Lucia Osborne-Crowley

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JOURNALIST

Lucia
Osborne-Crowley

About Me

Who I am

I am a highly skilled journalist, editor and academic in US politics.

I have three years experience in investigative reporting, news reporting, news editing and production. I have worked in print and digital and across local and national platforms. My reporting has focused on news, political analysis, women’s issues and law. My production experience includes website management, publishing content, social media strategy and newsletter creation.

I also have extensive freelance experience across a variety of publishing platforms, including The Saturday Paper, ABC News Online and Women’s Agenda.

My particular interest is in investigative reporting. In 2014 I spent several months as an intern at the Center for Investigative Reporting in California, where I contributed to a large-scale investigation into H1-B visa fraud and exploitative and unlawful working conditions in the US tech industry. The investigation was cited by Senator Chuck Grassley during a hearing in the US Senate about work visa programs and within three weeks of its publication an executive order had been signed by President Obama aimed at improving the H1-B visa program. I also investigated and uncovered an illegal and dangerous housing cartel in Sydney in late 2014. The situation was rectified as a result of the story and the perpetrator was recently convicted in the NSW District Court.

I am also a Juris Doctor candidate at the University of New South Wales, with particular expertise in constitutional law and human rights law.

I have recently been appointed a research assistant to Rosalind Dixon, Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law and Deputy Director of the Herbert Smith Freehills Initiative on Law and Economics. My research work focuses on constitutional and human rights law.

Experience

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  • February 2017--Present

    Research assistant to Professor Rosalind Dixon, University of New South Wales Faculty of Law

    I have recently begun undertaking research assistant work for Rosalind Dixon, Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law and Deputy Director of the Herbert Smith Freehills Initiative on Law and Economics. My research work will focus on constitutional law and human rights law.

  • February 2016--Present

    Contributing journalist, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation

    I have recently been sought out by senior editors and producers at the ABC to work as a regular contributor on its political analysis and commentary desk. In the role I have published articles analysing the US presidential election and broader issues relating to US politics.

  • June 2015--Present

    Freelance journalist, ABC News Online, The Saturday Paper, Women’s Agenda

    After making the decision to leave my full-time reporting role to attend law school, I began work as a freelance journalist and writer for a variety of news publications. My work focuses on politics and law.

  • June 2015--Present

    Paralegal, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers

    My role as a paralegal at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers involves detailed evidence review and the preparation of legal briefs.

  • November 2014--June 2015

    Reporter and Producer, Women’s Agenda (Private Media), Sydney Australia

    In this role, I reported predominantly on issues relating to the role of women in politics and law as well as conducting extensive investigative work and publishing three news stories daily for the website.

  • July 2014--June 2016 (ongoing)

    Sessional academic, The United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney

    In my role as an academic at the United States Studies Centre I assist the department with academic engagement with coursework through facilitating tutorials. Most recently, I taught a subject called ‘US Politics: Elections, Presidents and Laws”, coordinated by Dr Brendon O’Connor, which predominantly focuses on the American political system. My ability to engage with and understand political scientific scholarship allows me to undertake this role with passion and expertise.

  • June 2014--November 2014

    Group Editor, The Alternative Media Group of Australia, Sydney Australia

    As the Group Editor at The Alternative Media Group, I was responsible for the news pages of the group’s local news publications, which include The City Hub, The City News, The Inner West Independent and The Bondi View. In this role I managed reporters, compiled the news list for each paper for each week and conducted my own investigative research and reporting work.

  • February 2014--May 2014

    Investigative reporting intern, The Center for Investigative Reporting, San Francisco USA

    In my role as a researcher at the Center for Investigative Reporting I worked on a large-scale investigation surrounding the unlawful conduct of American technology companies seeking to exploit immigrant workers through the H1-B visa program. My research involved analysing court documents, finding and analysing cases and interviewing specialist lawyers. I assisted reporters and editors in researching various elements of the story and was also involved in much of the ideas work and editorial discussion. My role entailed working with large data sets in order to help frame the investigation and assisting with many research elements of the story. I received two research and writing credits for the investigation.

  • January 2014--February 2014

    Research Intern, The Guardian/The Observer, London UK

    As an intern at the Guardian and Observer offices in London, I assisted the editorial staff with research, fact checking and proofing as well as producing my own original copy. I learned how to operate in a fast-paced newsroom environment and how to initiate and follow through with research for long-form projects. I attended several editorial conferences, which gave me particularly pertinent insight into the operation of a newspaper such as the Guardian, from the conception of various story ideas to their final manifestation in print.

  • October 2011--January 2012

    Features Editor, Helicon Magazine, Bristol UK

    Whilst studying abroad at the University of Bristol I was appointed as the Features Editor of Helicon, a creative arts magazine. This editorial role required me to conduct interviews with artists, photographers and writers as well as to compose feature articles on a range of topics relevant to the Bristol community. This role was truly invaluable in developing my skills as a writer and also further expanded my imaginative capacity in terms of developing ideas for feature articles.

  • 2011--2013

    Music Journalist
    The Music Magazine and themusic.com.au

    I contributed weekly articles to the Drum Media magazine for three years. During this time I wrote regular pieces on new release music as well as reporting on significant music events in and around Sydney.

  • May 2012--2013

    Reporter, Honi Soit Newspaper, Sydney University, Australia

    As a reporter for Honi Soit, the University of Sydney student newspaper, I contributed regular stories on a range of subjects. I wrote predominantly on the topic of current political issues, but have also written arts and culture pieces as well as opinion pieces over the eighteen months of this role.

  • June 2012--2013

    Features Writer, The Sydney Globalist International Affairs Journal

    During 2012-2013 I wrote for the Sydney Globalist, a journal that aims to publish a mix of academic and journalistic articles that address pressing contemporary political issues.

  • January 2011--May 2011

    Editorial Intern
    3D World magazine

    As an intern at 3D World magazine, I wrote regular articles for publication and also assisted the editorial team with research when required.

  • 2005--2010

    Member of the Leichhardt Youth Council

    As a member of the youth council I provided advice on youth issues and regularly spoke at full Council meeting. I was actively engaged in organising music and holiday events for the young people in Leichhardt Council area.

Publications

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  • Trump’s response to conflicts of interest only makes things worse, ABC News Online, 14 December 2014
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  • Trump tape: How will different groups of voters react? ABC News Online, 9 October 2016
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  • Weekend Essay: As the Sanders campaign ends, the movement continues, ABC News Online, 16 July 2016
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  • Sanders v Clinton: It's about more than the nomination, ABC News Online, 7 March 2016
    View

  • 'Not Christian': Will the Pope's attack hurt Trump?, ABC News Online, 19 February 2016
    View

  • Clinton as the first female president: Why aren’t young women convinced? ABC News Online, 10 February 2016,
    View

  • A bill of rights to rein in the rogues, The Saturday Paper, 24 October 2016
    View

  • Reproductive rights, abortion & Zoe’s Law: Why freedom of choice is still feminism’s biggest fight, Women’s Agenda, 17 April 2015,
    View

  • Australia’s day of shame: Children in detention denied human rights and an unrepentant government, Women’s Agenda, 12 February 2015,
    View

Education

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  • 2015--2017

    University of New South Wales, Juris Doctor

    Current WAM (GPA) of 83 (High-level distinction)

  • 2010--2013

    University of Sydney, Bachelor of International and Global Studies (Honours Class I)

    Majoring in Government & International Relations and Philosophy
    Completed in 2013 with First Class Honours (85)

  • 2011--2012

    University of Bristol, education abroad program as part of a Bachelor of Arts (Politics)

    One exchange semester as part of a Bachelor of Arts (Politics)

  • 2004--2009

    Fort Street Selective High School, Petersham

    Selective High School

Academic Achievements

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  • 2016
    Awarded the Dean’s List Prize for best performing JD student in Contract Law

  • 2014
    Appointed a sessional academic in US politics at the University of Sydney

  • 2013
    Awarded a first class grade (85) for Honours degree in International and Global Studies, including a high range grade for the Honours thesis (86)

  • 2012
    Awarded a Sydney University Dean’s List Merit Scholarship for outstanding academic achievement

  • 2010
    Awarded a Sydney University Scholarship for Outstanding Academic Achievement

  • 2009
    Appointed Vice President of the Fort Street High School Student Representative Council; received a Premier’s Award for Outstanding All-Round Academic Achievement

Some of my work

Published Articles

Article

A bill of rights to rein in the rogues

Analysis/opinion piece on the need for a national bill of rights in Australia.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The Saturday Paper
  • Published:
    24 October 2015

A bill of rights to rein in the rogues

Since Malcolm Turnbull’s successful coup for the prime ministership, the nation has waited to see if he will abandon the unpopular and unfair policies that defined the Abbott years. In large part, he hasn’t. Disappointment ensued.

But those who criticise Turnbull for this do so in error. If we want new policies, we do not need a new leader, we need a new government. And if we’ve lately realised that bad governments can unilaterally pursue damaging and even dangerous policies without any recourse until the next election, we might consider building new protections into our new system of governance as well.

Under Tony Abbott we saw his government’s seemingly insatiable desire to extend its power beyond anything Australia has seen before.

It began with the government set on ignoring the findings of a royal commission charged with investigating the legality of keeping children in immigration detention. It continued with the government refusing to be “lectured to” by the United Nations on its human rights obligations. Next the government determined to put itself so far beyond the reach of the rule of law that it decided to empower its immigration minister to revoke citizenship, a plan for which undermining due process was not only a byproduct, but potentially an objective.

The government determined to build a coalmine despite a successful constitutional challenge. And a royal commission in which a judge had to consider whether or not to recuse himself over a question of bias.

And – under a new prime minister – a pregnant refugee, raped on Nauru, flown back to the island in secret; removed from our courts’ jurisdiction so the government could skirt the injunction her lawyers were preparing to fight for.

The reason the Abbott government was free to do these things is because, in Australia, we permit parliamentary supremacy. Our parliament has the power to make and unmake any law it likes, subject to very few exceptions. The supremacy of our parliament means that we have, comparatively, very little legal recourse to correct injustices in the laws it passes.

It also necessarily extends to the executive. So in Australia, if a government wants to expand its powers through legislation and the powers of its ministers, there is no serious impediment to its doing so.

Nor was there intended to be – the system we inherited was created out of an extended tussle between the power of the monarch and the power of the parliament. Parliament won. The structure that resulted from this struggle was always intended to reflect that victory.

This system has never really worried us. Our country was not born of revolution; we have no real reason to mistrust our leaders. And so we did not need to institute the intricate web of checks and balances required by countries with foundational histories of struggle between the people and all-powerful rulers. What’s more, the system has always worked relatively well. Until now, as we witness our government seeking unprecedented and unchecked powers.

Abbott’s ousting was not enough to stop these alarming recent tactics – strategies that sought to undermine our political system and obfuscate the rule of law. We know that Abbott was partial to the captain’s call, but he did not act entirely alone. Many of his partners in those endeavours – most notably Peter Dutton and George Brandis – retain ministerial positions in our government.

A leadership challenge is not a mechanism for us to keep the government in check, and it should not be treated as such. Quite the opposite – it is the function of a system that vests unbridled power in parliament and, by extension, the party that controls it. This is not the time for Australia to breathe easy.

Our only defence against an unjust administration are our federal elections, and the Abbott era has shown us the time between those elections can feel very long.

This forces Australia to face an unpalatable truth. The reason Turnbull cannot shift on the party’s inhumane policies is because we as a nation chose them. We elected his party based on a platform of stopping the boats and getting rid of the carbon tax, and so on, even if we may not have foreseen the extent of the determination to ignore human rights and to swim against the tide of climate science.

But perhaps the Abbott years and the recklessness that defined them are testament to the fact that some principles should be enshrined beyond the reach of political expediency. Perhaps they are an argument for revising the aspects of our system that make us vulnerable to this breed of government.

The past two years have betrayed the weakness in our system, and in response it may be time to reconsider an Australian bill of rights.

Our constitutional and legal framers and politicians wanted to maintain the integrity of our Westminster structure of parliamentary supremacy. To draft a bill of rights, they reasoned, would be to enshrine a limitation on the power of parliament. It would undermine the legitimacy of our democracy and funnel power away from the representatives we elect.

In theory, this is true. But parliament is capable of misusing this power, and we’ve recently seen how.

A bill of rights framework operates to enunciate and protect the rights and freedoms we consider unassailable, and ensures that no law and no parliament can will these rights away. It does not negate our parliament’s power to write legislation and policy to reflect its decisions about how our country should operate. It simply demands that it makes these decisions without relying on the violation of the basic rights and dignities of any person or section of society.

This path has been charted by almost every other Western democratic nation on earth, and even in two of our own states, without undermining the vitality of democracy.

There are, of course, many different ways in which such a bill might manifest itself – the strict, judicially enforceable structure of the United States’ constitutional Bill of Rights at one end of the spectrum, and the British model, empowering courts only to declare a law incompatible with human rights but not empowering them to strike it down, at the other. Whichever we choose, a clear statement of our willingness to uphold rights would create a key protection that we are currently missing.

It would enshrine in our society a willingness to defend the most vulnerable among us. It would preserve the rights of those not represented by the parties and policies our majority elects. It would also work to protect those who cannot vote but are endangered by our laws more than anyone: those imprisoned and abused in detention centres.

Many opponents of an Australian bill of rights argue that we are already sufficiently protected, because judges across the country in recent years have displayed a commitment to considering international human rights jurisprudence. We refer to the development of a “common law bill of rights”, upheld by Australian courts.

This comes with an important qualification. In a system steeped in parliamentary supremacy, the judiciary’s power to protect our rights is limited. A judge may only act to protect rights when parliament’s intention is sufficiently unclear. If parliament passes a law that explicitly aims to erode our rights, the courts are powerless to stop it. Equally, if a court interprets a law in a way contrary to parliament’s intention, parliament can change the law. All it must do is include an unequivocal intention to set aside rights standards, immune to the act of judicial interpretation, and the courts must fall in line.

Earlier this year, the Abbott government sought to pass a bill to empower the immigration minister to strip Australians suspected of engaging in terrorism of their citizenship. The bill permitted the minister to do so without a criminal conviction, without a trial, or, for that matter, an arrest or charge. The section was titled “renunciation by conduct”.

To avoid interference by courts, the legislation included one key clause: “The rules of natural justice do not apply.”

Natural justice refers, at its core, to our commonly understood notion of the right to a fair trial. All the parliament had to do was draft that single clause in order to legislate it away. In a society underpinned by a bill of rights, we would be protected against this kind of law.

The legal and political issues on the path to implementing a bill of rights are complex but not insurmountable, and the events in our country’s recent memory demonstrate why the question should be vigorously and meaningfully considered.

Parliamentary supremacy may, in theory, amount to an expression of democracy in its purest form. In reality, though, it does little to insulate against a government determined to ensure that “the rules of natural justice do not apply”.

Article

Donald Trump's response to conflicts of interest only makes things worse

Analysis piece on the legal problems with Donald Trump’s business associations and conflicts of interest.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    14 December 2017

Donald Trump's response to conflicts of interest only makes things worse

It's no secret that Donald Trump has a sprawling global real estate empire.

But now that he is president-elect of the United States, Trump's extensive business operations leave him mired in conflicts of interest that threaten to undermine the integrity of the presidency itself.

This issue is less captivating than some of the other habits of this unconventional president, but it is no less serious.

The fact that Trump's own personal business interests are tied up in multi-million-dollar operations taking place in at least 20 countries across the world should make us very worried.

So should the fact that Trump is in charge of appointing government officials who will soon be called on to make decisions about unethical business practices in which Trump is personally implicated.

It is conceivable that this will put Trump in the position of choosing between the country's interests and his own. In this respect, his presidency is truly without precedent.

Trump has already broken with tradition by accepting a phone call from the president of Taiwan. Due to the US's strict One China policy, it's been almost four decades since a US president or president-elect has communicated with a sitting Taiwanese leader.

Last week, it was reported that Trump has plans to build a luxury hotel in Taiwan's capital.

Trump's first meeting with a foreign leader as president-elect was with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In a highly unconventional move, Trump was joined in the meeting by his daughter Ivanka, who not only serves as vice-president for development and acquisitions in The Trump Organisation, but also has business interests of her own; she is looking to close a deal with a Japanese clothing giant whose largest shareholder is the state-owned Development Bank of Japan.

And we have now discovered that Ivanka Trump plans to move her family to Washington, DC.

Of course it's possible that neither of these events were motivated by Trump's business aspirations, but they certainly don't look good.

And regardless of where Trump's loyalty truly lies, aesthetics matter in politics; nowhere more so than in foreign policy.

Even the appearance of Trump toying to with long-settled geopolitical stability in Asia could have repercussions, both for the US and here at home.

Trump's international business conflicts aren't limited to our own geopolitical neighbourhood. Here's a quick rundown of some of the others:

• Trump is a part-owner of a building in Manhattan that carries a $950 million debt, some of which is owed to a large government-owned bank in China.
• The president-elect has made up to $10m to date from Trump Towers Istanbul. Also involved in this huge development is one of Turkey's biggest oil and media moguls, a company that has used its media platform to vocally support the repressive regime of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
• A large development in the ex-Soviet nation of Georgia, which had been put on hold in 2013, was reopened soon after Trump's election. It has been suggested that the Georgian government, implicated as it is in the consequences of the US-Russian relationship, may have supported the project in order to influence Trump's foreign policy in the region.
• During his presidential run, Trump opened eight new companies in Saudi Arabia. On the campaign trail in August, he said: "Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much."
• Construction of a Trump office building in Buenos Aires is being held up due to an issue with the granting of a permit. The subject of the granting of the permit was reportedly discussed during the President-elect's first phone call with his Argentinian leader Mauricio Macri.

It's not just on the world stage that Trump has problems

Trump has borrowed up to $2.5 billion from Deutsche Bank in the last 20 years. The US Department of Justice is currently negotiating a settlement of up to $14 billion with the bank as a penalty for its predatory lending practices in the lead-up to the global financial crisis.

The settlement will be overseen by the incoming attorney-general, whom Trump will personally appoint.

The irony here should not be lost on us. Trump lambasted Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign for being effectively indebted to the large financial institutions that brought down the US economy in 2008. Trump, on the other hand, is literally indebted to them.

And these are only the conflicts we know about. Unlike any presidential candidate in recent history, Trump has refused to release his tax returns; there could be any number of more serious conflicts that he's managed to keep hidden.

Trump's response to this issue has provided yet more cause for concern.

In continuing to break with the tradition of his recent presidential colleagues, he has resisted calls to put his assets in a blind trust in order to shield against these conflicts of interest.

Trump did announce via Twitter that he will be "leaving my busineses (sic) before January 20th". But he has indicated only that he will transfer the business to his children Don and Eric, plus executives.

This is not exactly the kind of firewall a blind trust is intended to create between a sitting president and his business interests. Here's why:

The concept of a blind trust involves entirely separating yourself from your assets and handing over control to another person.

After the handover, the President-elect is meant to have absolutely no knowledge of, let alone input in, the decisions made about the business.

You can see why it's hard to buy his argument here — a true blind trust would mean Trump would have to impose wide-ranging restrictions on communication with his own children. So Trump's argument starts to feel pretty tenuous pretty quickly.

