22 January 2011


The first of several identity cases (dissertation fodder) from the NSW Administrative Decision Tribunal (ADT) ...

Kalim v Universities Admissions Centre (NSW & ACT) Pty Ltd [2010] NSWADT 277 followed Kalim v Universities Admissions Centre (NSW & ACT) Pty Ltd [2008] NSWADT 135. In the 2008 case Kalim argued that the decision by the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) - the national clearing-house for university entrance - to refuse assessment of his claimed offshore qualifications without verification constituted discrimination on the ground of his race in breach of section 19 of the Antidiscrimination Act 1977 (NSW). UAC had refused to assess Kalim's transcripts for a Bachelor of Science Degree and a partially completed Bachelor of Medicine degree from Kabul University because it had evidence that those transcripts might not be authentic and because it was unable to obtain verification of their authenticity from Kabul University.

The ADT noted that a UAC representative had commented that -
tertiary admissions organisations around the world take a very cautious approach to assessing qualifications from certain countries including China, the United States, the Russian Federation, Afghanistan and Pakistan ... because a large percentage of documents purporting to be from tertiary institutions in those areas are false. If there are indications that a document may not be authentic steps are taken to obtain verification from the tertiary institution concerned. If verification cannot be obtained, the qualification is not included when the application is assessed.

UAC’s concerns about the authenticity of Mr Kalim’s documents were based on the following grounds:
(a) before receiving Mr Kalim’s application, QTAC (the equivalent of UAC in Queensland) had raised the possibility that Mr Kalim was a person using various identities to make applications for study around Australia;

(b) both QTAC and UAC had received applications from those other identities and at least some of the documents annexed to each application were found to be fraudulent;

(c) when UAC received Mr Kalim’s application concerns were raised because those qualifications recorded very high marks and recorded that studies had been undertaken concurrently in Pakistan and Afghanistan;

(d) Mr Kalim’s application to QTAC and his first UAC application relate to people with identical birth dates and names, but a slightly different father’s name; and

(e) The relevant documents provided by Mr Kalim in subsequent applications to UAC were slightly different from the qualifications he had previously submitted.
UAC staff attempted to verify the validity of the academic transcripts with Kabul University by letter, facsimile, email and telephone but none of those attempts were successful. Mr Stanton became aware in January 2008, that the Federal Police were of the view that Mr Kalim had used other identities for the purpose of making applications to study at universities in Australia. Mr Stanton also noted that in two separate documents provided by Mr Kalim to the Anti-Discrimination Board, he purports to have studied Medicine at the University of Sindh in Pakistan from 2002 to 2005 and to have studied Medicine at the University of Kabul between 2003 and 2005. ... Mr Kalim provided no explanation for this discrepancy.
Kalim was reported by the ADT as indicating that -
Kalim alleged that Mr Stanton [ie for UAC] had falsified the documents showing discrepancies in his qualifications that were allegedly sent to QTAC. He says that he did not send those documents and they are "bogus". Mr Kalim says that he has applied directly to several universities and has been offered places in courses without the need for his qualifications to be authenticated. He also says that Kabul University does not recognise the authority of Mr Stanton, it only recognises the authority of the universities themselves. According to Mr Kalim that is why the Kabul University has not verified with Mr Stanton that his qualifications are genuine.
In 2008 the ADT found that UAC had not breached the discrimination statute. Last year's decision by the ADT concerned whether Kalim should pay some or all of UAC's costs as respondent.

The ADT stated that
Kalim is originally from Afghanistan. He arrived in Australia in June 2005. Since 2006 he has made numerous applications to the Universities Admissions Centre (NSW & ACT) Pty Ltd (UAC) for admission to study at various universities. UAC rejected those applications because of questions about the authenticity of the transcripts. The Chancellor of Kabul University has since advised UAC that the qualifications on which Mr Kalim relied are ‘fake’. Mr Kalim says that this assertion is all ‘lies and fabrication’.

