Australian government, stop imprisoning refugees, Papua New Guinea court decides


This video says about itself:

Guantánamo of the Pacific”: Australian Asylum Seekers Wage Hunger Strike at Offshore Detention Site

22 January 2015

A massive hunger strike is underway at what some are calling “the Guantánamo Bay of the Pacific.” The Manus Island detention center is paid for by the Australian government and run by an Australian contractor, Transfield Services, but located offshore on Papua New Guinea’s soil. The inmates are not accused of any crimes — they are asylum seekers from war-ravaged countries who are waiting indefinitely for their refugee status determinations.

They are asking the United Nations to intervene against the Australian federal government’s plan to resettle them in Papua New Guinea, where they say they could face persecution. Some have barricaded themselves behind the detention center’s high wire fences; others have resorted to increasingly drastic measures such as drinking washing detergent, swallowing razor blades, and even sewing their mouths shut to protest their confinement. We speak with Australian human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Alex Kelly, a social justice filmmaker who organized a New York City vigil in solidarity with the Manus Island detainees.

From the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:

Papua New Guinea court finds Australia’s detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal

April 26, 2016 – 11:02PM

Nicole Hasham, Michael Gordon

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says about 900 men being held at the Manus Island detention centre will not be brought to Australia after Papua New Guinea’s Supreme Court ruled their detention was illegal.

The decision strikes one of the central pillars of the Turnbull government’s border protection regime, just weeks out from an election campaign during which the government is expected to heavily spruik its asylum seeker record. …

The court ruled the detention breached the constitutional right of asylum seekers to personal liberty. It ordered the Australian and PNG governments to immediately cease the “unconstitutional and illegal detention of asylum seekers” at Manus Island, and stop the breach of their human rights. …

The vast majority of men in the detention centre have been found to be refugees. The court ruling said they were seeking asylum in Australia but were “forcefully brought into PNG” and locked in an Australian-funded centre “enclosed with razor wire“. …

Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs said the unanimous ruling by five judges was “further confirmation that Australia’s detention policies are increasingly out of step with international norms”.

Professor Triggs said the future of men on Manus Island remained “profoundly uncertain”, citing UNHCR concerns that the sustainable integration of refugees into the PNG community “will raise formidable challenges and protection concerns”.

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the reported court ruling showed Australia “has been illegally detaining refugees on Manus Island for years”.

“The [Turnbull] government has got to shut the Manus Island detention camp and bring these people here… so that they can have their claims assessed and be integrated into the community,” she said.

“These people have been through enough. It’s time they were given the safety and care that they deserve.”

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns said the decision was consistent with international law which stated that indefinite detention was unlawful.

The ruling also meant asylum seekers could likely make successful claims for damages for false imprisonment, and strengthened claims that Australia had breached its duty of care to asylum seekers.

“If Australia ignores the decision then it is contradicting its oft-stated claim that Manus Island detention is a matter for PNG jurisdiction,” he said.

Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson said the ruling was a “massive victory for asylum seekers and refugees” who had been detained for almost three years.

“PNG’s Supreme Court has recognised that detaining people who have committed no crime is wrong. For these men, their only ‘mistake’ was to try to seek sanctuary in Australia – that doesn’t deserve years in limbo locked up in a remote island prison,” Ms Pearson said in a statement.

“It’s time for the Manus detention centre to be closed once and for all.”

She said the detention centre had caused “severe mental health impacts. These refugees have suffered enough, it’s time for them to finally move on and rebuild their lives in safety and dignity”.

In March, PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the Manus Island detention centre must eventually close, and was a “problem” that had done more damage to his nation’s reputation than any other factor.

PNG Prime Minister Says Manus Island Detention Centre Will Close: here.

In what amounts to an indictment of the Australian political establishment, the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the imprisonment of refugees in an Australian-controlled detention facility on PNG’s remote Manus Island was unconstitutional: here.

Extinct whale’s tooth discovery on Australian beach


This video says about itself:

19 January 2015

In this short animation, produced for primary school children by Green.TV, supported by the Wellcome Trust, we look at the remarkable evolution of the whale from a land-based dog-like animal to the marine mammal that became the world’s largest ever creature.

