Category: Australia

A VICTORIAN police officer has told an anti-corruption hearing she “touched” a drunk woman in custody with her foot to calm her down but didn’t kick her, despite alarming footage showing the partially naked woman being stomped by other officers.

Confronting video footage shown at the opening of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission in Ballarat shows officers kicking and stomping on the woman — who also had her pants pulled down past her thighs.

The woman is then sat up by Leading Senior Constable Nicole Munro and dragged along the ground out of the cell by another officer.

Sen-Constable Munro told the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission hearing into alleged use of excessive force at Ballarat Police Station that the woman, 51, was face down and handcuffed when she tried to “calm her down”.

“(I was saying), ‘Just calm down, we’re trying to help you here.’”

“I do remember touching her with my foot. I was trying to get her attention to calm her down,” she told the hearing.

“I did not kick her hard, there was nothing malicious.”

The woman was arrested in January 2015 for being drunk and showed aggression towards police when she was arrested, but complied with all police directions when she arrived at the station.

Ms Munro told Tuesday’s IBAC hearing she and her partner were at another incident when they were recalled to the station by colleagues who said the woman had become violent in the cells, attempting to kick and bite police.

The footage also shows the woman being pepper-sprayed and stripped naked from the waist down.

Ms Munro said it was a chaotic scene when she arrived and found the woman face down on the cell floor, her hands cuffed behind her back — so she tried to calm her.

Ms Munro said she didn’t see her colleagues forcibly kick or stomp on the woman, despite the video showing she was inside the cell when it happened.

The unidentified woman was then dragged to a hot shower, which according to the Herald Sun, “exaggerate the effects of pepper spray”.

The officers involved in the incident were cleared of brutality by an internal investigation, while the victim was charged.

The Ballarat police department account for around one in 20 assault complaints in Victoria between 2010 and 2015. That’s three times the state average.

“Regrettably time has not seen an improvement,” said counsel assisting Jack Rush QC.

“Complaints have remained constant and high.”

The hearing before IBAC Commissioner Stephen O’Bryan continues.

Source: Police accused of stripping, kicking and stomping woman in Ballarat

An Australian law firm has filed a compensation claim against Russia and President Vladimir Putin in the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of families of victims of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, shot down in 2014, media reported.

The jetliner crashed in Ukraine in pro-Russian rebel-held territory on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board, including 28 Australians.

The aircraft, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, the Dutch Safety Board concluded in its final report late last year.

Fighting was raging in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces when the aircraft was downed and many Western experts and governments blamed the rebels.

Australia’s Fairfax media reported on Saturday that 33 next of kin were of victims named in an application by Sydney law firm LHD Lawyers, representing people from Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia.

The application was filed on May 9 and names the Russian Federation and Putin as respondents and seeks $10 million in compensation per passenger, the report said.

The Dutch Safety Board, which was not empowered to address questions of responsibility, did not point the finger at any group or party for launching the missile.

“So far we don’t have (such information)” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Interfax news agency when asked to comment on reports of the compensation claim.

Malaysia, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Ukraine have been exploring alternative options, including trials in international and national courts, after Russia vetoed a United Nations bid in July 2015 to form a tribunal.

Reuters could not immediately reach LHD Lawyers for comment.

Source: Australian firm names Russia, Putin in MH17 compensation claim – report | Reuters

A rare violet diamond, the largest of its kind ever found at Australia’s remote Argyle mine, will be the centrepiece of Rio Tinto’s annual pink diamonds showcase, the company said Tuesday.

The rough gem, discovered in August 2015 at a mine where more than 90 percent of the world’s pink and red jewels are produced, originally weighed 9.17 carats and had etchings, pits and crevices.

After weeks of assessment, the Argyle Violet was polished down to a 2.83 carat, oval-shaped diamond.

“Impossibly rare and limited by nature, the Argyle Violet will be highly sought after for its beauty, size and provenance,” Rio Tinto Diamonds general manager of sales, Patrick Coppens, said in a statement.

