Inside the system

‘Sophisticated’ mincer attack feeds terror scare

The media has again been filled with a lurid terrorism scare, following arrests in Sydney over a supposed threat to place a bomb on a plane.

The Australian Federal Police dramatised it as, “one of the most sophisticated terror plots attempted on Australian soil”. Police would have us believe that a bizarre plan to hide explosives in a kitchen mincer counts as “sophisticated”. The bomb had precisely zero chance of actually making it through airport security.

The would-be bombers didn’t go through with their plot, whether because the device was too heavy to fit into luggage or because they got cold feet. AFP Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan has confirmed the bomb never made it to airport metal detectors. But he said a similar dummy device constructed by police for tests was detected by airport security scans 100 per cent of the time.

Police raided six homes across Sydney and arrested four people. Two of them have already been released. The first, Abdul Merhi, was held for 70 hours in custody before release without charge. But his name and identity had already been broadcast all over the media as a “terror suspect”. His 39-year-old brother, Khaled Merhi, was charged with a minor weapons offence, not related to the terror plot, and released after being held for eight days under Commonwealth terror laws.

Two others have been charged over the bomb plot, Khaled Khayat, 49, and his brother Mahmoud Khayat, 32. Police also claim the men were also constructing a hydrogen sulphide poison-gas bomb. The AFP says the gas bomb was nowhere near operational, telling media they, “were a long way from having a functional device”.

One hundred companies cause bulk of emissions

Just 100 companies have been responsible for 71 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emitted since 1988, a new report says. The “Carbon Majors Report”, published by the non-profit CDP and the Climate Accountability Institute, also found that more than half of global industrial emissions can be sourced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities.

Pedro Faria explained that the report, “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions”.

ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron as well as state-owned companies such as China’s coal producers, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Armaco) and Gazprom are the top three polluters overall. According to the report, if fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate for the next 28 years the consequence will be a four degree temperature rise by the end of the century, causing water shortages and mass species extinction.

Police decorate cars with Aboriginal art

The Queensland Police Service has introduced two patrol cars featuring indigenous art. One of the new vehicles features a blue and white dot painting-style design and another is decorated with white and ochre coloured patterns and cross hatching. The two cars will be fully operational as part of patrols in Townville.

Northern Region Assistant Commissioner Paul Taylor said, “Given these patrol cars will be out on the road virtually every day, it’s a way for us to publicly express our desire to strengthen our relationship with Indigenous people”. The headline on the Townsville police website describes the cars as “Deadly”.

In the Townsville region Indigenous kids aged 10-16 are 16 times more likely to be charged with an offence and 28 times more likely to be thrown in a watch house than non-indigenous people of the same age.

One million homes empty across the country

New ABS statistics show that up to 11.2 per cent of properties in Australia are lying empty, up from 9.8 per cent in 2006. Over two decades Australia has acquired 2.1 million new homes, but 360,000 of them remain vacant. University of NSW urban policy expert Hal Pawson described the level of under-occupancy as “cruel and immoral” saying, “There is gross under-occupation across Australia”. He told Fairfax media up to one million homes have three or more extra bedrooms in addition to what the owner would require.

Recent research by the Grattan Institute found that amongst the population as a whole home ownership has been falling for three decades. Among 25-34 year olds it is down 6 per cent in the last decade alone.

Banksia Hill hell for child inmates

A shocking report has exposed the appalling conditions at Banksia Hill, WA’s only youth jail. The report was handed down in July by Neil Morgan, Inspector of Custodial Services.

It revealed that since the start of 2016 there have been six suicide attempts and hundreds of self-harm incidents amongst boys and girls locked up at the facility.

Heavily-armed Special Operations Group (SOG) officers have been regularly deployed at Banksia Hill. They used stun grenades and pepper spray on inmates and trained gun laser-sights on three boys, during an operation to get them off a roof. The use of “mechanical restraints” reached record levels in 2016 with controlled escorts used 244 times and physical restraints used in 266 incidents.

Inmates have also been regularly denied basic rights by having their food restricted and being subjected to extended lock-downs that prevented them getting legally required exercise time.

The report also said it had credible claims that CCTV footage and electronic records had been deleted and falsified at the facility. To test the claims investigators requested CCTV footage from the Department, however the Department, “then advised the footage had been recorded over after we had requested it”.

WA has the highest rate of Aboriginal children in youth detention in the country after the Northern Territory, with Aboriginal children 54 times more likely to be detained, according to government figures.

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