'A walking, talking violation of the Constitution'

Trump has defended his position by saying that presidents are exempt from the federal law that punishes government officials found to have conflicts of interest.

He is right about this — the president is excluded from the operation of the law — but this is doesn't mean he couldn't find himself in legal trouble; scholars have suggested that Trump's position could violate the US Constitution's Emoluments Clause, which prevents a president from receiving gifts from foreign governments.

If Trump's developments receive favourable treatment in hopes of influencing his policy, he may well find himself offending the Constitution itself.

The Emoluments Clause has not been heavily litigated — so rare is the position Trump has placed the country in — so the scope of it remains unclear.

But the interpretation given to it by constitutional scholars indicates it could well cause problems for the President-elect.

Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Tribe has told MSNBC in no uncertain terms that Trump is in danger of violating the clause:

"He thinks of himself as a babe magnet, but he's an emoluments magnet. And all around the world, everybody wants to go to his hotels and not the competitors, and wants to give him a variance or a special land use permit." he said.

He was also very clear about the fact that Trump's decision to hand over his business to his children does nothing to help his legal situation.

"There's simply no way short of absolutely liquidating all of his cash and assets into a blind trust, and not handed over to his kids," he said. Tribe said that anything short of this would make Trump a "walking, talking violation of the constitution from the moment he takes the oath".

Regardless of their legality, Trump's conflicts are certainly a breach of both presidential conventions and widely held standards of good government. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely this argument will hold much sway with the electorate.

As Trump himself has pointed out, voters knew about his transnational business empire when they elected him.

In fact, his business acumen was often cited by voters as a reason to support him.

It seems unlikely that these voters will turn on Trump based on the very thing that brought many of them aboard the Trump train to begin with.

The list of Trump's potential conflicts of interest that we are aware of is long and getting longer. Is it unconstitutional? Probably. Is it unethical? Absolutely. Will it matter? The answer to that is anyone's guess.

Whether or not this resonates with Trump's supporters, to the rest of us it should matter a great deal.

Instability in US foreign and domestic policy will have implications the world over, including for Australia.

The question we need to be asking ourselves now and for the next four years is will the 45th president act to further US interests, or his own?

Article

Reproductive rights, abortion & Zoe’s law: Why freedom of choice is still feminism’s biggest fight

Opinion piece on the state of reproductive rights and abortion law in NSW and around Australia.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Women’s Agenda
  • Published:
    17 April 2015

Reproductive rights, abortion & Zoe’s law: Why freedom of choice is still feminism’s biggest fight

Women’s reproductive rights are still a subject of debate in Australia, and indeed across the world, particularly in light of a series of significant legal reforms.

Recently in Australia, Victoria and Tasmania have joined the states and nations across the world that entirely decriminalised abortion, endowing women with both the legal and practical right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

But reproductive rights reform has not always been – indeed still isn’t - a linear trajectory towards greater self-determination for women.

In the United States, many states have recently enacted foeticide laws, allowing courts to convict women for harm to their own foetus during pregnancy. Most recently, an Indiana woman named Purvi Patel was sentenced to twenty years in prison when she went into early labour and subsequently lost her child.

Reproductive rights may not be wholly moving forward in Australia, either. The state parliament in NSW has, for two years, been attempting to pass a bill that would fundamentally change the state’s reproductive rights law. The bill, called Zoe’s Law, creates legal personhood for an unborn child at or over 20 weeks gestation. If this bill were passed, it may leave open the possibility of a mother being punished for her treatment of her own foetus, given the woman and the unborn child would legally be considered two separate entities.

The bill has been introduced to NSW parliament twice and has not yet been passed. It is expected that the bill may be reintroduced in the upcoming parliamentary session.

In light of this proposed reform and the questions raised by Patel’s sentencing in Indiana, we thought we would ask some questions about reproductive rights. Why are they so important? Are they being eroded? Is it possible that a sentence like Patel’s could ever be handed to an Australian woman?

To answer these questions, Women’s Agenda consulted three experts – health and reproductive rights lawyer Julie Hamblin, legal and political scholar Dr Kate Gleeson, and principal solicitor and CEO of Women’s Legal Service Tasmania Susan Fahey.

What are reproductive rights and why are they important?

At their narrowest level, reproductive rights exist to protect a woman’s self-determination and autonomy over her body and her health when it comes to having children, starting a family or protecting herself against sexually transmitted disease. Broadly, the state of a society’s reproductive rights for women also affects their autonomy over their economic, social, family and professional lives. These rights are aimed to provide a woman complete control over the decisions she makes about her body, her health and her life. The most important reproductive rights – and the most contentious – are a woman’s right to an abortion and a woman’s right to birth control.

Historically, many societies have been slow to enact and uphold women’s reproductive rights. So slow, in some cases, that they still have not reached even basic levels of protection for these rights. The growth of reproductive rights for women, beginning with landmarks such as the invention of the contraceptive pill, necessitated a shift away from ideas about male control of family life and of women’s sexual lives. The right to end male control of these issues was hard won.

Women’s autonomy and self-determination has been fought for in many different arenas throughout history – the right to vote, the right to divorce, the right to be represented in parliament. In large part, many of the battles of a woman’s control of her life have been fought and won. Reproductive rights are among very few autonomy-related rights that are still in contention. In this way, the struggle for reproductive autonomy is hugely significant.

As Dr Kate Gleeson told Women’s Agenda, “the central question of reproductive rights is control. They are about women’s autonomy to choose what happens to their body and health”. As CEO and principal solicitor of Women’s Legal Tasmania Susan Fahey explained, “this is one of the only legal issues that is constantly, reliably under attack. The onslaught has never faltered”.

The right to abortion - a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy - remains the most important issue for reproductive rights, in Australia and around the world. The right to an abortion protects women from being made to carry a child they cannot raise, for economic, social, psychological or health-related reasons. It also protects women who have fallen pregnant as a result of violence and abuse. It also simply protects the right of a woman to decide whether or not she is ready and willing to have a child.

So where are we at with reproductive rights in Australia?

In Australia, the states and territories have markedly different levels of protection when it comes to reproductive rights. Women’s reproductive rights are best protected in Tasmania, following a recent campaign to overhaul abortion law. Tasmania has decriminalised abortion entirely and enacted 150 metre exclusion zones around abortion clinics, within which space it is unlawful to protest abortion or harass a woman using the clinic.

Victoria comes in at a close second, having also decriminalised abortion but having not enacted protections for women seeking abortions. NSW and Queensland are far behind – in both states, abortion, while accessible, is technically illegal and still written into each state’s criminal code.

This is a source of confusion for many – women can technically access abortions in NSW, so how is it possible that it is illegal?

“NSW is one of only two states that has not amended its abortion law, which dates back 100 years or more. In NSW, abortion is still a crime – both for the woman undergoing it and for the doctor performing it. The Crimes Act does not specify in which circumstances an abortion is lawful or unlawful, so this must be determined by the courts,” Sydney health lawyer and reproductive rights specialist Julie Hamblin explained to Women’s Agenda.

Whosoever, being a woman with child, unlawfully administers to herself any drug or noxious thing, or unlawfully uses any instrument or other means, with intent in any such case to procure her miscarriage, shall be liable to imprisonment for ten years.

These are the words currently governing abortion in the NSW Crimes Act. They state that unlawful abortion may result in imprisonment, but does not specify how the legality of an abortion is determined. This has thus been determined by the courts over the years and, in general, judges have set precedents allowing abortion to be lawful as long as the doctor has a reasonable belief that continuing the pregnancy would have a negative physical or psychological impact on the mother.

These precedents allow abortion to be accessible, at least in theory, in NSW. But the technical illegality still poses significant barriers.

“The legality of abortion must be determined by each individual judge in each individual case – there is no certainty for any woman in NSW that she will not be prosecuted for having an abortion," Hamblin explained.

“Worse still, judges must determine the legality of an abortion based on the reasonable belief of the doctor that doing so is in the best interests of the woman – legally, the woman’s beliefs about her body and health are irrelevant. This is a deeply unsatisfactory legal position when it comes to women’s reproductive rights.”

Many legal and medical academics believe abortion should be decriminalised in NSW and its lawfulness explicitly protected by the Crimes Act to eliminate this uncertainty.

While this may seem like a technicality, and that in practice women do have access to abortions even under laws like this, legal experts say this is not always the case.

“We’ve seen so many women who sought medical advice when they fell pregnant and were told by pro-life doctors that abortion is illegal. These doctors did not specify that there are circumstances in which a judge can determine it is legal, so the women assumed their only choices were to have the child or face going to gaol,” Fahey told Women’s Agenda.

“Practically, yes, some women have access to abortion in NSW. But only if they have enough disposable income and access to a clinic – this excludes many, many women of lower socio economic states and women living in rural NSW,” Hamblin said.

Because of abortion’s place in NSW’s criminal code, it is not performed in public hospitals. For this reason and many others, Hamblin says abortion will never be free of stigma until is it entirely decriminalised.

“The taint of criminality is a significant problem for the autonomy and self-determination of NSW women,” she said.

So will NSW decriminalise abortion? It’s hard to tell, but all three lawyers that Women’s Agenda consulted for this article believed it is inevitable that abortion will be decriminalised at some stage in the future.

“We know that in NSW most people agree that a woman should have safe, affordable access to abortion when she needs it. So we have a law that is out of step with the majority public opinion, and we have a very vocal minority winning out when it comes to abortion law. As in any pluralist society, eventually our law and policy will reform to favour the majority opinion rather than the minority,” Hamblin said.

If lawyers and doctors are pushing for decriminalisation, where does Zoe’s Law fit in?

Zoe’s Law does not directly refer to or influence abortion law – it merely allows courts to prosecute harm done to a foetus by creating legal personhood for that foetus.

However, as Hamblin explains, “if a foetus becomes a legal entity, that is very powerful evidence for judges to consider when making a decision about the lawfulness of an abortion.”

“Supporters of Zoe’s Law say the bill will not affect abortion, but enacting legal personhood for a foetus in the context of our vague legislation about the legality of abortion is dangerous”.

Hamblin and Fahey agreed that in this context, Zoe’s Law could have numerous damaging consequences – intended or otherwise – for women’s reproductive autonomy in NSW.

The passing of Zoe’s Law would also place a powerful – perhaps definitive – roadblock in the path towards decriminalisation. As Hamblin explains, if NSW enacted Zoe’s Law and created legal personhood for a foetus and then subsequently decriminalised abortion, this would amount to legislating murder.

Fahey says it is crucial that NSW law moves in the direction of progress, as Tasmania’s has, rather than regress towards greater external control of women’s bodies.

“Tasmania’s new abortion laws doesn’t make abortion compulsory, we are not forcing it on anyone, we have simply legislated the right to choose and the right to the freedom of that choice,” she explained.

She and Hamblin both agreed that decriminalision would not only protect individual women from potential prosecution, but it would lead to great strides in terms of ending the stigma around abortion. Zoe’s Law, on the other hand, may do the opposite on both counts.

Foetal personhood is the legal principle that underpins the United States foeticide laws – the ones which led to women like Purvi Patel being sentenced to twenty years in prison for her foetus’s death. Could Zoe’s Law open NSW up to this possibility? All three lawyers consulted by Women’s Agenda said it is unlikely – they agreed it is too difficult to compare the American and Australian legal systems, and that the moral, religious and political values informing abortion law in the US are too strong to be comparable to ours.

However, even if Zoe’s Law is unlikely to result in such an extreme legal situation, the lawyers agreed, it is certainly a step in the wrong direction when it comes to women’s reproductive rights.

Article

Weekend Essay: As the Sanders campaign ends, the movement continues

Longform analysis piece on the end of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and what might come next for the Sanders movement.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    16 July 2016

Weekend Essay: As the Sanders campaign ends, the movement continues

As the world's attention turns towards Hillary Clinton's fight against Donald Trump in the general election, it's not at all the case that it turns away from Bernie Sanders and the campaign he waged, writes Lucia Osborne-Crowley.

On Wednesday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders endorsed his Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton and next weekend the party will officially nominate her its presidential candidate. But while the world's attention turns towards Hillary Clinton's fight against Donald Trump in the general election, it's not at all the case that it turns away from Bernie Sanders and the campaign he waged.

There was a time when the Clinton candidacy was seen as a foregone conclusion. No-one expected she would be faced with a formidable challenge from the left, in the form of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

In some ways Sanders was the archetypal anti-establishment candidate that we've seen rise countless times on the right in America - he claimed to oppose the political establishment and challenge the dominance of the Washington elite. But there are many more senses in which Sanders is atypical - while a challenge to the political elite is a common feature of American politics, a very real challenge to the economic status quo is rare indeed.

Bernie Sanders brought into the political mainstream the idea that severe economic inequality is not a necessary evil but the by-product of an economic system that champions individualism and competition over public welfare. Sanders challenged the potent and growing inequality that has been produced by the economic conventions and institutions established over the last four decades, including a move toward privatisation of public functions and institutions, increasingly open international markets encouraging fierce global competition, the resulting disintegration of the trade union movement, and a deregulated financial services and banking sector.

In short, his was a challenge to the broad neoliberal consensus in contemporary politics - the agreement from both sides of politics that a free, self-regulating and largely privatised market is preferable to an economy subject to large government intervention and expenditure on social services and welfare. He brought into the political mainstream the idea that severe economic inequality is not a necessary evil but the by-product of an economic system that champions individualism and competition over public welfare; and one that political action has the power to change. In America - indeed, around the world - that idea remains truly radical.

But the ideas that Sanders presented have not always been considered radical. Many describe him as a socialist, but in truth he isn't. Sanders does not advocate for a change to the fundamental capitalist structures in which American society operates; he simply proposes a reorganisation of wealth within that system to create a far greater government-led safety net and a decreased focus on the internal logic of a free market. These notions are not new when placed in historical perspective; in fact they formed the core of Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s, and Sanders' campaign would have found a comfortable home among New Deal Democrats. But the New Deal coalition has long since come undone and a new political order has risen to replace it. When read in this context, perhaps Sanders' being labelled a socialist - something truly historically foreign to American politics - is indicative of how far the pendulum has swung towards a consensus on the wisdom of the neoliberal agenda.

The ideas Sanders articulated won't die with his presidential campaign because they didn't start with it.

The radicalism of this challenge felt all the more poignant by being cast against the history and reputation of the Clintons. Bill Clinton is often credited with entrenching many of the institutional and legal systems that facilitated the Global Financial Crisis, not least of which being the repeal of the depression-era legislation regulating the financial services industry, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.

The key to understanding how the ideas that Sanders articulated won't die with his presidential campaign is that they didn't start with it. Sanders' candidacy was not the beginning of an ideological movement - or indeed the end of one - but an important chapter in the life of a movement that has been gathering momentum for several years now, and one that is unlikely to recede.

Before Sanders there was Occupy Wall Street

The centrepieces of Sanders' campaign - fighting economic inequality and an economy controlled by the billionaire class, fairer wages and more and better jobs, reform of America's largest financial institutions, and reducing the influence of big money on politics - were first articulated by the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in 2011 in response to the financial crisis and the damaged system it exposed.

The Occupy movement was short-lived, and many regarded it as a failure; a blip on the political map. They were wrong, and Sanders' success is proof of that.

Occupy Wall Street was indeed fleeting and not particularly well-attended, but its power was never supposed to be in its longevity as an organised movement. Its power was in bringing to the forefront of political consciousness an issue that had been festering in the shadows since wages began stagnating in the US in the 70s, and economic inequality was set on an intractable path towards greater and greater disparity.

Occupy was less of a movement than a moment, but it was a significant one because it gave people permission to challenge a system often seen as unimpeachable. It was a protest that began and remained outside political and institutional establishments - but the ideas it raised did not disappear but were left where they fell, ready to be picked up and resuscitated as a new form of oppositional politics. That's precisely what Sanders did.

In 2013 I interviewed Professor Noam Chomsky, a celebrated professor of linguistics, an authority on historical social movements and a lifelong activist himself, about Occupy Wall Street and economic inequality for my research thesis on the issue. His comments about the protest - about what it meant then, and what it would mean in the future - feel particularly prescient in the wake of the Sanders insurgency.

"It has already been hugely significant," he told me then.

There has been a change in the general mentality. The recognition of the tremendous inequality and injustice that has been imposed over the past generation is now very widespread. It was simmering somewhere just below the surface before but now it is in everybody's awareness. He said that Occupy mattered because it sent the message that neoliberal institutions are not so powerful as to be impervious to challenge.

There used to be a large amount of antagonism towards institutions, and nobody felt like they could do anything to challenge them. Engendering that sense of hopelessness and disconnection from one another is a tremendous technique of control, and I think the Occupy movement broke out of it by letting people understand that there are things we can do.”

I asked Professor Chomsky if he thought the ideas behind Occupy would resurface in another form. He nodded, thoughtfully.

"Yes, because the problem is getting worse and nothing is being done about it," he said.

"And the thing about issues like this is that once it is brought into the political consciousness, it will remain there." The last phrase was slow and deliberate.

He recognised that no institutional change had resulted from Occupy, but reminded me that systemic changes like this one take time.

"Something as deeply rooted in the changes in the economy and social structure during the whole neoliberal period - that's 40 years now - you can't change that in a minute," he said.

And, he said, the proposals put forward by Occupy were already starting to be edged forward on the agenda back in 2013 when we spoke - proposals like reform of corporate tax and breaking up the big banks. His view was that its future depended simply on whether anyone chose to "pick up the ideas and run with them". He explained that whoever picks up the thread of the movement will need to bring in a much larger percentage of "the 99 per cent" into the fold. Participation in the original Occupy protest was important but limited, he told me, and whoever continues the process would need to transform it into a popular platform.

Arguably, Sanders has done just that. And the progress made by Sanders will need to be picked up, in turn, by whoever comes after him. This is why Sanders' campaign matters in ways that extend far beyond the primaries, or even the presidency.

Many of the activists and leaders of Occupy became the foot soldiers that fuelled Sanders' campaign.

The connection between Occupy and Sanders is practical as well as ideological - many of the activists and leaders of Occupy became the foot soldiers that fuelled Sanders' campaign. In New York, Occupy participants all over the state joined together to organise rallies and get-out-the-vote drives for Sanders in the lead up to the primaries.

This is something that political science scholarship has long understood about social movements - that activism begets activism, and that the participants enlivened by one movement or moment of protest, and the connections they forge in doing so, will go on to define the next chapter in the movement's history. This is certainly true of Occupy and Sanders, and something Chomsky noted in our interview. Perhaps the most important effect, he said, will be on the participants. If they can use the connections they made, and the lessons they learned about challenging the economic status quo, their movement won't wither away. Equally, these same participants, and the millions more they galvanised under the Sanders banner, will go on to lead or propel whatever comes next in the push back against the perceived injustice of neoliberal institutions.

Even within the presidential arena, Sanders' legacy will continue to have an impact. His pressure on Clinton has led her to concede a considerable amount of policy ground on the subject of economic inequality, and rumour has it that she is considering Elizabeth Warren - the closest the US Congress has to an ideological equivalent of Sanders - to run on her ticket as Vice President. Outside of the West Wing, in the cities and towns of America, it seems likely the insurgency will continue to grow.

This is why Sanders matters - and much more than a single primary campaign would suggest. In the words of Occupy Wall Street, you cannot evict an idea whose time has come. Once an idea has entered the political consciousness, it will remain there.

