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Showing posts with label Australian news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian news. Show all posts

Nov 22, 2018

Proposed terrorism laws risk making Australians stateless, law council warns Australian News I The Guardian


Paul Karp


A new regime of “exclusion orders” for people who have gone to prohibited conflict zones would effectively render suspected foreign fighters stateless, Australia’s peak lawyers’ body has warned.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has been forced to defend the legality of changes announced on Thursday with the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, after the Law Council of Australia said the government had “not made the case” for lowering the bar for stripping terrorists of Australian citizenship.
Under the changes the minister can strip a convicted terrorist of Australian citizenship regardless of the severity of the conviction and need only be “reasonably satisfied” that the person would have another citizenship.
The president of the Law Council, Morry Bailes, said the measures “challenge key legal principles on which our democracy was founded, and therefore demand very careful consideration”.
“The proposed automatic loss of citizenship and subsequent administrative action do not provide sufficient safeguards to accord with the rule of law, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial and the right of appeal,” he said.
The power to strip convicted terrorists of Australian citizenship was created under laws that passed parliament with bipartisan support in 2015. An individual can lose citizenship only if they are convicted of a terrorism-related offence with a sentence of six years imprisonment or longer, and have citizenship of another country.
Bailes noted that since the laws passed the national threat level had not changed. “The government has not made the case as to why this bipartisan recommendation no longer represents what is a necessary and proportionate response to the terrorism threat,” he said.
On Thursday Dutton said nine people had had their Australian citizenship cancelled and he claimed there were “a number of cases” that did not fall within the current regime, who he believed posed a “serious threat”.
The Coalition has also proposed a regime to enable the minister to impose an exclusion order for up two years on people who have been to conflict zones, making it a criminal offence to return to Australia unless given a permit with other controls.
Bailes said temporary exclusion orders “may have the effect of rendering an Australian stateless for the duration of the order”.
“This order may be inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations under statelessness conventions,” he said.
The former independent national security legislation monitor Bret Walker SC told Radio National that some of the changes were “perfectly justifiable” – particularly removing the six-year threshold for terrorism offences.
But he warned changing the test to the “reasonable satisfaction” of the minister transferred the power for a “very drastic decision from the court to the executive”.
“I would prefer it always be with the court.”
Walker said that change would significantly add to the class of people who could be stripped of citizenship but warned it did so by “[admitting] the possibility of error” in circumstances where the minister believed the person had another citizenship, but they did not.
Walker said although only “ghastly people” might be rendered stateless, it was a punishment that should not be inflicted on anyone and warned: “Other countries will simply not admit them.”
There was “no urgency to introduce laws of this or any other kind – except perhaps in the case of the wicked problem of encrypted messages”, he said.
The Coalition’s bill to give law enforcement agencies the power to crack encrypted messages is now before the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security. Dutton has urged the committee to return the bill so it can be passed in the last sitting fortnight of parliament.
On Friday Morrison told Channel Nine’s Today program that “of course” the government could legally strip people of Australian citizenship.
He said if the minister had the “reasonable belief” a convicted terrorist was a citizen of another country – for example if they “were born overseas or inherited it by descent” – he or she could strip the person of their Australian citizenship.
Asked what would happen if the country of which a convicted terrorist had citizenship did not accept their return, Morrison said: “If they have got citizenship of that country we will just deport them there.”
He did not address what would happen if the minister were incorrect in believing the person had dual citizenship. Morrison brushed off the Law Council’s concerns, claiming “those who oppose [national security] laws always say this”.
The Greens have fiercely opposed the proposed changes but Labor has reserved its position.
The shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said Labor would “examine this legislation on its merits”.
“Labor always puts the safety of Australians first and approaches national security in a bipartisan manner,” he said.

Source: The Guardian

Aug 13, 2018

Q&A: Trump branded a 'gangster' whose vision of America is triumphing | Australia news I The Guardian