3 Mr Kalim has made several complaints of race discrimination and victimisation against UAC under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (AD Act). These proceedings concern three of those complaints, two of race discrimination and one of victimisation. Mr Kalim lives in Perth and participated in all case conferences and hearings by phone. On 4 June 2010, the Tribunal dismissed all three complaints for ‘want of prosecution’: ADT Act, s 73(5)(g)(iv). UAC has applied for costs. Mr Kalim considers that UAC’s application amounts to ‘blackmail’.
The ADT held in favour of UAC, being "satisfied that it is fair for Mr Kalim to pay UAC’s costs having regard to the fact that he has: a) prolonging unreasonably the time taken to complete the proceedings; and b) vexatiously conducted the proceedings".

19 January 2011

Nasty not-so-little secrets

The Australian Institute of Criminology has released an 11 page study by Mathew Willis on 'Non-disclosure of violence in Australian Indigenous communities', 405 Trends and issues in crime and criminal (2011) [PDF].

The study -
explores some of the reasons for the high rates of non-disclosure of violence in Indigenous communities. It begins by examining reasons for nondisclosure in the broader Australian community before discussing how factors specific to Indigenous Australians influence individual decisions to disclose violence. As well as using Australian and international literature to build an understanding of why people choose not to disclose, the paper uses scenarios developed by the Australian Crime Commission from their work with Indigenous communities to illustrate the circumstances in which these choices are made. The paper concludes by considering ways of encouraging disclosure through services, training and education and community responses. It emphasises the need to locate these within broader efforts to address the cycles of intergenerational violence that can so heavily impact the lives of Indigenous Australians.
Willis comments that -
The problem of violence and child abuse in Australian Indigenous communities has been well-documented (eg Aboriginal Child Sexual Assault Taskforce 2006; Gordon, Hallahan & Henry 2002; Memmott et al. 2001; Robertson 2000; Victorian Indigenous Family Violence Task Force 2003; Wild & Anderson 2007). The extent to which Indigenous Australians suffer violent victimisation has been widely reported elsewhere and will not be examined in detail here. For the purposes of this paper, it is sufficient to note that overall, Indigenous people experience violence (as offenders and victims) at rates that are typically two to five times those experienced by non-Indigenous people and this can be much higher in some remote communities (Bryant & Willis 2008; Memmott et al. 2001; Wundersitz 2010). Indigenous women in particular are far more likely to experience violent victimisation, and suffer more serious violence, than non-Indigenous women (Bryant & Willis 2008; Gordon, Hallahan & Henry 2002; Memmott et al. 2001; Mouzos 2001; Wundersitz 2010). Information from surveys and inquiries suggests a high proportion of violent victimisation is not disclosed to police (eg ABS 2005, 2002, 1998, 1996; Lievore 2003; Mullighan 2008; ABS NSCU 2005; Wild & Anderson 2007). Rates of non-disclosure are higher in Indigenous than non-Indigenous communities, with studies indicating that around 90 percent of violence against Indigenous women is not disclosed (Robertson 2000; Taylor & Putt 2007), nor most cases of sexual abuse of Indigenous children (Aboriginal Child Sexual Assault Taskforce 2006; Gordon, Hallahan & Henry 2002; Wild & Anderson 2007).
The study draws on -
the published literature, complemented by case studies developed by the Australian Crime Commission’s National Indigenous Intelligence Task Force, to examine reasons why violent crime is not disclosed by Indigenous victims and how greater rates of disclosure can be encouraged. The disclosure by victims or witnesses discussed here is distinct from the separate, but related, issue of mandatory reporting undertaken by health, child protection and other service providers.
A perspective is provided in the sobering The politics of suffering: indigenous Australia and the end of the liberal consensus (Carlton: Melbourne University Press 2009) by Peter Sutton

18 January 2011

God owns the rain

One of the more mordant mediaeval prelates, in commenting on personal ambition and grand plans, noted that "man proposes, God disposes". I was reminded on that quip on reading reports that -
Authorities from Western Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management Board have told the farmers that the Crown "owns" the rain that falls from the sky and the State Government has the right to manage, organise and sell the resource how it wishes.
God - or nature - provides the rain, the Board gets to commodify it and the voters dispose of the government?