From the Times of India:

Extinct whale’s 1 foot long tooth found on Australian beach

Subodh Varma | TNN | Apr 22, 2016, 04.21 PM IST

NEW DELHI: An Australian fossil enthusiast discovered a giant tooth of an ancient sperm whale that used to roam the seas five million years ago, munching up fish and even other whales. Murray Orr discovered the tooth at a beach at Beaumaris Bay near Melbourne, known for its vast trove of fossils. Orr immediately donated the fossil to Museum Victoria for further study.

The fossilised tooth is 30 centimetres (one foot) long and weighs three kilograms. This makes it larger than that of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

“After I found the tooth I just sat down and stared at it in disbelief,” Murray Orr said after the find was announced on Thursday by Museum Victoria, reports AFP.

“I knew this was an important find that needed to be shared with everyone.”

After studying the giant tooth, Museum Victoria said that it came from an extinct species of “killer sperm whale” which would have measured up to 18 metres (60 feet) in length and weighed some 40,000 kilograms.

“Until this find at Beaumaris all fossils of giant killer sperm whales were found on the west coast of South and North America,” Erich Fitzgerald, a paleontologist at the museum, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The museum said the tooth dates from the Pliocene epoch of some five million years ago and it was larger than those of sperm whales living today.

It is thought that these extict killer sperm whales deployed their massive teeth to munch on large animals, including fellow whales, unlike today’s sperm whales that eat a diet of squid and fish.

“If we only had today’s deep-diving, squid-sucking sperm whales to go on, we could not predict that just five million years ago there were giant predatory sperm whales with immense teeth that hunted other whales,” Fitzgerald said in a statement, AFP reported.

“Most sperm whales for the past 20 million years have been of the whale-killing kind. So, the fossil record reveals the living species to in fact be the exception to the rule, the oddball of the sperm whale family.”

British sexually abusive spy now trains police in Australia


This video from Britain says about itself:

Environmental and social justice campaigner Helen Steel talks about being spied on by undercover police officer John Dines.

Campaign Opposing Police surveillance meeting, London Metropolitan University, 12 November 2014.

By Conrad Landin in Britain:

Spy Cop ‘Training Police Abroad’

Thursday 10th March 2016

Undercover officer who deceived campaigner into relationship now working with Australian police

POLICE chiefs must give up hiding the identities of undercover coppers, campaigners said yesterday as an officer who deceived a woman into a long-term relationship was revealed to be training police abroad.

John Dines, a member of the Metropolitan Police’s elite Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), was found to be directing police training courses at Charles Sturt University in Sydney.

The explosive revelation came as a whistleblower undercover officer called on the upcoming undercover policing inquiry to rule out the Met’s petition for secrecy.

Mr Dines disappeared 24 years ago, after a career infiltrating protest groups.

As “John Barker,’ an identity stolen from a dead child, he had a two-year relationship with environmental activist and McLibel defendant Helen Steel.

Ms Steel was one of seven women given substantial payouts by the Met in November — when the force issued an “unreserved” apology for forming “abusive and manipulative” relationships.

The Met continues to “neither confirm nor deny” the identities of individual police officers involved in these covert operations.

Campaigners, who gathered outside New Scotland Yard yesterday evening, hope the inquiry, which is currently holding preliminary hearings before full sessions begin in the summer, could force chiefs to change this policy.

Protesters said that only 10 per cent of undercover officers’ “cover names” were known.

Reclaim the Streets activist Carolyn, who is a core participant in the inquiry, said she believed that her group was spied on by other coppers.

“No-one knows for sure if they were spied on,” she told the Star. “We’re asking for all the cover names to be made available — we’re not asking for their real names, it doesn’t affect their own security.”

But the Met has petitioned inquiry chairman Christopher Pitchford to maintain officers’ anonymity and sit in secret when discussing covert operations.

Now lawyers acting for Peter Francis, the ex-officer who revealed that the SDS had spied on trade unions, have urged Mr Pitchford to rule out this request.