Article

Sanders v Clinton: It's about more than the nomination

Analysis piece on the issues at stake in the Democratic primary contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and what the outcome might mean for the future of the party.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    16 March 2016

Sanders v Clinton: It's about more than the nomination

It's now clear Bernie Sanders will need an electoral miracle to catch Hillary Clinton following her victories in this week's Democratic primaries. But it's equally clear he has re-shaping the party - and her - in his political image. Lucia Osborne-Crowley writes.

Hillary Clinton has substantially increased her lead over Bernie Sanders in the bid for the Democratic presidential nomination following five important primaries that took place yesterday.

Voters in Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri all went to the polls, and with large numbers of delegates at stake in most of them and an increasingly unpredictable race on foot, the results were critical. They were also, it turns out, fairly unequivocal.

Clinton won decisive victories in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina - the biggest states of the group - and narrower victories in Illinois and Missouri (where she edged out Sanders by 0.2 per cent). In Florida, a state offering up a total of 214 delegates, Clinton won a resounding 66 per cent of the vote. She ended the night extending her lead of "pledged delegates" - those determined by popular vote - to over 300.

It is now clear Sanders needs an electoral miracle in the remaining states to catch up to Clinton.

Following Sanders' unexpected win in Michigan last week - considered one of the biggest upsets in electoral history - it looked possible that he might pull off surprise victories in the other Midwestern, industrial states that voted yesterday. He didn't, and as a result some Democratic Party strategists are suggesting that he should drop out of the race to allow the party to settle on Clinton as its candidate, and focus on beating the Republicans in November.

But the Sanders/Clinton battle is more than a candidacy contest. It is a protracted battle over the identity of the party itself and the side of politics it represents. It's a tug-of-war between the neoliberalism of recent decades and the democratic socialism Sanders envisions.

Struggles over first principles should matter most in politics, and should be given primacy when they emerge. The longer this conversation persists, the more clarity it will gain, and the better equipped the party will be to accommodate the concerns and demands of its supporters in the future. This existential and ideological contest should be allowed to run its course.

If Sanders' goal was to force a sharp left turn out of the Clinton campaign – to force her to respond to those disillusioned with centrist politics – he has achieved it unequivocally.

This appears to be Sanders' own view - he has vowed to fight Clinton for the nomination until the convention. And with the leftover momentum from Michigan and the fact that the next six to eight states to hold primaries and caucuses are expected to favour Sanders, albeit with only small delegate gains on offer, his message will continue to reverberate for some months yet.

Even though any realistic chance of a Sanders nomination has been scuppered, the significance and consequences of his campaign are no less real. Commentators have suggested that after Sanders' success in Michigan, Clinton courted the big Midwestern states this week by sounding more like her rival than ever - that she won not by opposing Sanders, but by emulating him.

"Hillary Clinton won Ohio and had a Super Tuesday by riding the economic populist tide instead of fighting it," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in a statement. "The primary continues - but no matter who wins, the center of gravity has fundamentally shifted in the Democratic Party."

If Sanders' goal was to force a sharp left turn out of the Clinton campaign - to force her to respond to those disillusioned with centrist politics - he has achieved it unequivocally. And despite her decisive victories yesterday, the fact remains that if Clinton is to win the White House, she will have to continue to accommodate the ideological challenge that Sanders represents and the voters who support it.

This kind of ideological challenge - especially if it forces leaders to reconsider entrenched political positions at the behest of voters - is politics at its very best.

There is, however, practical wisdom in the argument that the Democratic Party should put the primaries behind it and focus its attention on facing the Republicans in November. The longer the primary race rolls on, the more time and capital spent fighting off Sanders, the less energy remains for the general election. With Trump's support growing by the day and a Trump nomination looking more likely than ever, it is easy to see why this would be an intimidating prospect.

In yesterday's primaries Trump won overwhelming victories in Florida, North Carolina and Illinois. Marco Rubio - often touted as the establishment's best chance against Trump - suspended his campaign after an embarrassing loss in his home state. The Republican Party - deep in the throes of an identity crisis of its own - is fast losing alternatives to a Trump candidacy.

Many commentators - including Rubio yesterday - have said that the rise and rise of Donald Trump is the fault of a Republican establishment that failed to take him seriously until it was too late. If the Democrats are to win the presidency, they will need to do whatever it takes to avoid making that same mistake. Perhaps the strongest antidote to a Trump presidency is a Democratic Party that has been forced to consider very carefully what it stands for.

Article

Trump tape:
How will different groups of voters react?

Analysis piece breaking down the demographics of Trump supporters and how each demographic might react to the news of the “Trump tape”.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    9 October 2016

Trump tape: How will different groups of voters react?

The presidential campaign of Republican nominee Donald Trump appears to be in freefall after the Washington Post published a series of offensive comments made by Trump and caught on a hot mic in 2005.

The recording, dubbed the "Trump tape", involves the nominee making sexual aggressive comments that many have observed amount to his advocating sexual assault.

Trump issued an apology for the remarks late on Friday night in the US. He also characterised the response to the tape as a "distraction" from the real issues in the presidential campaign, hoping to play down its significance.

With the second presidential debate only a few hours away and the media still consumed by the scandal, he is unlikely to have much luck with this approach.

The response to the tape in the mainstream media, on social media and among the political establishment has been swift and decisive. The Republican party elite publicly abandoned Trump en masse over the course of the weekend.

It appears that for the first time since his ascendency began, Trump is in real trouble among his Washington colleagues. Republican Party powerbrokers are calling for his resignation.

So from the perspective of political leaders, the verdict is in on the Trump tape. But the real question - and the one the Republican establishment will be furiously investigating as we speak - is will it matter to the voters?

Starting from a low base

This is particularly important in an election defined by anti-establishment sentiment. Trump's supporters were won over by his rejection of the political elite - will they care that the political elite has finally rejected him in return?

Trump's popularity among the voting population is already remarkably low for a major party candidate. Following his poor performance in the first presidential debate, Trump's support slumped further and has been down in the polls ever since. Given that campaign stood on precarious ground to begin with, one scandal could plausibly seal its fate.

However, prominent US political analyst Nate Silver has noted that Trump's low popularity could actually insulate him from the effects of these revelations, the suggestion being that those left in the Trump camp are particularly committed to him and won't be easily dissuaded.

Low popularity makes every demographic crucial

On the other hand, Trump's uninspiring polling figures also mean that the loss of any one key demographic could signal the end of the road for his electoral viability.

For example, while Clinton holds a decisive lead among female voters overall, Trump is ahead of her among non-college educated white women by ten percentage points. Non-college educated white voters of both genders made up almost half of the voting population in 2012, and have been identified as the demographic that could make Trump president - just as the potential loss of the female voters in this demographic could be the nail in his coffin.

That these female voters might be deterred by this weekend's events seems plausible in light of the fact that female voters reacted strongly when Clinton highlighted Trump's problematic attitude towards women in the first presidential debate, with 27 per cent of female voters thinking less of Trump as a result and a 30% saying their opinion of Clinton had improved.

Another key demographic that Trump needs to hang on to is evangelical voters. At present, approximately 80 per cent of white evangelical voters support Trump.

On one hand, you might expect these so-called "values voters" to be troubled by comments that betray an opinion so widely condemned as morally deficient - and they are. But perhaps not enough to abandon him entirely.

This is largely because these voters' key concerns - the funding of Planned Parenthood, abortion rights and religious freedoms - make them strongly opposed to Clinton and anxious to see a Republican president elected to ensure the best chance of having conservative justices appointed to the Supreme Court.

Undecided voters more influential than usual

But the key to this election might also lie outside the support base of both candidates, with the undecided voters.

The low popularity of both major party candidates make this group more influential than they would be in a more typical election cycle.

These voters are by definition not wild about Trump to begin with, and may be easily deterred by a revelation as damning as this one.

Undecided voters are also more likely to be swayed by the media reaction to the scandal, which seems unlikely to die down any time soon.

If Trump scuppers his chances to win over undecided voters, the scenarios in which he could win the electoral college quickly diminish.

As for the Trump supporters that are wedded to his "unpolished", anti-politician, anti-elite persona, one would expect that comments advocating illegal and violent behaviour would be pushing the limits of this platform. But as these voters are particularly unpredictable, it's difficult to know for sure.

Of course, all of this comes with the caveat that this election cycle has a tendency to run roughshod over conventional wisdom. For the Republican Party to successfully depose Trump is unprecedented; in many ways a candidate's survival of this many scandals is equally so. In this election, it seems the unexpected is routine and anything is possible.

The ultimate outcome of the Trump tape leak may depend on the candidate's performance in the second presidential debate.

If he delivers a convincing apology, he may heighten his chances of recovery. But if he digs in his heels - as he so often does - it might be all over, red rover. What we do know is that going in to the debate, the stakes have never been higher for those banking on a president Trump.

Article

‘Not Christian’: Will the Pope’s attack hurt Trump?

Analysis piece explaining the Pope’s attacks on candidate Trump and how they might impact his supporters as well as Republican voters and powerbrokers.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    19 February 2016

‘Not Christian’: Will the Pope’s attack hurt Trump?

The suggestion of papal influence in a US election is not unprecedented, but Pope Francis' attack on Donald Trump is unusual in many respects and could hurt the Republican presidential hopeful, writes Lucia Osborne-Crowley.

The Republican presidential primary has become yet more complicated today as Pope Francis has publicly questioned Donald Trump's Christianity, just two days before the South Carolina primary.

Speaking to journalists aboard the papal plane on his flight back to Rome after a visit to Mexico, the Pope openly attacked Trump's strong anti-immigration stance, and in particular his concept of building a wall along the United States border with Mexico. He said:

A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel. Pope Francis stopped just short of commenting on whether or not Americans should vote for Trump:

I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. Trump responded by calling the Pope's comments "disgraceful" and reiterating not only that he is a "proud Christian" but also that a Trump presidency would focus on strengthening Christian values in American society.

The suggestion of papal influence in a presidential election is not unprecedented. In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI was accused of meddling in the upcoming election.

It is also not uncommon for a Pope to make his opinions known to a sitting president; a memorable example being Pope John Paul II's public disagreement with president Bill Clinton regarding the availability of abortions and birth control in 1994.

But Pope Francis' involvement in the 2016 primary race is arguably unusual in many respects.

During his historic visit to Washington in September last year, Francis surprised the capital by voicing support for humane immigration policies against the backdrop of the growing Trump-led rhetoric about strong borders; he reprimanded Catholic bishops for their "harsh and divisive" stance on same-sex marriage and abortion; and he spoke of the need to combat wealth inequality and climate change.

Under the previous two popes, Republican candidates could rely on endorsement of their positions on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage from the Catholic Church. But the consensus that emerged from Francis' US visit was not only that he was not politically aligned with the Republican candidates, but that his closest political ally in terms of policy positions may be none other than Vermont Senator and self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

The Pope's pointed attack on Trump could be the next step in his break with tradition in terms of papal support for the Republican agenda. On top of this, the Pope went so far as to question Trump's personal faith - something that has always been particularly important in US politics. So does it matter?

In all likelihood, it will matter. The Catholic vote has historically been an important one in presidential elections, and such a bold criticism from the head of the Church could well hurt Trump among these voters.

Until the 1960s, the Catholic vote was reliably Democratic, but the party has been losing the support of this demographic ever since. Beginning in earnest with Richard Nixon's victory in 1972, Catholic Americans have begun voting Republican in greater numbers, coinciding in part with political fault lines being redrawn around issues such as contraception, abortion and marriage.

In contemporary elections, how the Catholic vote splits between Republican and Democratic candidates largely mirrors the population as a whole, meaning that this demographic no longer votes reliably one way or the other. This makes American Catholics a very important swing vote and, historically, a useful indicator of how the national vote will fall: An overwhelming majority of presidential candidates who have won the popular vote in recent decades have carried the Catholic vote, too.

A sizeable section of Trump's support is currently made up of Catholic voters. Recent Pew polling data shows that 30 per cent of Catholics registered to vote think that Trump would make a good or great president, as do 54 per cent of Republican Catholics. This is a significant number of supporters Trump stands to lose following a targeted attack from the world's most senior Catholic.

On top of this, Trump is already seen by voters as one of the least religious candidates in the primary field, and polls indicate that a majority of American voters still consider it very important for a candidate to hold strong personal religious beliefs.

If Trump is badly damaged among Catholic voters by the Pope's comments, it may not be apparent in this weekend's primary. South Carolina has a small Catholic population, and the truth of how the Catholic vote will fall in this election may not be obvious until the process reaches the later, more heavily Catholic primary states.

But Trump's supporter base has withstood a number of obstacles in recent months, and with Pope Francis' comments just another surprise in an election season unlike any in recent memory, the impact of the Trump-Francis tussle may be difficult to predict.

Article

Clinton as the first female president: Why aren't young women convinced?

Analysis piece on why millenial women are reluctant to support US Democratic primary candidate Hillary Clinton despite her positioning herself as the ideal first female president.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    10 February 2016

Clinton as the first female president: Why aren’t young women convinced?

That so many young, female voters appear to be supporting Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton reflects the fact that women are being drawn to policy as much as gender in this US presidential race, writes Lucia Osborne-Crowley.

In recent weeks the world has been fixated on the tightening race for the Democratic presidential nomination between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

As the all-important New Hampshire primary results roll in and Sanders claims victory, election deliberations have gravitated towards the question of why he - and not Clinton - is performing so well among young, progressive female voters.

This issue was thrust into the limelight last week when Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem publicly scolded women who supported Sanders over Clinton.

"We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it's done. It's not done ... There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other," Albright, the US's first female secretary of state said in a rally in New Hampshire on Saturday.

Earlier, Steinem, a prominent feminist, suggested younger women were drawn to the Sanders camp because they were searching for men.

"When you're young, you're thinking: 'Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie'," she said.

But is Sanders really winning over more millennial women than Clinton?

In New Hampshire, polls suggest he is. And in last week's Iowa caucuses, women under 29 chose Sanders over Clinton at an alarming rate of six to one. Nationally, a poll reported by USA Today in January found women under 35 favoured Sanders over Clinton by a margin of almost 20 points.

Young women who support Sanders are expressing the sentiment that they do not feel obliged to vote for Clinton based on her gender alone; that they do more than "vote with their vaginas". Millennial women identify with a feminism that encourages them to demand more than just womanhood from a female candidate; one that believes that in order to win their vote on women's issues they must decisively protect and empower women through substantive policy outcomes.

While Clinton has consistently emphasised gender issues in her campaign - something she failed to do in 2008, losing her a large chunk of young female voters to Barack Obama in early primary states - Sanders' policies on relevant issues are arguably more ambitious.

Clinton promises pay transparency and the Paycheck Fairness Act to fight the gender pay gap; paid family leave; a strong investment in childcare; a federal minimum wage; enhanced social security; and the protection of Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act.

But Sanders has also promised to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and fight the pay gap, as well as the expansion of Planned Parenthood. And he vowed to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour, make childcare available to all Americans; provide at least 12 weeks of paid parental leave, two weeks of paid leave and one week of sick leave to all American workers; expand the WIC program, which provides nutrition assistance to pregnant women; universal Medicare and an expanded social security program.

Sanders' popularity among millennial women relates also to the fact that their feminism and worldview are defined by belonging to a generation of voters politicised by the Global Financial Crisis and the economic inequality it exposed and fuelled - an issue Sanders has placed front and centre throughout his primary campaign.

But even if millennial women are gravitating towards Sanders based purely on these policies, identity and symbolism always matter in politics. To see history's first female US president would be an important step forward in the fight for equal rights - and equal representation - for women globally.

To assume that Clinton's gender has not handicapped her in a purely issues-based race would be an oversimplification. The rise of the "Bernie Bros" phenomenon - in particular how young, male supports of Sanders defend their chosen candidate on social media - show that gender is still very much a part of this campaign.

To see a woman with her qualifications and experience suffer defeat at the jaws of victory a second time could and should cause us to think deeply about our expectations of women in power. To appropriate the words of our own trailblazing female leader, Julia Gillard, gender may not explain everything about Clinton's presidential bid, but it certainly doesn't explain nothing.

Regardless of this phenomenon, polls suggest that once the primary season leaves New Hampshire and then South Carolina, the Clinton campaign may well regain a decisive lead. If Sanders is forced to concede the race, the women who support him will likely flock back to Clinton and support her against the pro-life likes of Marco Rubio, Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

Even if Clinton beats Sanders to the nomination, the presence of the young women in Sanders' campaign will be an important one. Because if and when Clinton faces a Republican candidate this November, she will do so knowing that a generation of young women expect a leader who not only represents them in form but in substance, and one who can advance the progressive agenda that Sanders has encouraged them to believe in.

Article

Why Gen Y needs to take its vote seriously

Opinion piece about the importance of the youth vote in the 2016 Australian federal election in the context of the surprise Brexit vote and the defeat of Bernie Sanders by Hillary Clinton in the US Democratic presidential primary.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    1 July 2016

Why Gen Y needs to take its vote seriously

Gen Y could have a powerful influence on the election outcome - if we actually show up. Recent events in the US and UK demonstrate how seriously young people ought to take their vote, writes Lucia Osborne-Crowley.

The debate around intergenerational inequality has gathered momentum in recent months.

Gen Y feels let down by the Brexit result in the UK and the final defeat of Bernie Sanders by Hillary Clinton in the US. Here at home, young people are being priced out of the property market through negative gearing; their lifestyle has been hampered by alcohol restrictions and lockout laws; they're deeply disappointed by a budget that ignores the imminent threat of climate change and frustrated by the possibility of an expensive and potentially divisive plebiscite on same-sex marriage.

But even though their long-term political interests hang precariously in the balance, remarkably few young people actually engage with the political process in a formal way. At the last federal election, a full 25 per cent of Australians under 24 failed to enrol to vote.

But recent public debate around these issues in Australia seems to have begun to turn the tide. Following a series of online campaigns to increase youth enrolment, the AEC reported earlier this month that the number of 18-year-old Australians on the roll had jumped from 51 per cent in April this year to 71 per cent in June.

In total, 150,000 more young people are now enrolled than the last time the country went to the national polls.

This is undeniably good news - not just for Gen Y but for the vitality of our democracy. But it may not be enough.

Being enrolled to vote does not mean that votes will not be wasted. About 750,000 informal ballots were cast in the 2010 election in total. Still more people were enrolled but stayed home on election day. A total of 49 per cent of informal votes were considered deliberate - a jump from 34 per cent in 2001. And new research from the University of Adelaide indicates this rise in deliberate informal voting is likely driven by young people who are disillusioned with the process and don't wish their vote to be counted.

Greater youth engagement with public debate - and even enrolment - means very little unless we actually show up to the polls and cast a vote that will be counted. In our constitutional system, our vote is the only form of political involvement that actually matters.

In the UK, young people voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU in last week's Brexit vote - 75 per cent of those aged 18-24 voted to remain.

The shock result led to widespread upset among the young, who felt that the older generation had forsaken them despite the fact that they were the ones that would have to live with the consequences of the decision. But the problem for young people was that far too few of them showed up to vote.

