American-style voter ID laws are coming to Britain


VOTING IN MAINLAND Britain is astonishingly easy. You turn up at a polling station and state your name and address. An official finds your name on a list, draws a line through it, then hands you your ballot. The question must have occurred to many people: couldn’t somebody else pretend to be me?

Many Britons believe that happens a lot. In early 2019 Ipsos MORI, a pollster, found that 58% thought personation—pretending to be somebody else—was a serious problem nationally. Asked why they thought that, some said they had heard about fraud in the media while others cited local rumours. A few said it was simply human nature.

Personation was indeed once widespread in Northern Ireland, which is why the province has required identification since 1985. Elsewhere in Britain it is extremely rare. If somebody turns up at a polling station and finds that their name is already crossed off, they are given a “tendered” ballot. Just 1,359 of those were handed out in the December 2019 general election, out of an electorate of 47.5m, and tendered ballots are issued for other reasons too. Personation fraud was alleged 33 times that year, resulting in one conviction and one caution.

Still, the government judges the threat to the democratic process sufficient to warrant a big change to electoral rules. On May 11th it announced that it…

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New laws help Queensland’s first responders experiencing PTSD as MPs recall painful pasts


WARNING: This story contains graphic details that readers may find distressing.

During the session, several MPs detailed their own exposure to trauma as frontline workers before entering politics.

A 2018 report by Beyond Blue found one in three emergency service workers have high or very high psychological distress, and one in four ex-first responders had PTSD

Queensland government minister Craig Crawford was among the MPs who shared a story of “lived experience”.

Mr Crawford was a paramedic for 20 years, as well as a volunteer firefighter in Victoria.

“I saw more cardiac arrests and more fatalities than I can poke a stick at,” Mr Crawford told Parliament.

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Queensland needs stronger laws to act on data breaches and cyber hacking, privacy commissioner says


Companies in Queensland that suffer data breaches may be required to report incidents to the state’s privacy commissioner, under laws now being considered by the state government.

The Office of the Information Commissioner is the agency responsible for overseeing how personal information is protected, but Privacy Commissioner Philip Green said the relevant laws governing the sector were out of date.

Mr Green said his office wanted changes made to the Information Privacy Act 2009, including a mandatory reporting requirement of privacy breaches.

“The Crime and Corruption Commission in Queensland recommended in its Operation Impala that we should have that sort of a law because it helps drive good privacy practices, and also people can learn from the mistakes as well.”

A spokesperson for Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said the minister was considering the recommendation.

The current laws that require mandatory reporting of breaches only cover public sector agencies, and Commonwealth legislation is only applicable to businesses with a turnover of more than $3 million.

Mr Green cited the recent cyber-attack on UnitingCare Queensland as evidence that serious attacks were prevalent in the community, and companies must be vigilant.

“The UnitingCare [incident] is not going to be unique, and other hospitals and healthcare systems have to be vigilant to it happening to their services,” Mr Green said.

As it stands, Victoria is the only Australian jurisdiction to have a code of practice for reporting of data breaches.

“Worldwide, these sorts of laws are coming into place,” Mr Green said.

“Quite a few jurisdictions in the US, Canada has adopted it, the UK, all through Europe, Japan and New Zealand — have already got those laws in place.

“If we did it tomorrow, we would be the first state to legislate for it, and I would like to see [that happen] because I think it sets the right sort of environment for digital service delivery.”

The Office of the Information Commissioner has been calling on the Queensland government to update the Privacy Act to include mandatory reporting of breaches since 2017.

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Tasmanian government releases report into state’s political donation laws


The Tasmanian Government has moved towards toughening the state’s electoral laws, three years after an election that allowed the origins of millions of dollars in political donations to remain secret.

Tasmania has the weakest political donation laws in the country, with only donations above $14,300 required to be declared.

