A major systemic problem in Australia is the painful truth that when it comes to accountability for huge, mind-boggling, man-made humanitarian disasters, accountability is always a lifetime behind the disasters. Asbestos fatalities, Breaching fatalities, sexually abused children and the “Stolen Generation” are all examples of this ‘too little, to late’ approach to accountability. It is time that this ethos of gross indifference was tossed overboard.
Devil’s Dust is a documentary drama that is based upon factual events. However, as the introduction to the documentary makes quite clear, whilst some statements are factual, some of the statements made by characters are either fictional or else are real statements that have been altered for enhanced dramatic effect. Please keep that in mind when reading the quotes below but also keep in mind that just as the Devil’s Dust disaster is appallingly real, so also is the humanitarian disaster caused by unconstitutional breaching penalties legislation.
Note also that the time stamps that indicate when the statements are made in part 2 of Devil’s Dust refer to a datum time that commenced with the ABC broadcasting frame #1 of its blue and white logo at the start of the documentary. (Hours/Minutes/Seconds i.e. 00.00.00
(00.08.01) The NSW Attorney-General: “I’m part of team now and I have to play for the team”.
My comment: The public may pay the wages of politicians, but they most definitely do not work for the public and if public interest conflicts with political party interest, the lesson of Devil’s Dust that we all need to aware of is the reality that for politicians, even though we pay them, the needs of the party will outweigh the needs of the public, sometimes with horrific consequences.
(00.23.36) “But then I started to realize; it’s a lot bigger than that. I think that the problem you see. This thing is so huge; you just can’t get your head around it. And so people ignore it instead. But we need to make them look, even if they don’t like what they see!” (Bernie Banton).
My Comment: Unconstitutional federal legislation that through its use precipitated a humanitarian disaster that may have, over a period of decades, built up a secretly classified, unreported death toll that could be 4 times the 9/11 death toll.
- Yep! I reckon that definitely qualifies as something that “…is so huge; you just can’t get your head around it.”
- It is therefore no surprise that, like the deaths caused by tobacco and asbestos, people ignored these deaths whilst those responsible for them kept quiet and profited from them.
- Perhaps the key difference with breaching fatalities is that politicians had the advantage of being able use Parliamentary Privilege and the Commonwealth Public Service Act to muzzle expressions of concern that might alert the public to the lethal horror of this man-made disaster.
(00.37.07) “This commission needs to direct Hardie to do the right thing and direct Hardie to accept the truth; that they knowingly mined asbestos, used asbestos, and that it killed people. It’s as simple as that.” (Bernie Banton).
My Comment: Just as we are about to have a royal commission into the sexual abuse of children, we need to have another royal commission that will confront politicians and bureaucrats with the truth; that the use and abuse of power, both commercial and legislative has killed a dreadfully awful number of innocent people and the lack of accountability before the criminal courts is totally unacceptable! It’s as simple as that.
(00.44.59) TV reporter: “Bob Carr says waiting the recommendations of the commission before he acts. Do you expect him to do something decisive when the recommendations come in?” Bernie’s response: “It would be nice if he did, because apart from the unions, I have not seen any person do the right thing yet.”
My Comment: Every politician who ‘was a team player’ and put their hand up to vote in favour of breaching, once they discovered the lethal consequences of this activity, did NOT do anything decisive to rectify their mistake.
- For both the Coalition and the ALP, the team player game play in 2012 is the ‘3 Wise Monkeys Policy’, i.e. see nothing, hear nothing, and above all, say nothing.
- Can everyone see this same policy at work within James Hardie and understand how it standard operating procedure for those responsible for lethal stuff-ups to stay silent in order to avoid being held accountable for failing to take action when action was required.
- It’s called NONFEASANCE and Australian politicians are real experts at doing nothing when dramatic and decisive action is required.
(00.45.12) TV reporter: “Joe Hockey’s just described the union movement as irrelevant. What do you think about that Bernie?” Bernie’s response: “Joe Hockey! I’d say Joe Hockey is irrelevant!”
My Comment: It is quite clear that leopards cannot change their spots.
