June 2010

He was cooked to death in the back of a prison van. Neither the negligent white prison guards, nor the cost cutting private prison company responsible for his death will have to answer for it.

From the ABC:

No charges to be laid over prison van death
Western Australia’s Director of Public Prosecutions has informed the widow of an Aboriginal elder who died in a scorching prison van in 2008 that the officers involved in his death will not be charged.

In 1992 the Australian crime thriller Deadly told the story of a white vidmate cop sent to cover up the death of a black man in an outback community. In that delightful piece of utter fiction, the copper gave a damn, and set about finding out ‘the truth’.

In 2010, we just throw money at the widow and tell her where to shove justice.

Ngaanyatjarraku Shire president Damien McLean says the DPP told Mrs Ward in person that the prospect of a conviction – given all of the facts – was non-existent.

The Ward family received a $200,000 interim ex-gratia payment from the State Government following Mr Ward’s death.

By way of comparison, when a white man is wrongfully locked up, he’s a good shot at a few million dollars.

At least there was a coronial inquest. I suspect the heroic actions of a few people of Palm Island contributed to that.

Palm Islander's worked together to deter future black deaths in custody.

If there was such a thing as justice, the charge for those who killed Mr Ward would be criminally negligent manslaughter.

“In order to establish manslaughter by criminal negligence, it is sufficient if the prosecution shows that the act which caused the death was done by the accused consciously and voluntarily, without any intention of causing death or grievous bodily harm but in circumstances which involved such a great falling short of the standard of care which a reasonable man would have exercised and which involved such a high risk that death or grievous bodily harm would follow that the doing of the act merited criminal punishment.”

Hows this for a possible manslaughter by criminal negligence prosecution?

In a small community in the Western Australian desert, on a day where temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius, two white prison guards working for a private prison contractor, locked an over weight 36 year old aboriginal man in a tin can for four hours.

They knew that the required air conditioning was not working, and that the monitoring camera was not working.

They did not perform required checks, allow required stops, or provide required water. He sustained third degree burns as the temperature of the metal exceeded 56 degrees, and died.

Of course, in this country a white jury would never convict. Townsville confirmed that.

In such circumstances, the Palm Island example seems perfectly legitimate. Perhaps there’s a private prison company who should double check the sprinkler system at their corporate offices? We can only hope.

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Welcome to Police State Blues, a monthly digest focusing on the erosion of civil liberties and the criminalization of dissent in Australia.

Net filter
Gizmodo Australia has launched a campaign calling on new Prime Minister Julia Gillard to replace Communications minister Stephen Conroy with Kate Lundy in her expected cabinet reshuffle.

Gizmodo like Lundy because of her previous work as shadow Minister for IT, and because she has spoken out against a compulsory filtering regime.

But don’t get your hopes up. In her first round of interviews, Gillard said she wanted to “combat the alarming emergence of raunch culture”. She may see continuing Rudd’s war on the Internet as a way of pursuing this aim.

War on the Poor
Queensland’s Premier has announced a new “on the spot fine” regime for “public nuisance”. QUT law lecturer Peter Black initially supported the move, it would free up the QLD magistrates court, but then realised his mistake:

I was looking at it from my privileged point of view – if I was to be charged with a public nuisance offence – instead of from the perspective of the least privileged members of society. I now think it could be easily abused by police who could issue on the spot fines to members of the community who may www.chicagobearsjerseyspop.com not necessarily be aware of their legal rights to challenge the fine in the Magistrates Court.

And what is “public nuisance” exactly? Well that’s the astounding criminal activity VOLLEYBALL of swearing in public, or otherwise annoying the police.

Bye bye Freedom of Association
It seems increasingly likely that South Australia’s “anti bikie” Serious and Organised Crime (Control) Act will be emasculated or even overturned in a coming High Court decision.

The High Court is hearing a challenge to a control order imposed on Sandro Totani, a member of the Finks Motocycle Club. New Chief Justice Robert French has described the control order regime as “draconian”.

It’s amazing the unity that external oppression can bring to a sub-culture. The fractious “outlaw” motorcycle clubs continue to campaign under the banner of their united front, the United Motorcycle Councils of Australia.

In this youtube video they compare the actions of Australian state governments to those of early Nazi germany and apartheid South Africa:

Normally I would call Godwin’s law, but at least the apartheid comparison is apt. The similarities between the South Australia and New South Wales anti-bikie laws bear striking resemblance to apartheids infamous “ban” laws.

