15 Jan 19

Investigation into polling chaos promised

Gordon Brown held his seat of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, using his acceptance speech to promise an investigation into the polling chaos.


The Electoral Commission has said an investigation will take place into reports that people have been turned away from polling stations.

With voter turnout higher than expected, the Commission says the guidelines are clear, but accepts the system is flawed. There is speculation that this could lead to legal challenges where reults are close-run.

Latest reports suggest some in Hackney South were turned away an hour before polls closed, with others missing out due to long queues.

Exit polls suggest Tory leader David Cameron would fall 19 seats short of an overall majority, leaving the country with a hung parliament.

The Liberal Democrats, Britain’s traditional third party, could emerge as kingmakers in a power-sharing deal after a surge during a grueling month-long campaign..

Early results could start coming in as soon as an hour later, but the bulk are expected to be declared from around 3:00 am.

The final result may not be known until much later if all hangs on a handful of seats, as some two dozen constituencies are not expected to be declared before noon on Friday.

Election day was marked by a plane crash which injured a high-profile anti-Europe candidate and a protest outside the polling station where Cameron voted.

Several eve-of-election polls suggested the Conservatives had a clear lead over Brown’s ruling Labour Party and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.

But they indicated that under Britain’s first-past-the-post system, Cameron’s Tories could fall short of an overall majority in the House of Commons, setting up the first hung parliament since 1974.

A poll by ICM for the Guardian newspaper predicted Conservative support had increased slightly to around 36 percent, with Labour unchanged on 28 percent, while the Lib Dems had fallen back to 26 percent.

That would roughly equate to 283 seats for the Tories, 253 for Labour and 81 for the Lib Dems. A total of 326 seats are needed for an overall majority.

Such an outcome would spark a scramble for power, with Cameron seeking a partner to govern or doing so through a minority government, possibly with the support of a handful of lawmakers from Northern Ireland.

More than 44 million voters were eligible to cast ballots, with observers predicting turnout could be as high as 70 percent after an unusual campaign transformed by the first televised leaders’ debates in a British election.

A smiling Cameron and his wife Samantha voted in the picturesque village of Spelsbury in his Witney constituency in Oxfordshire, west of London.

Earlier, two pranksters climbed on to the roof of the polling station and unfurled a banner drawing attention to Cameron’s education at the elite fee-paying Eton College, which has produced 18 British prime ministers.

Brown, who has been fighting for his political life in a frantic week of campaigning, was accompanied by his wife Sarah as he voted in steady drizzle in his constituency in Fife, north of Edinburgh.

Clegg, whose surprise strong performance in the first TV leaders’ debate gave his Liberal Democrats a massive boost, cast his ballot in Sheffield, northern England, where he was elected for the first time in 2005.

Nigel Farage, a high-profile candidate for the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP), suffered minor head injuries and needed heart tests after the light aircraft he was travelling in crashed at an airfield in Northamptonshire.

His campaign manager said the pilot desperately tried to call for help in the seconds before impact.

“Apparently the plane nose-dived. We had a banner attached to the back of the plane which basically got wrapped around the tail,” said Chris Adams. “It’s all a bit of a shock, especially on polling day.”

Brown, who took over from Tony Blair in 2007, ended his campaign in his native Scotland, issuing a last-ditch plea to wavering voters to back Labour as the best party to safeguard the country’s fragile recovery from deep recession.

“At this moment of risk to our economy, at this moment of decision for our country, I ask you to come home to Labour,” he said.

Clegg pleaded with voters to back him and seize a “once in a generation opportunity to do things differently”.

Late Thursday, one Labour candidate who embarrassed Brown on the eve of the election by branding him Britain’s “worst prime minister” said he would not bother to go the election count later Thursday night.

“I had no chance of winning anyway, but I’ve been disowned by the party… I’ve decided not to go to the count — I’ll stay at home and watch the BBC,” he said.

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15 Jan 19

Aussie news crews rescue Haitian baby

Rival Australian news crews have rescued an 18-month-old baby from underneath the rubble in earthquake devastated Haiti.


The little girl was lying alongside the bodies of her dead parents who were killed in the 7.0 magnitude earthquake which hit Port-au-Prince on January 12 when the camera crews heard her moans and began to dig her out on Friday.

Richard Moran, a cameraman with the commercial Nine Network, put down his camera and lifted pieces of concrete out of the way while Nine’s interpreter and fixer Deiby Celestino climbed into the tangled mess to retrieve the child.

“And then, out of the ruins came this little girl, and I will never forget it. She did not cry. She looked astonished, almost as if she was seeing the world for the first time,” Nine reporter Robert Penfold told The Australian.

The images of the child’s rescue were captured by Nine’s major rival Seven, and footage beamed around the world showed the network’s correspondent Mike Amor holding the dusty little girl and giving her water.