- Check out the January 2006 email from the Employment, Workplace Relations & Education Committee (EWRE) which was posted in an earlier blog. (http://wp.me/p1n8TZ-3K Grave Digger document #13)
- How did the EWRE committee write off breaching triggered fatalities?
- The committee wrote them of as “not relevant”, i.e. as far as the Howard Government’s infamous Work Choices Committee was concerned, these fatalities which were an apparently acceptable consequence of bad legislation were literally ‘irrelevant’!
- Please, will someone remind me who the Human Services Minister was at the time the committee expressed this viewpoint about post-breaching fatalities? How many of the FY 2005-06 post breaching fatalities did Joe Hockey report to the Federal Parliament?
- It seems that anything that contradicted Joe Hockey’s politically skewed and distorted view of the world was written off by him as “irrelevant”, e.g. the union movement and welfare recipients who died as a direct consequence of being breached.
- Do we really want a new Treasurer (or a potential Deputy Prime Minister) with that sort of mindset in 2013?
- Joe Hockey’s mindset apparently was in tune with Julie Bishop’s lawyer mindset which apparently thought is okay to carefully dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s in such a “professional” manner that asbestos victims died before she could complete the paper shuffle of their claims.
- Do you believe that our nation is best served by leadership with these sorts of mindsets?
- I sure don’t!
(00.49.54) Meredith speaking: “It seems that the MRCF is at least $2 Billion short.” NSW Attorney-General responds: “That is a very large hole.” Bob Carr speaking: “No wonder McDonald fell into it!” PR spokesperson comments: “It’s big enough to swallow a state government too, don’t you think?”
My Comment: Hmm, let’s look for very large holes caused by breaching activity as well.
- Unconstitutional penalties, millions affected and perhaps a death toll that is 4 times the size of 9/11 death toll.
- The taxpayer funded compensation bill for that could be $2 TRILLION, not a mere $2 Billion, and that really is the sort of hole could easily swallow not only the current federal government, or a future federal government; it could also swallow both the Coalition and the ALP.
- Because one thing is for sure, most voters will be really jacked off having to pay that sort of compensation to people that the commercial mass media has carefully indoctrinated the general public into regarding as ‘welfare gravy train riding dole bludgers’.
- For the record; the welfare gravity train is a $34 day myth. Run the numbers and see what an impact that level of income would have on your lifestyle.
(01.02.42) Bernie speaking at a rally: “The money that they made away with, the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been given to their shareholders, who are in this building behind me right now, THAT IS BLOOD MONEY, and Hardie’s leadership; THEY KNEW IT! That’s why they moved to the other side of the world!”
My Comment: On the subject of money and the lethal breaching activity:
- Check the Centrelink annual reports when the Howard Government was in power and repeatedly pushing the mantra of “Sound Economic Management.”
- The Centrelink “scorecard” (their word, not mind) reveals that the Howard Government raked in about $10 Billion between 1996 and 2007.
- Like James Hardie shareholders, John Howard and his cabinet also knew that this too was BLOOD MONEY!
- The reality is that once Centrelink is forced by a court to reveal the annual post-breaching death toll data that it has never bothered to collect, (see http://wp.me/p1n8TZ-3v Grave Digger document #2), it will be possible to do some simple maths and work out the Cost-Benefit Ratio, i.e. the “Savings achieved per breaching fatality.
- Personally, I believe that the looming legal liability to taxpayers will make this so called “Sound Economic Management” a classic case of the old English proverb, “Penny wise, pound foolish.”
(01.03.17) Bernie speaking: “Until they put me in a box, I’m gunna chase you and I will not let you out of my sight. NEVER!”
My Comment: Bernie was a man of religious faith who was true to his word. I am sure that he was aware of Jesus statement that ‘When you put your hand to the plough, don’t look back.’
- Bernie NEVER looked back, an example that I hope that I can emulate in striving to hold accountable those responsible for yet another man made, totally and utterly preventable, humanitarian disaster.
