Inside the system

Use of force on asylum seekers in detention up 2700 per cent

The brutality of the government’s onshore detention of refugees has been laid bare in “incident logs” obtained by the Guardian. The logs, acquired through a freedom of information request, catalogue every reported “use of force” between January 2013 and March 2015.

Analysis of the logs shows that during the period covered there was a 2700 per cent increase in the use of force against detainees across mainland detention and Christmas Island. The rate of incidents escalated dramatically from 2.6 incidents per 1000 detainees in January 2013 to 70.3 in March this year. The spike coincided with the “deregulation” of the use of elbow and arm locks on detainees in 2014, along with the “streamlining” of the approval process for the use of force in the same period.

The logs show that the steep increase in such incidents actually began when Rudd announced the PNG Solution in July 2013. The subsequent large-scale forced transfers of asylum seekers to Manus Island and Nauru demanded an immense increase in the use of coercion. The shocking revelations come as the Coalition is proposing further increases in the powers of guards through its “Good Order Bill”. Currently blocked in the Senate, the Coalition bill was pilloried by former Victorian Supreme Court Judge Stephen Charles SC at a senate enquiry in April. He said the draconian bill would effectively authorise guards “to beat asylum seekers to death”.

Top 1 per cent own half the world’s wealth

The world’s top 1 per cent now controls half of all wealth, according to the new Credit Suisse Wealth Report. Their position has risen steadily since 2009. Oxfam, in a report at the start of this year, estimated that this could happen in 2016. Mark Goldrig from Oxfam said, “The fact it has happened a year early – just weeks after world leaders agreed a global goal to reduce inequality – shows just how urgently world leaders need to tackle this problem.”

The bottom half of the world’s population own less than 1 per cent of the wealth while the top 10 per cent together hold 87.7 per cent. Worldwide US dollar millionaires make up about half of 1 per cent of the population. The number of millionaires has increased 147 per cent since 2000. Australia has almost 1.5 million people within the top 1 per cent of global wealth holders, and had the third highest average wealth per person of any country, after New Zealand and Switzerland.

Australians work some of world’s longest hours

New figures coming from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that Australians work some of the longest hours in the world. In the past international studies have suggested Australians work an average of 35 hours per week; less than most developed countries. But these figures are misleading. Not only do 2 per cent of Australians, 250,000 people, work 70 hours plus per week, but another 400,000 are working 60-69 hours. This means they are working more than 12 hours per day in a five day week.

The two most punishing industries are mining and fishing. More broadly, the figures show that over 2.6 million people are working between 40 and 44 hours when a complete working week should be between 35 and 39 hours. This portion of the workforce is actually larger than the section that works part-time or less than 30 hours per week. The ABS stats show that on the whole Australians are overworked—a significant minority intensely so.

SA cop unpunished after threat to lynch Aboriginal man

An unnamed senior constable in South Australia threatened to lynch an Aboriginal man in the style of white racists in the US South. The constable called the man, detained under powers granted in the SA Mental Health Act, a “black c—”, and said he would like to tie a hose around his neck, set him on fire and drag him behind the police car “with the lights and sirens on”.

The incident was revealed in the South Australian police ombudsmen’s 2014-2015 annual report tabled in October. This vicious racism was reported by other officers but effectively went unpunished. According to the annual report the former state police commissioner Gary Burns, who retired earlier this year, simply ordered the constable undergo “cultural awareness training” for six weeks at the police academy.

Abbott hits speaker’s circuit with ‘fascistic’ address

Tony Abbott, at a loose end after his dumping as PM, has been quick to hit the international speaking circuit. Suitably, Tony is being represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau, an agency that also takes bookings for war criminals Tony Blair, George Bush and John Howard.

According to the bureau those that wish to book Abbott’s services can nominate payment that ranging from “travel and expenses” to “over $40,000 USD”. They promise that, “Abbott is able to speak thoughtfully on terrorism and security in the 21st Century”, something he never managed while PM. Apparently he can also “offer unparalleled insight on leadership”.

His first high profile engagement was the Margaret Thatcher Lecture in London. His speech called for the use of military force against refugees trying to enter Europe and was so right-wing that according to journalist Paul Staines a top Tory “winced” and afterwards described the speech as “fascistic”.

While refugees fleeing war-torn Syria suffered in French camps in Calais, Abbott then made his own journey to France, reportedly treating himself and his office staff to a holiday in a luxury French Villa.

NAB increases interest rates while posting record profits

The National Australia Bank has posted record profits a week after hiking interest rates on mortgage payments. In the second half of October the NAB lifted its variable mortgage rate to 5.60 per cent. The NAB’s Gavin Slater said the decision was “not easy” and complained about “the costs associated with providing home loans”. Only a week later the bank announced an after-tax mega profit of $6.3 billion for 2014-2015—20 per cent up on the previous year.

Research and writing by Adam Adelpour

Things they say

“In this place, we all know that it will only be our family and very close friends who will push our wheelchairs around as we grow old”
Smoking Joe Hockey admits his days as a Liberal MP haven’t won him many new friends in his parting speech in parliament

“The current structure of penalty rates is profit murder for small business”
Hockey is surprisingly blunt about the real aim behind attacking penalty rates

“We must increase and over time broaden the GST, we must lower all income tax so those people and companies are given more incentive to take risks and receive rewards. As a minimum, we should aim for a…20 per cent tax rate for businesses”
Hockey again, outlining the Liberals’ tax agenda

“There is a saying amongst them that all cops are bastards. The cops have earned that label, they have to un-earn it.”
Senator David Leyonhjelm’s first ever useful comments, in a hearing on treatment of Western Sydney Wanderers fans

“It’s no surprise that someone who makes a living glorifying crime and violence is a cop-hater, too”
Patrick Lynch, head of New York police union, calling for a boycott of Quentin Tarantino’s movies after he spoke at a protest against police brutality in New York

“One of the most reckless proposals the Labor party has made”
Turnbull on Labor’s (aspirational) target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030

“The fact is that Lucy and I have been very fortunate in our lives. We have more wealth than most Australians…Let me say, this country is built upon hard work, people having a go and enterprise. Some of us will be more successful than others.”
Born-to-rule Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who plans to keep things that way

“There’s no connection between what I do [as Transfield chairman] and government policy.”
Diane Smith-Gander, denying reality about Transfield’s role on Manus Island and Nauru


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