Senate take action to ensure: A moratorium on the Federal Government’s Income Management system.
1. Immediate amnesty: Grant the right to immediate, unconditional exit from Income Management to the more than 15,000 people still on the system in the NT, along with Western Australia and Queensland.
2. No expansion: Abandon plans to expand Income Management into five new ‘trial sites’ across Australia – Bankstown, Rockhampton, Shepparton, Logan and Playford.
3. New opportunities: Redirect investment planned for the Income Management system to increase the income of welfare recipients, create employment opportunities and improve social services.
The Australian Government’s Dollar for Dollar initiative will match each dollar you donate to appeals run by AusAID-accredited non-government organisations (NGOs) working to alleviate the food crisis in the Horn of Africa from 5 October until 30 November 2011. This means for example, if you donate $50 to one of these NGOs, the Australian Government will match it with $50.
Studies have shown over the years that half of the Australian population continue to support the death penalty, but how many have really thought about the consequences.
Today, 10th October, is the 9th Annual World Day Against the Death Penalty an important day to take stock of the progress that has been made in the quest for abolition and the work still to be done. As an Anti-death penalty coordinator my views against the death penalty would not surprise anyone. But I did not come to this conclusion from nowhere, it is based on a decade of case work that has involved working on the death penalty in countries across the world. Before that I spent 3 years in study both formal and of my own to come to the conclusion that the death penalty is an injustice in all cases.
Yet polls in Australia, a country that has abolished the death penalty, show that roughly half the population still support the process of death. So it is important that Australian’s take the time to think about this important domestic and international issue. Most who call for the death penalty tend to do so for cases of mass murder, but around the world these worst of offenders tend never to be executed. Take the United States, the only Western nation that still executes its civilians for non-military crimes. Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer are two of the most well-known and well-studied serial killers of the last 100 years, neither was executed and Manson is eligible to apply for parole in 2 years time. Dahmer was convicted of killing 15 men and boys, raping them both before and after their death and consuming the flesh of others. If anyone was to be sentenced to death one would safely assume Dahmer would be the poster child. He wasn’t.
Instead people like Troy Davis, Tookie Williams, Angel Diaz and Todd Willingham have all been executed in that time. They are just four whose guilt, fairness of trial and legality of arrest are all in serious question. Willingham was almost certainly innocent when he was put to death, while serious doubt remains about that of Davis. Mean while in states like Illinois they have abolished the death penalty after studies found those waiting for execution were not only NOT the worst of the worst, but innocent and must be released. The US imprisons more than 2 million people, the largest number and per capita figure in the world, they have shocking levels of recidivism and a death penalty machine that executes the Black, poor and mentally ill at a rate that outweighs their counterparts in the rest of the community by more than 10 times.
This therefore is not capital punishment that is set out to remove the worst of the worst from society but a system that executes those with poor legal representation, no money, a minority or with a serious mental illness. As the saying goes, don’t have the capital and you get the punishment. This is backed up by every major study conducted into the death penalty system that has shown it does not act as a deterrent. Rather states that impose the death penalty tend to have higher rates of murder and violent crime and as a result larger prison populations. It becomes a vicious cycle that results in more and more innocent victims of crime and loss of life. While studies in a number of states, including the study ordered by then Governor George Ryan in Illinois showed the death penalty system was broken at every turn.
Outside of the US the majority of executions take place in Pakistan, China, Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. These are often not against those who have committed violent crimes, but political dissidents, those whom have been convicted of blasphemy, crimes against the king or ruler and adultery/homosexuality. Pakistan and Iran have this year carried out the execution of those whose only crime was to promote their religion other than the state accepted religion of Islam. While Iran and Saudi Arabia have executed women who have been raped, for the crime of adultery. Saudi Arabia still conducts its execution by sword and beheading is a gruesome and rarely swift method for murder by the state of a human being. China’s figures for execution are so large they refuse to publish them, they are often those who dare question the totalitarian regime or who are from ethnic groups in the outer reaches of the nation.