“That moment, it was beyond news,” Amor said. “I haven’t seen anything so remarkable since the birth of my own child. The emotion for all of us has been incredible.”

Amor said the news crews and the locals who had helped locate the girl were concentrated on rescuing the child rather than news priorities.

“The focus of everybody on that hill was the little girl, and as any of us will tell you, it was Deiby who went into that hole, and dug, and dug, until he got that little girl out. He’s the hero,” he told The Australian.

Channel Nine’s news director Mark Calvert said while disasters can sometimes bring out the very worst in journalists, they can also produce the best.

“I’m proud of the Nine News team, who put the welfare of the little girl before their own safety, and placed their personal convictions before professional pressures,” he said in a statement to AFP.

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15 Jan 19

Hidden camera stings UK MPs

An undercover investigation in the UK has uncovered what many MPs, including former government ministers, are prepared to do for lobbying companies in return for big fees.


Former Trade and transport Secretary Stephen Byers was allegedly recorded offering himself ‘like a sort of cab for hire’ for up to £5,000 a day ($A8,280), while offering the use of his friendship with Business Secretary Peter Mandelson, which, he said, had proved useful in the past.

The ruling Labour party has promised a crackdown on lobbying by ex-ministers after some of its MPs were caught in joint Channel 4/Sunday Times sting, just weeks before an election.

Senior Labour MPs were filmed by an undercover reporter apparently offering to use their connections with government in return for money – but the MPs and the companies involved now deny wrongdoing.

In Australia, the Rudd government introduced new regulation surrounding politcal lobbying, and the government maintains a Lobbyists Register.

But in the UK, although there is some regulation, there is less openness. Last year, the British government rejected calls for a public register of lobbying, arguing the lobbying industry should be given the opportunity to self-regulate.

The Labour party responded on Sunday by promising tighter regulation on lobbying activities if Brown’s government is re-elected in polls expected on May 6.

“There can never be any suggestion that companies and businesses can only speak to government by buying access through MPs or anybody else,” a spokesman said.

But all polls are already putting Brown behind David Cameron’s Conservative Party, who has been quick to denounce the affair and call for a probe, mindful of the scandals that cost the Conservatives power in the 1990s.

They also threaten to further undermine the reputation of parliament after the enormous and ongoing scandal over MPs’ expenses last year.

“Just as the government has ended the old discredited system of self-regulation in MPs’ expenses, we need to act now to stop self-regulation of lobbyists and give the public greater confidence in the whole system,” the Labour spokesman said.

In a statement, Former Transport Secretary Byers said he had exaggerated his influence to

the undercover reporter and had subsequently retracted his claims, adding that he had “never lobbied ministers on behalf of commercial


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17 Mar 19

Phelps back in pool but coy on future

Michael Phelps has been working out with his former coach but there is no word yet on a return to swimming for the Rio Olympics.


Coach Bob Bowman said on Sunday that Phelps has been taking part in workouts with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

However, he’s not yet committed to the sort of gruelling program that would be needed if he decided to return to competition.

In fact, Phelps attended an NBA preseason game in China on Friday, visiting a country where he has extensive endorsement deals and remains extremely popular.

“He is occasionally training with the group to get back in shape,” Bowman wrote in a text to The Associated Press.

Phelps and Bowman remain close friends and business partners.

Initially adamant he would never compete again, Phelps softened his stance after reports began swirling of an imminent comeback.

He said during the world championships in Barcelona, “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

When asked, yes or no, whether he’ll compete at the next Olympics, Phelps coyly said he hasn’t planned that far ahead in his life.

Phelps long insisted he would quit swimming before he turned 30.

After completing his brilliant career with a record 18 gold medals and 22 Olympic medals overall, he followed through on his long-stated goal of retiring after the 2012 London Games, where he was honoured with a special ceremony after his final event.

He’ll be 31 at the time of the opening ceremony for the Rio Games.

Phelps does have plenty of projects away from the pool, including a chain of swim schools and a foundation devoted to water safety. He is also passionate about golf and participated in a television series with famed coach Hank Haney.

But Phelps became much more realistic about his future on the links after joking not so long ago that golf was the only sport he’d possibly compete in at Rio, knowing it’s returning to the Olympic program in 2016.

“It’s probably the most humbling thing I’ve ever done, the most humbling sport I’ve ever done, the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.

Phelps still has plenty of time to resume serious training for Rio, though he would need to account for requirements such as re-entering the U.S. drug-testing program.

He would certainly want to be back in peak condition in time for the next major international meet, the 2015 world championships in Russia, a key stepping stone to the Olympics.

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17 Mar 19

Business confidence at three-year high

A key business lobby group is concerned about the employment outlook even though the change of federal government improved overall confidence.


The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s latest survey of investor confidence found business owners at their most confident since December 2010.

“We are continuing to see this improvement in expectations flying from a new government and a new administration with different economic agenda,” chamber chief economist Greg Evans said in Canberra.