Projections suggest only a little over a third of Brits aged 18-24 voted in the referendum. For those aged 65 and over, that number was closer to around 80 per cent. Given there are more than five million people in Britain aged between 18-24, and the vote was decided on a margin of only 1.3 million, it's safe to say that if the younger generation matched the participation of the older generation, Britain could still be a member of the EU and young people might still be able to pursue their interests on the continent with the freedom of movement EU membership brings.

Sanders' presidential bid was bedevilled by the same problem. His campaign, perhaps more than any before him, spoke to the interests of a young generation concerned about wealth inequality, burdensome student loans and environmental injustice.

The young came out in droves to support Sanders at rallies across the country, and helped him create a social media storm around the world. Ahead of the all-important California primary on June 7, 500,000 younger people registered as Democrats for the first time. Things appeared hopeful for the Sanders camp, and it was thought that this enthusiasm among the young may help him pull off an unlikely victory.

But when primary day arrived, the majority of those young voters stayed home, and their decision to opt out even after making the effort to register was touted as one of the key reasons for Clinton's overwhelming victory in the golden state.

So while it is encouraging to see more young people apparently engaging in Australian politics this year, appearances can be deceptive. At the end of the day, if you fail to cast a formal vote on Saturday, it won't matter how many protests you went to or how many online petitions you shared, or even that you made the effort to enrol.

Politics - indeed, society - is best when every stakeholder has their say, and overwhelmingly in recent elections young Australians have failed to make that happen. So if you're a young Australian and you care about the country you will inherit, remember that failing to cast a vote that counts is not a protest vote. It is a wasted vote. Decisions are made by those who show up.

Article

How we fooled ourselves into thinking we were ready for a female president

Opinion piece on the surprise defeat of Hillary Clinton and what it might mean for gender politics.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    11 November 2016

How we fooled ourselves into thinking we were ready for a female president

If anyone tries to tell you the ascent of a man who bragged about grabbing women "by the pussy" has nothing to do with gender or sexism, don't let them, writes Lucia Osborne-Crowley.

The coming years will involve a lot of soul searching about the day the impossible happened: Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States.

We will look for the signs we missed — the polls indicating that a majority of Americans feel their country is heading in the wrong direction, the blue collar workers who feel they are being "left behind", the packed-out rallies Trump held in every state.

Trump's shock victory was about a lot of things: prejudice against people of colour, the perceived negative impacts of globalisation, and fear of America's Muslim community are only a few.

But if anyone tries to tell you the ascent of a man who bragged about "grabbing" women "by the pussy" has nothing to do with gender, don't let them.

Sexism has been front and centre in this election from the beginning, and denying it only risks further embedding the insidious hostility towards women in power that helped the most inexperienced and unsuitable candidate in American history become president.

The coattails of misogyny are long indeed

As a young woman, I wanted this election to show me that women today can do anything — including seek and obtain power.

Instead, it has shown me that the coattails of misogyny are very long indeed; long enough to land Trump and his Republican boys club in the White House.

Sadly, we were so busy trying to convince ourselves that gender wasn't a pressing issue that we didn't even see it coming.

Trump kicked off his campaign in April 2015 by asking: "If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband, what makes her think she can satisfy America?"

In August he launched a months-long battle with journalist Megyn Kelly by calling her a "bimbo", later suggesting her questioning of him was because she had her period.

In March, he suggested women should be punished for seeking abortions. He called Clinton a "nasty woman", and made remarks about former Miss Universe pageant winner Alicia Machado's weight. Oh, and then he bragged about sexual assault.

None of this behaviour has deterred his supporters. Instead of condemning his comments, his supporters began imitating him, flaunting "Trump that bitch" T-shirts and signs that read "Hillary for Prison 2016".

And in a final act of endorsement of his sexist behaviour, his supporters — the majority of which were men — voted in droves.

Exit poll data showed 53 per cent of men voted for Trump (41 per cent for Clinton).

This figure is far higher for white men, of whom 63 per cent chose Trump.

It increases again when you add education into the mix, with 72 per cent of non-college educated white men voting Trump.

In fact, if only men had voted in the election, Trump would have won by a far greater margin.

When news of this broke, a social media movement sprung up calling for the repeal of the 19th amendment — to ban women from voting.

But none of this should come as a surprise; recent research found hostility towards women was the one of the strongest predictors of support for Trump.

Three political scientists conducted a survey that analysed indicators of 'hostile sexism' and tracked these against support for the Republican nominee.

The result? Hostility towards women was almost as strongly correlated with Trump support as party identification.

(White) women voted for Trump, too

But it wasn't only men that elected Trump: 42 per cent of women, and 53 per cent of white women, voted for him, too.

Commentators have largely attributed this to the fact that women just weren't inspired by the idea of having a female president, or that they're racists.

As LV Anderson puts it at Slate Magazine: "More than half of white women looked at the first viable female candidate for the presidency, a wildly competent and overqualified career public servant, and said, 'Trump that bitch'."

Interestingly, women of colour — women who have largely been left behind in the struggle for women's equality — overwhelmingly voted for Clinton.

These women were underrepresented in public debates on key issues, are more likely than white women to be employed in low-wage jobs, and have higher rates of disease and lower rates of healthcare than their white counterparts.

And so it's hard to argue that gender was not a high priority for these women.

Dismissing it as 'locker room talk' is risky

Trump's victory was an endorsement of the sexism and misogyny he promoted during his campaign, and to ignore this issue is dangerous.

By accepting these attitudes, by dismissing them as "locker room talk" as so many people already have, we only risk making them more insidious.

On election night in the US, Trump supporters gleefully chanted "lock her up".

Imagine what they will be emboldened to say about women in four years from now, if we don't squarely face the sexist underbelly this election has revealed — and work hard to challenge it.

Many women have already begun doing so — forming the online movement #PussyGrabsBack.

The fact that Trump's shock victory occurred in the year a woman was at the top of the ticket for the first time is not pure coincidence.

As President Obama recently put it, "There's a reason we haven't had a woman president." But the jig is up.

In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton lamented that, "We have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, somebody will".

Today, though, it feels like we are farther from doing so than any of us suspected.

Article

Women’s March: Why I’m rallying against Donald Trump this weekend

Opinion piece about the importance of protest in a democracy and what might be achieved by the Women’s March on Washington and around the world.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    17 January 2017

Women’s March: Why I’m rallying against Donald Trump this weekend

This Saturday, on January 21, I'll be marking Donald Trump's first day in office by marching in Sydney to stand up against the hatred and bigotry he represents.

The Women's March on Washington was organised — predominantly on Facebook — for the day after inauguration day to protest against Mr Trump's politics and the threat he poses to the safety and autonomy of the politically vulnerable: women, religious minorities, racial minorities, LGBTI communities and people with disabilities.

"The Women's March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world, that women's rights are human rights," the organisers say on their website.

"We stand together, recognising that defending the most marginalised among us is defending all of us."

It's expected that more than 200,000 people will walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House the morning after Mr Trump's inauguration.

Meanwhile, some estimates suggest an unusually low number of people will be attending Mr Trump's inaugural ceremonies; there are currently more bus parking applications for the women's march than there are for the inauguration itself.

Sister marches inspired by the Women's March on Washington have also been organised in cities the world over, including in Australia.

In Sydney, the Women's March is teaming up with groups like Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children NSW to create an inclusive protest that targets all transgressions of human rights and dignity.

Of course, Mr Trump's domestic policies won't directly affect Australians, but organisers of the Sydney march argue it is about more than that. It's about standing with vulnerable groups across the globe to fight bigotry and division.

But perhaps more importantly, it's about reminding Australians that some of the ideas we find so offensive in Mr Trump have taken hold in our own politics, too.

'If something needs fixing … do some organising'

In his final address as president last week, Barack Obama implored Americans to "show up" and help do the work that needs doing".

"If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organising," he said.

Michelle Obama issued a similar call to arms back in October, when the world first heard the horrifying tape in which Mr Trump described and condoned sexually assaulting women.

She said we need to do what we as women have always done: Roll up our sleeves, and get to work.

Which is exactly why I'm marching.

I'm marching because electing Mr "grab her by the pussy" sends a message to sexual assault victims that we still aren't listening, and confirms the suspicion of so many women that they are never truly safe.

It's a reminder for potential perpetrators of sexual assault that they have no reason to fear concepts like accountability, punishment, and justice.

I'm marching because electing a man who wants to punish women who seek abortions restricts every woman's autonomy.

Electing a government that seeks to defund women's health services and strip them of their reproductive rights is an insult to the dignity of women everywhere.

And we know now that this is not just campaign bluster.

Mr Trump has released a shortlist of five predominantly pro-life judges from whom he will nominate the next Supreme Court Justice, one of whom believes the landmark Roe v Wade decision that opened the gate to abortion access for American women is "the worst abomination of constitutional law" in American history.

The US is not so different to Australia

I'm marching because electing a president who supports transphobic laws sends the message to the LGBTI community that there is no hope of progress.

Last July Mr Trump spoke out in support of a North Carolina law barring transgender people from using bathrooms that best match their gender identity, as well as banning local governments from passing LGBT anti-discrimination law.

I'm marching because electing a man who forged a presidency from the idea of building a wall to solve immigration issues serves to legitimise our own Government's Pacific island processing camps.

Indeed, America is not as different to Australia as we like to tell ourselves; our Government does not shy away from stripping asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians, women, and LGBTI communities of their rights, either.

Of course, there are many who believe the march is pointless — that it has no clearly articulated aims and will have no tangible outcomes.

For example, some anti-Trump women have said they think the march could potentially further divide Americans, while others believe the effort that goes into attending a march that could "be easily dismissed with a presidential tweet storm" might be better invested elsewhere.

But in a democracy, expressions of large-scale public opposition matter because they remind politicians that the groups they demean in order to win elections don't disappear, and they can make the business of governing very difficult if they try.

Moments that galvanise people matter, even if it's not immediately clear how

When it became clear that Mr Trump would win the election, one of my closest friends sent me a message that said: "I promise to always do my best to keep you safe."

She knew that for all the complex political analysis that would follow, when you, as a woman, realise that a man who publicly condones and has possibly committed sexual assault becomes president, in that moment the only things many women felt were isolation and fear.

That's why protests matter. Marching alongside hundreds of allies and receiving messages of love and support from friends serve the same purpose: they empower people in remarkably disempowering situations.

So yes, I'm marching against Mr Trump. But mostly I'm marching to support the women he has belittled and all the groups his bigoted populism will threaten.

And I'm also marching for me.

If 2016 has taught me one thing, it is that no progress is permanent. And if we don't get organised, and get to work, we could stand to lose it all.

Article

Time for a new solution?

News feature on the shift in leadership that may provide a new perspective on how to save the eurozone from its debt crisis.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The Sydney Globalist
  • Published:
    August 2012

Time for a new solution?

Lucia Osborne-Crowley investigates a welcome shift in leadership that may provide a new perspective on how to save the eurozone.

Francois Hollande’s triumph in the recent French presidential election marks an historic shift in the right-wing political climate that has spread across Europe since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

Since the crash, Europe has witnessed increasingly extreme right-wing policies, particularly on economic issues. A clear example has been thesevere austerity measures implemented throughout Europe in an attempt to recover from the crisis. As the situation worsens across thecontinent, however, it seems that this political direction may be changing. The defeat of ring-wing French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the election of left-wing social democrat, Francois Hollande, illustrate that the French, at least, are looking for anew solution to the grave economic difficulties France now faces.

Hollande’s presidential campaign centred on policies that have long been unfamiliar in France, a country that has not electeda left-wing leader in 17 years. The campaign’s platforms included tax rates of up to 75 per cent for top income earners, a lowering of the retirement age, and, most importantly, staunch opposition to thesevere austerity measures that have been proposed and implemented throughout Europe in response to the debt crisis.

These policies, when viewed in lightof Sarkozy’s increasingly extreme right-wing economic and social policies, made for a highly polarised electoral process. Sarkozy, presumably attempting to win more of the far-right vote that revealed itself in Marine Le Pen’s success inthe primary round of voting, promoted European austerity and incited anti-immigration sentiment throughout the later stages of his campaign.

Clearly, then, Hollande’s victory against Sarkozy will have profound and widespread implications not only for France, but also for the political and economic future of the Eurozone, as it may mark the beginning of the endof the right-wing policies that have dominated the region since 2008.

Notably, however, Sarkozy becameone of 11 European leaders of varying political persuasions to lose office since the crisis. This signals that Europeans are democratically expressing their dissatisfaction with the economic solutions governments have presented to them. Hollande will commence his term faced with an almost unmanageable scaleof national debt, and unemployment rates at a high of almost 10 percent.His actions and strategies in the comingmonths will be crucial.

Of great significance is the impact Hollande’s leadership will have on France’s relationship with Germany andits Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Merkel had a very close political relationship with Sarkozy, and together the nations had negotiated an economic ‘rescue plan’ that may now fall apart without Hollande’s support.

Merkel expressly favoured Sarkozy in the recent election, as their economic policies aligned and she perceived that together they stood a good chance of resolving their respective debt crises. The question remains how the two countries will approach the crisis in Europe now that the leaders stand at odds in their views on an appropriate economic solution.

Hollande has vowed to fight back against Germany’s austerity model and to transform theEuropean response to the debt crisis inhis own image. In fact, Hollande has stated that his first act as President will be to convince Germany to renegotiate the budget discipline pact to include a significant clause on growth as a means of redirecting the region’s strategy on the debt crisis. Angela Merkel respondedto this by re-emphasizing that the agreed fiscal pact, which of course includes measures to stimulate economic growth, is not negotiable.

The outcome of the debates surrounding this issue, which will be sure to occur in coming months, will be pivotal for the future of the Eurozone. Whilst Merkel’s strong attachment to austerity measures requires large cuts in spending as a means of combating the debt problem, Hollande promises to avoid such stringent measures and focus rather on stimulus spending to encourage economic growth. Hollande announced that “austerity need not be Europe’s fate”.

Merkel maynot be able to defend the austerity-based rescue plan against such strong resistance from France, and already has shown some signs of recognising a need to compromise by announcing that progress may be achievable through “solid finances plusgrowth”. It seems, then, that Hollande’s election may signal a restructuring of the European solution, particularly if France’s anti-austerity sentiment is replicated inthe rest of the continent.

A simultaneous expression of discontent with the austerity-led approach to solving the crisis prevailed in the Greek federal election, which – though it has not yet decided which party should lead Greece through the uncertainty of the coming years – certainly revealed that voters had changed their attitude towards the current approach to the crisis.

By withholding votes from the major political parties and swinging instead towards the election’s more extreme choice of parties (including extreme-nationalists Golden Dawn and far-left Syriza, both of which promised an end to austerity), the public clearly announced that they would no longer tolerate the extreme austerity measures that have dominated Greece’s fiscal policy in the last two years.

However, the parties that won votes by rejecting austerity measures must still form a functional coalition before they can begin governing and thus introducing reform, which is another issue that emphasises the difficulty of solving such a grave crisis. Economists have stated, however, that the public’s shift towards left-wing solutions in France and increasingly strong anti-austerity sentiment in Greece will finally necessitate a welcome restructuring of Europe’s economic ‘rescue plan’.

This comes in the wider context of growing recognition within European countries that the austerity measures that have been championed as the best way to solve the debt crisis have had little success, and often negative side effects.

The focus on austerity was intended to settle investors’ concerns about lending to countries with such formidable debt in relation to their prospective economic output. However, the measures required to do this in an effective manner were extreme. Budget cuts have extended tohigher taxes and serious reductions in social welfare programs and cannot boast positive outcomes that outweigh the negative impacts of such extreme budgetcutting.

As the Zone’s economy struggles more and more under this doctrine, the public has become increasingly skeptical of its merit, a growing sentiment that has culminated in the results of France and Greece’s federal elections. It seems that, in light of a second default for Greece seeming increasingly likely, and unemployment rates rising to a recordhigh of 10.9 per cent across Europe, the stakes have been raised and, thus, theanti-austerity tide is strengthening.

The question remains, however,whether there is a better option. Hollande is proposing to increase spendingimmediately in order to adopt a stimulus- based approach to solving the crisis. His plans to increase spending also involve an immediate surge in investment in infrastructure and small business as a means of stimulating the economy inthe long term. To counter this proposed significant increase in spending, Hollande plans to dramatically increase taxes imposed on the wealthy.

Outstanding issues and concerns remain over whether these mechanisms to keep the deficit under control will be sufficient when compared with the proposed increases in spending, and whenc ompounded with the debt the nation already faces. Hollande will have to bear in mind the consequences faced by Greece and Ireland when their respective borrowing costs became unmanageable.

France must avoid seeking a similar bailout, but also clearly must restructure its economic approach. Hollande’s proposal could in fact mark an important change in European policy that could be the key to solving, or at least alleviating, the crisis.

It now seems increasingly likely that Merkel will agree to revise the fiscal pact to include some of Hollande’s policies. The two announced that they will release joint proposals at the European Union summit this year, which will involve new growth measures being added to the agreement. Merkel has shown that she is willing to concede on issues such as flexibility regarding the use of European Union structural aid and investment in infrastructure, transportation and energy.

If the nations are able to come to an agreement that comprehensively includes Hollande’s growth measures, it could potentially be very successful in stimulating Europe’s economy. However,this relies on the German and other European governments recognising that any minimal growth measures will likely not be effective in regards to countries inthe depths of very serious recession suchas Greece, and that a larger restructuring may be required.

While the exact consequences of Hollande’s forceful repudiation of austerity measures and the corresponding shift in public opinion that put Hollande in office are still unclear, it is certain that, as the debt crisis worsens, the Eurozone desperately needs a new means of solving it. We can only hope that Hollande’s new perspective can help the European Unionto collectively devise a workable solution.

Article

#FreeKesha: How the law failed to protect victims of sexual abuse

Legal analysis of the contractual dispute between musician Kesha and her producer in the context of sexual abuse allegations against him.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    24 February 2016

#FreeKesha: How the law failed to protect victims of sexual abuse

Kesha says she "physically cannot" work with the man that she says abused her. The law could have and should have taken this seriously, writes Lucia Osborne-Crowley.

Twenty-eight-year-old pop star Kesha made headlines this week when a New York court dismissed her legal bid for protection against a man who allegedly physically and sexually abused her.

The response was instant worldwide anger, with celebrities from Lorde to Lady Gaga leading the chorus of condemnation on social media.

They have reason to feel angry. The court's decision not to grant Kesha relief from the contract binding her to her alleged abuser might have been legally sound, but it was not inevitable.

The court had an opportunity to set a precedent that would protect victims of abuse, but it failed to take it. By considering the case only on strictly commercial grounds, the court demonstrated its misunderstanding of the nature and consequences of abuse.

The man at the centre of this story is Lucasz "Dr Luke" Gottwald, a producer who discovered Kesha when she was just 17. Shortly after the two met, they entered into a contract stipulating that the singer would produce albums exclusively with Gottald and his Sony Music-owned label Kemosabe Entertainment.

In a legal claim filed in 2014, Kesha alleges that Dr Luke began sexually assaulting her shortly after her 18th birthday. On one occasion, she alleges he sedated her and raped her while she was unconscious.

These proceedings are ongoing and, as the wheels of justice turn slowly, Kesha's lawyers this month filed for a temporary injunction to allow Kesha to produce music outside of her exclusive contract with Dr Luke until the claim had been resolved.

But Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shirley Kornreich dismissed the claim, stating that Kesha was bound by the contract and must perform her contractual obligation to produce, exclusively, a further six albums with the record company.

To succeed in requesting such an injunction, Kesha had to prove that she was likely to win the lawsuit and that she would suffer "irreparable harm" if the injunction was denied. Kesha's legal team argued that the star's career would suffer irreparable harm if an injunction were not granted, as she would not be able to produce music and, in the short life span of a young pop star, such a hiatus could be career-ending.

Kesha stated in her motion:

I know I cannot work with Dr Luke. I physically cannot. I don't feel safe in any way.

The judge disagreed. She stated that Kesha had been "given opportunity to record" - that she could, technically, continuing recording music with Sony. This is based on the idea that any damage done to her career as a result of not producing music would be the consequence not of the contract but of a choice she had made. The harm would be self-inflicted and therefore fails the legal test.

This decision reflects the fact that the motion for an injunction was considered on commercial grounds alone, treating Kesha and Dr Luke as two consenting parties to a binding agreement. This approach prioritises the sanctity of commercial associations over the protection of vulnerable parties, and while treating the motion as such is the court's prerogative, it ignores the possibility that the suffering Kesha describes substantially constrained her agency.

Barely eighteen when she entered the contract, Kesha was already a vulnerable party facing an influential producer and a multi-billion dollar corporation. She alleges that she was made more vulnerable still when the man she was contractually bound to abused her physically, sexually and emotionally.

The court had an opportunity to recognise that imbalance, but it chose not to.

Elsewhere in her judgment, Justice Kornreich referred to the lack of medical evidence supporting Kesha's claims. While the strength of the lawsuit is an element of the legal test for granting an injunction, this does not mean that Kesha had to prove the abuse took place in order to win the motion. In fact, by definition she should not have to prove this - the purpose of the injunction is to release her from the contract until the allegations have been properly assessed in a court of law.

Legally speaking, the court's decision was certainly sound. But the circumstances of Kesha's motion were legally unprecedented, meaning Justice Kornreich was not bound to treat the motion in a particular way. There was arguably enough legal flexibility for the court to have granted Kesha the relief she requested.

In assessing the motion, the court had an opportunity to recognise the need to protect victims of abuse, before or until that abuse had been proven by law, but it failed to do so. As a result, the decision establishes a legal precedent to the contrary.

None of this is to say that upholding the law of contract is not important; but arguably this is a case in which the court could have used its legal and remedial discretion to set an important precedent allowing the law to account for the damaging impacts of abuse, and to offer some level of protection for its victims.

In neglecting to do so, the law failed Kesha, as well as other victims whose situation may one day mimic hers.

Article

Dangerous inner city housing operation uncovered

Investigative piece uncovering an illegal housing cartel operating in inner Sydney.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The City Hub
  • Published:
    17 July 2014

Dangerous inner city housing operation uncovered

Following a fire in an overcrowded property in Alexandria on July 2, the City Hub has identified a series of up to 150 unauthorised boarding houses throughout the city, all of which appear to be part of a single operation.

An undercover investigation found dangerously overcrowded living conditions with tenants sharing small rooms with up to 5 other people with some even sleeping on the living room floor.

City Hub can also reveal that the operation of these boarding houses was reported to the City of Sydney Council in May 2014 but council appears to have taken no action as a result of the complaint.

The investigation located the boarding houses through a series of online advertisements. City Hub then spoke to a number of tenants and managers of the properties while posing as a prospective resident.

The site of the July 2 fire in Alexandria was not investigated by council despite the fact a complaint had been made: “Unfortunately, contrary to City procedures, the complaint was not logged in the internal records system and was therefore not found or investigated,” a City of Sydney spokesperson said.

The fire occurred shortly after council investigated and evicted yet another overcrowded property on Quarry Street in Ultimo.

During the investigation, City Hub was informed the properties inspected, as well as up to 150 others, are managed out of a supermarket on Regent Street in Chippendale.

It was alleged the supermarket in question also operates the property at Quarry Street, which was reported to council in May of this year. However, it appears the supermarket was not investigated by council following the Quarry Street eviction.

In fact, despite the eviction of the Quarry St property in May, City Hub confirmed it is once again operating as an unauthorised boarding house as of July 15, 2014. City Hub visited seven separate properties during the course of this investigation, each housing up to 15 tenants. The apartments included a series of bunk beds accommodating four to six people in each bedroom and four people in the common living room and kitchen area.

Tenants slept on floors and unstable bunk beds that were made to fit into any available space, including in common living spaces and hallways. One paying tenant slept on the living room sofa. Apartments housing up to 15 tenants relied on single toilets and kitchen facilities, which appeared unsanitary and under maintained.

The apartments investigated are located in Chippendale and Ultimo. It was alleged there are other apartments managed by the same individuals in the CBD. The apartments are being advertised for between $100 and $170 per week with a bond of $300 and a fee for the provision of extra swipe cards for each extra tenant.

During the investigation, it was observed that each apartment displayed a notice on the fridge instructing tenants to pay rent to the Regent Street supermarket directly each week. The apartments, among many others including the Quarry Street property, are also connected by a Facebook page that advertises each property individually.

On the Facebook page, each advertisement includes an offer of “20% discount for buying anything at owner’s supermarket”.

Based on the information obtained during this investigation, City Hub calculates the supermarket may be operating up to 150 apartments as unauthorised boarding houses with up to 1,800 tenants in total, resulting in an estimated potential income of up to $14 million per year.

The apartments have not been authorised for use as boarding houses or backpacker accommodation.

This type of overcrowded shared-housing operation may also be against the law, according to Kate Gauld, solicitor for the International Student Service at the Redfern Legal Centre.

“What we often see are cases where a head tenant has advertised a property online and crammed extra tenants into an apartment,” she said.

“Often there is deliberate confusion about who is the property’s landlord, with rent being paid in cash and often to a party other than the property’s owner. “It is illegal for head tenants to exploit international students in this way.”

It was alleged during the undercover investigation the person running the operation employs between eleven and fifteen individuals, most of whom are in Australia on student or holiday visas, to manage between ten and fifteen apartments each.

These managers are allegedly employed to ensure the apartments are as full as possible at all times and ensure rent is paid to the supermarket on time. A complaint was made regarding the supermarket in question and was recorded by council in May of this year.

An Assessment Report for the Development Application (DA) for the supermarket was released by council when a decision was made regarding the DA on May 20, 2014.

One objector to the DA stated: “The proposed grocery store is operating as a reception for the illegal subletting of nearby residential units.”

In response to the submission, the DA states: “With regard to illegal subletting of nearby residential units, the matter has been forwarded to Council’s Health and Building Unit for further investigation.”

A media spokesperson for the City of Sydney said the matter had been forwarded to the Health and Building Unit. However, a source from the Health and Building Unit told City Hub no investigation was taking place regarding the property.

The City of Sydney spokesperson said the City was unable to comment on ongoing investigations.

The spokesperson explained that typically a report of this nature would be investigated by council through a series of reviews, inspections and interviews. “The City receives numerous inquiries each week relating to non-approved residential uses.”

“Investigation of non-approved residential uses typically involves research of the site and its approvals, a review of known residential accommodation sites, followed by an inspection and interviews with tenants and owners, or alleged operators.”

In the case of the properties in Ultimo and Chippendale, investigations into the tenants and owners of the property do not appear to have taken place. In the case of Alexandria, the complaints were not investigated at all. It appears the above protocol was not followed in any of these three instances.

A source at the City of Sydney explained that as well as being a fire hazard, overcrowding poses a serious threat to the structural integrity of inner city buildings, making it a safety issue for all surrounding residents. Housing extra tenants in multiple apartments can cause serious plumbing issues as well as instability in the building’s framework.

City of Sydney Councillor Linda Scott called on council to be more rigorous in its response to these complaints.

“We need a clear and easy procedure for residents to report these issues to council and we need to ensure these complaints are responded to by council in a timely and appropriate fashion,” she said.

Liberal Councillor Edward Mandla told City Hub the City’s emphasis on procedures is to be blamed for the lack of action taken on these complaints.

“Council’s dysfunctional culture of too many processes and check-boxes has stifled out human ingenuity and common sense. We all pat each other on the back for following procedure but the problem is being completely ignored,” Cr Mandla said.

Cr Mandla and Cr Scott outlined their concerns that the problem of illegal boarding houses is a result of the broader problem of a lack of affordable housing in the inner city.

Urbanest, the most recent developer to build student accommodation in the City of Sydney area, charges up to $542 per person per week for their housing – this is three times the rent charged by the unauthorised boarding houses in question. The City of Sydney Council urged residents to continue making complaints about overcrowded properties in order for Council to address the problem.

City Hub has passed on all information uncovered in this investigation to the relevant authorities.

The Redfern Legal Centre offers legal support to students living in this type of accommodation and has been able to reclaim illegal payments made to landlords, according to Ms Gauld.

Article

City failed to act on Alexandria property complaint

News report revealing that the City of Sydney Council failed to act on a complaint about a dangerous property that later caught fire and threatened many lives.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    City Hub
  • Published:
    10 July 2014

City failed to act on Alexandria property complaint

The City of Sydney Council failed to act on a complaint regarding the industrial site at Burrows Road in Alexandria prior to the fire that destroyed the property in the early hours of last Wednesday, June 2.

The fire exposed an illegal boarding house for international students living in the inner city, the likes of which are becoming increasingly prevalent in the area.

According to City of Sydney councillor Irene Doutney, council relies heavily upon local residents to draw attention to overcrowded properties in the inner city area.

“We rely on residents to alert us because you can’t inspect every building all the time in a city with tens of thousands of buildings,” said Cr Doutney.

Council was alerted to the danger of the Burrows Road property by a resident but still no action was taken to prevent the fire.

“Unfortunately, contrary to City procedures, the complaint was not logged in the internal records system and was therefore not found or investigated,” a City of Sydney spokesperson said.

Cr Doutney expressed concern regarding the danger of these complaints going unanswered.

“The question to ask is how many of these reports don’t get logged. I think that will be a serious investigation council will need to undertake as a result of this fire,” she said.

City of Sydney Councillor Edward Mandla condemned council’s lack of action.

“The City of Sydney failed and there is absolutely no excuse. I actually think council owes the people living there an apology as they’ve let everyone down.”

“People nearly died this time,” Cr Mandla said.

“There’s a whisper going around council that even if we knew, we wouldn’t have had the power to do anything. That is rubbish – we have perfectly adequate powers of entry and inspection and we could have stopped this from happening.”

The responsibility to inspect properties which pose a safety threat to occupants and surrounding residents lies also with Fire and Rescue NSW, who similarly rely on resident complaints to be made aware of these situations.

Chief Superintendent Greg Buckley of Fire and Rescue NSW confirmed the department had no knowledge of the illegality of the property prior to the fire.

“We received no complaints about the property and the first we knew of the illegal situation was when we arrived at the scene of the fire,” Chief Supt Buckley said.

Cr Doutney said council must take immediate action to ensure better oversight of student and backpacker accommodations as well as to ensure no administrative errors are being made in regards to resident complaints.

“This has been a big wake up call for council,” she said.

“My first immediate thought is we need to do an audit of all the buildings. We need to find out what is out there.”

Cr Doutney said industrial sites such as the one involved in last week’s fire need renewed attention from council because they are not situated near enough to other residents for council to rely on complaints.

A City of Sydney spokesperson confirmed action would be taken following the event.

“The City has started an immediate review of all relevant procedures.”

Article

Unauthorised backpacker accommodation uncovered in Bondi

Investigative piece uncovering illegal overcrowding in Bondi as a follow-up piece to my investigation into an illegal housing cartel in inner Sydney.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The City Hub
  • Published:
    24 July 2014

Unauthorised backpacker accommodation uncovered in Bondi

Following an investigation into a large ring of illegal boarding houses in the city last week, City Hub has discovered a collection of similarly unauthorised backpacker accommodation in the Bondi Beach area.

While posing as a prospective tenant, a City Hub reporter was shown around a series of overcrowded apartments and houses on Bondi Road, O’Brien Street and Lamrock Avenue that had been sublet to large numbers of backpackers for between $125 and $170 per week.

The properties visited accommodated up to four people in bunk beds in each room. One room combined a kitchen with two sets of bunk beds, resulting in an obvious cockroach infestation and overall lack of safety and hygiene.

One single storey five bedroom house accommodated 16 backpackers. The shared bathrooms appeared unsanitary and the house itself was filthy. A rat ran across the kitchen floor while City Hub inspected the property.

City Hub was told the man who owns the apartments, who goes by the name Thomas, also operates a “large number” of other houses and properties in the Bondi Beach and Bondi Junction area. It appears the man hires backpackers who move in to his properties to manage his boarding houses and ensure all beds are full at all times.

Waverley councillors acknowledged that illegal overcrowding is an ongoing problem in the area, but also noted its frequency has reduced significantly following a crackdown by council last year.

In 2011, Waverley Council conducted an investigation into a large ring of illegal boarding houses operated by a single owner. The investigation resulted in a case heard by the Land and Environment Court, which ordered the operator to stop using his properties as backpacker accommodation immediately.

When the operator did not comply, Waverley Council launched another case against the operator in th NSW Land and Environment Court, this time for contempt of court. Waverley Council won the case in June of 2013.

Waverley Councillor Ingrid Strewe said this case demonstrated to all operators that Waverley Council would go to great lengths to stop homeowners in the area from creating illegal backpacker housing.

“That court case has become well-known in the area and people now know council is prepared to go to those lengths to protect the neighbours and protect the people being housed in substandard conditions,” Cr Strewe said.

“The problem is not as bad as it once was in Waverley because we managed to set up very effective processes to deal with it.”

Councillor John Wakefield said he also feels council’s response to the problem has helped reduce danger to residents but does feel it is an ongoing issue in the area.

“Illegal backpacker accommodation is a continuing issue in Bondi and Waverley,” Cr Wakefield said.

“However, because of the crackdown by council it impacts on residents less.”

“What we have noticed is the type of illegal backpacker rental in Bondi has become more upmarket. We are seeing fewer people per house and less dangerous living conditions.”

Councillor Bill Mouroukas told City Hub he also feels the problem has been largely solved in the Waverley area.

“I haven’t had anyone approach me about this issue in recent times, I think it has been largely dealt with.”

While Waverley Council is using the Land and Environment Court to take action against operators, the City of Sydney continues to cite lack of council powers for their inability to police this issue.

“The City urged the NSW Government to consider giving council officers greater powers to investigate and enforce breaches of the (Environmental Planning and Assessment) Act,” said a City of Sydney spokesperson.

An illegally overcrowded boarding house on Quarry Street in Ultimo has still not been inspected by the City of Sydney Council as of July 22, despite a series of reports released last week regarding this property and several others involved in the same operation.

A series of media reports including an investigation by City Hub revealed that the operator of the Quarry Street property was continuing to run illegal boarding houses despite the fact the operation was reported on two separate occasions in May of this year.

While posing as a prospective tenant, City Hub was told the Quarry Street property was still operational housing approximately 50 people on July 22. It appears neither the City of Sydney nor Fire and Rescue NSW have inspected the property as a result of last week’s reports.

A resident of the property who preferred not be named said no one had come to inspect the property in the last week.

City Hub returned to a property on Regent Street in Chippendale, which was also the subject of last week’s investigation, and can confirm the apartment was also still functioning as an illegal boarding house as of July 19.

When asked whether action had been taken in response to complaints about these properties, a City of Sydney spokesperson said: “The City of Sydney takes all complaints seriously and we currently have more than 65 investigations underway.”

The spokesperson also said the City cannot comment on ongoing investigations.

Article

City commences action on illegal boarding house

News report on the local government’s action cracking down on housing regulation following City Hub’s investigation uncovering an illegal housing cartel operating in inner Sydney.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    City Hub
  • Published:
    31 July 2014

City commences action on illegal boarding house

City Hub has learned the City of Sydney council has issued an emergency evacuation order to the owner of the property at Quarry Street in Ultimo. The property has been the subject of a series of media reports regarding illegally overcrowded accommodation for international students and backpackers.

City Hub understands council will also pursue an injunction through the NSW Land and Environment Court to ensure the property does not reopen as an illegal boarding house.

The property was evacuated once before, in May of this year, but was reported by City Hub to be operational again by July.

A City of Sydney spokesperson confirmed action had been taken to evacuate the property.

“On Friday 25 July, an emergency order requiring the evacuation of all occupants was served on the property owners with a deadline of 29 July.”

“City staff executed a further search warrant when they returned to inspect the property yesterday with officers from the NSW Police Force and found the owners had not complied with the order.”

“The City has also sought a Land and Environment Court injunction to prevent this unauthorised use continuing at the premises which is listed for 8 August.”

While posing as a prospective tenant, City Hub visited the property on July 30, however, to find it still inhabited. It appeared the evacuation had not taken place.

A current tenant confirmed she was still living in the property, along with 40 others. One tenant was in the process of moving in to the property while the City Hub reporter was conducting an inspection.

A tenant confirmed they were aware of a council eviction notice but said no-one had come to the property and that they did not plan on leaving. The tenant also said they knew from previous evictions it would not be permanent.

Councillor Edward Mandla said the City should have taken this action much earlier.

“Council has had the power to do this the whole time, the only reason they didn’t do anything is because it was just too hard,” he said.

“The City has only decided to take action on this property because they have received so much bad press surrounding it.”

The City of Sydney council has also petitioned the NSW Government to amend relevant legislation in order to provide greater powers for local councils to police instances of overcrowding.

Cr Mandla said he said this was undertaken in the interest of assuring the public that council was taking the issue seriously.

“Petitioning the state government for more powers is just a way to show they are taking action. They already have all the powers they need,” he said.

“It’s like saying they’ll only work harder to fight the issue if they get a pay rise first.”

Another issue with this approach raised by Cr Mandla is that the legislative amendments required will only better enable council to inspect the properties themselves and therefore target tenants rather than operators.

“We don’t need to bother the tenants, they are the ones being exploited. We need to target the rogue operators. Even if stronger legislation is put in place, these rogue operators won’t be any more likely to abide by the law. It’s just more red tape.”

Councillor Christine Forster separately agreed that action against this practice needs to target operators first and foremost.

“We need to be proactive. These illegal operators seem to be routinely advertising on sites like Gumtree, so why don’t we start to monitor these sites for suspicious looking ads and try and identify them that way?”

City Hub reported last week that emergency evacuations of overcrowded properties followed by injunctions through the NSW Land and Environment Court have been effective in targeting this problem in the Waverly Council area, according to councillors.

This week’s developments follow a series of criticisms by councillors such as Jenny Green, Christine Forster and Edward Mandla, who argue that appropriate action had not been taken by the City or the NSW Government to shut down overcrowded international student accommodation.

“The blame game must stop and action must be taken quickly to have legislative support for all agencies to use to ensure safety of all people residing or working in any of these establishments”, said Cr Green.

“The City of Sydney has said it won’t tolerate businesses putting profits ahead of people’s safety, and will increase inspections and, where possible, prosecutions. But in the next breath it insists it does not have any power to enter private property and perform on-the-spot inspections,” said Cr Forster.

