Bad news wrap
Monday, April 10, 2017
Justinian in Adani, Amber Harrison, Indigenous affairs, Refugees, Week @ The Knees

April 4 to April 10 ... UN official whacks government over indigenous disadvantage ... Special treatment for Adani ... The boastful president of Nauru ... Palestinian activist's visa cancelled ... Burnside birched by Sackar J over "boys' club" jibe ... Week@TheKnees with Sohini Mehta 

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has criticised the government for "unacceptable" levels of indigenous disadvantage following a two-week tour which concluded last Monday (April 3). 

Tauli-Corpuz said the government could achieve significant progress in realising the rights of indigenous peoples if it worked much more closely with indigenous led peak bodies. 

The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples "has been dismally regarded", she continued, and other community led initiatives have been stripped of $534 million funding by the "bureaucratic, rigid" Indigenous Advancement Strategy initiated in 2014. 

Under the auspices of the strategy, 55 percent of tenders for indigenous service providers were awarded to organisations that are neither run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders nor based in their communities.

The rapporteur said the "most disturbing element" of her visit was meeting children as young as 12 in Cleveland Youth Detention Centre (Townsville, Qld), where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children constitute 95% of all children detained there. 

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The Queensland government has granted the proposed Carmichael coal mine unlimited access to the state's groundwater until 2077. 

The groundwater operations of the $16 billion Adani mine will draw an estimated 355 billion litres of groundwater over its lifetime, with catastrophic effects on the Great Artesian Basin.

Adani's water licence is not subject to public appeals and other oversight mechanisms brought in with amendments to Queensland's Water Act last year.  

Jo-Anne Bragg, a lawyers at the Environment Defenders Office Queensland, rightly views this as "special treatment"; other proposed mines - including the much smaller New Acland project - are bound by the scrutiny measures. 

Indian environmental activist Vaishali Patil issued a timely warning to reject the promises of the coal industry "that are never met", describing Adani as topping the list of the world's worst companies she has encountered in her career spanning more than 20 years. 

Apart from all that, the mine will be the final shameful nail in the coffin of the Great Barrier Reef, with assessments that it will never recover from its current parlous bleached state if the mine goes ahead. 

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Waqa: "best practice" for refugeesNauru President Baron Waqa said he doesn't know when the United States will begin accepting refugees from Australian detention centres, or how many of the 1,200 refugees on Nauru and Manus Island were likely to be resettled in the US. 

Speaking to Sky News' Caroline Marcus - one of the few Australian journalists granted permission by the Nauruan government to enter the island's detention centre - Waqa said the US may end up accepting "as little as 10" refugees, and dubiously claimed Nauru's care standards for refugees constitute "the best practice in the world". 

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton also favoured Sky to say he doesn't know the exact number of refugees the US will take but is “encouraged by the approach of the officials”. 

Dutton also said those Manus Island refugees not accepted by the US will remain in PNG, even though the detention centre on the island is expected to close by October this year.  

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In free speech news the federal government on April 5 cancelled the visa of Bassem Tamimi, a Palestinian activist and vocal critic of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. 

Tamimi was granted the visa the day before and was scheduled to speak in Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne this month in a tour organised by the Palestine Action Group, Friends of Palestine, and the Melbourne-based Social Research Institute. 

The Department of Border Protection explained:  

"The department recently became aware of information that indicates there is a risk that members of the public will react adversely to Mr Tamimi's presence in Australia regarding his views of the ongoing political tensions in the Middle East." 

Tamimi accused Israel of lobbying to have him barred from entry. He also conveyed his disappointment over a decision which he sees as placing a limit on free speech.

The Australian-based organisers echoed this sentiment, describing the decision - which also comprises a three-year ban on entry to Australia - as an act of "extreme censorship". 

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Bell: "boys' club" outrageIn an otherwise yawn-inducing procedural hearing on Thursday (April 6) morning about where the Amber Harrison case should be heard, prominent silk Julian Burnside told a full courtroom at the NSW Supreme Court: "[s]he is taking on one of the country's biggest boys' clubs." 

"That's just outrageous," spluttered Seven's barrister, Andrew Bell.

Judge John Sackar got very po-faced, saying Burnside's jibe was "entirely inappropriate". 

"It was uncalled for ... It was your client who raised the spectre of a cross claim."

Burnside woke the dragon by suggesting the judge had ordered Ms Harrison's lawyers to counter-sue Seven.

"I gave her 14 days [to file a counter suit]," Sackar J said, raising his voice. "We should start on a more accurate basis before we start throwing mud in my court, Mr Burnside."

"I was not throwing mud," Burnside responded, undeterred. 

"It looked like it," Sackar J fired back. "The whole concept of a cross claim came from your side."

Sackar is considering Burnside's request to transfer the entire dispute, including Seven's supreme court application for a permanent gag order, to the Federal Court in Melbourne, where Ms Harrison has filed an adverse action claim under the Fair Work Act alleging the affair caused her anxiety and seeking unspecified compensation. 

Seven doesn't want anything to do with the Act, which offers significant protections to employees. The boys' club maintains Harrison's is a straightforward breach-of-contract case as she signed an "extremely broad" deed of release promising she wouldn't disclose information about Seven or her former lover, the Seven CEO Tim Worner, which she patently has done.

Burnside said it was "to say the least, very odd" for a national broadcaster to take a "parochial view" that the dispute had to be heard in a Sydney court.

"You have the same questions arising in two courts," Mr Burnside said.

He said this was "especially burdensome" to the Melbourne-based Harrison, who is currently jobless and living at home with her parents.

Bell said the similarities between the two cases were "entirely manufactured" and pointed to Ms Harrison's $350,000 damages agreement, which specifies disputes must be resolved in NSW.  

Justice Sackar has reserved his decision on whether the case can escape from Sydney. 

Article originally appeared on Justinian: Australian legal magazine. News on lawyers and the law (http://justinian.com.au/).
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