Analysis by Tasmania’s Institute for Social Change in 2019 found just 20 per cent of $25 million donated to Tasmanian political parties in the past decade had been publicly disclosed.

Shortly after the 2018 election, which was dominated by debate over poker machines and donations from hospitality groups to the Liberal Party, the Tasmanian Government announced a review of the state’s Electoral Act.

The final report from that review has now been released.

It includes 11 recommendations — all of which the government has said it supports in-principle.

They include setting a threshold for disclosing political donations that is more in line with other states, setting better timeframes for disclosing donations quickly, and requiring third parties that participate in electioneering to abide by the same rules.

In releasing the report, Premier Peter Gutwein detailed the Tasmanian Government’s position on making amendments to the laws, but further work on the specifics still needs to be done.

Proposed changes include:

  • Reducing the disclosure threshold to between $1,000 and $5,000
  • Donations will need to be disclosed at least six-monthly, and more often during an election campaign
  • Foreign and anonymous donations over a certain threshold will be banned

The introduction of expenditure caps for campaigns would be considered at a later stage, due to “insufficient evidence” they were needed.

Premier Peter Gutwein says the government supports the 11 recommendations “in-principle”.(

ABC News: Luke Bowden

)

Mr Gutwein said the changes would come at a cost for candidates, due to the expectation people who face having their political leanings made public may choose to stop making voluntary donations.

He said that meant some public funding of election campaigns would be needed, estimated to be the equivalent of between $2 and $8 per vote, but accepted that would be a “challenging concept” for some Tasmanians.

Mr Gutwein said it was important to note the changes were not being driven by recommendations from a corruption watchdog.

“There is no evidence of corruption, systemic or otherwise, in terms of the electoral system in Tasmania,” Mr Gutwein said.

The proposed changes would be limited to Tasmania’s House of Assembly.

The government plans to release legislation for consultation after Easter and will table it prior to Parliament’s winter break.

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Lockout laws lifted for Kings Cross after ‘transformation’ — but some in Sydney remain cautious


Kings Cross was once notorious for its history of bloodshed and was known by many as the precinct which shut down Sydney’s nightlife seven years ago.

While much of the city has enjoyed late entry into clubs and extended last drinks for more than a year, the entertainment district is now finally allowed to re-join Sydney after dark.

On the first weekend since the lifting of the last remaining lockout laws, local businesses are optimistic of an increase in late-night trade, but aren’t expecting sudden change.

Hamilton Kings, owner of Potts Point bar Honkas, said venues were preparing the neighbourhood to be “a safer, better place to be than what it was 10 years ago”.

“Back in those days, people were a bit more arrogant, which is not necessarily a great factor,” Mr Kings said.

Violence dropped by 53 per cent after the 2014 laws came into effect.(

ABC TV

)

The laws — which effectively enforced a curfew on drinking and opening hours across the CBD — were introduced in 2014 by then-premier Barry O’Farrell.

After the one-hit punch deaths of Thomas Kelly and Daniel Christie, Mr O’Farrell introduced sweeping restrictions across the city in a bid to reduce alcohol-fuelled violence.

Before last Monday, patrons weren’t able to enter pubs, bars and nightclubs after 1:30am. 

The 3:00am “last drinks” has been extended to 3:30am however, and blanket restrictions on certain drinks, shots, discounted cocktails and use of glass after midnight have already been lifted. 

Assaults in Kings Cross dropped by 53 per cent across a five-year period, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR).

But it also devastated the city nightlife. Several iconic establishments in Kings Cross and at Potts Point permanently closed in light of plummeting patron numbers.

Lockout law rally
In 2019, thousands of people attended a rally in Sydney to oppose the strict lockout laws.(

ABC News: Jean Kennedy

)

Mr Kings hoped history would not repeat itself.

“It’s a different ilk, a lot of the owners are different to back then, the management’s very different,” he said.

“There’s far more collaboration between the licensing police and the business owners.”

