Monthly Archives:May 2019


Ex-ombudsman attacks funding

May 9th, 2019 / / categories: 苏州美甲学校 /

THE former Commonwealth ombudsman Allan Asher has attacked the federal government for paying lip service to the watchdog and hobbling its ability to investigate the immigration system through a lack of funding.

In a speech to the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Mr Asher, pictured, described himself as a ”former immigration ombudsman who mistakenly believed that the government was genuine in its commitment to the compassionate and tolerant treatment of asylum seekers”.

He accused politicians of giving inadequate support to the ombudsman’s office.

”Most particularly, relevant ministers were, at times, resistant and resentful of the work undertaken by the ombudsman whenever criticisms were made of the administration of aspects of asylum policy,” he said.

He was particularly critical of a lack of funding for the office. ”Despite funding extra resources for almost every other aspect of management of asylum policies … no new resources could be found to support the impossible workload of the office for the ombudsman,” he said.

Mr Asher was forced to resign last year after he prepared questions for Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young to ask about his office in Senate budget estimates hearings.

He has recently appeared in the SBS television series Go Back to Where You Came From.

He said he believed the office of the ombudsman – which is supposed to conduct six-monthly reviews of asylum seeker cases – was hamstrung.

”The Immigration Ombudsman has the legal powers, experience and skills to play a significant role in maintenance and management of the human rights of asylum seekers,” he said. ”Nonetheless, without the active support of the executive or the Parliament, the role will continue to fall short of its potential.”

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said the government was open and accountable.

Funding for the ombudsman’s office went from $12,495,000 in 2005-06 to $22,472,000 in 2010-11, the spokesman said. But the office was forced to cut 10 per cent of its staff this year owing to financial pressures.

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AUSTRALIAN wool growers are being ”ripped off” an estimated $64 million a year by counterfeit inferior products marked with the globally recognised Woolmark label.

Australian Wool Innovation, which owns the trademark and licenses its use, has been involved in 44 counterfeit cases this year compared with 12 in 2010. Two have been in court this year, and legal action has been taken in 12 more disputes.

AWI has found that most infringements are in China and southern Europe.

In recent years it has invested heavily in promoting the label, which guarantees the Australian wool is high quality. It has commissioned the Australian photographer Anne Geddes, world-renowned for her pictures of babies, to photograph them nestling in cradles of wool.

And now the body is fighting back against counterfeit products with the introduction of high-tech identification labels – Near Field Communication – that use chips that can be identified by a smartphone app. The chip is usually on the washing instructions label. Washing labels on some products will also be marked with nano markers, dots the diameter of a human hair that show a Woolmark hologram through a magnifying glass.

AWI’s chief executive, Stuart McCullough, said: ”We know we are getting ripped off and we know that our brand is being used out there illegally. In one court case won by the AWI a company had even painted the logo on the front of its building. It’s not like they were putting it on a handkerchief.

”We are very touchy about it because in the ’90s every physical asset the Australian wool industry had was sold. The Woolmark is one of the few we have left; it is a wonderful asset and it is certainly worth protecting and we will protect it vigorously.”

In January a Queensland manufacturer, Gold Coast Wool, had to pay a $6600 penalty for contravening consumer laws. Tests found wool doonas and underlays sold mainly to Asian tourists contained 42 per cent polyester. The Woolmark logo was falsely used.

Global wool retail apparel sales equate to about $80 billion a year. It is estimated that 8 per cent of this is marked with the Woolmark logo. The AWI says about 1 per cent of that ($64 million a year) involves counterfeit and illegal use of the logo.

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Jeremy Holcombe cannot sleep. He cannot work, he cannot relax and he is obsessed with bad news. He was hospitalised with panic attacks on the third anniversary of his son Elijah’s death in June this year.

The physical manifestation of his grief continues, unabated.

Then came the letter from prosecutors late last month, indicating they would not be pursing the police officer who shot the mentally ill Elijah Holcombe for murder or manslaughter, despite a coroner’s view that such charges could be proffered.

For Mr Holcombe, this was just another heart-wrenching chapter in the tragic saga – as another is only just beginning. Mr Holcombe and his late wife’s estate have launched civil action against the State of NSW, claiming the Holcombes have suffered greatly from the ”unlawful” and ”negligent” conduct of Senior Constable Andrew Rich and his employer, the NSW Police Force.

In particular, they claim he did not heed warnings about Elijah’s mental illness and was not justified in shooting the man who health workers simply wanted to be returned to hospital for treatment.

Documents filed with the NSW District Court outline the repeated alerts issued over the police system warning officers searching for the 24-year-old that he ”suffers from mental health issues and is extremely frightened of police – use caution when dealing with – concerns he will run”.