However, an improvement in actual trading conditions was more modest.

Expectations for sales, profitability and the investment outlook all grew in the month but expectations for employment deteriorated.

The survey’s expectation index rose to 59.2 points in the September quarter from 55.7 points in the previous three months, while the actual conditions index crept up to 50.8 points from 49.9 points.

Even so, this was the first time the conditions index rose above the key 50-point mark, which separates expansion from contraction, since March 2011.

Sales and profitability remained locked at contractionary levels.

Mr Evans said business still faces some fairly stiff economic headwinds in terms of international uncertainty, an Australian economy that is expected to continue to grow below trend and an unemployment rate that could go above six per cent in 2014.

While he believes the full benefit from lower interest rates has yet to be fully locked in, the chances of another rate cut have “probably evaporated”.

He said there is still scope for greater competition among banks, particularly in terms of business loans and overdrafts.

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17 Mar 19

Vic MP Shaw avoids jury over fraud charges

Victorian MP Geoff Shaw will not face a judge and jury over charges he misused his parliamentary entitlements.


The Liberal-turned-independent will “vigorously defend” charges over the alleged misuse of his taxpayer-funded vehicle and parliamentary fuel card for his hardware business.

Magistrate Charles Rozencwajg indicated on Monday that he would grant Shaw’s application for summary jurisdiction, which keeps the matter in the magistrates court.

Prosecution lawyer Ray Elston QC did not oppose the application.

During the hearing on Monday, defence barrister Robert Richter QC alluded to recent examples of federal MPs repaying entitlements and allowances.

“There’s no great complexity (to this case) – no trips interstate to Cairns or anything,” Mr Richter told the court.

Mr Rozencwajg said: “No weddings?

“If this continues, the courts are going to have to create a special list for politicians.”

Mr Richter suggested charges only arose when there were “other political considerations” involved.

If convicted under summary jurisdiction, Shaw faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment but could still hold on to his seat of Frankston.

Under the Victorian constitution, he only has to step down if he’s convicted of an indictable offence.

Shaw, 46, is facing a charge of misconduct in public office and 23 counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception over a total of $2096.56 spent between February and December 2011.

The charges relate to the alleged misuse of his petrol card in Melbourne’s southeast, country Victoria and NSW, and in the Adelaide suburb of Elizabeth Vale.

Shaw intends to vigorously defend the charges, Mr Richter said.

The matter will return to the Melbourne Magistrates Court on November 20.

Shaw holds the balance of power in Victoria’s lower house.

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17 Mar 19

Moving forward and moving on: Rudd, Roxon and the future of the ALP

By Shaun Carney, Monash University

As Paul Keating told Julia Gillard not so long ago, every prime minister is carried out of the job in a box.


His fatalistic advice was meant to be comforting, indicating that the party room or the public will inevitably dispose of each prime minister, regardless of how popular they once were.

But Keating’s aphorism covered only part of the story. For governments and the parties that sustain them, the length of tenure in office also matters.

How an ex-government is able to look back on its time in power influences very strongly its capacity to regenerate in opposition. The defeat suffered by the Howard government in 2007 was substantial. John Howard lost his seat, only the second prime minister to suffer this humiliation.

The election loss was imminent almost a year out from election day, from the moment that Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard became Labor’s new leadership team. The Liberal party room had most of 2007 to respond to this new challenge by replacing Howard with Peter Costello, but it chose not to.

Significantly, once they found themselves out of government, the Liberals didn’t indulge in severe recriminations. Howard wrote a book. Costello wrote a book, in which he included some incidental sniping at Howard.

Tony Abbott wrote a book. Abbott’s assessment of the demise of the Howard government was that the public had concluded in 2007 that after four terms and more than 11 years, the Coalition had been in power long enough and it was time for a change.


Labour should arguably look at how the Liberals responded after their crushing defeat at the 2007 election for a model of how to move forward. AAP/Alan Porritt


This analysis was crucial to the Liberals’ post-defeat mentality. As painful as the loss had been, the party felt satisfied that it had enjoyed a good go at government.

This contrasts strongly with the position of the Labor Party as it tries to deal with last month’s defeat. Labor’s victory in 2007 was, as already noted, substantial. In terms of seats won and the party’s healthy primary vote, it should have been enough to sustain the ALP in office for three terms, which in modern politics could be regarded as the breakeven point for any party in office. Anything beyond three terms is a bonus, as Howard learnt in his fractious and final fourth term.

But Labor under Rudd, then Gillard, then Rudd again, managed to hang in there for a mere two terms, only the first of them in a majority position in the lower house, lasting less than six years all up.

For all of Labor’s legislative victories – the National Disability Insurance Scheme, education reforms including the national curriculum and the Gonski formula for schools funding, the repeal of WorkChoices, the legislating of a price on carbon – the party will continue to look at the Rudd-Gillard years as a time of lost opportunities.