Rio Tinto did not put a figure on its worth, but said it had been assessed by the Gemological Institute of America as a notable diamond with the colour grade of Fancy Deep Greyish Bluish Violet.

It is not known how diamonds acquire their coloured tinge but it is thought to come from a molecular structure distortion as the jewel forms in the earth’s crust or makes its way to the surface.

Diamonds for sale as part of the annual Argyle pink diamonds tender can fetch US$1-2 million a carat. As a basic rule of thumb, pink and red diamonds are worth about 50 times more than white diamonds.

Rio Tinto said violet diamonds were extremely rare with only 12 carats of polished stone produced for the tender in 32 years.

“This stunning violet diamond will capture the imagination of the world’s leading collectors and connoisseurs,” Argyle pink diamonds manager Josephine Johnson said.

The 2016 tender will begin private trade viewings in June and travel to Copenhagen, Hong Kong and New York, Rio Tinto said.

Source: ‘Impossibly rare’ violet diamond found in Australia

Australia blamed refugee advocates on Tuesday for “encouraging” asylum seekers held in remote camps towards acts of self-harm after a woman set herself on fire, while the United Nations renewed its criticism of Australia’s harsh immigration policy.

Australian officials said an unidentified 21-year-old Somali woman was in a critical condition after she set herself alight at an Australian detention camp on the tiny South Pacific island of Nauru on Monday, the second such incident in a week.

A 23-year-old Iranian man also set himself on fire last week in protest against his treatment on Nauru and later died. The Somali woman has been transferred to Australia for treatment, officials said.

Under Australia’s hardline immigration policy, asylum seekers intercepted trying to reach Australia after paying people smugglers are sent for processing to camps on Nauru, which holds about 500 people, and on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. They are told they will never be settled in Australia.

The Papua New Guinea government ordered the Manus Island camp, which holds about 850 people, closed last week after its Supreme Court ruled the facility unlawful.

The harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse at the camps have drawn wide criticism inside and outside Australia and have become a major headache for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during campaigning for likely July elections.

Australia however has vowed there will be no change to the policy, which has been pursued by successive governments.

On Tuesday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton acknowledged there had been a rise in cases of self-harm in the camps but accused refugee advocates of giving the asylum seekers false hope they would one day be settled in Australia.

Source: Australia blames refugee advocates after asylum seeker sets herself alight | Reuters

The Australian government on Friday blocked once and for all a bid that would have seen a chunk of its land the size of Ireland — or more than 1 percent of the country’s total landmass — sold to a private Chinese company.

The company at first seems like an extremely unlikely contender to become not only Australia’s, but the world’s, biggest private landowner. It’s called Dakang, and it was once a struggling pig-breeding firm until it was bought in 2013 by Pengxin Group, a Shanghai-based company mostly involved in real estate.

But ever since a massive tainted milk scandal effectively shuttered China’s domestic dairy industry in 2008, companies there have been seeking to source dairy products from overseas, and Pengxin has been particularly pioneering, if not very successful, in the endeavor. In September, New Zealand nixed its plan to buy one massive farm there, and Pengxin subsequently canceled its plans to buy 10 more in the country. The company has bought vast farms in Argentina, Bolivia and Cambodia.

On Friday, the possibility dimmed  for Pengxin of owning an 80 percent share of S. Kidman & Co., a company founded in 1899 that has 10 gigantic ranches spanning more than 100,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of the state of Virginia. The deal was reportedly worth approximately $280 million. Pengxin’s initial offer for all of S. Kidman’s ranches was rejected over “security concerns” in November, as the largest of the ranches overlapped with a rocket firing range operated by the Australian military. That ranch was eliminated from the second bid, reducing the area for sale to  77,000 square kilometers.

The land is almost all in Australia’s Outback, an arid region with little vegetation. For that reason, S. Kidman’s ranches have a relatively low cattle population for their size — about 155,000 on average.

Source: Australia blocks sale of Ireland-sized chunk of land to private Chinese company – The Washington Post

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