The context is that the trouble-prone South Australian Government (readers of this blog may recall comments on the former Attorney General's stance on bikies and criticism and on the current Attorney General's characterisation of the rights of criminals) apparently aims to meter farm dams - private infrastructure - and thence charge landowners for use of water from those dams.

The the extent to which the Government aims to charge for rain (as distinct from shaping land use and harvesting some dollars through licence fees and charges for consumption of 'surface water') is unclear. The state government, which is not fettered by the tight restrictions on the national government imposed by the fin de siecle straitjacket known as the national Constitution, presumably has the power to devise and impose law covering consumption of water from private dams (and indeed from the domestic rainwater tanks that it has encouraged householders to acquire, with for example "up to $1000 per household in rebates for purchasing a rainwater tank and having it installed"). The usefulness of charging for rainwater, except as a rather messy and deeply unpopular revenue generation measure, is more uncertain.

The same report indicates that -
Acting Water Minister Gail Gago yesterday acknowledged that while "no one owned" the rain, "the Crown reserves the right to manage this important resource".

Mrs Gago also only moved to rule out more wide-spread metering of rainwater tanks supplying water for domestic and stock purposes until March, when the current rules expire.

"Surface water (from roofs) may be taken for any stock and domestic purpose without the requirement for a water licence and there is therefore no requirement to meter household usage of this water," a spokeswoman for Mrs Gago said.

"There is no intention to meter household and commercial operations that collect roof runoff in rainwater tanks and comply with this statewide authorisation," the spokeswoman said.

But all exemptions to the statewide authorisation governing the use of rooftop captured rainfall expire in March. Mrs Gago's office did not offer a response when questioned about any proposed changes.
Times change. In 2007 the Board's Fact Sheet [PDF] indicated that -
Proposed licensing of rainwater storages – The facts.

The Western Mt Lofty Ranges (WMLR) is currently moving through the process of prescription, that is, the development of a management plan to ensure the sustainability of water resources. Following the distribution of information to water users in the WMLR, the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board seeks to clarify some inaccurate perceptions of the issue:
• There will be no tax or levy on rainwater tanks where the water will be used for stock watering or domestic purposes. This also applies for dams and bores that are used for stock and domestic purposes. Stock and domestic use is specifically excluded from the raising of levies under the Natural Resources Management (NRM) Act 2004.
• This is not a new initiative. Licensed water allocations are already used in a number of prescribed areas including the Barossa Valley and the River Murray.
• Licensing of roof run-off affects only a very small number of very large commercial users. These users (500,000 litres or above) have the potential to negatively impact the environment and other users in the same way as farm dams.
• Feedback is sought from the community to determine what the most appropriate roof run-off threshold is. Once determined, roof run-off that exceeds the agreed threshold and is captured and stored for commercial use will require a license. A threshold license is needed for the Adelaide Hills because capturing large amounts of roof run-off will affect surface water flows to the catchment below, potentially affecting water flows for downstream neighbors and watercourses that rely on these flows for a healthy environment.
• A sustainable water management plan will enable fair and equitable access to water.
Businesses that rely on water will be able to do so with a sense of security well into the future, eliminating any doubt that the resource may not exist the following year.
• This is not about ownership of water, it is about managing the use of water resources so that the needs of all users, including the environment, are met.
The Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM Board is committed to effectively managing the region's water resources in a sustainable way. To achieve this, a management system must be implemented, ensuring this precious resource is distributed fairly amongst all users which includes the environment, now and into the future.
The 205 page draft Plan for 2010 [PDF], glossed in a 76 page Guide [PDF] would appear to involve licensing and metering of all substantial private dams in rural areas that are fed by creeks or other watercourses on a sporadic or ongoing basis. It is likely that there are few dams that are fed solely by rain falling into that 'pondage', ie do not rely on rain that falls in the vicinity and is channelled via creeks.