Each year more than 10,000 people are officially executed by nations around the world. Virtually none have been convicted of mass killing or large-scale sexual abuse of children. The death penalty is simply an act of revenge against a small percentage of the criminal population and a larger percentage of women, minority groups and those whose actions would be deemed simply free expression in the majority of the world.
Supporting the death penalty is not the support for being hard on crime, it is the support for an unjust gruesome system of vengeance that rarely gets the right man and promotes a cycle of violent crime, mistrust and fear in the nations that carry it out most often. There are no safe guards, there can be no over turning of the act when an execution has taken place and Australia is better for no longer partaking in the practice. But we also must do our part to end this most barbaric of acts around the world. And if we value our friendship with the United States we must encourage them to catch up with the rest of the world and end this dark ages horror. Only then will the last remaining nations begin to follow and the world can be free of one of the crimes against humanity we can stop forever!
Anti Death Penalty Coordinator – Foreign Prisoner Support Service.
The head of Amnesty International has strongly criticised the federal government’s efforts to improve living standards of Aboriginal Australians, saying it could learn from New Zealand’s dealings with its Maori people.
The human rights agency’s secretary-general, Salil Shetty, said the government’s “top-down externally driven” efforts to close the gap on Aboriginal socio-economic disadvantage were instead having the opposite effect.
Mr Shetty, who is the middle of a tour of Australia after a visit to New Zealand, said Amnesty was appalled that current policies had effectively “forced evictions from their traditional homelands”.
“They’re stripping funds for essentials services from these communities, effectively driving people away,” he told AAP in an interview.
Mr Shetty was to spend Saturday at the homeland communities of Utopia, 260 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs, before heading to Canberra next week to meet with Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin.
Far from what the name suggests, most Utopia communities are more like Third World slums.
An Amnesty report, released in August, profiled Utopia and claimed Aborigines were being driven off their homelands and herded into “hub towns” where the federal and Northern Territory governments were splashing out cash for resources and services.
Mr Shetty said there was strong evidence that indigenous people had “better health and a better state of mind” when they lived on their own lands.
The Amnesty chief praised New Zealand for its treatment of Maoris, saying the government there had done a “much better job than Australia”.
“There’s a lot to be learned from them, given the way they have given Maoris a voice in the political process and in decision-making,” he said.
“Aboriginal people need to be empowered to make their own choices.”
Mr Shetty said part of the problem was mainstream Australia’s lack of understanding about the extent of the disadvantage gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
“There’s a lack of political will,” he said.
Mr Shetty said Australia was one of the richest countries and should be able to find solutions “unless deep down we’re dealing with a lot of prejudice and discrimination”.
He is also concerned that the benefits of Australia’s mining boom are bypassing struggling indigenous communities.
“Where the benefits and revenue are going to is disproportionately in favour of large corporations, at the cost to Aboriginal communities,” Mr Shetty said.
In Canberra next week, Mr Shetty will urge Ms Macklin to end discrimination of homeland indigenous people and call on the government to ensure money is distributed equitably to include the homelands and address an under-investment in housing.
Amnesty has been a staunch critic of the Howard government’s Northern Territory Intervention plan, which has continued under Labor but is now under review.
Mr Shetty said the government should be looking at the recommendations of the Little Children are Sacred Report and its obligations under the United Nations declaration for indigenous people when planning its next move.
However, he applauded moves to recognise indigenous people in Australia’s constitution.
“There’s nothing wrong with symbolism as long as it doesn’t end there,” he said.
“What we need is accountability and justice, it’s not just a question of words.”
http://www.amnesty.org.au/action/action/26569/ – Take Action Now!
Having spent ten years working on countless cases of foreigners in trouble in foreign justice system the case of Amanda Knox is just another day.
For every Amanda Knox there is a name you will never hear, many of them Australian, travellers in a far off land who did or did not break the law and found themselves in jail. These are places you wouldn’t wish on your own enemy, with conditions from a nightmare, guards from a horror movie and sentences that will never end. For the period of time I worked on the Knox case it was not my most interesting, but a beautiful girl will always get more press than any other.