This was not how Labor looked at the Hawke-Keating era, which saw the ALP win a record five consecutive terms. The Whitlam government, like the Rudd-Gillard government, won two terms, although Whitlam’s period of office was compressed into just three years. The ALP’s method of dealing with Whitlam’s landslide 1975 defeat provides a powerful contrast with the reaction of some high-profile Labor figures to the 2013 election loss.

First out of the blocks was the retiring member for Perth, Stephen Smith. On election night, with the votes still being counted, he declared on national television that Rudd should resign from parliament forthwith because he would forever remain a symbol of the disunity that had wrecked the Labor government.

Soon after, another ex-MP – this time Craig Emerson – launched into a poisonous personal attack on Rudd, describing the man who had just led the party to the election basically as mad and selfish, an unstoppable engine of destabilisation who should get out of public life immediately.

And then last week came the capper, with yet another newly-departed MP, Nicola Roxon, using the highly-regarded John Button Lecture to recycle her past attacks on Rudd with some added material: Rudd was not just chaotic, he was rude (but never, on her own admission, to Roxon) and, simply, a “bastard” who thoroughly deserved to be ditched as leader in 2010.

Her view is that if Gillard, as Rudd’s replacement, had along with ministers such as Roxon at that time run out a detailed public explanation of just how utterly worthless Rudd had been as prime minister, the political outcome for the ALP would almost certainly have been better. Bear in mind, Rudd was still in his first term as prime minister when rolled.

Roxon is another who wants Rudd to resign from his seat of Griffith pronto. She does not suggest that he is a bad representative of his electorate. She even contemplates the possibility that he might behave well as a backbencher.

Roxon’s reason for wanting a by-election in Griffith? Pollsters.

I believe we must also confront the bitter truth that as long as Kevin remains in parliament, irrespective of how he behaves, pollsters will run comparisons with him and any other leader.

If Roxon’s political acumen as displayed within her lecture is what Gillard relied upon as leader, then the Australian public has been given a fascinating insight into 1) how Gillard met her political fate by making so many cack-handed pronouncements and 2) the dysfunctional professional attitudes that sit at the very heart of the modern Labor Party.


Nicola Roxon has joined the list of ex-Labor MPs to have criticised Kevin Rudd, describing him as a ‘bastard’ who should resign from parliament. AAP/Alan Porritt


By any measure, Rudd must take a big share of the blame for what went wrong, but Roxon’s analysis is that, at root, he must shoulder the lot. It is a ludicrous proposition. Why did his aggrieved, frustrated ministers not confront him? Where was their courage? Were they too frightened of demotion, of losing their status and their salary, and all that power?

The truth is Rudd will never be able to destabilise Bill Shorten or any other future leader. He will never attract support from anyone in the caucus. He had two runs as leader. He is spent. Having led the party to a big loss, he is never again going to be taken seriously as a possible leader or be able to attract widespread popularity.

In the wake of 1975, it would have been easy for ex-ministers to fashion a case against Whitlam over his imperious style, lack of interest in economic policy and strategic fumbles on the day of the vice-regal dismissal.

Senior members of the party could have blamed Whitlam for so much that went wrong. Instead, the party locked in behind him kept him on to fight another election. It looked forward, not backward, and devoted itself to remaking its policies and reaching out to new parts of the community. Only seven years later, with a comprehensive new platform and Bob Hawke at the helm, it swept back into power.

Roxon, Emerson and Smith have taken another tack. They appear to want to keep the fight against Rudd going, trying to hound him out of parliament through character assassination.

All three have enjoyed massive salaries as ministers and are about to access a superannuation scheme that’s vastly more generous than that available to the ordinary workers who are the backbone of Labor’s electoral support base.

In their zeal to denigrate Rudd, do they really want to hand his seat to the Liberals at a byelection? Liberal candidate Bill Glasson is a quality operator who scored a higher primary vote than Rudd on September 7, a profound reversal of the 2010 result in Griffith. The seat is now marginal. Griffith voters would be furious about having to vote again and would punish Labor.

Glasson would win a by-election, and almost certainly win again at the subsequent general election. Labor holds a paltry six of Queensland’s 30 seats. Would these highly-remunerated ex-MPs seriously want to cut that number to five just so that they can feel vindicated in their loathing for one man?

In purporting to diagnose the Labor Party’s malaise, it could be said they have in fact demonstrated it.

Shaun Carney does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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17 Mar 19

Bikies crackdown: did the Constitution fail Queensland?

By Gabrielle Appleby

Last week, Queensland’s state government introduced a number of tough new law and order measures targeting serious sexual offenders and bikies.


Under the new laws, bikie gang members in Queensland face being locked up in maximum security jails for a minimum of 15 years unless they co-operate with police. Jail terms also apply for riding in groups or wearing club colours to a hotel.

In the name of community safety, the new legislation makes very large and serious incursions into fundamental human rights, including the right to be free from arbitrary detention, the right to a fair trial before an independent judge and the right to free speech and association.

