As last week’s news unfolded I thought it would demand a column excoriating our political leaders yet again for their wrong-footed decisions, but as time passed there were some very positive stories.
But the bad news first. Peter Dutton continues to ramp up his authoritarian ambitions by moving to take over the power to revoke a migrant’s citizenship away from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, PM Turnbull launched his government’s new citizenship plans in the House of Representatives, and the NSW Government announced its plan to build a new "mini max" jail within the Goulburn's Supermax facility at a cost of $47 million.
All the above are examples of the short-sighted and knee-jerk ‘tough’ approach to combating terrorism adopted by the major parties, when what instead we need is a ‘smart’ response, including a cohesive strategy for countering violent extremism given that it is a social and political problem. It needs to be tackled by reaching out to Muslim communities and by including them in policy debates.
The Finkel energy policy review is stuck in limbo as the Liberal’s party room bickers over its downgrading the significance and cost of coal-fired power generation. As electricity bills continue to rise feel free to point the finger at Mr Abbott and his faction.
Channel 10’s financial woes were being used to talk up the government’s proposed new media ownership laws, which will allow for an increase in the concentration of ownership by a few companies. The last thing we need is the Murdoch Empire being allowed to also own Channel 10.
Now to the good news stories. First up, terminally ill patients will get faster access to medicinal marijuana and be able to import their own personal supply after the Greens teamed up with Labor and One Nation to deliver a shock Senate vote to kill off government restrictions. The Senate vote means terminally ill patients with a doctor's prescription will be able to personally import up to three months' supply of the drug from regulated overseas markets.
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale spearheaded the motion, which failed when he first put it to the Senate in May.
The motion passed 40 votes to 30 this time, but that didn’t prevent a furious Health Minister Greg Hunt calling the move "reckless and irresponsible", saying it would put lives at risk by paving the way for dodgy unregulated products, and also make it easier for criminals to get their hands on drugs. But he would, wouldn’t he?
The second good story was hearing that almost 2000 Manus Island detainees will receive $70 million in compensation after the government agreed to settle a class action.
The detainees sought compensation for alleged physical and psychological injuries they claimed to have suffered as a result of the conditions in which they were held.
The Australian government and the companies that have managed the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre (G4S Australia and Broadspectrum, formerly Transfield Services) denied the claims.
A six-month trial was due to begin in the Victorian Supreme Court last week. The barrister for the detainees, David Curtain QC, told the court the parties had instead been able to reach agreement in the matter.
Settlement of class action is an admission by Peter Dutton, despite his strenuous denials, that he is responsible for the illegal detention and deliberate harm of people seeking asylum in Australia, Greens Immigration spokesperson Nick McKim quite correctly said. – Ray Goodlass