“The City of Sydney is committed to the safety of our visitors… I urge the NSW Government to introduce legislative reform to address this problem which is faced by Local Governments across the state,” said Lord Mayor Clover Moore.

Article

Moss Report finds evidence of abuse on Nauru

News report on the Moss Report’s findings of abuse of asylum seekers in the Australian immigration detention centre on Nauru.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Women’s Agenda
  • Published:
    23 March 2015

Moss Report finds evidence of abuse on Nauru

An independent review into treatment of refugees in Australia’s offshore detention centre in Nauru has revealed damning evidence about the prevalence of sexual and physical assault.

The review, named after its author and former integrity commissioner Philip Moss, noted allegations of rape against at least three female detainees, one of which is currently being dealt with by local police.

Moss also detailed allegations that female asylum seekers were being asked to expose themselves in return for special treatment from guards.

The report looks at several other allegations of physical, sexual and indecent assault as well as sexual harassment. It also deals with allegations that guards were asking asylum seekers for sexual favours in return for marijuana, but found no evidence to substantiate this.

The Moss report also suggests it is likely that these figures are not representative of the true prevalence of physical and sexual abuse on Nauru, because there exists a culture of fear surrounding reporting guard misconduct at the facility.

It said that many detainees are concerned that if they report misconduct, the outcome of their asylum applications will be affected, or simply do not believe anything would change if they were tocome forward.

The report puts forward 19 recommendations for reform of operations at the offshore detention centre.

Moss described the report’s findings as “concerning”.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott initially seemed considerably less concerned by the findings when he said, in response to the allegations about sexual abuse.

“Occasionally, I daresay, things happen, because in any institution you get things that occasionally aren’t perfect,” he told 2GB on Friday.

He went on to defend his policy decisions surrounding offshore processing of asylum seekers.

“But, look, the most compassionate thing we can do is stop the boats. That’s what we’ve done and those centres on Nauru and Manus are an important part of that.”

“Of course, you always improve all sorts of things, but the policy of offshore processing of people who come illegally to this country by boat is right – it really is right. And I would certainly say that the vast majority of people the vast majority of the time are being well treated, well looked after.”

How stopping the boats affects children or adults who are currently being held in detention is unclear.

Abbott has since changed his response to the report, describing the findings as “very disturbing” on Saturday.

“These are very important, very important, and very disturbing claims, very disturbing findings, and that is why we have fully accepted the recommendations of the report,” he said.

The Moss report was presented to the federal department of immigration in early February, but was only released on Friday afternoon.

The report also exonerated a group of nine Save the Children workers, who were accused of coaching asylum seekers into making accusations against the government late last year.

Last October, the government requested that Moss investigate the possibility that the charity workers were encouraging detainees to make false accusations about mistreatment. Simultaneously, thegovernment organised for the workers in question to be removed.

Then immigration minister Scott Morrison accused the workers of using sexual abuse allegations as a “political tactic”.

“The public don’t want to be played for mugs with allegations of sexual abuse being used as some kind of political tactic,” he said in October 2014.

The Moss report debunked these allegations, and recommended the department of immigration review its decision to remove the staff.

Morrison has announced he will not be issuing an apology for making the unfounded allegation against the Save the Children workers.

Both the prime minister and new immigration minister Peter Dutton have announced the government will accept all 19 recommendations made by the report.

Article

Tiny hearts and whacking great gunships: The terrible truth about Australia’s asylum seeker policy

News report on British columnist Kate Hopkins’ endorsement of Australia’s harsh immigration policy.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Women’s Agenda
  • Published:
    22 April 2015

Tiny hearts and whacking great gunships: The terrible truth about Australia’s asylum seeker policy

A controversial British columnist has set the world’s eyes on Australia in a column urging Britain to follow our country’s lead on asylum seeker policy.

The article, published in Murdoch’s tabloid The Sun last Friday, likens migrants to “cockroaches” and describes Australia’s asylum seeker policy as “an Aussie version of sharia stoning”.

Kate Hopkins praised Australia’s ability to “threaten them with violence until they bugger off”.

“It’s time to get Australian,” she wrote.

"Australians are like British people but with balls of steel, can-do brains, tiny hearts and whacking great gunships.”

"Their approach to migrant boats is the sort of approach we need in the Med. Bring on the gunships, force migrants back to their shores and burn the boats."

Hopkins described British towns as "festering sores, plagued by swarms of migrants and asylum seekers, shelling out benefits like Monopoly money".

The columnist’s characterisation of Australia’s asylum seeker policy as violent and intolerant has sparked discussion across the country. As ABC columnist Jeff Sparrow wrote, “Australian politicians - with a few notable exceptions - would not speak quite so crassly. But in essence Hopkins is right.”

“That's what deterrence means,” he wrote. “By definition, it's predicated on making seeking asylum a worse experience than whatever the refugees are fleeing.”

Hopkins’ call for Britain to follow Australia’s lead was described by The Independent as "so hateful that it might give Hitler pause".

A petition to fire Hopkins has so far amassed just over 240,000 signatures.

But this week, the response to the column heightened – not only are the public calling for Hopkins to be sacked, they are also urging the UK’s Metropolitan Police Commissioner to lay criminal charges against her and the Sun’s editor, David Dinsmore.

Britain’s Society of Black Lawyers has written to the police to formally request that both Dinsmore and Hopkins are charged with incitement to racial hatred under Britain’s Public Order Act.

The Society’s chair, Peter Herbet OBE, is also compiling a formal submission to the International Criminal Court requesting the pair be charged with incitement to commit crimes against humanity.

“The recent comments by the Sun journalist Katie Hopkins, authorised for publication by her Editor and senior staff, are sadly some of the most offensive, xenophobic and racist comments I have read in a British newspaper for some years,” Herbert wrote in a letter address to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe.

He notes that Hopkins’ use of the word “cockroaches” is a reference to a description used “with devastating results” during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

“Given the huge circulation of these comments in the Sun and in the media generally, the propensity for racial violence against people of African descent in the UK is obvious,” he wrote.

Hopkins column was printed in the same week that as hundreds of hopeful migrants died at sea when a large boat carrying asylum seekers from Northern Africa capsized in the Mediterranean. There have so far been only 28 survivors found, meaning as many as 900 passengers died, including as many as 100 children. Among the small group of survivors was the boat’s captain, who has since been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter.

Article

I’m not going anywhere: Gillian Triggs’ message to the government

News report on Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs’ decision to move forward with investigating allegations of sexual abuse of asylum seeker children in Australian immigration detention centres.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    21 May 2015

I’m not going anywhere: Gillian Triggs’ message to the government

The Royal Commission into child sex abuse has begun investigating allegations of sexual abuse of asylum seeker children in Australia’s detention centres, making the Department of Immigration and Border Protection the first federal government department to be investigated by the commission.

The commission has served the department with “notices to produce”, signaling it will be conducting an inquiry into the allegations of abuse.

The investigation was sparked by a recent Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry, which uncovered 44 instances of sexual abuse of children, and new evidence produced this week pointing to an additional 28 incidents of abuse.

Human Rights Commission president professor Gillian Triggs referred the allegations to the national royal commission when they came to light. The commission is now in the early stages of its investigation into the department, which may widen to directly target Australia’s detention centres.

The commission is unable to investigate allegations on Nauru or Manus Island as they fall outside its jurisdiction, but will investigate detention centres within Australia. The beginnings of the inquiry were confirmed in a letter from the commission’s chairman Justice Peter McClellan to Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

The letter confirmed that "alleged child sexual abuse in Australia's immigration detention centres is currently being considered" by the commission.

"However, I can indicate that although detention centres on the Australian mainland or Australian territories are within the jurisdiction of a royal commission, the commission is of the view that it cannot investigate events that occur within another country," Justice McClelland wrote.

The commission may choose to proceed by calling a public hearing on the matter, which would see the Attorney-General’s Department representing the Commonwealth in an extensive investigation intoevidence surrounding the department’s response to reports of sexual abuse of children.

If a hearing is called, the immigration minister, former ministers and department staff may be called to give evidence to thecommission about the department’s handling of these reports.

The department said it is “fully co-operating” with the commission’s inquiry and has already provided information requested.

"Refugee children are already extremely vulnerable and the fact that some of them have been subjected to further abuse and assault is sickening and must be exposed,” Senator Young said of the commission’s inquiry.

The commission’s decision to investigate sexual abuse in detention centres comes after months of attacks directed at Professor Triggs from senior members of the federal government over her decision to investigate Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers.

Both the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General made comments implying that Professor Triggs had created the Human Rights Commission’s report into detention centres as a direct attack on this government. The attacks from the government continued to mount until she was allegedly offered an inducement to resign by the Attorney-General’s department.

But this week Triggs has been defiant. Not only has she achieved her goal of having the abuse of children in detention investigated by the powerful royal commission, she also sent a powerful message to the government at a conference in Canberra: I’m not going anywhere.

She told the She Leads conference that being attacked by the federal government over her inquiry was the low point of her decorated 47 year legal career – but that it wasn’t going to stop her from seeing out her five year appointment as the president of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

"So it was an extraordinary experience and one which I think was the lowest point of my professional career. But it's one that I'm absolutely determined to manage my way through,” she said.

She also said she is not phased by the government’s attacks because she knows that in calling the inquiry into children in detention, she was doing exactly what was required of her in her role.

"Now, no human rights commission in the world could have turned its back on the number of children held in prolonged and indefinite and mandatory detention as asylum seekers,” she said.

"So as far as I was concerned I was simply doing my job according to the law.”

Triggs left the conference with a resounding message: Speak up, get your facts straight, be willing to take the hard knocks but most of all, stay in the game.

Article

“Not a service to use and abuse”: Why domestic violence victims in Australia are in grave danger

News report and analysis on the poor management of domestic violences services in regional NSW.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Women’s Agenda
  • Published:
    11 March 2015

“Not a service to use and abuse”: Why domestic violence victims in Australia are in grave danger

A women’s only refuge in Broken Hill has begun turning away women and children who cannot afford to pay for its services.

The management of Catherine Haven, a refuge for women and children fleeing domestic violence in Broken Hill, was taken over two months ago by husband and wife Lieutenant Phillip Sutcliffe and Donna Sutcliffe.

Catherine Haven is considered a particularly crucial service because domestic violence rates in Broken Hill are among the highest in Australia.

Unfortunately, the service is doing little to accommodate the vast and rising demand, nor to protect the countless victims requiring safety and support.

Deep state and federal funding cuts have recently forced Catherine Haven to cut its hours from 24 hours a day, seven days a week to 9-5, Monday to Friday.

The cuts are largely a result of the NSW Government’s recent Going Home Staying Home reforms, which slashed funding to women’s only refuges and forced domestic violence support services to generalise and cater to all causes of homelessness and, in some cases, even forced them to cater to men as well as women.

This new generalist approach to domestic violence services is reflected by the fact that Lieutenant Sutcliffe has admitted he has no experience in the domestic violence sector whatsoever.

On top of harsh funding cuts, Phillip Sutcliffe and his wife have decided to implement their own means of saving money for the service.

They have introduced a compulsory fee for the use of the service, and have introduced a policy stating that any woman or child unable to pay the fee will be turned away.

Catherine Haven, designed to be a government-funded, free crisis service for any all victims of violence in need of support, now charges victims $20 per night for its services. The fee itself has been in place for some time, but in the past the Salvation Army would clear any debts for women and children who were unable to pay it.

The Sutcliffe’s new regime for Catherine Haven has put a stop to that. Lieutenant Sutcliffe told ABC’s Background Briefing, in no uncertain terms, that if a woman turned up to the facility who couldn’t pay, she would not be allowed in.

“So they can’t come back unless they pay off their debts?” ABC reporter Hager Cohen asked Sutcliffe on Background Briefing.

“Yes,” he replied.

“We don't charge much per night here, yet if you go to the private rental market you're paying probably 200 times what we're charging a night. So if they're not paying their nightly allowance here, we as an organisation can't really write them a reference to say that they're on-time payers,” Sutcliffe continued.

But what caused the strongest backlash was the egregious language Sutcliffe used when justifying his new strict payment regulations for victims of domestic violence.

He said he was clamping down on women who “abuse” the system.

“It's not simply a service that they can come and use and abuse,” he said.

He also implied his new regime would teach victims of domestic violence to be more “responsible”.

“There's actually responsibilities about them coming here now. We follow up on making sure they are making their payments for their accommodation, that they've come to stay here,” he said.

“It's not just a free service that they can just come in and go as they want.”

“It’s not just a use and abuse type service,” Sutcliffe repeated.

In audible disbelief, the reporter questioned Sutcliffe further:

“Have you actually had to turn women away because of debt?” Cohen asked.

“Not recently, but yeah… it has happened in the past,” Sutcliffe replied.

“It must be gut wrenching for you to have to turn women away when they need you,” Cohen responded.

“I've not had to deal with that myself…” Sutcliffe trails off.

Sutcliffe’s comments caused an immediate and widespread backlash on social media. The pushback was so strong that the Salvation Army has been forced to issue a formal apology for Sutcliffe’s comments.

"The Salvation Army would like to sincerely apologise for the comments made in an interview with a Salvation Army officer which was featured on the ABC Background Briefing program," the organisation said in a statement.

"The comments made on the program do not reflect the policies and procedures of The Salvation Army when it comes to working with women and children escaping domestic violence. The Salvation Army works with women and children escaping domestic violence on an individual basis, and their welfare has and always will be our priority.”

The statement went on to say that it will work with the management of Catherine Haven to ensure that the policies in place at the refuge serve the best interests of victims.

A spokesperson for the Department of Family and Communicty Services told Women's Agenda the department has met with the Salvation Army to discuss the issue.

"Senior FACS Officers today met with Salvation Army management to discuss concerns that women escaping domestic violence are being refused assistance if they have an unpaid accommodation debt," the spokesperson said.

"The Salvation Army advised that no clients have been turned away from the refuge. The Salvation Army has been providing specialist homelessness services in Broken Hill, including services for women and children escaping domestic and family violence, for many years."

"FACS has requested that the Salvation Army provide formal written assurance within the week of its capabilities and capacity to deliver an effective client centred specialist homelessness service in Broken Hill."

Although this story refers to just one refuge out of many hundreds, sadly, it perfectly captures the essence of the dangerous approach to domestic violence services we are witnessing in Australia.

The idea that a refuge originally designed to provide specialist, round-the-clock crisis care to victims of domestic violence is now only open during business hours, being run by a man who openly admits he has no experience with domestic violence care and turning away women who can’t pay – women who need the support the most - reflects just how far we have fallen when it comes to supporting these victims.

The Catherine Haven story as a whole captures the tragedy of our government’s approach to domestic violence, but you really only need to read one small fragment of the story to appreciate the danger domestic violence victims are now in.

The fragment is this: “It's not just a free service that they can just come in and go as they want.”

This gets to the very heart of the problem because Sutcliffe could not be more mistaken. Domestic violence refuges, by their very design, are free services to which women and children can come and go as they require. They are a “refuge”. The fact that a man in charge of providing this service is describing it as precisely the opposite of the safe, supportive, free service it needs to be in order to be effective shows just how much danger the sector is in.

Article

A “state of emergency”: Why domestic violence in regional NSW needs urgent attention

News report on proposed legislative and policy responses to the epidemic of domestic violence in rural NSW.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Women’s Agenda
  • Published:
    30 April 2015

A “state of emergency”: Why domestic violence in regional NSW needs urgent attention

NSW deputy Labor leader Linda Burney has described regional western NSW as being “past a state of emergency” due to the high incidence of domestic violence.

Rates of domestic violence are skyrocketing and not enough is being done to address the problem in this area.

Statistics show that in this region, the domestic violence incident rate was three times the NSW average in 2014. 1,425 domestic violence-related assaults were recorded in this region alone in 2014. This, obviously, does not include incidents that go unreported.

Burney’s call to action comes following the news of the death of an 18 year old woman in Brewarrina in Western NSW on Saturday evening. The woman was found in her home suffering serous injuries and died at the scene. Her 22 year old partner has been remanded in custody in relation to her death. He had three outstanding arrest warrants against him at the time she was killed.

This woman was the 33rd to be killed as a result of violence in Australia since January 1, 2015, and another woman – 51 year old Linda Locke - has been killed in the days since.

Burney says this death also sheds light on the fact that this rural region is suffering particularly badly under the weight of the domestic violence epidemic.

In these parts of NSW, domestic violence is considered “normal”.

“We’re talking about young people, teenagers, all doing it. There’s very little understanding that domestic violence is not a normal part of your relationship, because it is normal out there,” she told Guardian Australia.

“People are just numb. They’re used to the violence and they’re used to the awfulness.”

Why are the rates of violence so much higher in this region than the rest of the state?

Burney said the increased severity of the epidemic is owed to a number of factors, including high levels of drug and alcohol abuse in these regional towns and resultant high levels of unemployment. In particular, Burney said, many of these towns struggle with widespread addiction to ice (crystal methamphetamine).

Burney said more attention and funding needs to be directed towards addressing these alarmingly high rates of violence.

“Anywhere else in the country other than these tiny Aboriginal towns in western NSW and there would be a national outcry, with every intervention being thrown at it,” she said.

Burney said that not only is the problem not being adequately addressed, but it is being exacerbated by recent state and federal cuts to domestic violence services which hit rural NSW particularly hard.

The Going Home Staying Home reforms, implemented by the NSW government in 2014, changed tendering processes for homelessness services to favour large organisations over specialist services. This meant that many specialist services in regional areas lost funding or were absorbed by larger organisations – Walgett, a town in western NSW with one of the highest rates of domestic violence, was particularly badly affected by the reforms.

NSW Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi also drew attention to the problems facing regional NSW late last year.

“There are still many regional NSW and other providers that have or will be shutting down services as a result of a harsh and uninformed policy. “

"We know that regional NSW has some of the highest rates of domestic violence, but because of these short-sighted reforms, providers such as Kempsey Women's Refuge, who have long supported Indigenous women and their children, have been forced to close and hand over the keys to a large generalist provider," she said.

With rates of violence three times a state average that is already endemically high, why is the government moving funding and services away from rural NSW?

Article

293 girls and women rescued from Boko Haram

News report on the rescue of 293 women and girls from Boko Haram.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Women’s Agenda
  • Published:
    06 May 2015

293 girls and women rescued from Boko Haram

200 girls and 93 women have reportedly been rescued from Boko Haram terrorist camps in Nigeria.

Today the Nigerian military announced it had rescued the girls from their captors, Islamist terror group Boko Haram, by invading camps in the Sambisa forest in the country’s north-east.

The 293 released hostages have not yet been formally identified, but Nigerian officials have confirmed they do not include any of the 276 girls kidnapped from a secondary school in April of last year. The released hostages will be identified in coming days.

Sadly, the women and girls rescued make up only a small percentage of the total number kidnapped by Boko Haram since its insurgency began. The 293 rescued today and the 276 kidnapped last April are among approximately 2,000 others that have been taken hostage by the terrorist group.

Sambisa forest, where the girls rescued were being held in army barracks, sits in the northeast region of Nigeria. Boko Haram have a number of terror camps in the region and the forest itself is considered a Boko Haram stronghold. It is believed the girls kidnapped last April were taken to the same area to be held hostage.

Boko Haram’s insurgency, which began in 2009, has so far claimed 15,000 lives and has rendered 1.5 million people displaced or homeless.

