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    "I've always seen parliament as a disadvantage, frankly, for sitting governments." 

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    « Top news of the week | Main | Late, final, extra »
    Monday
    May222017

    Another week down

    May 16 to May 22 ... Blending is "common practice" in energy industry to trick pollution readings ... Manus Island detainees told to weigh limited options ... NSW legislation criminalises dissemination of revenge porn ... Legal tech start-up is first to receive Queensland development fund boost ... Victorian police edge closer to Pell charge ... Week@TheKnees with Sohini Mehta  

    STAFF at AGL's Bayswater power station in the Hunter Valley have revealed they were instructed to supply lower sulphur coal to one of its four generation units to avoid notifying the State Pollution Control Commission of soaring pollution readings. 

    A former engineer at Bayswater told the SMH the practice of burning variable quality coal, rampant since at least 2000, offered significant savings for the plant – adding up "to a lot of zeroes" as it was able to avoid taxes and fines while burning low-quality, high-sulphur coal.

    AGL bought the station from state-run Macquarie Generation in 2014 and won't comment on operations prior to its takeover. Though AGL has since voluntarily disclosed emissions for all four units, its spokesman refused to clarify whether AGL's other big Hunter Valley plant, Liddell, also engaged in coal blending to take advantage of partial monitoring and described coal blending as "common practice in the industry".  

    The state Environmental Protection Authority is investigating under-reported emission by asking all licensed power stations in operation in NSW to clarify their reports for the National Pollution Inventory within six weeks. 

    *   *   *

    Behrouz Boochani: predicting riots at ManusOn Monday (May 15), a PNG official told more than 800 asylum seekers to leave the regional processing centre before demolition work starts at the end of the month. 

    The first compound, Foxtrot, will be closed by May 28. The remainder of the centre will be closed, and all detainees removed, by October 31.

    The detainees were told: "... consider your options. No-one will be resettled in Australia."

    The options available to the detainees depend on their immigration status. Refugees can try to find accommodation in PNG or relocate to the nearby refugee transit centre. About 100 men who've either had their claims refused or are still in the stages of assessment or appeal are invited to voluntarily return to their countries of origin. Until August 30, Australia is offering up to $20,000 to incentivise both refugees and asylum seekers to abandon their protection claims and go home. 

    Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani told the ABC he was "sure the refugees will resist and they will have to use force ... I think there will be a big riot."

    In other sombre Manus news, a report produced by contractor Wilson Security and leaked to ABC's Latelinereveals at least one Papua New Guinea soldier fired bullets into the detention centre. 

    The revelations contradict Peter Dutton's hazy version of events, which states that weapons were fired into the air. 

    *   *   *

    Mustering his immense empathy and charm Minister Dutton also wheeled out his "lodge or leave" announcement on Sunday, May 21.  

    He said that 7,500 asylum seekers who arrived by boat between 2008 and 2013 must apply for refugee status and a protection visa by October 1. 

    The minister made his pitch to Murdoch tabloid readers by emphasising the cost to Australian taxpayers for the provision of support for those in immigration limbo - around $250 million a year. 

    He referred to these people as "fake refugees" yet like so much that falls from this minister his own message was a selective presentation of the facts.  

    His department has insufficient capacity to process these applications in a timely manner, and there are not enough legal resources or interpreters to enable applications to be made properly and in this timeframe. 

    GetUp's human rights director, Shen Narayanasamy, said that this group of asylum seekers was only permitted to make protection applications from November last year, which the government lifted the prohibition.  

    Refugee lawyer David Manne predicted there could be litigation challenging Dutton's ukase. 

    Of the 50,000 who arrived by boat between 2008 and 2013, 43,000 have been processed and either granted protection visas or had their claims rejected. 

    *   *   *

    Speakman: fighting revenge pornNSW offenders who post intimate images of former partners without their consent could face a three-year term in jail and a $11,000 fine. 

    The bill, which will be introduced into NSW parliament this week, will also criminalise the act of threatening to record or distribute revenge porn. 

    The NSW attorney general, Mark Speakman, hailed the new bill as empowering victims to ensure culprits were held to account for "disgraceful behaviour". 

    The federal government released a discussion paper on Saturday (May 21) seeking responses on proposed penalties for revenge porn, including civil penalties handed out by the e-safety commissioner, who would be granted additional investigatory powers. 

    *   *   *

    The Queensland Minister for trade and investment, Curtis Pitt, has announced a $500,000 funding boost to legal tech start-up Lawcadia under the auspices of the government Business Development Fund. 

    Lawcadia aims to help corporate and government clients procure and manage legal services and exchange tender documents on its web-based platform. 

    "This home-grown company is the first legal tech start-up to receive funding from the Business Development Fund and it's exactly the type of innovative business that the Palaszczuk government is looking to invest in," Pitt said.

    Pitt also congratulated Lawcadia on attracting business across Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.

    Lawcadia's CEO and founder, Warwick Walsh, is attune to the frustration of many law firms about inefficient and opaque current legal procurement processes: "Many law firms are…excited by our new, innovative approach," he told Lawyers Weekly: 

    "Backing from the Queensland government will allow us to expand our team even further, build and consolidate our position in Australia, and start to look towards global expansion."

    *   *   *

    Pell: evidenceNews Corp outlets report that Victoria's Director of Public Prosecutions told Victoria Police enough evidence exists to charge Cardinal George Pell over historic sexual abuse allegations. 

    The advice was purportedly given by the DPP's John Champion SC and relates to evidence gathered during Pell's voluntary interview with Victorian officers in Rome last year. 

    Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton declined to confirm whether the DPP's advice was that Cardinal Pell should be charged but indicated a decision is likely within a few weeks. 

    Outside the Vatican on Wednesday (May 17), Cardinal Pell restated his innocence: 

    "I stand by everything I have said at the Royal Commission [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse] and in other places," he told Australian reporters.

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