The state government believes the precinct has “transformed considerably” and hopes lifting the lockout will be able to drive economic growth in the area.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wanted the Cross to rise as a night-time hub once again.

“The precinct is now well-positioned to continue to evolve into a vibrant lifestyle,” she said.

Some sectors, however, aren’t celebrating a return to form.

St Vincent’s Hospital director of emergency Paul Preisz remembered the “conveyor belt of carnage” that was Kings Cross.

An older man in an emergency department.
Paul Preisz said he hoped people had learnt from Kings Cross’ violent past.(

ABC News: Brendan Esposito

)

He witnessed “terrible things” before the introduction of lockout laws, but admitted the neighbourhood was different.

“Things have changed, the area’s changed, some of the venues aren’t there anymore, other venues have started,” he said.

“I hope we’ve learnt a little bit about how people are and how we can organise.”

Although he doesn’t expect the violence to peak on opening night, his staff are standing by with caution.

“What we’re expecting may not be an instant thing, it might be something we notice over time rather than immediately,” Dr Preisz said.

“We’d be looking for a trend rather than an explosion.”

The changes will be reviewed in 12 months after they come into effect.

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Youth bail laws strengthened – Alice Springs News


LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Today’s Youth Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 will strengthen bail laws, expand prescribed offences and give more powers to police through electric monitoring.

Family Responsibility Agreements will be court ordered and will make sure families are accountable and provide a home environment that does not contribute to youth offending.

Judges will be able to order families of troubled youths to participate in family group conferencing and counselling, education or training, housing management and financial counselling or on-country programs.

If a young person commits a serious breach of bail it will be revoked and they will be taken into remand. A serious breach of bail will include re-offending while on bail, breaching certain electronic monitoring conditions and curfew, failure to attend court, and failing to complete youth diversion.

No presumption of bail will be given to offences such as unlawful entry, unlawful use of a motor vehicle, assault of a worker, assault of police and other serious offences.

Judges will have information on breaches of bail.

Young people behind the wheel of a car can be breath tested the same as adults when driving. Amendments will remove the requirement of a responsible adult being present for a breath-test to occur.

If a young offender fails to complete their diversion, they will have to go back before the courts and have their case reconsidered.

Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services, Nicole Manison.

PHOTO Labor Party.

 

UPDATE 1.20pm

An alliance known as the Justice Reform Initiative has written an open letter to the Chief Minister and Opposition Leader saying the policies are misguided and will only increase the level of incarceration and crime: “The experience of incarceration, even for very short periods including on remand increases the likelihood of further offending,” the letter says.

The alliance includes Pat Anderson AO, human rights advocate; Richard Coates, former magistrate; Ted Egan AO, singer songwriter and former Administrator of the Northern Territory; Olga Havnen, Danila Dilba Health Service in Darwin; Tom Pauling AO QC, former magistrate, Solicitor-General and NT Administrator; and Robert Tickner AO, former Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister.

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Fears Tasmanian building boom will worsen traffic congestion unless planning laws change


Last year’s COVID lockdown provided a welcome respite from traffic congestion for Blackman’s Bay resident Kali Bean.

But as restrictions eased and traffic congestion returned to pre-COVID levels in Tasmanian cities, she once again faced a slow daily commute to drop her kids off at school and get to work in the Hobart CBD.

“It’s very frustrating, we have to leave home at a very particular time,” Ms Bean said.

“If we’re three to five minutes late, we’re held up in traffic and it’s very, very slow and so we do lots of singing and games and keep the kids happy.”

In early 2020, harsh COVID restrictions slashed the number of cars on major routes into Tasmanian CBDs.

According to the Department of State Growth, in April 2020 traffic volumes in Hobart fell by 40 per cent on the Brooker Highway, by 48 per cent on the Southern Outlet and by 50 per cent on the Tasman Bridge.