- Getting Justice requires persistence, not for days or weeks, but sometimes for decades; for example it took the Stolen Generation 127 years to finally win a court case!(Bruce Trevorrow – SA Supreme Court, August 2006)
- Even worse, it was some 220 years after the British Government declared that Australia was Terra Nullius, an empty land that up grabs, before the High Court finally decided that Australia actually had an indigenous population living here when the 1st Fleet arrived in 1786!
- If it took that long to work out the simple fact that people were living in Australia in 1786, just think how long it may take when fighting real issues such as asbestos related fatalities and breaching triggered fatalities.
- Even the just announced royal commission into the sexual abuse of children comes an entire lifetime too late for many of the victims.
- Is that royal commission a ‘smoke and mirrors’ distraction by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott that is intended to draw attention away from the reality that most voters want Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull back in charge?
(01.09.56) Emily explaining how she became ill: “Mum and dad bought a fibro house, but it was just little. Dad built an extension on the back so I’d have more room. I’d help him. Used to…(words not clear enough to comprehend)… builder. That was 30 years ago.”
My Comment: James Hardie mined, manufactured and then marketed asbestos for decades, and consequently, for decades people have been exposed to a lethal substance with no safe exposure level.
- As a result, for decades people have been dying. Again there is a direct parallel with breaching legislation which was introduced decades ago and, just like the asbestos problem, for decades, people died.
- Check the annual reports:
- For decades, James Hardie management did not report asbestos fatalities to shareholders and in precisely the same manner, DSS and Centrelink management teams have never reported breaching fatalities to their ‘shareholders’, i.e. the general public.
(01.10.44) Bob Carr speaking: “I’ll be writing to the Prime Minister today urging him to use the full force of the federal law to bring Hardies managers to justice.”
My Comment: I cannot help but wonder if Bob Carr would have ever contemplated such an action if he had known about either post-breaching fatalities or the July 7th 2004 refusal of the Australian Federal Police to investigate either post breaching fatalities (Quotagate) or other alleged corruption within the Howard Government, e.g. the Trish Draper ‘Travelgate Scandal. (See Grave Digger document #1 at http://wp.me/p1n8TZ-3v for more details).
- The very real significance of both Grave Digger documents #1 and Grave Digger and #3 is that in Australia, “the full force of the federal law” is an extremely flexible thing, especially when it comes federal politicians and federal public servants who may have exceeded their lawful authority by recklessly endangering the lives of impoverished, highly vulnerable people in a targeted minority social group.
- Is it a case of “Stand by your mate” or is it a case of “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
- “Stand by your mate” is a time honoured Aussie tradition, but when it comes to the failure of our nation’s federal legal system to prosecute the James Hardie executives who placed corporate profits ahead of either duty of care to employees or public safety, it is only reasonable to question whether or not “Stand by your mate” was all about ensuring that “the full force of the federal law” did NOT apply to James Hardie’s management.
- The lethal consequences of exposure to asbestos have been well known for years, and yet strangely, none of the members of James Hardie’s board of management have ever been prosecuted for the foreseeable fatalities that have occurred and which will continue to occur for another 20 years or more.
- Re-read the 2 Grave Digger documents from the Federal Police and then ask yourself why John Howard did not appear to adopt a very strong public stance of “we will leave no stone unturned” in trying to ensure that prosecutions did occur.
- During the decades that James Hardie was mining, manufacturing and peddling the Devil’s Dust, just how much money did company executives and directors pour into the Coalition coffers?
- Is there any evidence in the dusty records of donations to Coalition politicians and their political parties, that James Hardie’s management team put the Coalition leadership in the position of having to “Stand by your mate”?
- With Travelgate, the legal/constitutional reality is that the Federal Police should have investigated Trish Draper, but John Howard very publicly defended her, both in Federal Parliament and during the 2004 election campaign in South Australia.
- Was his direct involvement and his very strong expressions of support intended to achieve the outcome that was contained in Federal Agent Denley’s letter, i.e. no investigation of Travelgate and other dubious activities of Howard Government ministers such as the breaching quotas identified in Cheryl Kernot’s June 27th 2000 press release,; quotas that were subsequently confirmed by Centrelink staff who secretly testified to the Independent Pearce Inquiry? (Quotagate)
“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
- Alternately, was it simply a case of passing on the message that James Hardie’s management were not concerned in the least about Bob Carr’s letter but they were ‘gravely concerned’ about the unreported post-breaching fatalities, i.e. Did the James Hardie management tell the government that “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
- I believe that that tactic is commonly known as ‘sending a message.’
