Tuesday, 27 April 2010
Friday, 23 April 2010
So Tony Abbott wants to send more Australian troops to Afghanistan. "Doing more would be a sign Australia was serious about its overseas responsibilities," he said today.
Thursday, 22 April 2010
I came into contact with Carl Williams a number of times. I was usually appearing for the police in relation to subpoenas and other technical issues involving his murder trials. I never quite got used to his boyish good looks and cheerful demeanour, which seemed surreal in the sobre atmosphere of the Supreme Court.
Recently, following the murder of Carl Williams in his "high security" prison, there have been calls for inquiries into police corruption. Court orders prevent me explaining why people have supposed there might be any connection, but it is sufficient to say these calls follow the murders of several informers who were to give evidence against allegedly corrupt police.
Carl Williams behind glass in court
Premier John Brumby has dismissed calls for a Royal Commission, saying that Carl Williams was a serial killer and a royal commission into his death would be a waste of taxpayers' money.
The Premier misses the point. A proper independent inquiry (it need not be a royal commission) is not about Carl Williams - it's about us. It's about our values. It's about whether murders (even of criminals) might be occurring in order to cover up corruption by some police - who have been given special powers to exercise on our behalf. Corruption of those in whom we entrust power is very dangerous, and can metastasize through the whole body politic. We must be vigilant about it - for our own sake.
The problem of police corruption is not new and it is not confined to Victoria. If we are to deal with it, we must be prepared to learn from the past and from interstate and even overseas experience.
The 1989 Fitzgerald Inquiry into corruption in Queensland was responsible for a complete change in the culture of police and politics in the State. Lest we have to undergo our own Royal Commission here, we must be prepared to learn the lessons of the Fitzgerald Inquiry. We have a long way to go.
Three weeks before the 2006 state election the Victorian government entered into a secret written deal with the Police Association (the union for police officers) in order to secure their electoral support. Both the premier, Mr Bracks, and then police minister, Tim Holding, signed the six-page document, the existence of which did not publicly emerge until after the election.
The agreement was extraordinary. It was made without the knowledge of the Commissioner of Police - Christine Nixon at the time - and it undermined her position for negotiating an enterprise bargaining agreement with members. It directly trespassed into operational areas, such as the provision of weapons, which were her responsibility. It also committed the government to reimbursing the Police Association for legal representation costs incurred in defending members being investigated by the Office of Police Integrity.
A Commissioner of Police is entitled to expect that she will be the voice of the police speaking to government. In this case, her capacity to do so was seriously undermined.
The Fitzgerald Report emphasized that curbing police corruption required avoiding any direct link between the government and the police union, so as to enable the Commissioner to carry out the duties of properly running the police organization.
The secret deal with the Police Association was precisely the kind of arrangement the Fitzgerald Report warned against. It strengthened the hand of the Police Association, and weakened the Police Commissioner, in a way that is detrimental to the police service and to all Victorians.
Another lesson from the Fitzgerald Report concerns Police Media Units. Tony Fitzgerald warned about the potential use of media by
Fitzgerald warned that government media units in general could be used:
to manipulate the information obtained by the media. Although most Government-generated publicity will unavoidably and necessarily be politically advantageous, there is no legitimate justification for taxpayers’ money to be spent on politically motivated propaganda. (report at p 142)
If media units do not result in citizens being better informed about government and departmental activities, Fitzgerald argued that “their existence is a misuse of public funds, and likely to help misconduct to flourish” (p 142). Fitzgerald urged the introduction of guidelines to govern their activities and the establishment of an all-party parliamentary committee to scrutinise the cost and operation of ministerial media staff and units.
Currently in Victoria there is inadequate oversight of such units, in relation to the police media unit or in relation to government media units generally.
The Victoria Police has a very large media unit. It is much larger than that of the Prime Minister of Australia. Inevitably, the media unit will have access to information of great sensitivity, and it will have significant power in the dissemination of information. Independent oversight of this Police Media Unit, with clear protocols as to the appropriate limits to its conduct, and publicly available information as to its work, are essential to curb potential abuse by that body.
We ought never be complacent about police corruption – or indeed corruption in general. Where power is entrusted to people, some will abuse that power. Vigilance and independent oversight are required to ensure that we keep a system which is as beneficial as it can be.
Yesterday the Rudd government announced that it will not give us a Human Rights Act. In the same week that the government reopened the cruel Curtin Detention Centre, it is a tragic missed opportunity.
Sunday, 18 April 2010
Monday, 12 April 2010
Saturday, 10 April 2010
- the new government did not roll back John Howard's excision of Australian territory to deny ordinary legal process to asylum seekers arriving by boat;
- the new government did complete the large and expensive - and out of the way - prison for asylum seekers on Christmas Island;
- the new minister, Senator Chris Evans, rapidly developed a reputation for refusing any of the many asylum claims which required his ministerial discretion to be exercised.
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
- built the north south pipeline to take water away from the stressed Murray Darling system and bring it to Melbourne;
- commissioned another brown coal burning power plant,
- announced that it will abolish our green wedges and expand the urban boundaries of Melbourne to take a population of 5 million, and
- continued to plan new freeways.
- Stop logging Melbourne's water catchments. The cost of stopping this is just a few million dollars. Stopping logging now won't recover what we've lost, but will save us at least 15 gigalitres per annum in lost water between now and 2050, or enough water to fill 6000 Olympic-sized swimming pools every year.
- Introduce stormwater capture, treatment and use, saving 50 gigalitres of water, and even more with proper storage facilities.
- Upgrade the existing Eastern Treatment Plant to Class A water, giving us an additional 72 gigalitres per annum
- Government replacement of existing single flush toilets in Melbourne with dual flush, saving 15 gigalitres per annum
- Introduce a 50% subsidy on water tanks, saving 25 gigalitres each year.
- Stop Logging Melbourne's Water Catchments
- Watershed Victoria
- Melbourne Water
- CSIRO's Tom Hatton on Water
- The Gist of It
- Melbourne water usage, Greenlivingpedia
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
I've just spent Easter at the Mitchell River - camping with three other families as we do each year. It is a very special time at a very special place.