The legislation – and the way in which it was pushed through Queensland’s parliament – highlight the inherent dangers in Australia’s constitutional system, which relies heavily on democratic institutions for the protection of individual rights.

What does Australia’s Constitution protect?

Australia’s Constitution does not contain a comprehensive bill of rights. High Court justice Patrick Keane once described Australia’s Constitution as “only a small brown bird”, not forged from bloody civil war or revolution, but by men with great confidence in the parliamentary institutions of England to protect the rights of individuals against the arbitrary rule of the government.

In pratice, what this has meant is that the courts have limited tools with which to scrutinise legislation that intrudes on individual liberties.

The High Court has found some implied protections, such as of judicial power and the independence and impartiality of the courts, in the sparse provisions of the Constitution. At the Commonwealth level, this prevents the federal government and parliament from exercising judicial power, such as the power to punish individuals. It prevents the judiciary from exercising anything other than judicial power, and protects the integrity of the judicial process.

At the state level, there is no equivalent separation of powers, but the High Court has found that state courts must still maintain a number of characteristics of independence and impartiality to continue to fit the constitutional description of courts.

Since the states’ “war on bikies” began in earnest in the 2000s, the High Court has found a significant proportion of anti-bikie measures unconstitutional because they compromised the independence and impartiality of the state judiciary or the judicial process.

Why is the Constitution unlikely to prevent the Queensland laws?

One of the important planks of Queensland’s anti-bikie legislation is the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013.

This act places mandatory additional sentences on associates of criminal gangs: 15 years for an ordinary associate and 25 years for an office bearer. While serving a further sentence, prisoners are not eligible for parole unless they co-operate with law enforcement agencies.

Mandatory sentences are historically unusual. They severely limit a judge’s ability to consider the full circumstances of a case in determining an appropriate penalty. Nonetheless, just days before the Queensland legislation passed, the High Court affirmed that mandatory minimum sentences (in that case, for people smugglers) were constitutional.

The High Court accepted that the determination of a sentencing yardstick, both upper and lower limits, was a legislative judgment for the democratic institution of parliament.


Queensland lawmakers such as attorney-general Jarrod Bleijie and premier Campbell Newman managed to push through anti-bikies legislation with a minimum of debate. AAP/Dan Peled


Another major part of the Queensland legislation was to introduce an indefinite detention regime for serious sex offenders after their sentence has expired. This responded to the imminent release of Robert John Fardon, a notorious Queensland sex offender. His release in 2003 instigated the enactment of Queensland’s original regime for the preventative detention of serious sex offenders.

Under the original act, the Queensland Supreme Court decides whether an individual is a serious danger to the community and needs to remain in detention. Under the new act, this power is, in effect, vested in the state attorney-general. The legislation is a direct result of the Supreme Court’s refusal of the attorney-general’s previous applications for Fardon’s detention.

The High Court has been able to use the Constitution to ensure that when governments create regimes involving the courts, the integrity of the judicial process is maintained. However, at the state level, this doesn’t prevent these powers from being removed from the courts altogether. To stop that, the High Court would have to come up with a new implication.

It is not the High Court that failed Queensland, but the assumptions on which Australia’s Constitution was built. Our founding fathers failed to realise that such a poor state of democracy would manifest.

Queensland’s unicameral system

In Queensland, the upper house of state parliament voted itself out of existence in 1922, and the High Court found nothing in the Constitution to prevent this from happening. This removed a fundamental check and balance on governments with overwhelming majorities in the lower house and parliamentarians well-trained in party discipline.

The laws in Queensland were introduced and passed in the course of parliament’s three sitting days last week. Each bill was declared urgent. No outside consultation or committee scrutiny occurred. The debate on one bill commenced at midnight and finished in the early hours of the morning.

This is certainly not the first time that we have seen this type of fearmongering and abuse of parliamentary processes to pass extreme measures that erode fundamental liberties of the few in the name of protection of the many. This reflects a failure of the community as well as a failure of the parliament and, ultimately, the Constitution.

Gabrielle Appleby does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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17 Feb 19

Comment: Putting an end to forced marriage in Australia

By Jennifer Burn, University of Technology, Sydney

According to Human Rights Watch, 14 million girls are married, worldwide, each year – with some as young as eight or nine.


While early and forced marriage appears most prevalent in countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, several recent cases have shown Australia is not immune to the practise.

If the global trend continues, Human Rights Watch estimates that 142 million children will be married by 2020.

Snapshot of Australia

There is no Australian research on the prevalence of forced marriage but the issue was brought to the fore following several recent high-profile family court cases.

A 2010 case involving a 13 year-old Victorian girl began when her school alerted the state’s child protection service that she was not attending school. The school suggested the girl’s absence may be due to her parents preparing her for marriage to a fiance they had chosen for her – a 17 year-old living overseas.