A key aspect of the The Bikie laws has been the notion of “criminal intelligence”, or secret evidence. “Criminal intelligence” as a concept started to creep into Australian law in 2004, through so-called “anti-terror” 15 legislation. Now you can find it everywhere, even in liquor licensing!

Many of the laws hinge on so-called criminal intelligence: material that can be relied on by police and government but kept secret from the people it’s used against on the grounds that its disclosure may jeopardise an operation or expose an informer.

What they call criminal intelligence can be notes by an officer, their personal views, speculation, or world! it can be information from an unidentified informant [who] might have an interest in saying something damaging about another person.

“It’s the most unreliable information you can have. It’s the kind of information that would never usually be allowed in court.”

Sally Neighbour has the story. Unfortunately the High Court is unlikely to completely reject the notion of secret evidence, in light of previous decisions upholding various pieces of “anti-terror” legislation.


There’s now a CrimeStoppers iPhone app, reminds me of this piece of graffiti for some reason.

Four peace activists arrested for trespass at the Swan Island base have been freed. Nine more have been arrested.

Ark Tribe’s case has been adjourned again, and is due to resume on the 22nd of July. The CFMEU are threatening nationwide strike action if Tribe is convicted. I suggest locating your nearest CFMEU active site, and heading on down to support any strike action if and when Tribe is convicted.

Melbourne Black has published an interesting history of squat campaigns in Melbourne.

Next Issue
The next issue is due to be posted on the 25th of July. Get your submissions in early!

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When I graduate, I can expect to earn $16 an hour (Vic Award).

I am studying a Diploma of Community Services Work (formerly the Diploma of Welfare Work), and everywhere I go, people who work in the field tell me the pay sucks.

“We don’t do it for the money”. Crap pay seems to be the defining attribute of the Social and Community Services (SACS) sector.

SACS are outsourced government services. Small non-government organisations tender for grants, to provide everything from foster care to drug and alcohol support.

If you’re poor, odds are you or your family have received or will receive support from the Social and Community Services sector.

The people who work in the field are tertiary educated (well, we hope). They are in positions of immense importance for the lives of the people they work with. As a society we entrust them with the task of addressing the needs of societies most vulnerable people.

And they’re paid peanuts.

You are honestly better off pursuing a “career” in retail than training to enter the SACS sector.

And most of the people in the field, are planning to leave.

80% of SACS workers are female. The low pay might Ville have something to do with this. SACS work is considered “womans work”, and the work of women is underpaid and undervalued in this misogynistic society.

That’s certainly what the Australia Services Union is campaigning on.

But I think the problem is more fundamental. The entire field is organised in order to maximize the exploitation of workers.

The trend towards government outsourcing over the past twenty years has given birth to modern the SACS sector. The argument embraced by government was that the private and NGO sector was more efficient than government. Greater results could be achieved for less cost, if the government “steered” funding towards the most competitive programs rather than engaging in direct service provision.

And it worked. The NGO sector “services” more people for less money.

NGOs engage in competitive tendering, competing for government grants to provide programs and services. They promise to help more people for less dollars.

And they do this by paying workers less.

When I speak to workers in the SACS field and ask about the pay, many see it as a fact of life. They work for non-profits, these non-profits rely on government funding, and the government never provides enough funding.

Dare I suggest it is because of the tendering process?

SACS workers seem loath to contemplate industrial action. If they achieved higher wages, fewer people would be helped, and what can their little organisation do to pay them more wages?

Everything about the organisation of SACS work undermines the pay of SACS workers.

1. Workers try and do more with less, help all the people they can, see more people than they are funded for, and worker longer than they are paid. They are trapped by their caring.

2. Organisations capitalize on this “efficiency” in the tendering process. If workers are making do with less, they can lower their bids. Their concern is securing the next round of funding, and that means bidding less than everyone else in the field.

3. The government sits back and reaps the rewards of all this “efficiency”. More people are being serviced (on paper) for less than ever before.

And the end result?

a. Most SACS workers are preparing their exit plan.
b. The skill level of the field lowers as organisations seek to fill low paid positions.
c. The service quality falls as workers are pushed to see more clients in less time for less money.

So the questions has to be asked, why the hell am I studying to enter this field? Well, I can only repeat the despondent words of everyone else I meet in the field, it’s not for the money…

What’s the solution? I don’t think it’s sending a few kisses to Julia Gillard as the ASU proposes. Only industry wide industrial action will send the kind of message that will have to be taken seriously.

