Monthly Archives: September 2019

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Deadline passes on PNG police threat to arrest Australian managers on Manus Island

The Manus Island detention centre.Arrogance rather than the threat of the death penalty drove the federal government’s decision to allow three Australian workers on Manus Island accused of sexual assault to return home, a national lawyers group says.
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It comes as a Thursday afternoon deadline set by Papua New Guinean police for the return of the three men passed. It was unclear late on Thursday if police intended to carry out their threat to arrest Australian managers at the Manus Island detention centre if the workers were not returned.

At about 5pm, sources on the island said they were not aware of police action at the centre.

In mid-July, three Australian detention centre guards were allegedly found naked with a woman who claimed she had been drugged and sexually assaulted. The guards are now back in Australia.

They were employees of Wilson Security, which is contracted by the detention centre’s operator, Transfield Services. The woman was a local employee of the centre.

Rape convictions can attract the death penalty in PNG. However, the nation has not carried out executions since the 1950s.

Australian Lawyers Alliance spokesman Greg Barns, a barrister and former Liberal Party staffer, did not believe the death penalty was a “live issue”.

Rather, the conduct of immigration officials was “just typical of the arrogance” of the federal government, he said.

“This would appear to be another example of the Australian government and its contractors essentially regarding Manus Island as an Australian jail … the PNG police and legal system is treated with contempt,” he said.

“The conduct and attitude [of Australian officials] flies in the face of statements by the Abbott and Rudd governments that this detention centre is a partnership [between the two nations].”

PNG police have expressed anger that the three workers were allowed to leave while the incident was being investigated.

On Wednesday, the ABC reported PNG police had confirmed the attempted rape allegation and demanded the Australians be returned by close of business Thursday.

Provincial Police Commissioner Alex N’Drasal reportedly accused the managers of allowing the Australians to leave the country, which “prevented the course of justice”, and threatened to arrest them.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has showed no signs of complying with that request, but says it is cooperating with PNG police.

On Thursday, a department spokeswoman  said the allegations were subject to a police investigation and it would make no further comment.

The department has previously said no criminal allegations were made at the time it became aware of the incident, but the alleged behaviour was not considered appropriate and the male staff were stood down and returned to Australia, with the knowledge and agreement from PNG police.

The department has rejected suggestions it engaged in a “cover up”.

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Trans Pacific Partnership to impose new rules on Australia Post, NBN

Trade Minister Andrew Robb: searching for a compromise. Photo: Alex EllinghausenLeaked details of the Trans Pacific Partnership talks under way in Hawaii suggest companies such as Australia Post, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the National Broadband Network could be caught up in provisions designed to impose “additional disciplines” on state-owned enterprises.
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WikiLeaks has published previously secret details of a draft chapter on state-owned enterprises that would require government-owned corporations to act “on the basis of commercial considerations” and to be subject to “impartial regulation”.

The provisions would apply to government-owned energy companies, communications companies and financial institutions such as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Renewable Energy Agency.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade broke with its usual practice of not commenting on leaked documents to say that national broadcasters such as the ABS and the SBS will not be affected by the provisions because they are not recognised as state-owned enterprises for the purposes of the TPP.

Trade expert Jane Kelsey, from the University of Auckland, said the proposed rules went beyond anything required by the World Trade Organisation or existing free trade agreements including the one between Australia and the United States.

“The text has been totally US-driven,” she said. “Clearly, some governments were still reluctant at the time of this paper in late 2013, as it states ‘a majority of TPP countries’ support the additional disciplines.”

The revelation came as the US made an initial offer to Australia to provide additional access for Australian sugar under the agreement.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said both countries had made “suggestions” to each other on extra access. He said they were searching for a compromise.

Another source told the Inside US Trade newsletter that Australia had rejected the initial offer.

Australia wants an increase on the 87,000 tons of sugar it is allotted in the US quota.

Mr Robb said sugar was a “do-or-die” issue for Australia, along with restricting the period of data exclusivity for so-called biologic drugs and securing safeguards to prevent health and environment measures from being caught up in investor-state dispute settlement procedures.

The Philip Morris tobacco company is currently suing Australia in an outside tribunal over its plain packaging legislation using an investor state dispute settlement clause in a Hong Kong-Australia trade agreement.

Observers on the sidelines of the Trans Pacific Partnership talks say Australian officials have been fighting hard to limit the period of special patent protection for biologic drugs to five years rather than the eight or 12 demanded by the US.

An increase above the present five years would need special legislation which might not get through the Senate.

The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement would take in Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, between them accounting for about 40 per cent of world trade.