17 January 2011

Get outta dodge

Oh dear, apparently I don't need to wait until 2012 (when quantum mystic and World Futures Ervin Laszlo says the world will end). No, bad luck, need to get out of Dodge now!

A friend has pointed me to the WeCanKnow site, which announces Christ's Return on Judgment Day (21 May 2011) -
This web site serves as an introduction and portal to four faithful ministries which are teaching that WE CAN KNOW from the Bible alone that the date of the rapture of believers will take place on May 21, 2011 and that God will destroy this world on October 21, 2011. Please take your time and browse through the teachings of Harold Camping, President of Family Radio. Visit EBible Fellowship, Bible Ministries International, and The-Latter-Rain to read and listen to many faithful teachers give scriptural insight on the doctrines that God is teaching His people. Learn about the Biblical Timeline of History, the correct method of Bible interpretation, the End of the Church Age and God's command to believers that they must depart out of the churches. Study the proofs that God has so graciously given in His Word showing us that these dates are 100% accurate and beyond dispute. Above all, please READ THE BIBLE and prayerfully ask God to open your spiritual eyes to these truths. May it please Him to have mercy on each of our souls.
Yes folks, "100% accurate and beyond dispute" ... and all coming to an end on 21 October 2011. Alas, no indication of whether it's before lunch or after lunch on the 21st.

The site's decorated with the usual mystification - seven seals, seven plagues, sundry bad people, tribulation - and ignorance of textual analysis ... just praise the lawd and pass the contributions in emulation of a succession of Darbyites, Millerites and other disappointed exponents of the End Times and imminent Rapture. They've put a spin on Archbishop Ussher's date of creation -
We will first establish some rules for interpreting these geneologies [sic] accurately. Then we will use those rules to determine the date of Creation, as well as construct a timeline of events. In the Christian community the earth is commonly thought to be about 6,000 years old, but this is based on inaccurately assuming that the word "begat" always implies an immediate father-son relationship. If we construct a timeline based on this assumption we will run into contradictions in the Bible and some of the pieces just won't fit quite right. We will examine this in detail at the end of this study. We will begin our study with this word "begat".

Through this study we will discover that the earth is a little over 13,000 years old. We will also discover that we can know very accurately when certain events took place. For example, we know the Flood took place in 4990 BC and the Exodus took place in 1447 BC.
Quite so. Unfortunately, parsing the Bible (particularly if you are relying on a translation) can provide wildly different dates for the end of history. Ussher's contemporary John Lightfoot revealed that
heaven and earth, centre and circumference, were created all together, in the same instant, and clouds full of water ... this work took place and man was created by the Trinity on October 23, 4004 B.C., at nine o'clock in the morning.


A friend has pointed me to media coverage of a Family Court order requiring a mother to have her five-year-old daughter immunised for whooping cough. In following up the recent post on the Wakefield article the coverage is interest for how the mass media report science and the law rather than merely for the judicial precedent and notions of possessive individualism.

The child's parents reportedly separated before her birth, with the father (who wishes access to his daughter) going on to remarry and have other children with his new partner. He sought an order regarding vaccination of the daughter against preventable diseases, both for her own wellbeing and for the health of his other children. That rationale is consistent with a recognition that diseases such as whooping cough and measles can kill or maim and that it is not feasible to protect everyone through innoculation (ie give a shot to all babies on delivery, with the consequence that some young children might be placed at serious risk through exposure to an unvaccinated person who is encountered at home, school, in a shopping mall, on a bus or other location).

The father produced medical evidence that immunisation provided no unacceptable risks for his daughter. He reportedly noted that if she remained un-vaccinated she would be forced to withdraw from school during outbreaks of some diseases and that she would also be unable to spend time with any babies in his second family, given that she was not immunised against whooping cough.

