Brandis ties NGO funding to non-advocacy | The Saturday Paper

There was something missing from the revised service agreements under which the federal government provides funding to community legal centres around Australia, recently sent out to 140-odd such organisations. The old clause five was gone. That was the one that began: “The Commonwealth is committed to ensuring that its agreements … Continue reading

Government’s $7 GP fee will only do themselves harm: AMA president Brian Owler


via Government’s $7 GP fee will only do themselves harm: AMA president Brian Owler.


The worst possible outcome for the Abbott government would be if its proposal for a $7 Medicare fee actually became law, Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler says.Addressing the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, Associate Professor Owler said public opinion was clearly against the proposal, announced in the May budget, for a $7 fee for GP visits, pathology services such as blood tests and diagnostic imaging services such as X-rays.”I think the worst thing for the government would actually be if by some miracle they got the co-payment proposal through the Senate, because every time someone went to the doctor, they would be reminded about the co-payment,” Professor Owler said.While the Coalition has not yet introduced legislation for the change, the proposal appears unlikely to pass the Senate, with Labor, the Greens and the Palmer United Party strongly opposed.But the government has signalled a willingness to negotiate and at the invitation of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the AMA is developing an alternative proposal that would provide greater protections for vulnerable patients.Professor Owler said while the AMA was not opposed to co-payments in principle, it was opposed to the government’s proposal because it threatened “the universality and affordability for health care for the neediest and sickest in the community”.In a wide-ranging speech, Professor Owler, a Sydney neurosurgeon known as the face of the “Don’t Rush” road safety campaign, took aim at private health insurers, who he accused of a “concerted effort” to “undermine and control the medical profession”.”The AMA supports a strong role for private health insurers but we will not allow private health insurers, motivated by profits and market share, encroaching into the doctor-patient relationship,” he said.Professor Owler said the AMA had become concerned about insurers introducing arrangements requiring prior approval of certain medical procedures.”The stage is being set for a US-style managed care system in both the primary care and hospital settings. I am concerned that the government is also looking towards such a system,” he said.Professor Owler said the nation’s largest insurer, Medibank Private was circumventing the law that bans health funds from paying for GP services by paying an administrative fee to medical practice manager IPN in return for their members receiving preferential treatment in trials under way in Queensland. Professor Owler said the spread of such arrangements would mean people without insurance would have less access to a GP.He also expressed concern about the possibility of private health insurers tendering to operate Primary Health Networks, organisations the Coalition plans to co-ordinate primary health services.”The AMA has concerns about the appropriateness of such an arrangement and the inherent conflicts of interest,” he said.Responding to Professor Owler’s comments, Michael Armitage, the chief executive of the lobby group for health insurers, Private Healthcare Australia, said: “The only thing we’re interested in is quality outcomes for our members.”We look forward to discussing with the AMA the quality of care they deliver, rather than the quantum of money we pay for it,” he said.

via Government’s $7 GP fee will only do themselves harm: AMA president Brian Owler.

Australia says its obligations to asylum seekers do not apply outside its waters | World news |

via Australia says its obligations to asylum seekers do not apply outside its waters | World news |

The Australian government has argued its international obligations of non-refoulement – returning asylum seekers to countries they have fled in fear of persecution – do not apply to interceptions outside Australian territorial waters.

Government defence documents filed to the high court case examining the interception, procedure and treatment of more than 150 Tamil asylum seekers who left southern India in early June, also reveal that the decision not to allow the asylum seekers to be transferred to Australia was taken by the national security committee, tasked with “major international security issues of strategic importance to Australia” and chaired by the prime minister.

The government is arguing it holds the power to detain the asylum seekers – whose boat was intercepted in Australia’s “contiguous zone”, near Christmas Island – under the Maritime Powers Act.

The defence also concedes, as lawyers acting for the asylum seekers had argued, that the intercepted Tamil asylum seekers, being held at sea by a government border protection vessel, have been split up. But it says they are allowed three hours to move around the vessel in daylight.

It had previously been reported there were 153 Tamils on board the boat that left Pondicherry in Tamil Nadu, southern India, but the defence shows there were in fact 157.