Sources close to the negotiations put the chances of success at 60 per cent.

The proposed restrictions on state-owned enterprises are designed to prevent countries such as Vietnam with large state-owned sectors from competing unfairly against foreign firms.

Professor Kelsey said the restrictions were intrinsically problematic. State-owned enterprises were almost always state-owned because they had functions that were more than merely commercial, such as guaranteed access to services.

Mr Robb’s office said they would not require government-owned firms to be privatised and would not restrict Australia Post’s universal service obligation.

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The death of a lion king

Cecil the lionCECIL the lion would have known instinctively that one day he would meet a bloody end. The wilds of Hwange national park, in the far western corner of Zimbabwe, where he lived his 13 years, are a brutal place.
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Male lions are constantly on the lookout to extend their territories and force out rival prides. Cecil bore the scars of many fights on his mammoth frame – and even an animal as impressive as he could not hold on to his hunting grounds forever.

Protesters hold signs during a rally outside the dental clinic of Walter Palmer in Minnesota, US. Picture: Reuters

Yet, when death came, it was not the result of a rival’s teeth or claws, but an arrow fired from the compound bow of a Minnesota dentist, Walter Palmer, who is believed to have paid £35,000 for the privilege. Cecil limped on for another 40 hours before he was found once more by the men and dispatched with a hunting rifle. The 220-kilogram animal was skinned and decapitated.

When his body was recovered by the team of British-led researchers who had mapped his movements for nearly a decade, it was a headless skeleton – picked clean by hyenas and vultures – surrounded by vehicle tracks and blood-stained sand.

“You could tell it was a lion,” says Brent Stapelkamp, one of the team, “but everything had gone.”

That included the GPS collar that Stapelkamp and his fellow field researchers had fitted Cecil with to plot his progress around the national park. Contrary to some media reports, the tag had not been recovered and, at the time of death, abruptly stopped emitting both satellite and its backup VHS signal, which was monitored by the Hwange Lion Research Project as part of Oxford University’s world-renowned Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. It is presumed destroyed.

Johnny Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force

While working, that GPS tag recorded every detail of Cecil’s rise to become the king of lions in Hwange. Cecil was one of around 100 animals fitted with the collar in the 14,650-square-kilometre national park, formerly the 19th-century hunting grounds of Ndebele warrior-king Mzilikazi, which is estimated to be home to around 450 lions.

Stapelkamp, a 37-year-old Zimbabwean who has worked for the project for nine years, recalls when a young Cecil walked across their radar back in the winter of 2008, accompanied by his brother. Researchers estimated the pair were born around 2003 and had left their pride to seek out new territory – something males do when they reach about 3½ years of age.

The pair were first spotted in the southern boundaries of the park near a watering hole called Magisihole – which translates as “white man’s pan”.

As a result, Cecil was named after Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia. His brother was called Leander, after Sir Leander Starr Jameson, another prominent British colonialist who once helped rule the country.

Despite such grand names, Stapelkamp remembers the pair as “very sheepish”. “They were on the radar and we knew when they were around but they were very nervous. Only when they became more confident and moved into one of the main study sites we decided to collar them for the first time.”

In 2009, Cecil and Leander strayed into a different part of the national park, which was overseen by an old grizzled lion called Mposu and his sons; one of them, a young lion called Judah, was of equal magnificence to Cecil – although he too fell victim to poachers back in 2012. A fight broke out between the rival families, during which Leander was killed and Mposu badly injured.

Cecil, nearly fully grown, was forced into the south-eastern corner of the park, near the Linkwasha safari camp, where, says Stapelkamp, he flourished. “He became dominant there for a long time, and at one point he had 22 lions under him, which is about as big a pride ever gets in Hwange.”

Cecil became the star attraction of the park, a swaggering presence whose black-streaked mane featured in the photograph albums of thousands of visitors lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him. Sometimes, it was not difficult. Lions typically have a range of around 300 kilometres, but the size of Cecil’s pride and availability of buffalo and impala meant he did not have to stray very far.

Such was his sheer bulk that Cecil was also unafraid of humans. Indeed, safari trucks regularly had to swerve off the road to give his prostrate form a wide berth.

Walter Palmer, above, with a leopard taken during a hunt in Zimbabwe, from the blogger site Trophy Hunter America.

“That lion was so amazing because people could get quite close,” says Johnny Rodrigues, the 65-year-old head of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force, who saw Cecil in the wild three times, most recently shortly before Christmas. “His family would walk alongside him like little soldiers and just the way he carried himself you could see he was king of the jungle. It is such a pity to lose that iconic animal.”