The Kingston bypass, near Hobart, has opened to traffic six months ahead of schedule.(

ABC Michael Dalla Fontana

)

Traffic volumes halved on the Midland Highway in Launceston and the Bass Highway in Devonport, and dropped by 60 per cent on the Bass Highway in Burnie.

But congestion had bounced back to pre-COVID levels by the end of August 2020.

Planning experts warn the building boom that doubled dwelling approvals in Tasmania last year will make traffic congestion worse, unless planning laws are changed and public transport improved.

Traffic banked on Hobart's Tasman Bridge through the trees
Hobart’s Tasman Bridge is very susceptible to traffic delays.(

ABC News: Brian Tegg

)

More urban fringe housing equals more cars

University of Tasmania Professor of Human Geography and Planning, Jason Byrne, is alarmed by the mushrooming housing developments in urban fringe areas, where he says residents will have to depend on cars for transport to work and school.

A man smiles at the camera with houses and water in the background.
Jason Byrne says despite the growth in urban areas, “planning appears to be an afterthought”.(

Supplied: Jason Byrne

)

“We will definitely see worsening traffic,” he said.

“If you look on the outskirts of Hobart at places like Sorell and the outskirts of Kingston, or Brighton in some of these rapidly growing local government areas, the scale and pace of development is impressive, but also alarming.”

Professor Byrne said to prevent ever-growing traffic congestion, and other health and equity problems, better public transport was needed for growth areas.

He also wants planning laws changed so housing development is encouraged in inner and middle suburbs, instead of on urban fringes.

“I’m very concerned at the moment about the amount of growth that we are seeing in Tasmania,” he said.

“Planning appears to be an afterthought.”

Councils call for updated land use strategies

Kingborough Mayor Dean Winter helped turn the first sod on a new housing development in Kingston on Wednesday.

The development is medium density, and close to shops and services, but with 80 per cent of Kingston residents working in Hobart’s CBD, many residents will still face a long, slow, daily commute.

Tasmanian politicians standing in a group with high-vis vests and hard hats.
Dean Winter (far right) says if planners “do not get it right now, congestion is just going to continue to get worse”.(

ABC News: Laura Beavis

)

Most new housing developments in the municipality are further away from shops and public transport, and Mr Winter said planning solutions were being impeded by an out-of-date Southern Tasmanian Land Use Strategy.

“What we have is a city that has congestion that is far worse than it should be for a city our size. And that’s a result of a lack of focus on strategic planning, over a very long period of time,” Mr Winter said.

He and other Greater Hobart mayors want the strategy to be revised as matter of priority, and are also keen to see progress on the new Metropolitan Plan for Hobart.

Transport Minister Michael Ferguson said the government was working with councils to progress the Metropolitan Plan and to update the Southern Land Use Strategy.

“You’ve got everybody working together so that we can get our planning laws and schemes just right, but importantly as well ensuring that our transport corridors and capacity is better utilised,” he said.

Mr Ferguson said the government was also funding road infrastructure improvements around the state and funding more Metro bus services for growth areas.

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Residential park homeowners fighting rising site fees call for fairer laws


People who have bought homes in residential parks are warning that unjust site fees and unscrupulous operators are threatening their quality of life.

More than 35,000 people live in NSW residential communities where people own a house but lease the land from the operator.

“I worked in a prison for 22 years and I certainly feel that I’m imprisoned here,” Mary Preston, homeowner at Myrtle Glen Lifestyle Community at Stanhope Gardens, said.

“It’s becoming unaffordable and the attitude is if you can’t pay, move out but where do they move to? How do they move?

“Where does the government think they’re going to put these 35,000 people if this is no longer, affordable housing?”

Homeowners say operators have the upper hand under the current Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act.(

ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright

)

Site fees cover the maintenance and operating expenses of the community and, according to the NSW industry body, the average ranges between $120 and $300 per week.

Leyla Moncelet, who lives at Kincumber Nautical Village on the Central Coast and paid at the higher end that range, said she was becoming desperate.

