Friday, August 26, 2011
Liberal leader pledges to defend British human rights laws
Nick Clegg has opened up a new rift in the Coalition by pledging to resist Conservative attempts to change human rights laws in the wake of this month’s riots.
The Deputy Prime Minister said it is a "myth" that Britain’s human rights laws are harmful and insisted that they must not be abandoned. Mr Clegg’s argument, set out in a newspaper article, is at odds with David Cameron’s views.
In the wake of the disturbances in London and other English cities earlier this month, the Prime Minister signalled a fresh move to challenge the Human Rights Act, declaring that he would not be restrained by "phoney human rights" concerns.
The legislation, which enacts the European Charter on Human Rights, is blamed by many Conservatives for problems in the criminal justice system. Critics say that over-zealous application of the law leads the police and other authorities to put too much emphasis on the rights of criminals and suspects, and not enough on the needs of victims.
Without naming Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg criticised people who have allowed "a myth to take root that human rights are a foreign invention, unwanted here, a charter for greedy lawyers and meddlesome bureaucrats."
He added: "This myth panders to a view that no rights, not even the most basic, come without responsibilities; that criminals ought to forfeit their very humanity the moment they step out of line; and that the punishment of lawbreakers ought not to be restrained by due process."
This is not Mr Clegg’s first dispute with Mr Cameron over human rights laws. The Deputy Prime Minister has an ongoing disagreement with his Conservative colleagues over the issue of votes for prisoners. After a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights – which oversees the charter – Britain is obliged to let prisoners vote in general elections. A majority of MPs have opposed that change, and Mr Cameron has said he will listen to the Commons.
However, Mr Clegg – supported by Kenneth Clarke, the Conservative Justice Secretary – is insisting that Britain has no choice but to accept the court judgement and allow at least some prisoners to vote.
Mr Clegg accepted that some aspects of the court must be changed, but insisted that there is no question of the UK pulling out of the convention.
Some Conservatives want the UK to pull out of the convention, but Mr Clegg said that must not happen: "As we continue to promote human rights abroad, we must ensure we work to uphold them here at home. We have a record we should be proud of and never abandon."
The Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights have been "instrumental" to protecting British civil liberties, he said.
Abject failure of Australian Federal government's policies concerning native blacks
Nobody seems to have thought of treating them exactly the same as everyone else
THE head of the Productivity Commission, Gary Banks, has backed a Finance Department finding that the $3.5 billion the Commonwealth spends on indigenous programs each year yields "dismally poor" returns.
The Finance Department strategic review, released this month under freedom-of-information laws, found strong commitments and large investments of government funds had "too often" produced results that were "disappointing at best and appalling at worst".
Launching a biennial report that says results have deteriorated in seven of 45 measures monitored by the commission, Mr Banks said "plenty" of policies were not working. "A recent finance department strategic review of indigenous expenditure has made that clear," he said. "I don't think we should be too critical - it is a very hard area to get right. But the key is to be open about failure and to learn from it."
The report found a widening of the gap in the rates of child abuse between indigenous and other Australians, and that the imprisonment rate for Aboriginal men soared 35 per cent over the decade; for women it rose 59 per cent.
The Productivity Commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald, said one of most important things the government could do would be to ease overcrowding in indigenous homes.
The proportion of indigenous houses with more than twice as many people as bedrooms has remained unchanged at 27 per cent for five years. In the Northern Territory the proportion exceeds 60 per cent.
"What is absolutely unquestionable is that easing overcrowding helps educational outcomes, health outcomes, the home environment and makes communities safe," Mr Fitzgerald said.
Australia: Abhorrent crimes cloaked in official euphemisms
By negligent bureaucrats
CHILD abuse creates the darkest of shadows. The shadows enveloping the brief life of Felicia (The Weekend Australian, August 20) are perhaps the blackest imaginable.
According to Michael McKenna and Rory Callinan's reports Felicia, aged just 15, had been repeatedly sexually assaulted but not protected. In an extraordinary, almost unbelievable sequence of events, she was briefly removed from home but then returned to be assaulted again. Even after being admitted to hospital with marks around her neck, she was not protected from the crimes.