Rodrigues says Cecil is the 24th collared lion from the park to be shot in the past nine years. “When you have seen him and you have seen what happened to him, it leaves a taste in the mouth I really can’t describe.”

With rivals always snapping at his heels, even a lion as statuesque as Cecil could only maintain a hold over the area for so long. About 2½ years ago, he was displaced by two young males and forced into an area of grasslands known in Afrikaans as the vlei, on the eastern fringes of the park. Here, he teamed up with another old lion, one year his junior, called Jericho, and together began re-establishing a pride.

“They are not related but formed an alliance and took over the whole area,” says Stapelkamp, who last month took the final photograph of Cecil and Jericho lounging in the grass together. “They were still dominant when he died.”

There is concern over what will happen to Cecil’s pride of three lionesses and six cubs without his protection. Professor David Macdonald, who founded the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University, said Cecil’s death would lead to a “cascade” of others.

It is a testament to those conservationists who seek to protect the Hwange lions that we are able to know so much about Cecil’s life. His death, however, is an act far more senseless and brutal than anything nature could ever conceive. The Daily Telegraph London

Third Karrabing Film Collective short makes Melbourne film festival debut

The Karrabing Film Collective short “How The Dogs Talked” will screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival. Photo: Supplied Elizabeth Povinelli and Linda Yarrowin film the latest Karrabing Film Collective project. Photo: Supplied
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In “Windjarrameru, the Stealing C*Nt$”, a group of young Indigenous men are wrongly accused of stealing beer. Photo: Supplied

The Karrabing Film Collective is a collective in the true sense of the word. All 25 to 30 members function both as actors and crew in their films; all have equal footing in their projects.

“We’re trying to develop a different mode of film production in which everyone has a specific role and an individual role,” says director Elizabeth Povinelli​, who has travelled back and forth between New York – where she is a professor of anthropology and gender studies at Columbia University – and outer Darwin for the past 31 years.

“But at the same time, we do it all together as one: that’s the Karrabing, it’s not like self or collective, it’s self and collective.”

Povinelli is the only member who stays behind the camera. The decision to cast her as director was made early on, when her filmmaking colleague Liza Johnson came to co-direct the collective’s first short.

“Liza said to us, you grew up together, I don’t mean to get in your business, but if Beth [Povinelli] is there on screen everyone’s going to make it about about the white person. But we really wanted it to be about what it is to be Indigenous in the shadow of the intervention and to not lose that focus,” says Povinelli.

Karrabing does not refer to a tribe or geographical place: rather, it’s an ecological condition describing the point when the tides are at their lowest. Most members of the Karrabing hail from the Belyuen​ region of the Northern Territory, just east of Darwin.

On Friday, 10 representatives will fly to Melbourne to see two of their short films screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Saturday night. How the Dogs Talked explores the complexities of hanging on to cultural traditions in contemporary life, when the community’s sacred lands and government housing are under threat.

In Windjarrameru, the Stealing C*Nt$, a group of young Indigenous men hide in a polluted swamp after being wrongly accused of stealing beer. Meanwhile, miners continue to contaminate their land.

The films aren’t scripted; the storylines are mapped out and then the cast perform what Povinelli calls “improvisational realism”, where they riff on events similar to their own experiences.

“It’s close to reality but it’s not a documentary,” she says.

“We just all put our two cents into it until it shapes up into a movie.”

Claude Holtz​ has acted in all three Karrabing films to date.

“I think after being half homeless, it’s good to show people what we’ve been doing in life, what the reality is,” he says.

“I remember making the first one, I didn’t really know what to say or what to do, but as we went along and started getting together we came good. It was a really good experience, something different.”

The Karrabing’s inclusion in  the Melbourne film festival this year follows the selection of their first film Karrabing! Low Tide Turning for the 2012 Berlinale​ Shorts Competition.

“I think it’s really fantastic the festival is giving these films recognition – our budgets are $100,000 at most, we’re talking about real people whose income is between $10,000 and, if you have a job, $30,000 a year,” Povinelli says.

“…It’s not just that the films do social work – they do – but the films also really capture the will and determination you have to have when you’re bumping into a variety of slapdowns and governmental policies.

“We’re stubborn people. That makes us resilient.”

Karrabing Film Collective Shorts screen 6.30pm on Saturday, August 1, and Tuesday, August 4, at the Kino. 


Melbourne International Film Festival’s got the long and short of it

Ernie Biscuit: The story of a lonely quest for love. Photo: SuppliedQuiet Mujo will play at MIFF. Photo: supplied
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Under the Sun: Confrontation between two families. Photo: Supplied

“It’s one of the best films in the festival, and it’s 19 minutes long,” according to an enthusiastic staffer at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival.