Consequently, the Department of Human Services initiated proceedings in the Family Court that eventually resulted in the court ordering the girl not be removed from Australia before she turned 18. The court also ordered that her passport be surrendered, that her parents be restrained from applying for another passport on her behalf and that her name be placed on the Australian Federal Police watchlist until her 18th birthday.

The next year, another prominent case came before the family court. The girl (known as Ms Kreet) had just finished year 12 and had a boyfriend (known as “Mr U”) who lived in Australia. Ms Kreet’s parents told her she was to travel to their home country to marry Mr U there. But they deceived her and had another man in mind.

The court heard that on arrival, Ms Kreet was introduced to the man her parents had secretly chosen to be her husband. Her father told Ms Kreet that if she did not acquiesce to the marriage, he would have her boyfriend’s sisters and mother kidnapped and raped. Ms Kreet consented and the marriage took place.

But when Ms Kreet returned to Australia, she withdrew a visa application for her husband and applied to the Family Court for an annulment.

The court accepted that Ms Kreet believed that her father would carry out his threat and said that at the time of the marriage ceremony, Ms Kreet’s consent was not real because it had been obtained through duress. The court declared that the marriage was not a valid marriage and that the marriage was void.

Australian law reform

The latter case illustrates how coercion can overbear full and free consent to a marriage. When deciding Ms Kreet’s case, Judge Cronin concluded:

If a cultural practice relating to a marriage gives rise to the overbearing of a mind and will so that it is not a true consent, the cultural practice must give way.

Acknowledging emerging concerns about forced marriage in Australia, the Commonwealth government released a discussion paper on forced and servile marriage in Australia in 2010 and called for submissions from community groups to inform potential reform.

Then, on March 8 this year, legislation passed to specifically outlaw the practice. The amendment created new offences relating to slavery and slave-like practices including forced marriage.

Under the Act, a marriage is a forced marriage if – because of the use of coercion, threat or deception – one party to the marriage entered into the marriage without freely and fully consenting.

Next steps

Since the new law came into effect, there has been considerable community interest in the area of forced marriage; engagement in outreach and writing multilingual materials to raise awareness of the law.

In one such innovative program, the Victorian Immigrant Refugee Women’s Coalition (VIRWC) designed a new campaign for high school students called The Choice is Yours. The coalition is calling for training about the indicators of forced marriage among teachers, doctors and community workers.

The law is one part of a holistic and effective social response. But it’s also essential that comprehensive support services for those in forced marriage are available and that resources are put into community-based services and education to explain the law.

In the 2010 case, the court had the power to prevent the girl leaving Australia, but such protective powers cease when the person turns 18. In the United Kingdom, civil protection orders are available regardless of the age of the applicant.

This would be the next step to ensure those in forced marriage have all the support they need and can choose the extent that they wish to engage in legal processes.

Jennifer Burn is director of Anti-Slavery Australia, which has received an Australian government grant to develop an e-learning training program about slavery and slavery-like practices including forced marriage.

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17 Feb 19

Comment: What you can do about the health impact of bushfire smoke

By Martine Dennekamp, Monash University and Fay Johnston, University of Tasmania

In recent days, we’ve seen dramatic pictures of thick smoke from bushfires hanging over Sydney.


Our first thoughts are with people living in the immediate vicinity of the fires, and the threat to their lives and properties. But there’s another matter that affects a lot more people, and that is the health effect of bushfire smoke.

As bushfire smoke can cover very large areas, including major cities, it has the potential to affect millions of people and is a significant public health problem.

What we know

We know that healthy people tolerate brief episodes of smoke exposure quite well, but those with pre-existing heart or lung disease, pregnant women, young children, and the elderly are more likely to be affected by smoke.

Smoke consists of a very complex mixture of particles and gases, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds. And increased concentrations of the secondary pollutant ozone have been noted during large fires.

On the population level, the major concern is the very small particles or PM2.5 – particles with an aerodynamic diameter smaller than 2.5 micrometres (µm) – that can penetrate deep into the lungs. These small particles in urban air have shown to have an effect on respiratory and cardiovascular health, even at concentrations well below the current air quality standards in Australia.

This naturally poses the question of what their health effects could be during bushfires, when their concentrations are many times higher and regularly exceed the air quality standards.

At a global scale, our team has estimated that around 340,000 premature deaths each year can be attributed to smoke from landscape fires. We have previously shown that on days when severe smoke plumes affected Sydney’s air quality, deaths increased by around 5% and hospital admissions for lung problems increased even more.

In Melbourne, we have shown that the risk of having a cardiac arrest was significantly increased on bushfire-affected days.

The studies of health effects of bushfires have usually focused on outcomes that can be obtained from routine data collections after a bushfire, simply because they are difficult to predict in advance. As a result, most research has focused on emergency presentations and hospital admissions.