- fraud Yes that is purely speculative on my part, but what is not speculation is the cold hard facts that prosecutions for the thousands of asbestos triggered fatalities that have occurred across the nation have not happened, and the FY 2000-01 post-breaching fatalities have yet-to-be investigated because, for some strange and bizarre reason, the Federal Police has flatly refuse to both investigate these fatalities and other fraud incidents involving federal politicians!(Fair Work Australia had to that!!!)
- The common touch-point for both asbestos fatalities and breaching fatalities is thus the total lack of action by federal government agencies that have the power to conduct a criminal investigation and lay criminal charges, e.g Manslaughter due to criminal negligence.
- Was neutralizing Bob Carr as simple as ‘sending a message?’
- Keep in mind that the board members of James Hardie at that time were not village idiots. Monitoring the activities of the Federal Government over the years for potential indiscretions that would have provided the board with ‘leverage’ would have been very prudent “Due Diligence” management.
- Cheryl Kernot’s June 27th 2000 press release and the testimonies of rebel Centrelink staff to the Pearce Inquiry were hardly in the category of top secret and the issues raised had massive potential ‘leverage’.
- You did not need a crystal ball to work out that the potential consequences of breaching 3 impoverished people per minute was a humanitarian disaster that paralleled the disaster caused by asbestos.
(01.13.37) Karen Banton: “Tanya says it’s a test case. If we can show Hardie ought to have known about the health risk before Bernie started working for them, we could get extra damages.”
My Comment: When it comes to “ought to have known” about the risks associated with breaching legislation, the definition of the welfare allowance contained in paragraph 47 of the 2002 Welfare Reform Discussion Paper pretty well lays out this“ought to have known” legal point.It stated that the welfare allowance was “a targeted payment to financially impoverished people for the purpose of assisting these people to meet their most basic living costs.”
- The average, ordinary person who thinks for a moment about the definition of the welfare allowance will quickly realize that the breach of contract penalty, commonly known as the Breaching penalty, that was being imposed by the Howard Government was therefore ‘the targeted and therefore deliberate removal of the only means of support, from financially impoverished people who have no other means of support, so that for a period of 3 months they are unable to meet even the most basic costs of living.’
- In FY 2000-01, the Howard Government was accusing welfare recipients of ‘breach of contract’ and then arbitrarily applying the breach of contract penalty (Breaching) at the absolutely mind boggling rate of 3 per minute!
- In defining the welfare allowance the Howard Government and Centrelink officials reasonably “ought to have known” that “to deliberately stop financially impoverished people meeting their most basic living costs” was exceedingly dangerous and that potentially lethal consequences could occur, especially in the absence of pre-breaching risk assessments which were not introduced until 1st July 2009!”
- In FY2000-01, the Employment Minister was a former Rhodes Scholar, Tony Abbott, and any unbiased, reasonable person would appreciate that a person of that intellectual ability “ought to have known” the potentially lethal consequences of this activity.
- Since most of the members of Federal Parliament over the decades that breaching legislation was in force were university graduates in professions such as Law, Business Administration, Medicine and Social or Political Sciences, it is reasonable to believe that they too “ought to have known” the consequences of breaching.
- In fact there is body of circumstantial evidence that not only suggests that they were aware of the potentially lethal consequences but that these fatalities were, like asbestos fatalities, regarded as an ‘acceptable consequence.’
The belated introduction of pre-breaching risk assessments on 1st July 2009 saw the FY2000-01 figure of over 346,000 breaches of 13 weeks duration tumble to just over 500 breaches of 8 weeks duration in FY2009-10.
- However, given that the Breaching process, re-named “Serious Compliance Failure Penalty” by the Rudd Government, is unconstitutional, even one such penalty is one reckless risk too many.