They say that the Met’s argument that disclosure would contravene its promise to officers that their identities would be protected for life did not stack up.

Lawyers also say there are “no real national security considerations” in disclosing information on the targeting of activist groups — unlike undercover cops “used in relation to serious crime and to counter terrorism.”

Mr Francis previously issued a statement saying he had spied on members of five trade unions. The undercover inquiry is also examining evidence that police colluded in the blacklisting of construction workers.

GMB national officer Justin Bowden, who has been key to the anti-blacklisting campaign, said: “There is an obvious need for complete transparency on this very emotive issue.

“For there to be any kind of reconciliation and closure for people harmed by police activities, the truth has to come out.

“The police can either continue to be part of the cover-up, or be part of the clean-up.”

Ms Steel flew to Australia after discovering her ex-boyfriend’s new career, and confronted him at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith airport — where he was greeting a party of Indian police officers due to be trained at Charles Sturt.

She said Mr Dines apologised but added that when he had been sent in to infiltrate groups in north London it was to look out for “extremists.”

Ms Steel fears what his role might be with the Indian police training programme. New South Wales legislative council member David Shoebridge yesterday called for the state government to investigate whether local officers had been trained by disgraced SDS veterans.

Mr Dines was listed as a staff member on the course for Indian officers in university literature and as a “professor” in another academic document. But the university said his role was “solely administrative.”

UK plans to track all internet connections could cost £1bn, campaigners warn: here.

Australian mammal research, one-sided so far


This video says about itself:

Mammals of Australia – Video Learning – WizScience.com

16 aug. 2015

The “mammals of Australia” have a rich fossil history, as well as a variety of extant mammalian species, dominated by the marsupials, but also including monotremes and placentals. The marsupials evolved to fill specific ecological niches, and in many cases they are physically similar to the placental mammals in Eurasia and North America that occupy similar niches, a phenomenon known as convergent evolution. For example, the top predator in Australia, the Tasmanian tiger, bore a striking resemblance to canids such as the gray wolf; gliding possums and flying squirrels have similar adaptations enabling their arboreal lifestyle; and the numbat and anteaters are both digging insectivores. Most of Austarlia’s mammals are herbivores and or carnivores.

The fossil record shows that monotremes have been present in Australia since the Early Cretaceous 145–99 MYA.

Marsupials probably existed in Australia at least from the early Paleocene, although the earliest found undoubted fossils of Australian marsupials are from the late Oligocene 25 MYA.

The indisputable remains of Australian placental mammals started from the Miocene, when Australia moved closer to Indonesia. After 15 MYA bats appeared reliably in the fossil record, and after 5-10 MYA rodents did. The subsequent introductions of placental mammals into Australian fauna were about 1 MYA , several thousand years ago, and 200 years ago ; the last two were made by humans.

Some claims were made about placental mammal fossils from the Eocene of Australia, called “Tingamarra“. These claims are based on only one found tooth having some characteristic features of condylarth, and were discussed widely. But both the age and placental nature of these fossils were challenged by other researchers.

From the Mammal Review:

The good, the bad, and the ugly: which Australian terrestrial mammal species attract most research?

6 March 2016

Abstract

1. The Australian mammalian fauna is marked by high endemism and evolutionary distinctiveness and comprises monotreme, marsupial, and eutherian (‘placental’) native species. It has suffered the highest extinction rate of any mammalian fauna in any global region; surviving species are threatened by competition and predation from a range of introduced mammal species, and receive low levels of conservation-oriented funding compared with species in many other countries.

2. We investigated research foci on this unique fauna by using species h-indices (SHI), and identified both taxonomic bias and subject bias in research effort and research impact for 331 Australian terrestrial mammal species. Species broadly fell into categories we labelled as the ‘good’, the ‘bad’, and the ‘ugly’.

3. The majority of studies on monotremes and marsupials (the ‘good’) are directed towards their physiology and anatomy, with a smaller ecological focus. By contrast, introduced eutherians (the ‘bad’) have attracted greater attention in terms of ecological research, with greater emphasis on methods and technique studies for population control. Despite making up 45% of the 331 species studied, native rodents and bats (the ‘ugly’) have attracted disproportionately little study.