It is reported that in desperation, as she was about to be assaulted again, she secretly used her mobile phone to record the crime. Imagine being so desperate to be believed that you record yourself being assaulted and are prepared to allow others to hear the resultant degradation.
Even then, after what must have been the most humiliating of experiences, she was not made safe. The shadows must have appeared even blacker. She hanged herself on the veranda a day after her 16th birthday and just weeks after her friend Zoe had killed herself. She left a long suicide letter.
There is a great deal we must learn from Felicia's tragedy, if we have the courage to peer into the darkness. Her brief tortured life reminds us that, for some, being forced to live with abuse is worse than death.
This reflects a large theme from our research with children and young people who had been abused. They spoke of their helplessness, their inability to escape. Some described becoming hostages to the perpetrator, controlled by a terrorist, of having to submit in order to survive.
In spite of what we know of adult survivors of Stockholm syndrome, for example, how difficult it is for them even when free to confront the perpetrators, we fail to acknowledge the pain child victims of abuse suffer. Felicia did what many adults cannot do. She reported the crimes repeatedly. Even then she was not heard.
Crimes against children derail development, black out all hope. Yet many of our responses serve to minimise the seriousness, disguise the offences, and thus undermine the victim. Offenders committing crimes in circumstances similar to Felicia's might be charged with "maintaining a sexual relationship with a child". Yet if the perpetrator repeatedly raped his wife, it would be called rape.
Language that rewrites the crime, hiding the horror, may be a major contributor to the short sentences serious sex offenders receive. Only last month, the Queensland Attorney-General expressed his concern about such minimalist sentencing to the Sentencing Advisory Council.
The law is but one of the serial offenders. Psychiatry and psychology are littered with archeological remains of Greek words. Someone who rapes children may be called a pedophile, originally meaning "a lover of children". Countless hours are wasted, millions of dollars distributed to expert witnesses, while courts debate whether the child rapist is, was, or may temporarily be a pedophile. This from a discipline that, until recently, accused children of lying, fantasising, even being seductive.
The latest word of Greek origin to dominate child protection and minimise the damage done, is trauma, as in "children traumatised by abuse". Trauma means wound, injury. Toddlers may suffer injury when they fall over. As Felicia's short life shows, in many cases child abuse destroys childhoods, blows worlds apart. Of course, the meanings of words change. Unfortunately for children all the changes are aimed at reducing the seriousness of the problem. There are words of Greek origin that more accurately describe the destruction caused by child abuse. Catastrophe is one.
Weasel words also overwhelm child protection, where parents' rights to another chance to be a parent repeatedly take precedence over a child's only chance of childhood. The talk is about vulnerable families not vulnerable children. Children are not assaulted but "at risk". Such words corrupt. Try to find the words assault, violence and crime in child protection documents. Perhaps this is why, in Victoria, it was reported by the Ombudsman that children were recorded as having been seen when workers had merely telephoned the parents and why, in the Northern Territory, the Ombudsman reported "dummy" assessments on children.
There is much more to learn from Felicia's terrible death. Her sad story should remind us that not all the child abuse fatalities involve brutal murders of babies and toddlers, as with Dean Shillingsworth in NSW, the recent case of Hayley in Victoria, or Baby Peter in Britain.
Many child abuse deaths occur later in life. Many young people and adults who commit suicide were the victims of abuse as children. These suicides are not limited to women. There are calls for an inquiry into the Catholic Church in Victoria after Robert Best was sentenced to 14 years and nine months' jail for the abuse of 11 boys. At least 25 victims in the Ballarat area are reported to have killed themselves.
Another poignant theme is apparent in the opening paragraph of Felicia's suicide letter: "Dear everyone, I'm sorry it had to be like this. If there is any chance I can be [forgiven] I will much appreciate it." As our research has shown, children take responsibility for everything that happens, blaming themselves for the rapes and violence, for the problems that result. Felicia actually apologised to everyone for the trouble she had caused.
We need to apologise to her. We failed to protect Felicia when she was alive. We must not fail to respect her in death. Felicia's letter shines some light into the appalling darkness. What she wrote, what she suffered, the mistakes that were made, should not be buried with her.
Some things worked better in the past
Lawrie Kavanagh comments from Australia:
I GET a big laugh when I hear or read of today's intellectuals and dumb lefties screaming blue murder when they hear oldies like me calling for much tougher court penalties for young criminals, and the reintroduction of corporal punishment in schools.