She is on a single pension and receives rental assistance.

“It’s very embarrassing when that happens.”

Man slightly looks to the side of the camera outside of his home
Bob Morris, a homeowner at Kincumber Nautical Village, has taken the matter of unfair site fee increases to NCAT.(

ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright

)

Bob Morris who lives at the same village said the laws did not adequately protect homeowners.

“The balance of power [has] swung totally towards the operators,” Mr Morris said.

The Residential (Land Lease) Communities Act is up for review.

While the Act does not regulate the price of site fees, homeowners and their advocates argue that amendments would strengthen their protections and indirectly improve housing affordability.

‘Unfair’ rises to fees

Mr Morris represented himself and 51 other residents in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) against the Kincumber operator.

In September 2020, the tribunal found the operator breached the Act because it increased site fees by applying more than one fixed method, including a CPI amount, fixed percentage and proportion of outgoings.

The operator has appealed against the decision and the matter is due to be heard this month.

“There are people in here that absolutely have mental health issues worrying about [the site fees],” Mr Morris said.

Court documents show two residents received site fee increase notices of between $13 and $16 per week in 2017.

They were offered a temporary reduction but the operator used those higher fees as a base for the following year’s increase.

In 2018, they received a new weekly increase of between $14 and $18 and were offered another temporary reduction.

Three older people reading a document
Homeowners at Kincumber Nautical Village say unfair site fee increases are impacting people’s mental health.(

ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright

)

The director of Kincumber Nautical Village, Theo Whitmont, said he was “actively engaged with the Residents Committee seeking a positive outcome together”.

Mr Morris wants the government to clarify the original intent of the fixed method and allow residents to challenge excessive increases in the tribunal.

Repairs and maintenance issues

Ms Preston wants operators to be prohibited from increasing site fees to cover the cost of capital expenditure, which adds value to the operators’ long-term assets.

She is contesting site fee increases imposed on homeowners by the operator of Myrtle Glen, Hometown, in 2020 and seeking a reduction through the tribunal.

Woman looks into the darkness, holds a pen with papers underneath her hands
Ms Preston says the state of the park is not worth the rises in site fees.(

ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright

)

Ms Preston claimed the operator justified the rise in fees to partly cover capital assets such as pool infrastructure but had not made those improvements.

“They get a huge amount of money out of the residents living here,” she said.

“The park is just a terrible mess and it’s very, very sad.”

Birdseye view of the roofs of houses
Homeowners say amendments to the Act would strengthen their consumer protection.(

ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright

)

The operator of Myrtle Glen, Hometown, argued the site fees were affordable and “significant investment” has gone into the community.

“Improvements increase the appeal and demand to occupy a site within the community and in turn increases the value of each home owner’s asset,” Hometown Joint Managing Director Stuart Strong said.

“Operating expenses of residential communities increase over time and the legislation makes provision for the operator to increase site fees on that basis.”

Hurdles selling homes

Homeowners also said it was difficult to receive permission from the operator to transfer the terms and fees of a seller’s lease agreement to a buyer, a process known as assigning site agreements.

They argue this means prospective buyers can be forced to pay a higher site fee than the previous owner, which can deter them from purchasing.

House with a for sale sign
There are calls for incoming residents to pay the same fee as the previous owner and not receive an increase.(

ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright

)

“Eventually, you become so desperate because you can’t sell your house that the operator will buy the house at a greatly reduced price.”

Mr Strong said some site agreements had “outdated and unfavourable terms” and the preference was to enter new agreements in line with the Act.

Woman sits on her deck
Mary Preston lives at Myrtle Glen at Stanhope Gardens.(

ABC Central Coast: Sofie Wainwright

)

He said homeowners were “not presenting any evidence of significant capital loss” and some homes took longer to sell when they were “not appropriately priced or not well presented”.

NSW Fair Trading said it had handled more than 400 complaints since the commencement of the Act in November 2015.