4. While research on invasive species is directed towards problem solving, many Australian native species of conservation significance have attracted little research effort, little recognition, and little funding. Current global and national conservation funding largely overlooks non-charismatic species, and yet these species may arguably be most in need of scientific and management research effort.

Shorebird problems in Australia


This video from Australia says about itself:

Farewell Shorebirds!

31 March 2014

Follow their journey – farewellshorebirds.org.au.

From EMU Austral Ornithology Journal:

Continental-scale decreases in shorebird populations in Australia

Abstract

Decreases in shorebird populations are increasingly evident worldwide, especially in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway (EAAF). To arrest these declines, it is important to understand the scale of both the problem and the solutions.

We analysed an expansive Australian citizen-science dataset, spanning the period 1973 to 2014, to explore factors related to differences in trends among shorebird populations in wetlands throughout Australia. Of seven resident Australian shorebird species, the four inland species exhibited continental decreases, whereas the three coastal species did not.

Decreases in inland resident shorebirds were related to changes in availability of water at non-tidal wetlands, suggesting that degradation of wetlands in Australia’s interior is playing a role in these declines. For migratory shorebirds, the analyses revealed continental decreases in abundance in 12 of 19 species, and decreases in 17 of 19 in the southern half of Australia over the past 15 years.

Many trends were strongly associated with continental gradients in latitude or longitude, suggesting some large-scale patterns in the decreases, with steeper declines often evident in southern Australia. After accounting for this effect, local variables did not explain variation in migratory shorebird trends between sites. Our results are consistent with other studies indicating that decreases in migratory shorebird populations in the EAAF are most likely being driven primarily by factors outside Australia.

This reinforces the need for urgent overseas conservation actions. However, substantially heterogeneous trends within Australia, combined with declines of inland resident shorebirds indicate effective management of Australian shorebird habitat remains important.

Cardinall Pell ‘uninterested’ in child sexual abuse scandal


This satirical music video from Australia says about itself:

Come Home (Cardinal Pell) – Tim Minchin

16 February 2016

Hi, I do hope you enjoy my new song.

Proceeds from its sale will go into this fund.

You can buy it here on iTunes; or Google Play.

You can also purchase the video here.

You can stream it here on Apple Music; or on Spotify.

It’s available worldwide and will soon be up on various other digital music outlets.

It might be rather confusing for non-Australians so I’ve put some background info for yez here; and my follow up statement is here.

From the BBC in Britain:

Vatican finance boss George Pell taunted over ‘cowardice’

18 February 2016

A provocative song and a public drive to raise funds to send child sex abuse victims to the Vatican have sparked fresh controversy around Australia’s most senior Catholic, writes Trevor Marshallsea.

In 2014, Cardinal George Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney, was summoned to Rome to become chief of the Vatican’s finances, a new position created by Pope Francis in the wake of scandals at the Vatican Bank.

But Cardinal Pell left another scandal behind him, and the anger over widespread sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic clergy continues to rage in Australia.

The cardinal was once again under fire this week over his refusal, on medical grounds, to return home to front the Royal Commission which is investigating how various institutions responded to the child abuse allegations.

‘Come home, Cardinal Pell’

Tall and imperious, seen as aloof and arrogant by detractors, the 74-year-old has repeatedly faced allegations from abuse victims of a cover-up.

These include that he was involved in moving notorious paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale around parishes rather than reporting him, and that he attempted to bribe one of the victims of the now jailed priest to keep quiet.

Australia’s worst paedophile priest, Father Gerald Ridsdale, once lived with a young clergyman who is now Cardinal George Pell. As the Cardinal prepares to give evidence to the child abuse royal commission, two women break decades of silence to tell Debi Marshall about their ordeal in Ridsdale’s care – and their disappointment with Pell: here.

