AUSTRALIA’S BAD WEEK AT THE UN 

Australia’s first week on the United Nations Human Rights Council has been offset by a new report implicating the country’s treatment of people seeking asylum as part of a global trend towards the deterrence and punishment of migrants.

According to The Guardian, a scathing report to the Human Rights Council from UN special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer implicates the freshly-appointed Australia as part of an “escalating cycle of repression and deterrence” of people seeking to migrate.

Australia campaigned for three years for the council seat, during which time the Coalition government attempted to deter people seeking asylum by boat through policies including but not limited to: indefinite and mandatory detention, boat turnbacks, temporary-protection visas, barring resettlement from Indonesia, and offshore processing on Manus Island and Nauru.

Foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop defended Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum, although did not address the country’s controversial policies: “Since the second world war, 865,000 people have come to Australia on refugee and humanitarian visas. Every year we resettle 18,750 people on refugee visas,” Bishop said. “It is a record that Australians should be proud of and it is certainly one that I am prepared to have scrutinised by the human rights council and any other nation around the world.”

The report follows news of a four-year toxic mould epidemic in Nauru, a security contract dispute on Manus Island that saw local men enter the grounds and rebuff contracted guards, and allegations that Tamil man Shantaruban, who spent five years in Australia seeking asylum before being deported last week, now faces harassment by Sri Lankan security forces.

In a separate report released overnight, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders slammed Australia’s treatment of charities, community groups and democratic institutions.

TURNBULL’S BIG SPLURGE

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has bought NSW and Victoria’s stakes in the Snowy Hydro project in a $6 billion agreement that will both deliver new infrastructure for the states and a $4.5 billion expansion for the site.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Turnbull signed an agreement late Thursday that, while ensuring the funding of “productive infrastructure”, places no conditions for state projects and leaves spendings for the share payouts up to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian ($4.154 billion, after accounting for company debt) and Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews ($2.077 billion). 

Turnbull said that expanding the Snowy Hydro system, now 100% owned by the federal government, will help ensure reliability for the electricity grid and store energy intermittent generators such as wind and solar farms: “The historic agreement will generate more reliable energy, cheaper electricity, better infrastructure and more jobs for NSW and Victoria.”

The agreement also ensures an end to the federal-state stoush over the project, which saw former PM Tony Abbott withhold funding from Victoria after Andrews’s decision to scrap the East-West Link.

Both premiers welcomed the agreement and, while neither state has announced where the payouts will go, Berejiklian promised the money for rural and regional NSW while options for Victoria include funding Melbourne Metro or the Westgate Tunnel. 

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Woolworths chairman vows to fix pokies scandal

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China donor Huang Xiangmo issues challenge to big parties ($)

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: Estimates will address Indigenous issues, featuring Indigenous Land Corp, Indigenous Business Australia, Aboriginal Hostels Limited; health issues with the Department of the Prime Minister and cabinet; and the Murray-Darling Basin, featuring the Department of Agriculture and Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Melbourne: Federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt will discuss the changing market for aged care and opportunities to improve services at the CEDA conference.

Sydney: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and ministers will meet Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull and counterpart ministers as part of ANZLF (Australia-New Zealand Leadership Forum).

Sydney: Commissioner into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Robert Fitzgerald will discuss the final report at Child Abuse Prevention Services’ Safe Children Conference, along with speakers including Social Services Minister Dan Tehan.

Sydney: Children’s Rights Report 2017 will be released at the Australian Human Rights Commission.

THE COMMENTARIAT

If Americans can rise up against guns, why can’t we act on pokies?Waleed Aly (The Age): “Were we really expecting something else from the pokies industry? Sure, there’s something tonally sinister about the use of databases of customer information detailing everything from fodder for small talk to what their favourite drinks are so they can be encouraged to stay by the odd personalised freebie.”

If equality can happen for marriage, it can happen for Indigenous people — Kyra Kum-Sing (The Guardian): “The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, now known as the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival, will be celebrating 40 years this year. A significant milestone and an appropriate follow on from 7 December. As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander LGBTQI peoples, we still have a long way to go in order to be equal.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Crikey’s depressingly necessary new initiative: ScandalTracker — Bernard Keane: “Sick of trying to keep track of the various scandals plaguing politics currently? Crikey has you covered with our ScandalTracker™ to enable you to bluff your way through any conversation about the disastrous state of contemporary politics.”

Razer: “awareness” is going to solve very little when it comes to depressionHelen Razer: “Stigma is a problem, but to declare this with such centrality is to imply that stigma’s absence is a cure. Yes, it is unhelpful when the common disorder of depression is perceived by some as indolent self-pity. No, if we remove the ‘stigma’ from the social body and swap it with ‘awareness’, the best medicine has not been prescribed.”

A spotter’s guide to climate skepticsDavid Finnigan: “After 30 years of the so-called climate ‘debate’, the climate denial movement has split and evolved into a number of specific strands. While most countries in the developed world have moved on, Australia has proved a fertile ground for deniers of all stripes.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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