Michael McGowan


The philosopher and activist Cornel West has labelled the US president, Donald Trump, a “gangster” whose vision of America is “triumphing” during a fiery episode of the ABC’s Q&A program in which panellists also traded blows on energy and free speech.
The Coalition senator Eric Abetz refused to back his government’s own energy policy during the program, saying it was “premature” to say whether he supported the policy.
The conservative Tasmania senator offered a lukewarm assessment of the national energy guarantee, saying Australia’s attempts to reduce emissions would not make “one scintilla of difference” to climate change.
On the same night that the government’s backbench committee formally offered its support for the Neg to be debated in the Coalition party room, Abetz repeated his previous calls for a federal takeover of the AGL-owned Liddell power station.
And while he stopped short of repeating Tony Abbott’s threat to cross the floor to vote against it, Abetz stopped refused to back the Neg, describing it simply “a framework”.
“Until such time as we have all the detail, I think it’s premature to say you fully support it or fully oppose it,” he said on Monday night. “But it seems to me that the driver behind the Neg is the Paris agreement, and India’s not bound by it, China isn’t nor is the US.
“Irrespective of your views [on] climate change … the simple fact is us doing our alleged bit in relation to Paris will not make one scintilla of difference to the world environment but it will make a huge difference to our economic wellbeing, to jobs and to standard of living in Australia.”
In an episode that lurched from energy policy to the soul of the United States and the limits or otherwise of free speech, Abetz found himself seated next to the philosopher and activist Cornel West.
As well-known for his criticism of Barack Obama and the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates as for his civil rights activism, West, a Harvard professor visiting Australia as part of a debating tour, warned the US was experiencing a “spiritual blackout” and an “escalation of corruption and criminality” following Donald Trump’s election as president.
West labelled Trump a “gangster” and said his version of America was “triumphing” while the one envisioned by Martin Luther King was “wrestling with defeat”.
Warning that the US was in a state of “deep decay”, he pointed to the increasing division between rich and poor, and rates of child poverty, as signs the country is in “imperial meltdown”.
Challenged by Abetz – who pointed to falling unemployment in the US and said “your black brothers are getting jobs” – West said he was talking about “moral and spiritual issues, not just the numbers”.
“Hitler and Mussolini had low unemployment rate [and] they made the trains run on time,” he said.
Monday’s panel also included Canadian graduate student and teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd, who became a lightning rod for debates over free speech and academic freedom when she was reprimanded by her university for showing a talk by academic Jordan Peterson to one of her classes.
Peterson is in part controversial for his refusal to agree to use gender-neutral pronouns to describe transgender people, and on Monday Shepherd said she considered herself a progressive but wanted “to be able to question things like gender-neutral pronouns”.
Abetz labelled Shepherd’s run-in with her university a case of “political correctness gone mad” and said he did not believe the use of non-gendered language should be “mandatory”.
The Labor senator Anne Aly, also on the panel, said she believed it was a “matter of respect” to refer to someone the way they wanted.

Jun 20, 2018

Australia can't afford tax cuts, say unions, as Coalition seals $143bn package | Australia news I The Guardian

theguardian.com

Australia can't afford tax cuts, say unions, as Coalition seals $143bn package | Australia news

Paul Karp

The Turnbull government will on Thursday steer its $143bn income tax package through the parliament after days of brinkmanship around the economic policy debate that will form the centrepiece of the next election.
The package will go to the House early after the Senate successfully amended the package on Wednesday to strip out stage three of the plan – the tax cuts for high income earners. Then it will return to the Senate and be passed in its original form, with only cursory debate, because the Centre Alliance bloc will not insist on the amendments it supported during the first run of Senate debate.
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The government will bank the legislative victory on the tax package, and it has signalled it wants a resolution in the final sitting fortnight before the winter recess on its long-standing promise to cut the corporate tax rate for Australia’s biggest companies.
Anticipating the likely return of the company tax debate, new analysis prepared by the union movement warns that tax cuts in advanced economies over the last decade did not consistently lead to increased wage growth, and in some cases stagnation worsened.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has argued the company tax cut package does not deliver promised benefits and the budget cannot afford the Coalition’s $143bn personal income tax cut package that will clear the parliament on Thursday.
In a paper to be released on Thursday, the ACTU analysed data from 2003 to 2016 in 34 OECD countries and found weak or no association between company tax cuts and wage growth.
In fact, seven countries experienced statistically significant slower wage growth despite lower taxes, compared with four that had a statistically significant relationship in the other direction.
The ACTU acknowledged the results were “as likely to be random” but demonstrated that “too many other factors are significant in determining wage growth” resulting in a “lack of relation” between headline corporate tax rates and wage rates.
Countries that experienced the largest decreases in annual wage growth despite corporate tax cuts included Norway, Canada and Finland.
In some countries, including Chile, Iceland and Hungary, wage growth increased despite increases in corporate tax over the measured period.
“It is clear that the government’s claims on wage growth and corporate tax cuts does not match the international evidence,” the ACTU paper concluded.
In March the Turnbull government fell two Senate votes short of passing the big business element of its company tax cut package – expected to cost $35bn over 10 years – after successfully cutting the rate for small and medium businesses.
The Coalition was dealt a further blow when Pauline Hanson’s One Nation opposed the package, adding two votes to the opposition’s side of the ledger despite Brian Burston exiting the party and signalling his intention to vote with the government.
The Coalition has said it will reintroduce the company tax cut bill in this fortnight’s session of parliament before it rises for the winter break on 28 June.
The Australia Institute also released further an analysis of stage three of the personal income tax cuts plan showing high-income earners in the top 20% of taxpayers would get 95% of the benefit, while three-quarters of taxpayers got no benefit at all.
The total cost of stage three to the budget when implemented in 2024-25 is $6.3bn and $42bn over the first five years of implementation.
“There is no compelling case for stage three of the income tax plan to be passed,” said Matt Grudnoff, senior economist at the Australia Institute.
“The progressive nature of Australia’s income tax system has been an important feature for decades.
“Flattening income tax reduces the tax take from high-income earners, which ultimately means either less government services or high taxes on middle and low income earners.”
The ACTU also took aim at the income tax package, arguing that the $24bn-a-year cost of the plan could fund the education of 1.9m secondary school students.
The secretary of the ACTU, Sally McManus, said Australia should not move further down the path of “entrenched inequality” by giving tax cuts to people earning 2.5 times the average wage.

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