The terror group’s kidnapping of the 276 girls from a high school in the northeast region last year brought unprecedented global attention to the insurgency.

On April 14, 2014, the terrorist group invaded a government high school in Chibok, Borno and kidnapped the 276 girls. 57 of them later escaped, but the remaining 217 have not been seen since. The girls were aged between 15 and 18.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau later said he planned to sell the girls as slaves or “marry them off”.

The kidnapping led to the global #bringbackourgirls campaign, endorsed by celebrities the world over, including First Lady Michelle Obama.

An important figure in the #bringbackourgirls campaign was Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, an advocate for the education of girls and women in Taliban-controlled Pakistan. Yousafzai was shot by Taliban officials as a result of her advocacy, but survived and has become a global campaigner in the years since. She is just 17 years old.

Yousafzai, among others, has criticised Nigerian leaders for not doing enough to find the girls and bring them to safety. She renewed her call for increased action on April 14 this year, which marked a year since their capture.

Yousafzai’s call for action on the first anniversary of the kidnappings was echoed by marches and vigils held in cities across the world asking governments to #bringbackourgirls.

Article

“We are closer than we’ve ever been”: Hillary Clinton speaks out on gender equality

News report on Hillary Clinton’s comments on gender equality to the 6th Women in the World Summit in New York City.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Women’s Agenda
  • Published:
    24 April 2015

“We are closer than we’ve ever been”: Hillary Clinton speaks out on gender equality

US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has clarified her campaign’s position on gender equality at the 6th Women in the World Summit in New York City.

The Summit, organised in partnership with the New York Times and Georgetown University and held at the city’s Lincoln Centre, is dedicated to discussing the empowerment of women and girls around the world.

Clinton gave a powerful address on the second day of the summit, putting women’s rights and representation front and centre in the third week of her presidential campaign.

She addressed the need to end violence against women, the need to end sexual assault, the need to implement paid parental leave and the need to ensure all women and girls are given the same opportunities as men and boys in America.

In her speech, Clinton said she wants to “make sure that every child – every single child – has the same chance at equality and opportunity”.

“That’s the dream we share, that’s the fight we must wage.”

The candidate received a loud applause when she addressed the issue of paid parental leave in America.

“It is outrageous that American is the only country in the developed world that does not guarantee paid leave for mothers of newborns,” she said.

She also addressed the increasingly visible issue of sexual assault on US college campuses, and in American society more broadly.

“When women of any age - whether on college campuses or military bases or even in their homes - face sexual assault, then no woman is secure,” she said.

“Every women deserves to have the safety and security they need.”

There were also points of optimism in Clinton’s address.

“Despite enormous obstacles that remain, there has never been a better time to be born female,” she said.

“We are so close – closer than we’ve ever been.”

The Women in the World Summit’s founder, journalist and author Tina Brown said she is confident that gender will become a significant issue in Clinton’s campaign and, if it comes to pass, her presidency.

“Hillary’s record on this issue is great and very few people have a record as stellar as she does when it comes to advancing women,” Brown told Brown told Yahoo.

“(Gender) is her issue, and so far she has been very impressive on it.”

“I personally think she’ll be a great president if she can get there.”

Clinton announced her campaign just less than two weeks ago by way of a 3 minute campaign video depicting her as a champion for “everyday Americans”. Since the release, Clinton has begun her campaign in earnest by travelling through the early-primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa.

Clinton’s campaign launch video did not directly address the issue of gender, but today’s address at the Women in the World summit appears to indicate it will be a key issue in her campaign.

Article

The story behind the Italian Forum Cultural Centre deadlock

News report on the controversial sale of a cultural icon in Sydney’s inner west.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    City Hub
  • Published:
    10 July 2014

The story behind the Italian Forum Cultural Centre deadlock

The ongoing tension surrounding the sale of the Italian Forum Cultural Centre is just the latest installment in a long history of debate over the centre’s proper use and ownership.

In the story’s latest development, the Business Management Committee (BMC), which opposes Leichhardt Council’s proposal to sell the cultural centre to Italian language and community group Co.As.It, met with Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne for the first time last week.

This meeting resulted from repeated concerns expressed by the BMC and the Actors Centre Australia (ACA), current Forum tenants, that council was not engaging with their side of the discussion and was not being transparent in its decision making.

The most significant of these concerns surrounds Mayor Byrne’s assertion that Co.As.It is the only bidder to provide a business plan for the cultural centre.

“Co.As.It is also the only organisation to have submitted a business plan for future use of the site,” Mayor Byrne told City Hub.

The BMC requested to see this business plan following Tuesday’s meeting.

Sol Michael, BMC spokesperson, and Dean Carey, Creative Director of ACA, both said they do not feel this plan assuages their concerns about the viability of the sale to Co.As.It.

“The building simply won’t function under this Co.As.It business plan,” Mr Carey said.

This sparked concern among members of the BMC and ACA regarding the processes that had taken place during the sale negotiations. In a series of documents provided to City Hub, some of the details of this process were revealed.

Days before bidding closed for the sale of the cultural centre, Leichhardt Council imposed added conditions on a contract already submitted by Glorious Gospel Church (GGC) which included a bid for $2.6 million, a bid exceeding Co.As.It’s offer at that stage of the process and which has been raised by GGC since.

A source who preferred to remain nameless believes this to be evidence that council did not intend to consider purchasers other than Co.As.It for the sale.

“Leichhardt Council was never going to allow anyone to buy the property other than Co.As.It. This is simply not a transparent process and unfair to all – other than Co.As.It.”

Mayor Byrne told City Hub council’s determination for the centre to be sold to Co.As.It is based on its ability to fulfill a cultural covenant that was attached to a $3.5 million grant awarded for the operation of the cultural centre by the Rudd Government in November 2010. The covenant stipulates the centre must be used to provide cultural events for the community.

Mr Michael, however, believes Co.As.It cannot fulfill the conditions of the covenant.

“The covenant requires the premises be used for cultural events for the whole community, not just Italian cultural events. It also requires the forum to be available to the public, which will not happen under Co.As.It’s plan,” he said.

This debate over the interpretation of the covenant is based on conflicting ideas about Leichhardt’s current community.

Stakeholders opposed to the sale expressed concern that Leichhardt’s Italian community has moved away and the covenant now requires the centre to serve Leichhardt’s existing community.

“Suburbs change their characteristics over time. If you walk up Norton Street the Italian connected places have slowly dwindled and the main focus has changed,” said Stephen Hathway, director of the cultural centre’s administrators, SV Partners.

Mr Michael echoed this observation.

“I’ve had a business in the forum since 1999 and the amount of Italians living in the area has diminished dramatically,” he said.

This fundamental disagreement over how to best fulfill the federal government’s cultural covenant lies at the heart of the stagnated debate over the future of the Forum.

There have also been allegations made from both sides of the discussion regarding financial motives.

If the centre does not remain operational in line with the covenant, Leichhardt Council is liable to repay the federal grant at a rate specified in the original agreement. Currently, Leichhardt Council’s exposure to this repayment is approximately $2.2 million. Mr Michael told City Hub he feels this exposure could be influencing council’s insistence on securing a sale to Co.As.It.

Mayor Byrne said the BMC is resisting the Co.As.It sale in order to avoid repaying Forum levies.

“It is unsurprising that the building management committee which owes $300,000 in levies and is hoping to see its debt dissolve, opposes the sale to Co.As.It,” said Mayor Byrne.

Leichhardt Council gave SV Partners a deadline of June 2 to confirm a sale to Co.As.It and indicated if SV Partners do not meet this deadline, council would liquidate the property and assign a new administrating body.

SV Partners sought an injunction to stop council from doing so, which was granted by Supreme Court of NSW on June 2.

Last week council requested the injunction case be dismissed. This request was denied by the Supreme Court and the parties remain in a deadlock over the sale and the future of the Forum.

Article

New bid to shake up Italian Forum sale

News report revealing new information about a contentious sale of a key cultural venue in Sydney’s inner west.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The Inner West Independent
  • Published:
    11 September 2014

New bid to shake up Italian Forum sale

The controversial sale of the Italian Forum Cultural Centre may not go ahead after all, according to the centre’s administrators SV Partners.

When previous owners Italian Forum Limited (IFL) went into voluntary receivership in late 2013, SV Partners was appointed to take over administration of the property. SV Partners has been in conflict with Leichhardt Council over the terms of the sale ever since.

Leichhardt Council, headed by Mayor Darcy Byrne, has backed a bid from local Italian community group Co.As.It, while the business community and SV Partners have decried this decision for its lack of financial viability.

During the conflict, SV Partners received three bids for the purchase of the Cultural Centre – one from Co.As.It, one from the Glorious Gospel Church (GGC) and one from the Australian Chamber of Music. The highest bidder was the Glorious Gospel Church, however council determined Co.As.It to be more suitable and has decisive power based on its being the largest creditor.

This week, however, SV Partners told City Hub they were considering a fourth option.

SV Partners said they were considering an offer from the Glorious Gospel Church to bail out Italian Forum Limited. This bail out option would mean the centre would not be delcared bankrupt and its assets liquidated and sold; instead, the GGC would provide the money to allow IFL to continue operating the centre as it was previously.

This bail out would allow GGC some executive power over the centre without it being officially transferred from the hands of IFL.

A source who preferred not to be named told City Hub he believed an agreement had already been signed to this effect.

According to an unnamed source, the option of a financial backer bailing out IFL was offered to potential buyers originally, but no buyers wanted to go down this path and instead began negotiating a sale. It seems now GGC has had a change of heart and is taking up the offer to bail out IFL.

“There is a fourth proposal on the table and that is to re-capitalise the Forum through the Glorious Gospel Church who are backed up by the Bathurst Baptist Financial Services,” said Stephen Hathway, executive director of SV Partners.

“Until the current court case is heard, we cannot act on any of these proposals. We hope that common sense will prevail with council and they will realise the best option is to re-capitalise.

This option would see the confirmation of a contentious 10-year lease signed between SV Partners and the Actors Centre Australia. The lease was signed in 2013 but was declared void, an issue that is currently being addressed in court.

If the IFL is bailed out, the ACA will retain their tenancy.

ACA director Dean Carey said he supported the option to re-capitalise the IFL.

“Bailing out the IFL is a very exciting proposition for a number of reasons.”

“As a not-for-profit organization, IFL can attract funding to underwrite public use of the venue, which a private organisation might not be able to do.”

“This is a fantastic outcome for the future of the Forum”.

Mr Carey is confident the ACA will benefit from the GGC bail out.

“We have a terrific partnership with the GGC,” Mr Carey said.

“With us there managing the building and ensuring it fulfills its duty and the GGC bailing out the IFL, it feels like a win-win.”

The bail out would, however, exclude the possibility of the centre being managed by Co.As.It.

Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne remains adamant the centre should be sold to Co.As.It.

“The unified position of council is that Co.As.It will be a terrific purchaser for the centre.”

“We want to make sure that a cultural centre that was built in public money and the blood sweat and tears of local volunteers remains in the hands of a not-fot-profit organisation and remains a home for the Italian community on Norton Street,” Mayor Byrne said.

Article

NSW Government forced to release WestConnex documents

News report on the release of secret documents regarding the NSW government’s controversial WestConnex development plans.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    City Hub
  • Published:
    21 August 2014

NSW Government forced to release WestConnex documents

An ongoing struggle for transparency regarding the NSW Government’s WestConnex project has resulted in the release of over 200 documents that had previously been kept secret.

The documents had not been released to the public as they were being held under government privilege.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC of the NSW Greens challenged this use of government privilege in the NSW Parliament. The challenge was upheld and the documents were subsequently released to the public this week.

This process began when the NSW Greens moved a call for papers for all documents relating to the WestConnex business case in March of this year.

“The release of the additional documents was vindicating for those who support transparency and open government. It was quite disappointing to see that the government had unnecessarily claimed privilege over so many records,” Dr Faruqi said.

Dr Faruqi has also called for the release of a cost-benefit analysis of the WestConnex project, however the state government has refused to release this information to the public.

Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay said the transparency challenge was unnecessary.

“The documents now released were not relevant to the final business case but I am confident the Greens will enjoy themselves with the extra paperwork,” said Minister Gay.

“Everyone knows the Greens are ideologically opposed to building roads and delivering infrastructure.”

A spokesperson for the WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) confirmed all requested documents would be released to the public.

“WDA complied with the recent parliamentary order for papers and the subsequent challenge.”

“Since the business case was delivered last year, work has progressed swiftly on delivering this critical infrastructure project.”

The NSW Government’s WestConnex process has also been criticised for transparency issues relating to property acquisitions.

City Hub reported in July the NSW Government and the WestConnex Delivery Authority (WDA) had not definitively announced to the public which residents would have their homes acquired in order to construct the tollway.

City Hub subsequently reported the WDA had accidentally sent out emails to residents informing them their homes would be acquired, and later informed them they would not.

The confusion surrounding the project is ongoing and Dr Faruqi has indicated she will continue to pressure the state government to release all project information to the public.

“The government needs to come clean with residents about how the proposed road would affect their lives. That’s why we are pushing ahead to get support for the Greens call for an Upper House inquiry into WestConnex.”

Article

Cuts to NSW TAFE target students with disabilities

News report on the state and federal governments’ cuts to TAFE services in NSW and the impacts this will have on students with disabilities.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    City Hub
  • Published:
    10 July 2014

Cuts to NSW TAFE target students with disabilities

Premier Mike Baird’s cuts to funding for NSW TAFE combined with Prime Minister Abbott’s proposed changes to the Disability Support Pension spell tragedy for people living with disabilities in Sydney, according to Shadow Minister for Disability Services Barbara Perry.

While the federal government defends its cuts to the Disability Support Pension scheme by arguing that Australians with disabilities should be encouraged to transition from welfare into employment, the NSW Government is removing opportunities on the critical path to gaining this employment, Minister Perry told City Hub.

“I want both of these governments to understand the irony here is not lost on us,” Minister Perry said.

“The real irony here is that the federal government is wielding a big stick on people with disabilities, telling them they have to get off pensions and get work, all the while the state government is removing TAFE programs that are crucial in assisting people with disabilities in finding work in Sydney.”

NSW Labor leader John Robertson said he is similarly concerned about the combined impact of the state and federal cuts to disability services.

“As Tony Abbott is seeking to cut income assistance for individuals with disabilities, TAFE is even more critical for people with disabilities. They deserve the opportunity to earn a living and support themselves, especially if the federal Liberal government is leaving them behind,” Mr Robertson said.

Graeme Innes, who until last week was Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner, echoed concerns that Premier Baird’s cuts to TAFE programs will compound the impact of Prime Minister Abbott’s pension cuts and will result in serious problems for people living with disabilities.

“If the aim is to move people with disabilities off welfare and into work, TAFE programs are the best way to make this transition. To restrict opportunities through TAFE as well as restricting pensions will just add to the disadvantage these people already experience,” Mr Innes said.

TAFE has historically been the best way for people with disabilities to gain the necessary qualifications to move into the workforce, according to Minister Perry.

TAFE institutions offer entry level courses that provide an introduction to higher education appropriate to the needs of students with physical or intellectual disabilities.

Many of these entry level courses are scheduled to be abandoned following the Baird government cuts.

“We know that these entry level courses are the best ways for students with disabilities to gain a diploma and enhance their ability to access employment,” Minister Perry said.

“Students with disabilities are being disproportionately impacted based on the decision to direct the cuts towards lower level courses at TAFE,” Mr Innes said.

These cuts will also impact the services provided by TAFE to support students with disabilities to ensure these students successfully receive their qualification, according to Minister Perry. These support services include scribes, interpreters and assistants for students with both physical and intellectual disabilities.

“The new loading structure for support services for students with disabilities will not be enough to provide these services for an entire course, which is what these students desperately need,” Minister Perry said.

“For example, these reforms will cover $600 for a deaf student at TAFE, which will be enough to pay for an interpreter for a total of three days.”

Mr Robertson also expressed the significance of these cuts to disability support services at TAFE institutions.

“If TAFE cannot offer sufficient note takers, interpreters and other services to make an education accessible, many disabled students will lose their chance at education, and a productive and fulfilling life,” he said.

City of Sydney Councillor Linda Scott agreed that TAFE is among the most important opportunities for students with disabilities, particularly in the City of Sydney area as institutions such as Ultimo TAFE are integral to the inner city higher education system.

“My younger sister was born with a disability and is one of the many in our society who has benefited from being able to attend TAFE and received a fantastic education there which has allowed her to develop the skills she required to gain employment,” Cr Scott said.

A spokesperson for TAFE NSW said she was confident students with disabilities would continue to receive support from TAFE institutions.

“No full time disability consultants at TAFE institutes have lost their jobs as part of recent institute changes,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education and Communities also expressed confidence in TAFE’s continued capacity to support students with disabilities.

“TAFE NSW will continue its commitment to supporting students with a disability in the future.”

The budget documents released by Premier Baird and the NSW Government, however, predict a decline in enrolments from students with disabilities as a result of the Smart and Skilled reforms. The budget forecasts a drop of over 2,000 enrolments from 2013 to 2014.

Article

Families will get less and the government won't get savings: The lose-lose on PPL

News report on the federal government’s new paid parental leave policy.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    20 May 2015

Families will get less and the government won't get savings: The lose-lose on PPL

As a major measure of this year’s federal budget, the Abbott government announced that Australian mums would no longer be able to access both their employers’ paid parental leave allowance as well as the taxpayer-funded allowance. The government’s paid parental leave scheme allows each parent $11,500 – the equivalent of 18 weeks leave at minimum wage – and was established to act as a complement to paid leave provided by employers.

But the government has now announced that parents will only be allowed to receive one or the other, referring to women who have used both in the past as “double dippers”, “scammers” and “rorters”. The government proposed that by taking away the taxpayer-funded leave allowance from 34,000 double-dipping mothers, it would save $968 million over four years.

But employers and unions have said unequivocally that not only will the policy not work as it is intended, it will also not generate the savings it is designed to generate. A group of employers and unions will hold talks in coming weeks to discuss how to get the government to back down on the new policy.

“There’s an early agreement that employers and the unions will get together and discuss how this can be changed,” the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Ged Kearney, told Guardian Australia.

Kearney said if the current policy is passed, employers will likely compensate by offering other employee benefits in the place of the extra $11,500 of paid leave. If this does eventuate, Kearney says it will be a “lose-lose”.

“It just won’t work the way it has been announced. Employers will offer other things instead of paid parental leave, like a return-to-work bonus, so their employees continue to benefit. And unions will obviously bargain for those kind of things and for pay increases rather than additional paid parental leave.

“That makes it a lose-lose – families will get less paid parental leave in total and the government won’t get its savings either.”

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s CEO Kate Carnall agreed, saying the likelihood of employers replacing paid leave with alternative benefits means the projected savings from the policy are unlikely.

“Of course employers will pay their benefits differently. They won’t walk away, they will just find a different way to pay the benefit, they will act in the best interest of their company and their staff, so their staff don’t just lose $11,500.”

Carnall said that in the private sector at least, the new policy is unlikely to result in substantial savings.

“This policy might achieve savings in the public sector, but in the private sector it won’t work as a savings measure,” she said.

AI Group’s chief executive reinforced this possibility again, telling the ABC that employers would find “other ways to retain and incentivise their workforce”.