The government denies the asylum seekers have not been given access to interpreters, arguing that three of them speak English and have acted for the rest of the group.

On Tuesday the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, flew to Delhi for meetings with India’s external affairs and home affairs ministers, the Australian reported. It is expected they will discuss the fate of the 157 Tamils.

At a directions hearing at the high court on Tuesday parties were unable to agree, and were given until Wednesday to refile their draft cases.

Justice Kenneth Hayne had directed both sides to file the cases to the court by late Tuesday afternoon.

Throughout all the proceedings Hayne has ordered that both parties act more quickly and warned on Tuesday he was primarily concerned about the detention of the asylum seekers.

At one point Hayne asked counsel for Morrison to tell the court “how long these people have been aboard that ship”.

Haynes commented that “this has got to get to an end, enough!” and later added that both sides should “sort it out”.

It is likely the matter will be heard by the full bench of the high court – potentially within two weeks.

George Newhouse, one the lawyers acting for the asylum seekers, said outside court the case had now “distilled itself into three key issues”.

“Firstly, whether the government actually has the legal power to take people on the high seas, imprison them and dump them in a foreign country.

“Secondly, if they do have that power, whether the individuals have a right to be heard. Whether they have a right to say where they want to go and what the government should be doing with them.”

The final question, Newhouse said, was whether the government’s non-refoulement obligations could be waived if asylum seekers were intercepted outside territorial waters.


Abbott government documents show 157 asylum seekers detained on high seas allowed three hours of natural light a day

via Abbott government documents show 157 asylum seekers detained on high seas allowed three hours of natural light a day.

Family members among 157 asylum seekers being held on the high seas are being held in separate rooms on a customs vessel but are allowed out for meals, according to documents lodged with the High Court on Tuesday.

While it was previously stated that 153 asylum seekers were on board a boat that was intercepted off Christmas Island more than three weeks ago, the documents say the actual number is 157.

A document filed by the Abbot government reveals that the national security committee of cabinet decided on July 1, two days after the boat was intercepted, that those on board “should be taken to a place other than Australia”.

Their document says the asylum seekers are permitted “approximately three hours’ outside during the day in natural light for meals”, but says it would be unsafe to give them unrestricted movement.

The national security committee of cabinet includes Prime Minister Tony Abbott, deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Treasurer Joe Hockey, Attorney-General George Brandis, Defence Minister David Johnston and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

The document maintains they were acting within the scope of the Maritime Powers Act in detaining the asylum seekers on the customs vessel and had no obligation to afford them procedural fairness.

A challenge to the decision to hold the asylum seekers indefinitely on the high seas and not allow their claims to be assessed on Christmas Island is now being fought on behalf on one of the male asylum seekers on board.

In their defence, the government does not admit that he has family members on the vessel but confirms the asylum seekers are being held in three rooms, and that “families cannot be accommodated together while maintaining appropriate separation between men, women and children”.

A directions hearing is set for today.


Reza Barati room-mate alleges Manus staff used torture to make detainees withdraw claims

Its always “I’ve been advised””on the information before me” Plausible deniability

via Reza Barati room-mate alleges Manus staff used torture to make detainees withdraw claims.

Two asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island say they were forced to retract their eyewitness accounts of violence at the centre in February after being beaten and threatened by Australian officials at the centre.

They say they were taken to an area of the camp they had not seen before and fed bread and water for three days, sleeping on the muddy ground.

“We were crying and asking what is our fault?” one said in a Facebook post. “They said: ‘Because you always object to all of our rules’.”

They claim they were cable-tied to chairs and beaten about the body to avoid noticeable bruises and threatened with rape and murder if they did not retract their statements.

A spokesperson for the minister rejected the claims of inhumane treatment, repeating that Mr Morrison had been advised that “two men became abusive and aggressive and were moved in accordance with operational policy within the centre”.


Disability Support Pensioners with overseas families to be denied contact.