The girl's mother reportedly said that her daughter was healthy, that the risk of vaccine-preventable diseases was very small and that vaccination was dangerous. She was criticised in the magistrate's judgment (not yet available on the Family Court site or on AustLII) for submitting evidence from an "immunisation sceptic" who made what were described as "outlandish statements unsupported by any empirical evidence".

As the media circus got underway Professor Robert Booy of the National Centre for Immunisation Research & Surveillance argued that immunisation prevents serious diseases, commenting that -
The only way we can protect the vulnerable - and that may be a newborn, or someone with an immune deficiency - is to ensure other people are vaccinated.
Chiropractor Warren Sipser reportedly denounced the judgment as "dangerous", with reportage indicating that he was "shocked" (being shocked and/or saddened or outraged are presumably inevitable), commenting -
It's a sad situation ....

I think it's dangerous to impose [immunisations] on anyone when there are two opposing viewpoints and when there is credible evidence they may do more harm than good
Much law involves two or more "opposing viewpoints", with courts being asked to decide on what those tribunals hold to be credible evidence. In this instance the court - along with most of the scientific community - held that evidence about the dangers of vaccination is unpersuasive and that non-vaccination wasn't the default.

Other foes of vaccination were less restrained than Sipser. Meryl Dorsey of the Australian Vaccination Network (AVN), vehement opponents of vaccination, commented on that group's Facebook page -
Court orders rape of a child.

Think this is an exaggeration? Think again. This is assault without consent and with full penetration too. If we as a society allow this crime to take place, we are every bit as guilty as the judge who made the order and the doctor who carries it out.
Using that analysis all surgery on children would be illegal.

The NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (an independent body established under the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 (NSW) to protect public health and safety by dealing with complaints about health service providers in NSW) last year issued a public warning about the AVN, noting that the Commission's investigation established that the AVN website -
• provides information that is solely anti-vaccination

• contains information that is incorrect and misleading

• quotes selectively from research to suggest that vaccination may be dangerous
It went on to comment that
The Commission recognises that it is important for there to be debate on the issue of vaccination. However, the AVN provides information that is inaccurate and misleading.

The AVN’s failure to include a notice on its website of the nature recommended by the Commission may result in members of the public making improperly informed decisions about whether or not to vaccinate, and therefore poses a risk to public health and safety.
The Commission is reported to have noted complaints that the AVN harassed the parents of a child who died of whooping cough last year, after those people had advocated the importance of childhood vaccination.

Australian law embodies a balance between the rights of individuals and the community, with restrictions on what individuals can do. Those restrictions reflect a recognition of potential harm to the community and to the individual. We thus impose requirements regarding safety helments while riding motorcycles, wearing seatbelts while driving cars, freedom from hallucinogens or other mind-altering substances while driving forklifts or conducting surgery ... all constraints on an ideal of possessive individualism. Health law - sometimes dubbed 'typhoid mary' provisions - provides for the detention of people who wilfully expose others to highly contagious serious diseases or prevent them from being protected. Compulsory treatment orders - and statutory authorisation for blood transfusion and other action contrary to parental wishes, under for example the Transplantation & Anatomy Act 1978 (ACT) s 23 - are evident in all major Australian jurisdictions, with sanctions against evasion by parent/guardians

Some examples are Director-General, Department of Community Services; Re Jules [2008] NSWSC 1193, S v South Eastern Sydney & Illawarra Area Health Service and anor [2010] NSWSC 178, Re Bernard [2009] NSWSC 11 and Director-General of DOCS v BB [1999] NSWSC 1169.

Magical thinking about the supposed harms of vaccination and the dismissal of hard science is seductive but should be resisted and should not be enshrined in law.

It is conceivable that the decision will be appealed. Readers should note that the decision was made under the Family Law Act 2005 (Cth); it does not provide for enforced vaccination outside that statute.