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Update: Australians for Palestine have finally removed the article.

An article on Australian’s For Palestine claims that Canada has placed rock band The Pixies on a terrorist watch list:

Another supporter of the move was Peter Kent, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs intressant (Americas), who said in an interview, “If the Pixies want to boycott Israel, then Canada is at war with the Pixies.”

The article lists Professor Larry Haiven Ortiz of Saint Mary’s University, Halifax as the author.

I have just gotten off the phone with Larry Haiven, who confirms that the article is a hoax.

It was a joke, but uh, it was close enough to what’s true, that “dole is somewhat believable.

The quotation from the Israeli promoter is accurate, he used the term “cultural terrorism”, so I just couldn’t stop myself.

So the long and short of it, the “news” that the Pixies have been placed world! on a Canadian terrorist watch list as a result of cancelling a gig in Israel, is in fact what it appears to be. Bullshit.

More: Of course, the Israeli music Twenty promoter who booked The Pixies really did describe their cancellation as “Cultural Terrorism”:

“I am full of both sorrow and pain in light of the fact that our repeated attempts to present quality acts and festivals in Israel have increasingly been falling victim to what I can only e describe as a form of cultural terrorism which is targeting Israel and the arts worldwide”

“The Israeli authorities must do what they can to fight against those who are doing everything they can to prevent artists from performing in fueled Israel”

Clearly the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign is making itself felt 2007 for music fans in Israel. Other artists who have cancelled gigs in Israel include:

Elvis Costello
Carlos Santana
Gil Scott-Heron

Artists still slated to play in Israel this year include Elton John, Rod Stewart, Seal, Diana Krall and Ozzy Osbourne.

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In the same week that the Australia Institute announced that the complexity of the welfare system saw welfare recipients miss out on $600 million a year, the Rudd government announced it intended to make the system more complex and demanding in a new crackdown.

The mainstream political narrative in this country seems to be that if you are unemployed, you are a cheat.

Apparently I am a cheat.

For twelve months I could not find a job. Eventually I got a job. I lied through my teeth on OS a resume and an interview in order savez to obtain a measly eight hours of back breaking humiliating and under paid labour for a supermarket chain.

There are 615 900 people looking for work in this Australia. And there are 169 000 job vacancies.

Even if every person who was unemployed had ALL the required skills, could travel to anywhere in the country at the drop of a hat, and was prepared to accept any wage, in any safety conditions, in order to perform absolutely any work available, no matter how humiliating, ill-suited or inappropriate… even then 446 900 Australians would remain dole cheats.

There is not enough damned work. And no amount of harassment from Centrelink could make nearly half a million Australians pull a job out of their arse.

So why are welfare recipients persecuted? Here are a couple of things to consider:

$600 million dollars is a lot of money. The Australia institute arrived at that figure by looking at just four welfare payments, the Parenting Payment, Carer Allowance, Disability Support Pension and Bereavement Allowance.

* Every person Alcohol who does not know about a payment saves the government money.
* Every person who can’t navigate their way through the forms, saves the government money.
* Every person who loses the dole for telling Centrelink where to shove yet another humiliating interview, saves the government money.
* Every person who is taught to find welfare too humiliating, saves the government money.
* Every person who piles up the credit card debt for a few weeks before going to Centrelink, saves the government money.
* Every person forced to beg from friends, family and charities, saves the government money.
* Every person who dies Hello an early death because of the health effects of poverty, saves the government money.

There is big money for the government in persecuting welfare recipients. There is even bigger money in welfare persecution for business.

By persecuting welfare recipients, our government forces us into jobs we would not normally accept, for wages we would not normally accept, and in conditions we would not normally accept.

A life on the dole is a life in poverty, and im that in itself forces people into humiliating, underpaid and unsafe work.

But there are still underpaid, unsafe and humiliating jobs out there. They are jobs so lowly paid, so unsafe or so humiliating that even a life in poverty of the dole seems preferable.

They exist. I have tried them. I would prefer live sleep under a de bridge than go back to selling Austar door to door.

And the government knows this. And that’s why the humiliation of poverty is not enough, life on $200 a week is not enough, “job seekers” have to be persecuted further.

There are, after all 169 000 vacancies, many of them will never be filled unless workers are forced into them.

And there are all those jobs that might fall empty (like nightfill), if workers aren’t reminded just how horrible the alternative is.

Next time you find yourself at the mercy of the welfare system, ask yourself, who does this process really serve?

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