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A cheerleader's cursing may reshape American free-speech laws


IT HAS been a half-century since the Supreme Court came to the defence of Mary Beth Tinker, a 13-year-old student who had been suspended for wearing a black armband to school in protest of America’s role in the Vietnam War. Neither teachers nor students “shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate”, the justices ruled, but speech that could cause a “material and substantial” disruption falls outside the umbrella. The question in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., which the justices struggled with for nearly two hours on April 28th, is whether schools can punish uncouth expression made off-campus, too.

Mahanoy involves not a political statement but an expletive-laden cri de coeur. In 2017, Brandi Levy sought solace in Snapchat when she learned she hadn’t made the top cheerleading team. Over the weekend, she posted an image of her upturned middle finger captioned with the message “fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything”. This did not amuse the coaches: they booted her from the squad for a year. The jilted teen sued and two courts ruled that the punishment violated her freedom of speech. Schools may discipline students for disruptive or vulgar speech during class, in the hallway or on school trips, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals held. But they cannot discipline students for intemperate expression outside the schoolhouse gate…

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Report lauds Tasmania’s voluntary assisted dying laws as ‘among safest in the world’


An expert panel has endorsed voluntary assisted dying laws proposed in Tasmania as having among the “most rigorous” safeguards in the world, as department heads estimate it could cost more than $2 million a year to administer.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein asked the University of Tasmania to review independent MLC Mike Gaffney’s Bill after a majority of MPs in both chambers of parliament expressed support for the intent of the legislation last year.

The review — publicly released late on Monday — was not aimed at determining whether the laws should pass, but compared what was proposed in Tasmania with what was already operational in other states and overseas.

“The Tasmanian VAD Bill has numerous provisions to protect individuals and to ensure that access is limited to people who are medically eligible and are acting voluntarily and free from coercion,” the four-person panel wrote.

“Indeed, the process proposed in the Tasmanian VAD Bill for requesting, assessing eligibility for and accessing VAD, and the safeguards built into this process, are among the most rigorous in the world.”

However, the review made five suggested amendments:

  • Replace the fifth and final eligibility assessment with a consent check
  • Clarify what was expected of facilities like religious aged care homes that did not want to participate in allowing access to VAD
  • Provide legislative protections against professional discrimination for health practitioners
  • Allow health practitioners to choose whether they were listed on a register
  • Make it obligatory for health practitioners who do not want to provide VAD to refer patients to someone who will

Mr Gaffney described the panel’s report as “fair”.

“I’ll be keen to see how the government and House of Assembly MPs use this information to finalise deliberations, but I think it’s a just report and I’m fine with it,” Mr Gaffney said.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to go through it in detail yet and I’ll be doing that in the next three or four days.”

Mr Gaffney’s Bill will be debated soon after Parliament returns next week.

Laws to cost $2.4m annually

Mr Gutwein released department heads’ response to the legislation alongside the UTAS review findings on Monday.

ABC News homepage

The report, which encompassed views from the Department of Communities, Health, Justice and Police, Fire and Emergency Management, estimated the laws would cost $2.4 million a year to administer once fully operational from 2023.

“These costs are a ‘best endeavours’ estimate only, noting that the Bill will need to be finalised and implementation issues worked through before final costs can be known,” that report said.

The heads of agency also listed about 70 drafting issues with the Bill, as well as proposed solutions.

In a statement, conservative Liberal MP Michael Ferguson said the departments’ review vindicated his opposition to the laws.

“I understand that there are strong opinions in the community on this issue,” Mr Ferguson said.

Mr Gaffney said there were elements in the heads of agency report that were “wrong, but we will clear them up”.

He noted that the legislation was drafted with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

“Nothing there is insurmountable, but the really important thing is that members have indicated and the community has indicated they want this legislation, therefore there are issues that need to be worked through,” Mr Gaffney said.

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