Just hours earlier, Elijah had presented at Armidale police station to return his father’s car, which he had used to flee his parents’ home in Narrabri, and requested hospital treatment. He was taken to Armidale Hospital where nurses expressed concerns for his mental state, but as a voluntary patient he could leave whenever he pleased. He did – but worried health workers asked police to help find him and bring him back, so alerts were issued asking patrol officers to keep an eye out.

About 4pm that day he was spotted, and an officer began a pursuit, chasing Elijah through a mall, a cafe and then into a laneway. Senior Constable Rich called out to Elijah: ”Stop or I will shoot.”

Armed with a bread knife grabbed in the cafe, but still at least eight metres from the officer, Elijah turned to face Senior Constable Rich and was fatally shot with a single bullet.

”Elijah died because of the unlawful and negligent conduct of [the officer],” the Holcombes argue in their negligence suit. ”There is no reasonable possibility that [the officer’s] response was a reasonable response to the circumstances as he perceived them … [He] was not acting in self-defence … at the time of the shooting, [the officer] knew or ought to have known that Elijah had not committed or was not committing an offence which warranted the use of lethal force.”

Police said they could not comment on the case because it is before court.

Jeremy Holcombe told The Sun-Herald he wished no ill on anyone involved in Elijah’s death but hoped at least a civil court could adjudicate on what occurred.

His solicitor, David Sweeney, added: ”People often get relief when there’s recognition of their injustices.”

The State Coroner, Mary Jerram, shut down the inquest into Elijah’s death in October 2010, referring the case to the DPP for consideration of charges. The case will now return to her at a date in the future, while the civil case returns to court later this month.

The Holcombes’ criminal solicitor, Philip Stewart, told the The Sun-Herald he had urged the coroner to resume the inquest, taking evidence from the remaining listed witnesses.

”One would hope that the police have the fortitude to allow themselves to be questioned,” he said.

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Brad to the bone

May 9th, 2019 / / categories: 苏州美甲学校 /

The films that brought Brad Pitt global star power, in an almost cult-like way, Fight Club and Se7en and, before that, Thelma and Louise, are long gone. Never mind that he’s closing in on 50 (well, he’s 49 in December), Pitt retains the kind of incandescent star power that outshines everyone else in the room. Rarer still is a bona fide movie star who talks candidly about what he does with his kids on his days off, or what hour he got to bed last night.

I’m speaking to Pitt for other reasons, though. His friend Andrew Dominik, the New Zealand-born Australian director of cult hit Chopper, has a new film to promote, the dense pulp thriller Killing Them Softly, which Pitt’s company Plan B has produced. Just as he does with the Jolie-Pitt Foundation – a humanitarian aid organisation he set up with his fiancee, Angelina Jolie – Pitt is using his clout to ensure the kind of films that made him a superstar continue to see the light of day.

”I want to make a movie that says something about our time, that’s relevant,” Pitt says of Dominik’s movie, which had its world premiere at Cannes in May. ”Not necessarily about current affairs, but who we are as people. I want to work with filmmakers that I respect [as well]. It’s a collaborative sport. I want to make sure I’m in good hands if I’m gonna do something that takes me away from home.”

Pitt and Dominik, 44, became firm friends after their previous film, 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, drew critical praise – although it failed to deliver at the box office.

The pair share a keen interest in original storytelling. ”I choose by feel, that inexplicable feeling: something new, something different,” Pitt says of his often unpredictable career choices, which range from playing a frenzied hobo in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, to a hilarious Irish gypsy in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, to a cool, calculating hitman in Killing Them Softly.

”Andrew has become a great friend of mine and Jesse James remains one of my personal favourites. I thought he made one of the best movies that I’ve been a part of – and he was really struggling to get something made.

”So when he came up with this idea, then I fit into it, I was thrilled. I knew immediately.”

Killing Them Softly, which co-stars Ray Liotta and Australia’s Ben Mendelsohn, among others, is set in an apocalyptic America, at the time of the 2008 US presidential election (its timing to this year’s race is coincidental, Pitt insists). Lashings of black humour abound, in a violent, unpredictable picture of a robbery gone wrong. It drew widespread praise upon its unveiling at Cannes.

”It’s a violent world we live in,” Pitt reasons, when pressed on the film’s brutality (the title refers to Pitt’s character’s preference to take out his targets from a distance). ”One of the many things you try to impart to your kids is to prepare them for life on their own and respect for the world at large… The film’s also a metaphor for business: business can be Darwinian, very cut-throat. The killings are metaphorical in that way, for me. It’s not a nihilistic violence, either. There is some care and thought for the [victim] to try and make it comfortable for them. It’s just an unfortunate part of their business.”

