Inside the system

Racist vigilantes bash Aboriginal kids

Racist vigilante groups in Alice Springs are launching violent attacks on Aboriginal children. On Friday 13 October two 13-year-old boys were beaten with baseball bats.

They were walking home when a ute pulled up and at least four men jumped out. Some in the group escaped but two of them were caught, beaten savagely and hospitalised. This was the third night the same ute had been seen following children.

Police have charged two men over the attack and admitted that they are aware of vigilante groups operating in the town.

“We fear for our lives and the police give us no answers,” Jakita Palmer, the mother of one of the children attacked, told Shut Youth Prisons Mparntwe. She accused the police of failing to follow proper procedures, saying, “they did not attend the hospital after the incident to take statements, they did not take photos of the injuries for two days, they didn’t let me, the mother and rightful guardian, enter the interview room, and they refused us entry to the courthouse to follow the case.”

Bob Palmer, the grandfather of both boys and Arrernte Traditional Owner of Yamba station said, “We are concerned that it is a vigilante attack. We have to put a stop to this. We don’t want to wait until one of our kids dies.”

Posts on social media sites such as the “Alice Springs Community Open Forum” have been advocating everything from physical attacks on Aboriginal kids to surveillance and “positive loitering” to “take back Alice”.

Westfield using facial detection software

Shopping centre giant Westfield has deployed facial detection software and a mobile phone tracking system to gather data on shoppers. Tiny cameras installed in advertising screens are scanning faces and feeding information to software that can supposedly detect shoppers’ mood, age and gender. Westfield also pings Wi-Fi enabled phones to track people’s movements through shopping complexes.

French software company Quividi masterminded the “Smart Screen” technology behind the cameras. A Westfield spokesperson told the media that, “We collect data primarily to effectively manage and operate our Westfield centres”.

The Chinese government uses similar “big brother” technology to scan crowds. Australian state governments recently agreed to hand over driver’s license photos and data to form a national facial recognition database run by the Federal police.

Push to entrench discrimination against equal marriage

Attention is turning to the shape of legislation for equal marriage. The “no” campaign is demanding wide exemptions in the name of religious freedom.

But existing anti-discrimination law already includes extensive exemptions for religious institutions. Religious private schools have the right to sack or refuse to hire anyone in a same-sex relationship. This helps make these schools even more difficult for LGBTI students. Accommodation run by religious groups, such as homeless shelters, can also discriminate.

These exemptions shouldn’t exist in the first place. But the private member’s bill put forward by Liberal Senator Dean Smith would extend them dramatically. Not just religious ministers but civil celebrants would be able to refuse to marry same-sex couples. Religious organisations could refuse to make facilities available, provide goods or services for same-sex weddings or receptions. And some of the homophobes in the Liberal Party want even greater capacity to discriminate against same-sex marriages.

Jobs growth all down to NDIS

The spike in jobs growth this year is due to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, not a broader economic recovery, according to JPMorgan. Malcolm Turnbull has crowed about 325,000 new jobs created in the past 12 months.

But investment bank JPMorgan Chase found that virtually all the employment growth this year came in the healthcare sector, with most of it thanks to the NDIS. After excluding healthcare, this year’s jobs growth is almost identical to last year. JPMorgan’s economists note that the government’s own estimates predicted that the NDIS would boost demand for healthcare jobs from 73,000 full-time-equivalent positions in 2013 to 163,000 by 2020. Since around 40 per cent of healthcare employment is part-time, total recruitment figures are actually much higher.

Glencore’s miltiary-style spying on unionists

Mining multinational Glencore has been ordered by Fair Work to stop “quasi-militaristic” surveillance of CFMEU members. Workers have been in Enterprise Bargaining since May at Glencore’s Oakey North mine in the town of Tieri in Queensland. The workforce is fighting a management push to casualise the workforce and drive down pay and conditions.

Glencore has gone to incredible lengths to intimidate and spy on workers. It asked private security firm Corporate Protection Australia to spy on union members in their homes, giving them the address of every CFMEU member in the town. A Glencore manager told the Commission, “we know where everyone lives”.

Security guards also monitored workers in the pub and at the local golf club. Fair Work described the spying and intimidation operation as amounting to, “clandestine and quasi-military activity”.

Company emails show Glencore actually disciplined an employee for calling security contractors “goons”. It described them as its “professional courteous team”.

The security outfit likened its actions to a military operation, describing the CFMEU as the Viet Cong—and presumably themselves as the invading US Army. One email about the operation was titled “Charlie don’t surf”—a reference to the film Apocalypse Now.

Corporate Protection Australia has a history of viciously anti-union operations. A key figure on the Board of Directors is Sam Sparke, a former team leader of the Queensland police tactical group the Special Emergency Response Team. His CV boasts of his leading role in the, “deployment of over 600 security personnel every 12 hours for the duration of the Patrick Stevedore waterfront dispute of 1998.”

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