- Paragraph 51, sub-paragraph xxiii(a) of the Australian Constitution places an obligation upon the Federal Government to provide a welfare allowance whilst specifically restraining the Federal Government from imposing any “civil conscription” requirements such as ‘Work for the Dole’ or compulsory ‘volunteer’ work.
- When governments ignore the Constitution for decades and secretly conceal the death toll that results from this unconstitutional activity, is it really so strange that those responsible for asbestos triggered fatalities are not held fully accountable for their actions by the Federal Government?
“I worry about the people losing faith in our democracy altogether.”
My Comment: Immediately preceding the broadcast of part 2 of Devil’s Dust was an ABC advertisement for the Q & A program in which Kevin Rudd makes the above statement.
- If the estimate of an eventual asbestos-triggered 60,000 fatalities mentioned in the closing credits of Devil’s Dust is reasonably accurate, then for practical purposes, James Hardie’s management have effectively gotten clean away with mass murder!
- When it comes to breaching triggered fatalities, I readily admit that because of the wall of official secrecy surrounding these deaths, no empirically accurate estimate of these fatalities is possible.
- Therefore, readers should appreciate that due to the failure of officials to publish this information, the virtually Nano sized amount of empirical data available makes my personal estimate of breaching fatalities being in the range of 2 – 4 times the 9/11 death toll open to question .
- However, what is absolutely irrefutable is the thousands of pages of evidence in the annual reports of the Department of Employment, the Department of Human Services, and Centrelink, backed by thousands of tables of data from the Centrelink Customer Database, that conclusively prove that the humanitarian disaster caused by the unconstitutional Breaching/Compliance Failure penalty systems, has been effectively concealed with overwhelming efficiency by those responsible for these fatalities.
- Just like James Hardie’s management, the politicians and bureaucrats responsible the breaching triggered fatalities have also effectively gotten clean away with mass murder!
- Whether from asbestos or from breaching legislation, the risks to people’s lives were were known and accepted by amoral people who knew precisely what they were doing when they let people die!
- Readers, let me assure you, that with commercial and political leadership of this dubious morality and integrity, I too “worry about the people losing faith in our democracy altogether.”
In closing I would remind you that Paragraph 5 of the Australian Constitution is quite clear that the law is binding on the people, and that means that politicians, bureaucrats and powerful, wealthy business people are just as accountable before the law for their actions as you and I.The AFP decisions of July 2004 and September 2009 effectively undermined the rule and carried the clear inference that welfare recipients don’t count as far as the Federal Police are concerned.
However, I firmly believe that is a case of either everyone counts or no one counts.
Ronald Medlicott (Christian welfare justice advocate.)
Postscript: Bernie and The Micah Challenge.
(00.11.33) “Anger is a form of energy” says Bernie’s friend. Bernie responds, “Energy’s fine if you have somewhere to put it!” His friend replies “Maybe that the test that God’s given ya.”
Bernie was tested by fire and was faithful until the end. He did not ‘let go of the plough and look back’; instead, with steadfast courage he persevered until the very end. Christians are allowed the luxury of visions and dreams, and for me there is a vision of Jesus greeting Bernie Banton at the gates of Heaven, wrapping his arm around Bernie’s shoulder and saying “Well done mate, you ran a great race”. The challenge found in the Book of Micah, chapter 6, verses 7 and 8, is that God makes it quite clear that he does not want either our wealth or our hollow, empty words; God wants us to get moving and “Do justice”, i.e. to “See that justice is done.” Bernie accepted that challenge and now that he is with Jesus, Bernie’s legacy to all decent law abiding people is to finish the job.
There is no such thing as innocent bystanders:- Apathy is part of the problem but Action is part of the solution. If you watched Devil’s Dust, the question that you now need to ask yourself is, “How can I see that justice is done?”
In the next blog:
9% of Australia’s population lives in South Australia but if estimates of asbestos related fatalities are accurate, 33% of all asbestos triggered fatalities will occur in this state. I will post text from a secret meeting between SA Department of Labour officials and other SA Government officials that may shed some light on why so many people in South Australia are likely to die from an asbestos related diseases.
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