Revenge! From 1 January 2015, Disability Support Pension recipients who travel overseas can only continue to receive their payments for a maximum of four weeks overseas in any 52 week period. Disability Support Pension recipients will have their payment cancelled if they are overseas for longer than four weeks and … Continue reading

Edward Snowden: easy-to-use technologies can subvert surveillance | World news |

Edward Snowden, a former US spy agency contractor who leaked details of major US surveillance programs, called on supporters at a hacking conference to spur development of easy-to-use technologies to subvert government surveillance programs around the globe.

Snowden, who addressed conference attendees on Saturday via video link from Moscow, said he intends to devote much of his time to promoting such technologies, including ones that allow people to communicate anonymously and encrypt their messages.

“You in this room, right now have both the means and the capability to improve the future by encoding our rights into programs and protocols by which we rely every day,” he told the New York City conference, known as Hackers On Planet Earth(Hope).

“That is what a lot of my future work is going to be involved in,” he told hundreds of hackers who crowded into an auditorium and overflow rooms to hear him speak from Moscow, where he fled to last year.

He escaped the United States after leaking documents that detailed massive US surveillance programs at home and abroad – revelations that outraged some Americans and sparked protests from countries around the globe.

Snowden did not discuss the status of a request he made earlier this month to extend his Russian visa, which expires at the end of July. The United States wants Russia to send him home to face criminal charges, including espionage.

At the Hope hacking conference, several talks detailed approaches for thwarting government surveillance, including a system known as SecureDrop that is designed to allow people to anonymously leak documents to journalists.

Attorneys with the Electronic Frontier Foundation answered questions about pending litigation with the NSA, including efforts to stop collection of phone records that were disclosed through Snowden’s leaks.

Snowden is seen as a hero by a large segment of the community of hackers attending the Hope conference, which includes computer experts, anti-surveillance activists, artists and other types of hackers.

The conference featured about 100 presentations on topics ranging from surveillance to hacking elevators and home routers.

via Edward Snowden: easy-to-use technologies can subvert surveillance | World news |

Israel kills scores in Gaza City suburb in deadliest assault of offensive so far | World news | The Guardian

Al-Beltaji Street, off the main road in Shujai’iya, is a scene of utter devastation – the site of Israel’s bloodiest assault in almost two weeks of fighting in the coastal strip.

An ambulance sat on shot-out tyres, shrapnel punched through its sides. A charred car lay flattened as if by a giant hand. Smoke rose from one end of the street in a dark billowing curtain.

Fallen trees, tangled electricity cables and drifts of rubble covered the road, smashed, chopped and torn apart by Israeli shells and bombs that slammed into this Gaza City district at a rate of one every five seconds on Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday.

A body was carried out of a ruined house, then a second and a third – seven in total from buildings within a hundred metres of each other during a brief agreed lull in the fighting to evacuate the dead and wounded. A little further along, bodies lay in the street where they had fallen, mostly scorched figures – one still in a yellow dressing gown – others missing limbs.

“Come out it’s safe,” rescue officials shouted as they picked their way along the street.

At least 67 people – some fighters but many civilians – were killed in a night of intense violence in Shujai’iya that has been described by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, as a massacre. Hundreds more were injured.

At the far end of the street, a family emerged running, led by a man cradling a child. Slowed at times by the rubble, their faces, stunned by fear, were deaf to questions, focused only on reaching the road leading to the relative safety of Gaza’s City centre.

via Israel kills scores in Gaza City suburb in deadliest assault of offensive so far | World news | The Guardian.

MPs plead for mum Cassie Batten who gave cannabis to ill son

A group of federal MPs has used the case of terminally ill Tamworth man Daniel Haslam to argue for compassionate treatment of a Victorian woman who could face charges for supplying medicinal cannabis to her son.

Federal Liberal MP Sharman Stone, Labor member Melissa Parke and Greens senator Richard Di Natale have written to Victorian Premier Denis Napthine, expressing concern about the treatment of Victorian woman Cassie Batten, whose home in Mernda was raided by police on July 10 after she gave a television interview on how she used cannabis oil to treat the epilepsy of her son Cooper.

via MPs plead for mum Cassie Batten who gave cannabis to ill son.