You see, I happened to grow up in those long-gone, terrific days when the punishment fitted the crime . . . well most of the time . . . with me at least, anyway.
I'll tell you about those early days in a moment, but let me first make a suggestion that could curb a lot of youth violence and serious crime in this great state of ours. It's called National Service - or as we knew it back in the 1950s, "Nasho".
National Service taught a lot of us young blokes right from wrong, particularly where it concerned respect for other people.
You see, most of the blokes I served with at Wacol in Brisbane's outer southwest in the first intake of 1954 were pretty apprehensive about becoming Nashos. They didn't know what to expect.
This was particularly so in my hut because, whereas I had arrived at Wacol with a bunch of Maryborough mates, including my older brother, Marty, I was separated from them because I was taller than my mates, and put into a hut with tall blokes, mostly from north Queensland.
I had no worries about going into national service, because I'd been in the cadets at my school, St Brendan's College, Yeppoon, and even had a couple of weeks of army training in Sellheim Army Camp, west of Townsville, with heaps of other young blokes from all over the state.
So I was pretty surprised to hear my new Nasho mates expressing a bit of trepidation about being forced into army service for three months first up, then two weeks each year for the next two years.
But all that changed after the first few weeks of army training under a lot of very tough, but very fair, professional soldiers.
Things weren't going so well in the hut next to us, in A Company, because in that hut there was a very big and very aggressive bully who simply took what he wanted from the other blokes in the hut. You might be sitting on a stool polishing your uniform brass work or cleaning your SMLE .303 rifle, maybe with some food or soft drink beside you, and this jerk would just pick up your biscuit or sandwich and eat it, then grab your bottle of soft drink and swill it down. If you objected he would give you a push and walk off.
That went on for the first few days of the camp before one of the blokes came up with a brilliant idea. He had one of his hut mates sitting down polishing his brass work, with a half-full soft-drink bottle beside him, when the big bully walked up, grabbed the bottle and swigged down a couple of mouthfuls before turning red and almost spewing the fluid out of his mouth and all over the hut.
Why, you ask? The bottle was half-full of urine, placed there to bring the bully into line.
And as for those blokes who expressed trepidation in the early days of the camp, most went home with many happy memories of being in Nasho.
As far as corporal punishment at home and at school is concerned, for God's sake, bring it back. I copped it in both places and deserved it most of the time. A couple of times I didn't, but that was mainly from a young Irish nun, who hated being in Yeppoon and took a lot of that hatred out on me because I couldn't spell and was a very poor reader. Still am.
She once hit me on the head and the knuckles with a blackboard pointer stick for bad spelling. I had a big lump on my head but it was nowhere near the size of the swelling on my knuckles.
She sent me outside crying and while I was sitting on the steps still crying, another nun, Sister Laurence, who saw what had happened, came out and sat beside me. She put her arm around me and started crying too. I was about seven or eight at the time.
I sometimes got the cuts from other nuns, once for swimming in the nuddie with a couple of mates in a creek behind some houses from which people saw us and complained. Why swim in the nude? Because Mum and Dad wouldn't let us go swimming unless we had an adult with us, so they would hide our togs.
One time I was playing with some mates, swinging on a crane in the Yeppoon railway yards when it gave way, flinging me on to the railway line.
The station master, who had been talking to the local cop on the platform, trotted over, picked me up and led me by the ear over to the cop. The cop gave me a swift kick on the bum then dragged me across the road to the Railway Hotel, where he knew my old man was the manager. He told Dad I had broken the crane. Dad took off his leather belt and gave me what for.
The Christian Brothers at St Brendan's were pretty good, but if you stepped out of line it would really hurt because, unlike the nuns who used canes, the Brothers used leather straps with about six leather strips stitched together and about 30cm long. You either got those cuts on the open hand or, even worse, across the bum.
How did school punishment change my life? Well, after 76 years I have never had any trouble with the police except for that time at Yeppoon railway station. I've never been in jail or court.
I truly believe today's crime rate would tumble if they brought back National Service and re-introduced corporal punisment at school and at home. But I sure ain't holding my breath.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.