But these outcomes are likely just the tip of the “health effects iceberg”. We need to look at other health outcomes, including the impact of bushfires on individuals, to properly advise policy makers and clinicians of appropriate public health messages and measures to put in place.

In the meanwhile, there are some things you can do to mitigate the impact of bushfire smoke.

What you could do

If you are in an area affected by smoke and fall in one of the higher risk categories, that is, you have a current heart or lung condition, are elderly, pregnant, or have young children, it’s advisable to try and minimise your exposure to smoke the best you can.

There are several measures that you can take to reduce your exposure to the bushfire smoke.

If the pollution is severe in your local area, people at particularly high risk should consider the practicalities of leaving the affected area until the air quality has improved.Stay indoors and close windows and doors. If you have a well-sealed house this can delay the entry of smoke particles into your home, but it is only a temporary measure and completely depends on the structure of the house. If the house is not well sealed, smoke particles indoors will rapidly equilibrate with outdoor levels.Avoid exercise, as this results in faster and deeper breathing and can increase your exposure to smoke up to tenfold.If you have an air conditioner, set it to recycle so you don’t bring in outdoor air. If you have the option of adding a filter to your air conditioner, do so.The best evidence for reducing personal exposure comes from the use of high efficiency particle air filters (HEPA filters). These have shown to significantly reduce particle concentrations indoors when there’s a high level of fire smoke.If you feel the air in your home is getting uncomfortable, consider moving (even for a short period of time) to a cleaner, air conditioned environment like a shopping centre.

Apart from reducing your exposure to smoke, it’s important if you have a heart or lung condition that you have your medication and follow your treatment plan. People with asthma, for instance, should make sure they have a current asthma action plan and keep their blue reliever medication handy.

Exposure to bushfire smoke, either through planned burns or incidental bushfires, will always be a part of Australian life. We need to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be when such fires happen.

Martine Dennekamp is researcher with the Centre for Air Quality and Health Research and Evaluation, a NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence.

Fay Johnston is researcher with the Centre for Air Quality and Health Research and Evaluation, a NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence. Fay Johnston receives funding from the ARC, NHMRC, Bushfire CRC, and from fire management and environment agencies in NSW and Victoria.

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17 Feb 19

Deja vu as Milan face Barcelona and an injury crisis

The two sides have met six times in the last two seasons with Barcelona predictably dominating.


They have knocked seven-times champions Milan out of the Champions League twice in a row, in the quarter-finals two seasons ago and in the round of 16 last term, and enjoyed a win and a draw in two group stage meetings in 2011/12.

Milan’s only win in those six matches was in the first leg of last season’s round of 16 clash, but they were overwhelmed 4-0 in the return.

With Barcelona yet to concede a goal or drop a point in Group H, Milan clearly have a tall order although, whatever happens on Tuesday, both sides should comfortably progress, Ajax Amsterdam and Celtic having so far managed only one point between them.

For the second season in a row, Milan, who seem to be stuck in an interminable transitional phase, have made a slow start. They have taken 11 points from eight games in Serie A and have already dropped 13 points behind leaders AS Roma, suggesting that once again they will have to focus on next season’s Champions League rather than challenging for the title..

Most of their points have been won through sheer grit and determination rather well-polished performances.

Remarkably, nine of Milan’s last 13 goals have come in the last 10 minutes of their games, including all three they have scored in the Champions League.

Allegri’s side scored both goals in the 2-0 win over Celtic in the dying minutes and needed a stoppage time penalty to draw at Ajax.

In the league, they scored twice in the last five minutes to draw 2-2 at Torino and repeated the trick in a 3-3 draw at Bologna, where they trailed 3-1 until the 89th minute.

Most frustrating of all has been the continued injury crisis with goalkeeper Christian Abbiati, defender Daniele Bonera and Mattia De Sciglio and forwards Stephan El Shaarawy, Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini all in the treatment room.

El Shaarawy has not played since September 1 after suffering first a thigh injury and then a microfracture of his foot, Pazzini has been out since May with a knee injury and Bonera since July.

Balotelli missed Saturday’s 1-0 win over Udinese with a thigh muscle injury he suffered during Italy’s World Cup qualifier against Armenia and is doubtful for Tuesday.

Last month, former Milan forward Alexandre Pato, who suffered an astonishing sequence of muscular injuries at the club, questioned the treatment at Milan.

“During one-and-a-half years there, I played, I got injured, I was out for one month, I got injured again… Since I came back to Brazil, I haven’t had any more injuries,” said Pato, who joined Corinthians in January

“The treatment there is different,” he said in a programme on the Brazilian cable channel Sportv. “While are you out of action, you do some work in the swimming pool and a little bit of physiotherapy. Then in one week they make you put in a lot of effort.

“I think it all shows that what happened to me at Milan had nothing to do with me, as other players are still getting injured. I was not to blame.”

Allegri replied at the time that Pato should have a sense of self-criticism instead of making “gratuitous accusations.”