These days, Pitt is careful with his career choices. Working with Jolie, for instance, is not on the agenda, although he will happily take turns at staying home with their extended family. (”I worked a lot last year. This year, mum’s working a lot. So I get to be dad.”) He also has another project under way with Dominik, as a producer of a left-of-centre film about screen icon Marilyn Monroe. There’s also a cameo due in Steve ”Shame” McQueen’s next film.

The Missouri-raised Pitt, who famously dropped out of college to chase his film-star dream, remains as enthused as ever by the medium, in an industry that he can now command, seemingly at will, to play ball. ”Films always made me curious,” he says. ”[They] made me want to get out and travel and meet people who react differently about things than I do, who have a different point of view.

”I have a distinct memory of seeing Saturday Night Fever, an R-rated movie. [I was fascinated by] this New York family, the idea of a boisterous, gregarious family who are hitting each other, yelling at each other. They seemed ferocious, but there was a lot of love in it. I just remember seeing that, and being really affected by it.”

Killing Them Softly is in cinemas from October 11.

Twitter @EdGibbs

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IN THE 30 years or so that I’ve been running businesses, I’ve noticed that consumer sentiment is not only powerful but it is often created by a cultural environment rather than what is actually happening in folks’ lives.

It seems that many people get pulled along with the general vibe instead of forming their own views.

This can work in favour of over-exuberance or it can create gloom. So positive sentiment can encourage thousands of amateur investors to buy “dotcom” stocks at highly inflated prices, or negative emotion can undercut a stock market, so that even 10 quarters of good results fail to impress investors.

We’re currently in one of the negative phases where the headlines are filled with pessimistic stories and we’re more than happy to absorb the sentiment, make it our own.

But there’s another way to treat the “bad” economic news and that is to see a free market economy as something that moves in cycles, which forces the constant revision and reinvention of just about everything.

An example I’ve been watching closely has been the financial troubles of the Darrell Lea chocolate and lolly brand, which has been in administration. I don’t want to give the impression that a business being unable to pay its bills and having to let go of 418 people is a good thing. But there is a positive to the story, and that is that the system works well enough for a new owner to step in and buy Darrell Lea and reinvent what that business does.

The buyer, VIP pet food owner Tony Quinn, told a Brisbane newspaper: “Let’s have some fun. Let’s fix this thing.” That’s the reinvention effect of our economic system – that’s a business brain that knows how to see the positives in a negative.

The signs of positives defying the negative are all around us.

Yes, Kodak went out of business, but other companies have reinvented personal photography, ensuring we can all afford a good camera and that we can choose which pictures we want printed. And Australian steel-making may be under pressure, but there was OneSteel, quietly making itself a miner of iron ore, not letting itself be forced into irrelevance.

Australian business owners and householders can train themselves to think this way as well – it isn’t just the domain of the entrepreneurs and the professional managers.

If you own a business that has slack sales, there is a way forward: you just haven’t found it yet. It may be as simple as rethinking what you sell, what you make, how you present yourself.

It’s the same in households. What might be an uncertain economic system in some people’s minds is actually flexibility for another person. The ability to up-skill, find another job, reinvent yourself as a different proposition to an employer, has never been better. You just have to start by seeing opportunity rather than doom.

Take the uncertainty created by the European crisis and the US slowdown. It has played on our minds and held back our own economy. But one of the benefits has been a cash rate which – at 3.5 per cent – is in the lowest range of the past 20 years.

Don’t be tempted to whine when you have interest rates like this – ask any baby boomer, who was paying 19 per cent on their first mortgage.

There are many people suffering right now, but to those who are not – but are thinking negatively, anyway – have a look behind some of the negative economic stories, see where you really sit. Inflation ran at about 1.2 per cent for the year to June, and the wage price index was sitting at 3.6 per cent. So wages are increasing at a greater rate than inflation is acting on the price of general goods and services.

That isn’t bad, especially taken with a low unemployment rate of 5.2 per cent in July. It doesn’t look exactly gloomy when compared with the US at 8.3 per cent, or the EU at 10.4 per cent unemployment in July.

And in a country where we all need a car, they are more affordable than they’ve been for a long time. The Allianz company’s research showed that a Ford Falcon in 1960 cost a man 60 weeks’ pay while in 2012 it cost 30 weeks’ average male pay.

The economy will cause more businesses to close or to contract – there’s nothing we can do about that. But the important part is what happens next, who sees it differently? And in your own life, are you keeping your eyes open, preparing yourself for what happens next?

A market economy always provides the chance to start again. What’s your reinvention?

Mark Bouris is executive chairman of Yellow Brick Road Wealth Management, ybr苏州美甲学校.au. Follow Mark on Twitter at @markbouris.

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