From the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia:

Cardinal George Pell uninterested in Ridsdale sex claims, Royal Commission hears

March 1, 2016 – 10:41AM

By Rachel Browne

Complaints about a paedophile priest were “common knowledge” in the Catholic community and among two senior clergy members but Cardinal George Pell did not have “much interest” in them, he told a royal commission.

In his second day of questioning about what he knew of sexual offending by priests when he was in Victoria, Cardinal Pell’s admission drew an audible gasp from those listening to his testimony.

Giving his evidence via video-link from Rome, Australia’s most senior Catholic agreed that some people knew there had been complaints about Gerald Ridsdale in the 1970s, a former priest now serving a prison sentence for multiple child sex offences.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard a police investigation into Ridsdale found his alleged offending at Victorian parishes was “common knowledge” among the Catholic congregation.

“I didn’t know whether it was common knowledge or whether it wasn’t,” [Cardinal Pell] said. “It’s a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me.”

Child sex abuse survivors say they’ve ‘watched a performance’ rather than seen Cardinal George Pell give credible evidence to a royal commission: here.

Catholic clergy (including George Pell) looked the other way while Father Ridsdale continued committing more crimes against more children in more parishes: here.

George Pell: Father of abuse victims says he has given up hope Cardinal will help fix things: here.

Abuse royal commission: George Pell must have known, says Ridsdale victim: here.

Australian doctors against governmental anti-refugee policies


This video from Australia says about itself:

Vigil for Asha enters second night outside Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital

13/02/2016 Brisbane doctors are taking an extraordinary stand to stop a baby girl being sent back to detention in Nauru.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Friday, 19 February 2016

Australian doctors demand ‘humane stance’

IN THE British Medical Journal today, a leading doctor is calling on the Australian government to stop constraining doctors in the care of asylum seekers and refugees, and to adopt a humane stance to people seeking asylum.

David Berger, a doctor at Broome Hospital in Western Australia and a committee member of Doctors4Refugees, is making these calls following the high profile case at The Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane.

Paediatricians are refusing to discharge a baby facing deportation to a detention camp after the girl, a daughter of asylum seekers, suffered serious burns at an immigration camp on Nauru island. The Lady Cilento Hospital says the girl will not be released ‘until a suitable home environment is identified’.

Dr Berger explains that despite seeking to ensure the safety of their patient and doing nothing more than following their own ethical code, these doctors risk facing up to two years imprisonment under the 2015 Border Force Act.

Doctors have an ethical code since the time of the Hippocratic physicians nearly 2,500 years ago, he explains, yet this new law ‘compels them to follow the instructions of the Australian government, even if they believe this might be to the detriment of their patients’.

He says this case goes to the heart of the question of ‘duty of the physician’ versus ‘law of the land’, but argues that ‘compliance with the law cannot inoculate the medical practitioner completely against the need to comply with their ethical code’.

He highlights the 2012 Derek Keilloh case in the UK that shows the ‘impossible ethical and legal position doctors now face in Australia . . . as they are caught between the profession’s ethical code, which places patient welfare at the heart of their endeavours, and the law of the country which places unacceptable obstacles in the way of doing so’.

Dr Berger adds that the actions of the Brisbane doctors ‘are not simply a piece of political grandstanding, but the courageous stand of professionals seeking to do the right thing by their patient and to live up to the standards of an ethical code by which they are morally and legally bound and which places patient welfare at its pinnacle’.

‘They are behaving according to the very highest standards of their profession,’ he adds, and calls on the government to repeal the relevant provisions of the Border Force Act and to adopt a ‘humane stance’ towards people seeking asylum.

AUSTRALIAN unions have applauded the community #LetThemStay alliance that forced the Turnbull government to back down on Sunday from sending baby Asha and her family back into detention on Nauru: here.

Despite protests around the country, asylum seekers who were brought to Australia for medical treatment after being detained in the Australian-run “offshore processing” facilities on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island face being sent back to these oppressive camps: here.

Just over a week ago, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull set the stage for a rare “double dissolution” election, involving all seats in both parliamentary houses on July 2. The move is a desperate bid to break the logjam in the Senate—the parliamentary upper house—where opposition parties and so-called independents have used their majority to block key budget measures: here.