This recommendation – for a film called Under The Sun – highlights one of the key ingredients of MIFF, one that’s easy to overlook: its rich selection of short films. The festival’s prizes go only to shorts, and the winners in three of the categories this year are eligible to submit their films for the Academy Awards.

This year’s line-up includes short fiction, experimental shorts, documentaries and animations, works by student filmmakers and films from well-known feature directors.  The psychedelic program has a shorts session. And some strange and idiosyncratic films that can’t easily be categorised are screening under the title of WTF Shorts.

Under The Sun, that festival highlight, was the graduation film made by writer-director Qiu Yang when he was a student at the Victorian College of the Arts. Shot in China, it’s a slowly developing, quietly explosive narrative of confrontation between two families, against a backdrop of corruption and abuse. In its short duration, it has the density of a feature. It was selected for screening at Cannes this year.

Some well-known directors have shorts in MIFF. French-Swiss filmmaker Ursula Meier (Sister) has two – Quiet Mujo, about a boy and a soccer ball, and a portrait of Kacey Mottet Klein, the young actor from Sister.  Among the works in the experimental shorts program is Peter Tscherkassky’s​ The Exquisite Corpse, which references in its title the surrealist technique of shared composition and combines footage from a range of sources, all erotic films of one kind or another. The psychedelic shorts session is host to Ken Jacobs’ singular Seeking The Monkey King, a frantic, hallucinatory vision of 500 years of American history in 40 minutes.

Alison Klayman (Ai Wei-wei: Never Sorry) has a 29-minute documentary portrait, The 100 Years Show, that features an artist to whom recognition has come late. Cuban-born New Yorker Carmen Herrera, who has just turned 100, makes hard-edge geometric work that  began to be recognised 10 years ago. It’s a warm, engaging portrait of Herrera, who now does not leave her home but still makes work every day.

Some shorts are screening alongside features, rather than in shorts programs. Among them is a new work from Australian animator Adam Elliott, whose Harvie Krumpet won an Academy Award in 2004; his latest production screens with Stories I Want To Tell You In Person, an adaptation of the play by Lally Katz.  Shot in luminous and deftly detailed black-and-white, Ernie Biscuit is a companion piece to Harvie Krumpet that follows the quest for love of its lonely title character, a French taxidermist, as he leaves Paris for Venice but somehow ends up in Australia, accompanied by a duck.

Another short screening with a feature is Voila L’Enchainement, directed by French filmmaker Claire Denis (Beau Travail) from a script by Christine Angot. It’s a series of short, tightly shot scenes, some of them monologues, about the intimate, disintegrating relationship of a couple – played by Norah Krief and Alex Descas, a Denis regular  – that embodies confronting issues of race, class and difference. It screens with South Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s feature, Hill of Freedom.

The late French actor Pierre Clementi was also a writer and filmmaker, and one of his experimental shorts, Visa de Censure No. X, made in 1967, can be seen at MIFF this year. It’s showing with Carmelo Bene’s Salome, a highlight of the psychedelic selection.

The Accelerator program, which began at MIFF in 2004, brings a group of emerging filmmakers to the festival to help them bridge the gap between making short films and commencing a first feature. Films from this year’s participants can be seen in two sessions, and there’s a selection of works by Accelerator alumni in a program called  Australian Shorts.

A selection of this year’s MIFF prizewinners will be screened at the awards session on August 9. www.miff上海夜网

From small beginnings…

Shorts that grew: films (and a TV series) that had their basis in a short film.

The Babadook: Jennifer Kent’s tale of haunting, motherhood and loss was first explored in a short called Monster.

Fatal Attraction: James Dearden’s screenplay for Adrian Lyne’s film had its genesis in a Dearden short film about infidelity called Diversion.

Bottle Rocket: The debut feature from Wes Anderson had its origins in a short of the same name, co-written with Owen Wilson.

Boogie Nights: Paul Thomas Anderson made a short, The Dirk Diggler Story, that paved the way for Boogie Nights.

Raising Victor Vargas: Filmmaker Peter Sollett’s tale of a boy growing up on the Lower East Side was first told in a short called Five Feet High And Rising.

The Evil Dead: Sam Raimi made a “prototype” called Within the Woods    to help find investors for his horror classic.

UnREAL: The pilot for this TV series about reality shows  was based on a short film called Sequin Raze, written and directed by Sarah Gertrude Shapiro. What you’re saying about MIFF