Australian’s travel, unlike their counter parts from the US, young Australian’s in particular really travel to the four corners of the globe and while many are armed with knowledge of the nation’s they are about to visit nobody is prepared for what follows when the law comes calling. Not only is the traveler in for a tough ride their families are often left reeling from the news and unarmed to take on the long challenge that awaits them. This is where many critical mistakes are made. You wont be bailed out, mum and dad can’t visit you for an hour and the lawyer you get will be the name you prefer given to you on a single page paper list handed to you by a consular official.
By this stage the damage could already be done. Take Amanda Knox, by this time she had made a false statement and implicated an innocent man in a murder she would spend the next fours years trying to prove she didn’t commit. Others have set off a shit storm making allegations of police abuse, cover ups or attempted bribes gone wrong. You cannot prove your innocence in the first 48hours. But you can almost certainly put a whole country offside by your actions in that time. Once you have a nickname like the Ganja Queen (Corby) or Foxy Knoxy (Knox) you’ve damaged your public appearance beyond repair. This is when the traveller and their family, frightened and unaware of what is happening need to make the most important decisions in the process.
Hire your own lawyer, the best money can buy in the country you’ve been arrested. This is not a time to go with the cheap and cheerful. You can pay off debt until you are 65, can you serve that time in prison? Find a good lawyer in Australia, many will act pro bono and can contact people with the right experience for the country of detention. And immediately call your local, federal, member for Parliament. They wont do much, they will say they cannot interfere with the “judicial processes of a foreign country” but when you have been beaten black and blue and DFAT is still telling your family you are in “good health” they may just be your best friend. Do all of this straight away, too many families contact me after they have lost at trial making the whole process that much harder.
Don’t start a political controversy! You can’t be found guilty in the court of public opinion in Australia and go to jail for it, but you better believe you can in many foreign countries. Start screaming at the fences about corrupt judges, dodgy politics and it “not being like Australia” and you will soon find yourself looking at a 20 year sentence for a crime that would have got you a month back home – just ask Schapelle Corby.
In the Knox case there were calls from her supporters, including high profile individuals, to have the case heard in a US court despite the crime being in Italy. Endless criticism of the Italian justice system, accusations of police brutality and the suggestion that the prosecutor was a mad member of the occult. Some of this may or may not be true, it really doesn’t matter. The message is that you see them as substandard and they will counter that with your guilt and a long sentence. These complaints should all be directed through your lawyers and not the media.
Which brings me to of course to, the media! They will offer to publicise your story, free you from your horror and fly your parents all the way from Braidwood to Bangkok. You think they do this out of the kindness of their heart or because your case some how touched them? No, this is the hope of an often junior journalist hoping you might give them their first cover and a book deal. Many a career has been built on the miserable tale of a “foreign prisoner”, they know who they are. Tell the media ONLY what you would want the world including your jailers and the court to know, the rest is not for their ears.
Establish a support network, both in the country of arrest and at home in Australia. What nobody will tell you, but you’ll learn very fast is that three square meals a day simply doesn’t occur in a foreign prison. You will need money for food and someone to bring you fresh food when they can. You’ll need a constant flow of medical supplies and toiletries, including your own dental cement. Your family at home will also need a support network, they will spend night and day, plus most of their life earnings freeing you.
Before you go anywhere take a small amount of time to learn the laws of the land and especially those that you could easily stumble foul of without really knowing. Many countries have laws you’ve never heard of and for things you wouldn’t consider that bad, but if they do, they are! Don’t take drugs, don’t involve yourself in political protests in unstable countries and don’t insult authority figures. Finally persist, even if you are innocent, just like Amanda Knox, you can still find yourself serving a number of years in prison. This is not fair but it is a reality of what happens when someone is arrested overseas.
The lesson is simple, for all the young people who travel abroad, some will find themselves in prison. The first response from all involved will greatly impact just how long that painful period will last. And for too many years Australia has been ignorant to the reality of many of it’s travellers.
*This is not legal advice, but the observations from working on these cases for a decade*