Barcelona dropped their first league points of the season in a 0-0 draw at Osasuna on Saturday, when Lionel Messi came on in the second half for his first appearance since suffering a thigh injury at the end of last month.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood)

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17 Feb 19

Hollande slammed over Roma girl response

French President Francois Hollande has been attacked from all sides for offering a deported Roma schoolgirl the chance to return to France without her family, ceding ever more ground to his ambitious interior minister, Manuel Valls.


Hollande’s offer to let Leonarda Dibrani, 15, come back to the country – which she declined, saying she would not leave behind her parents and five siblings in Kosovo – has been met with incomprehension and vitriol, leaving the president accused of misusing his position and acting “emotionally”.

French media on Sunday let rip at Hollande, with the website of the left-wing Liberation newspaper describing the move as “the most improbable of all scenarios”, and the weekly Journal du Dimanche calling it “as bizarre as it is incomprehensible”.

Politician Francois Bayrou, a centrist heavyweight who backed Hollande in the second round of presidential elections in 2012, weighed in to say a head of state “should not confuse emotion and the duty of government”.

The Roma teenager immediately turned down Hollande’s offer from the town of Mitrovica in Kosovo, where she has been living with her family since their October 9 deportation.

“I’m not the only one who has to go to school, there are also my brothers and sisters,” she said.

The family were assaulted on Sunday in what local authorities described as a private dispute with another family that was unrelated to their deportation from France.

The girl’s mother was briefly hospitalised and released as her injuries were not serious, police said, adding that four people have been detained.

Leonarda’s arrest by French police during a school trip and the subsequent deportation of her family has aroused soul-searching by France’s left and brought thousands of high-school students out on the streets in protest.

The results of a formal investigation published on Saturday found that the deportation was lawful, but that police could have used better judgment in the way they handled it.

However, the case was further complicated by revelations that Leonarda’s father had lied about his family’s origins to have a better chance at obtaining asylum.

As an advocate of the rigorous enforcement of immigration laws, Socialist Interior Minister Valls was put in a difficult position when his boss made the grand gesture.

Initially praising an “act of generosity” in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche, Valls went on to say that the family’s deportation was justified by seven prior asylum rejections and the “fraudulent documents” they provided in support.

But in a deft manoeuvre seemingly designed to distance himself from the president, Valls said “emotion cannot be the guide (in deciding) a policy”.

He then paid tribute to France as a “land of immigration”, but nonetheless stressed the need to “control the flow” of foreigners entering the country.

“Foreigners, even families, even those with school-age children, as soon as they no longer have the right to remain, must leave the country,” he said, countering this hard line once again by arguing France must fight to protect the asylum system “to the last breath”.

Last month, Spanish-born Valls triggered an outcry when he said most of the 20,000 Roma in France had no intention of integrating and should be sent back to their countries of origin.

But a survey by polling firm BVA published on Saturday in the Le Parisien daily showed that 74 per cent of the French approved Valls’s position on the Dibrani controversy.

Hollande’s own approval ratings are dismal, slumping to a new low of just 23 per cent, according to a poll published on Sunday in the JDD.

“We are in a period where public opinion is supportive of the forces of law and order, of discipline,” political commentator Roland Cayrol told AFP.

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17 Feb 19

NSW bushfire smoke sparks health warning

Doctors are urging people to stay indoors as much as possible and avoid exercising outside as heavy smoke rises above bushfire-hit NSW.


More than 200 homes have been lost in fires west of Sydney since Thursday, and 59 fires were still burning on Monday morning.

NSW Health says many areas in the state are experiencing poor to very poor air quality, even hundreds of kilometres away from the fires.

The Australian Medical Association’s NSW president, Brian Owler, says heavy exercise should be avoided.

“The last thing you want to do is to go out for a jog when you’re breathing in such heavy pollution,” he told AAP.

Asthmatics should also ensure they have their puffers with them at all times, he added.

Professor Wayne Smith from NSW Health urged asthma sufferers to follow their asthma action plan.

“Fine particles can irritate the lungs of healthy adults, so it is best to avoid any prolonged outdoor exercise,” he said in a statement.

An Ambulance NSW spokesman said there had been a marked increase in the number of call-outs to people with respiratory problems since the fires broke out on Thursday.

“We expect to continue to see an increase,” he told AAP.

Prof Smith later told reporters that Sydney’s air quality is “hazardous” and will probably remain poor in the coming days.

He says there has been a “definite increase” in the number of calls made to triple-zero from people with breathing problems in recent days.

“We’re talking about people who are being taken by ambulances from the centre of Sydney, which is up to 100km away from bushfires,” he said in Sydney.

Campbelltown and Camden, in Sydney’s south-west, are among the worst affected in terms of air quality, Prof Smith added.

He also says there’s an increased risk of asbestos exposure, particularly near houses that have been burned down.

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