The new policy will take effect in July of 2017 if it passes through the Senate. However, significant push back from political parties as well as employers and unions mean the measure may have trouble getting passed at all.

Article

Homelessness and older women: The accumulation of a lifetime of inequality

Profile of an Australian playwright tackling big political issues with her scriptwriting.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Women’s Agenda
  • Published:
    16 March 2015

Homelessness and older women: The accumulation of a lifetime of inequality

An organisation supporting older women living in poverty and homelessness has launched a discussion on Twitter about the troubling landscape for ageing women in Australia today.

Twitter users @homeforwoman and @flickreynolds encouraged participants to share their own stories of poverty or homelessness, or stories of women they have come into contact with, as well as to propose solutions to the ongoing problem of poverty in older women.

Older, single women are currently the single most disadvantaged demographic in Australia. This is because the myriad inequalities, structural barriers and roadblocks in a woman’s life compound over a lifetime, and by old age those gender-based setbacks lead to a lack of financial independence and, in many cases, poverty and homelessness.

When you consider the number of financial inequalities women face throughout their lifetime, it is clear why for so many women these compound to induce poverty late in life.

Homelessness support organisation Housing for the Aged described the issue as “a perfect storm of time spent out of the workforce/pay inequality/less super and limited affordable housing”.

Those women who work earn 18.8% less than men, on average. Over a working lifetime, this pay gap leads to a wide discrepancy in overall earnings and savings for women.

On top of the pay gap, earning capacity is compromised again for women when they take time out of the workforce to have children. With the fluctuating and often underwhelming state of paid parental leave, having children often means weeks of unpaid leave for women. With each child and the consequent hours spent undertaking unpaid labour, this loss is compounded, and results in large overall losses in income over the period of a working life.

When working mothers do return after parental leave, many return to part-time or casual work, meaning women are consistently overrepresented in these job classes. The income loss from working part time in order to raise small children again contributes to overall losses in earnings, as does working casually.

As a result of the pay gap, working women have less disposable income over their lifetime. This means that fewer women are able to own property, which in turn means they lose the stability of shelter in old age that comes with owning your own home. Many women still live in homes owned by their partner, and then find themselves homeless following a relationship breakdown.

Another result of the pay gap and income discrepancies for women is that women earn significantly less superannuation over their working lives. Currently, women retire with approximately $92,000 less super than their male colleagues. This loss in retirement savings also contributes to poverty in old age.

The picture is worse still for women who do not work, and who dedicate their lives to raising children. For these women, a lifetime of unpaid labour leaves them financially dependent and, when death or divorce leaves them alone in old age, they can find themselves impoverished.

The results of these compounded inequalities are supported by statistical evidence. According to the Equal Rights Alliance, of those Australians who are single, over 45, earn less than the median wage and do not own their own home, 62% are women.

According to Housing for the Aged, approximately 70% of those seeking its services are women, most of whom are living in poverty following a relationship breakdown.

39% of women who live alone are over the age of 70, while only 19% of men who live alone are. Almost half of the men living alone are under 50, while for women this figure is only 26%.

As Jane Caro pointed out during yesterday’s discussion, this issue is by no means novel.

“Single women and widows have lived very precariously throughout history, depending on charity,” Caro wrote on Twitter.

The prevalence of poverty and homelessness among older women are even more troubling when you consider Australia’s current rental prices. In some Sydney suburbs, weekly rent alone is 38% more than the existing pension.

Cuts to refuges and affordable housing in recent years also mean the safety net for older women living in poverty is narrowing. Worse again, the Equal Rights Alliance expects overall rental stress in Australia to increase in coming decades.

The Australian Human Rights Commission issued a report in 2009 on gender-based poverty, which summed up the issue concisely:

“Instead of accumulating wealth through the retirement income system as intended, due to experiences of inequality over the lifecycle, women are more likely to be accumulating poverty,” the report read.

So how can we solve this thus far intractable problem?

Writer and early education consultant Lisa Bryant said a solution requires the public to be more aware of the extent of the problem.

“Document it, increase public’s perception of the problem, advocate… and provide more social housing,” Bryant wrote.

Article

Same-sex marriage on Sydney soil

News report on the British High Commission’s announcement that British marriage equality laws would extend to British nationals living overseas.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    City Hub
  • Published:
    26 June 2014

Same-sex marriage on Sydney soil

This week, Peter Fraser and his partner Gordon Stevenson will become the first same-sex couple to get married here in Sydney.

As of Friday, June 27, same-sex couples living in Australia will be able to marry in British consulates in Sydney and Canberra as long as one partner holds British citizenship. Following the British High Commission’s announcement that British marriage equality laws would extend to British nationals living overseas, Peter and Gordon were the first couple to register to marry in Sydney’s British consulate.

“It’s a real privilege to be the first same-sex couple to be married here in Australia and it’s great that the British government’s laws have changed to include citizens living in other countries,” Mr Fraser said.

Friday’s introduction of same-sex marriages in British consulates will mean that many Australians will no longer have to travel overseas to get married.

“It may be nineteen years too late, but we are now able to stand up in front of our friends and family in the city we live in and the city we love and have our relationship acknowledged.”

Rodney Croome, national director of Marriage Equality Australia and gay rights activist, believes that Friday’s wedding will impact the marriage equality debate here in Australia.

“What these weddings will show is that same-sex marriages can take place in this country without the sky falling in,” Mr Croome said.

“It will also show that marriage reform can occur under conservative governments, as we have seen in Britain and New Zealand. It shows that we have fallen behind some of our closest allies in terms of marriage equality”.

Dr. Mehreen Faruqi MLC of the NSW Greens also believes that the impact of this development will be felt within Australia’s marriage reform debate.

“Same sex couples marrying under foreign law in Australian cities is an important symbolic step forward for marriage equality in Australia.”

“I have no doubt it will feed into the broader campaign, as the couples and their families participate in and bear witness to the ceremonies.”

The marriages that take place in the British consulates in Sydney and Canberra beginning this Friday will not be recognised in Australian jurisdictions.

“The happiness of these marriages will be tinged with the sadness of knowing that as soon as the couples step back onto Australian soil, their marriages count for nothing,” Mr Croome said.

“I am hopeful that parliamentarians will understand that the failure of Australia to recognize these marriages is a slight against not only the couples themselves but a slight against the countries that married them.”

Mr Fraser believes that these marriages will encourage a parliamentary conscience vote on marriage reform.

“This will pave the way for a free vote within the current government,” said Mr Fraser.

NSW Premier Mike Baird told City News that he was in support of a conscience vote on marriage reform.

“Like Barry O’Farrell, I am a supporter of a conscience vote on this issue.”

In the meantime, couples such as Peter and Gordon are celebrating the significance of being able to marry within Australia.

“It takes away the stigma of being a second-class citizen here in Australia. He will not be my boyfriend or my partner but my husband, and that makes all the difference. I just hope this is available to all Australians soon enough.”

Article

Oscar Pistorius expected to be released after serving just ten months in jail

News report on the legal developments in the case of Oscar Pistorius.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    ABC News Online
  • Published:
    09 June 2015

Oscar Pistorius expected to be released after serving just ten months in jail

South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius is likely to be released from prison in August – after serving just ten months of a five year sentence for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius was convicted of "culpable homicide" – similar to manslaughter – in October 2014, after shooting Steenkamp four times and killing her.

Pistorius shot Steenkamp through a bathroom door on Valentines Day of 2013, claiming in his defense to have mistaken her for an intruder. Following Steenkamp's death reports emerged about her being afraid of her partner and planning to end their relationship the night she died, casting public doubt on Pistorius' version of events. The trial revealed evidence that Steenkamp felt "attacked" by him and "needed protection" from her partner.

If Steenkamp was the victim of domestic violence, she was one of far, far too many. In 2009 it was reported that three women per day were killed as a result of domestic violence in South Africa, according to anti-violence organisation Gun Free South Africa.

But despite the evidence showing that Pistorius fired four shots at Steenkamp and may have had a history of intimidation and violence in their relationship, the perpetrator will be home from prison just ten months after he arrived.

He will be released on probation under "correctional supervision" and may spend time under house arrest, but will not have to see out his five year prison sentence. The recommendation for his release was made by the case management team at the facility where he is being held in SouthAfrica. He is eligible for this early release under South African law because he has now served one sixth of his original sentence.

The victim's parents have spoken out against the release, saying ten months is "not enough for taking a life". Their lawyer, Tania Koen, agreed. "Ten months is not enough," she said.

"It also doesn't send out the proper message and serve as the proper deterrent as the way it should."

But the release may not last. Pistorius' prosecutors will appear before the South African Supreme Court in November to appeal his acquittal for murder. Prosecutors had sought a murder charge in Pistorius' original trial but he was acquitted of this charge and convicted of culpable homicide instead. The prosecutors will appeal this decision in the hope that the Supreme Court of Appeal will convict Pistorius of murder, ensuring he will be sentenced to a much longer – and considerably less flexible – prison sentence.

The fact remains that Pistorius deliberately fired four shots at Steenkamp and killed her. If he is released after less than a year in prison for the violent taking of another life – accident or otherwise – what message will that send about the law's treatment of violence, and in particular domestic violence?

Article

Success of Golden Dawn casts a dark shadow over Greek elections

News report on the surprise ascendence of a extreme-right party in Greece.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Honi Soit
  • Published:
    16 May 2012

Success of Golden Dawn casts a dark shadow over Greek elections

A record-breaking vote for the extreme-right Golden Dawn party marks a grave shift in the politics of Europe, writes Lucia Osborne-Crowley.

The results of Greece’s federal election last Sunday have given rise to grave concerns about the turbulent political future that awaits both Greece and the rest of the Eurozone. Seemingly torn between several extremes, the Greek people have found themselves facing a hung parliament, with centre right party New Democracy winning 18.9 per cent of the vote and 16.7 per cent going to radical left party Syrizia.

While this is a clear sign of desperate indecision within Greece in the face of continued economic uncertainty, more worrying still is the rise of Greece’s own neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn. The party won seven per cent of the vote on Sunday’s election where in the previous election they had managed only 0.23 per cent. The party’s campaign focused on militant nationalism and extreme anti-immigration sentiment and was symbolised by a logo closely resembling the swastika. With policy proposals that include forcing immigrants into work camps and placing landmines along the Greek/Turkish border, the party will enter the Greek parliament with a total of twenty-one seats.

Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikoloas Michaloliakos, has promised to continue the struggle “for a Greece that will not be a social jungle because of the millions of illegal immigrants they brought into our homeland without asking us”. The leader subsequently adopted a more sinister tone. “For those who betray this homeland, the time has come to fear… we are coming”, he threatened. He went on to warn press that “Greece is only the beginning”.

The unexpected success of such an extreme nationalist party, in a nation where no party of similar political persuasion has won seats in federal parliament since 1974, confirms the dangerously unstable political climate in which Greece now finds itself. Possibly, it signals the beginning of a qualitatively different political crisis altogether. In the wake of unprecedented government debt and fierce ongoing debates surrounding austerity measures, it seems the Greek population have turned their backs on the major parties New Democracy and PASOK in an adamant expression of disillusionment, and consequently votes have bled to the extremes that lie to either side of these parties.

This shift away from major parties and towards more extreme political parties that are normally marginalised by the two-party system may have unpredictable consequences for the future of Greece’s economy, the survival of which perpetually hangs in the balance.

This may certainly be seen as a defensive reaction against Greece’s austerity measures, and perhaps Europe’s other nations would be ill advised to pursue this same agenda considering the disturbing consequences that have presented themselves in Greece. Or perhaps this is simply a case of an uncertain economic and political climate encouraging polarised political opinions.

It remains to be seen whether Golden Dawn will manage to foster more support among the Greek population or gain any influence in Greek parliament, but it is suddenly all too certain that very grave and fundamental shifts are occurring in the political climates of Greece and the rest of the Eurozone.

Article

White supremacist group resurfaces in inner Sydney

News report on a white supremacist group that has become active in inner Sydney.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The City Hub
  • Published:
    09 October 2014

White supremacist group resurfaces in inner Sydney

A white supremacist group has begun a new racist campaign around Sydney’s inner city suburbs this week.

The group, called Squadron 88, made themselves known to inner city residents in late August when they began distributing anti-Semitic flyers around the eastern suburbs.

A series of media reports on the campaign seemed to lead the group to halt its activities, however this week the group has resurfaced, according to residents of inner city suburbs such as St Peters and Tempe.

The new campaign suggests the group is expanding its activity, consisting of large posters put up around these suburbs as well as racist literature delivered to people’s mailboxes.

Anti-facist group Antifa said they believe Squadron 88 to be closely connected to far-right party Australia First.

Two flyers have been received by local residents. The first flyer features lengthy paragraphs outlining racist perceptions of the Jewish population and claims “diversity really means white genocide”.

The campaign also features a new anti-non white immigrant flyer.

“Why are we allowing non white migrants who do not like our culture and European way of life to live here?” the flyer reads.

Both flyers also connect the group to Stormfront, a large neo-Nazi organisation in the United States with a recently created Australian branch.

The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) expressed concern that the recent flyers may indicate the group is prepared to include violence in their xenophobic campaigns.

“The military based name of the group, and the reference to 88 which is white supremacist shorthand of Heil Hitler (H being the 8th letter of the alphabet), suggest that what might need to be done may involve violence.”

The group is believed by OHPI to be headed by a Stormfront member who calls him or herself ‘Truewhitewarrior’. The user created a Facebook page which attracted over 200 members before being shut down by Facebook authorities.

The group reappeared on Facebook this week, but again the page was removed.

Inner city residents have expressed deep concern about this activity.

“I’ll be emailing squadron88sydney@gmail.com to let them know they are the ones who are not welcome in our area,” said one local resident.

Independent Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich also expressed concern about the increasingly racist activities of the group, and also articulated similar sentiments regarding the lack of tolerance for this behaviour in the inner city.

“The Sydney electorate is one of the most tolerant and diverse parts of Australia,” he said.

“This has been shown in recent days with the outrage expressed about moves to ban the burqa from public places.”

Mr Greenwich also said elected officials were allowing this kind of xenophobic activity to flourish in Sydney.

“Sadly the conduct of some state and federal leaders have fanned the flames of persecution rather than promoting multiculturalism.”

Mr Greenwich said he has been contacted by multiple constituents who are concerned about this increase in racial persecution.

Following this, Mr Greenwich has requested that NSW Parliament investigate ways that this persecution can be prevented in NSW.

Article

Zoe’s Law: A woman’s choice

News report on the proposed feotal personhood law before the NSW parliament and the potential implications for reproductive rights and abortion law.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Honi Soit
  • Published:
    03 September 2013

Zoe’s Law: A woman’s choice

Earlier this year, Reverend Fred Nile MLC proposed the Crimes Amendment (Zoe’s Law) Bill 2012 in the Legislative Council. Nile’s proposed amendment to the Crimes Act 1900 changes the legal status of a baby in utero, according the foetus full personhood under the law.

It was a response to a criminal case brought against the driver of a car who hit Brodie Donegan, causing her injury and leading to the death of her unborn child. The driver was charged with grievous bodily harm, but Donegan, Fred Nile and other supporters of the reform believed the penalty should have been heavier, which would be afforded by changing the legal status of the foetus. However, the law failed to pass in the Legislative Council, and worries about the implications of legally separating an unborn child from its mother in terms of personhood were temporarily assuaged.

A new version of the law is before the NSW Parliament. While it may be true that the introduction of Zoe’s Law would allow harsher penalties to be given to perpetrators such as the negligent driver in the Donegan case, the justice it precludes may outweigh that which it faciliates. Changing the legal status of a foetus is a very dangerous change to a legal structure whose foundations of protection of a woman’s right to control her own body are already shaky at best.

This is the view held by Dr Mehreen Faruqi, a Greens member who opposed the Bill in its parliamentary debate on Thursday. Faruqi told Honi that she, with unequivocal support from the party, opposed the Bill because the comprehensive nature of the current Crimes Act renders it entirely unnecessary if not for the purpose of repealing women’s reproductive rights and prepare the ground for an anti-abortion Australia.

“As it stands, the status of abortion in NSW is on shaky ground. This law, if passed, has the potential of adding another layer of criminality to what should be essentially be a human right.” Faruqi told Honi immediately prior to the parliamentary debate on Zoe’s Law. “This is inappropriate and gravely concerning as it not only impacts on women’s reproductive health but sets us on a slippery slope to undermining women’s rights to choose.”

Faruqi believes that the passing of the law would signal that in 2013, Australia is heading in precisely the wrong direction. “In NSW, we need to be working towards removing abortion from the Crimes Act and hence removing any legal doubt from the fact that a woman controls her body, not anyone else.” In no uncertain terms, Faruqi told Honi: “this bill is unnecessary and undermines women’s rights. These are clearly ideologically driven tactics for restricting women’s access to sexual and reproductive health services and have to be opposed and defeated.”

The Greens are joined in their opposition to the Bill by the NSW Bar Association, the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Family Planning Australia, along with many women’s rights activist groups who are campaigning to create widespread trepidation about the impacts of the bill.

In Parliament, Faruqi’s strong opposition to the bill will be seconded by MP Robyn Parker and Health Minister Jill Skinner. Ann Brassil, Chief Executive of Family Planning NSW, and Karen Willis, the CEO of the Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, have also expressed strong opposition to the bill.

Nationals MPs such as Troy Grant and Chris Spence are in full support of the bill. Fred Nile has also voiced his support for the bill, and will campaign in support of the bill should it reach the Upper House. It was decided that the bill would go to a conscience vote following its debate in Parliament on Thursday, which again signals that what is at stake in this debate is far more than a minor amendment to the Crimes Act.

Article

Bristol’s Squatting Community

Arts feature on a squatting in Bristol for an issue of creative arts magazine Helicon centred around the theme of ‘Home’.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Helicon
  • Published:
    Winter 2012

Bristol’s Squatting Community

“Home isn’t really about possesions; it’s about people.”

For most of us, the word ‘home’ conjures images of fireplaces, comfortable beds and home-cooked meals on cold winter nights. These comforts have come to represent the relief and safety we all associate with the idea of home. But what if we had to build a sense of home out of far less than this?

In order to explore a less conventional concept of home and comfort, we got in touch with some members of Bristol’s squatting community to find out exactly what home means to them. When we visited we discovered that many people find a remarkable sense of home, comfort and security within the walls of what an oblivious passerby might consider to be no more than a derelict building. It is estimated that there are around 20,000 squatters across Britain, but many would say that this is something of an underestimation.

The squatting community – particularly in Bristol - is large, very tightly knit and remarkably inclusive. These days, many squatted buildings are turned into art spaces, arenas for open political discussion and cultural centres that provide a range of facilities free of charge for members of the community who would not otherwise be able to afford them. Everywhere you look in Stokes Croft you can feel the squatter’s legacy, the unique microcosm of culture that the squatters embody.

They may not have walls and beams to call their own but they have managed to fill up previously neglected spaces with love and dreams which, after all, is what home is all about.

What does home mean to you?

Johnny: Home is where I lay my hat. I honestly believe that home is what you make it, and you can make yourself at home anywhere you choose. To be honest, I think of home as anywhere I can sleep for more than a week, sometimes I can make myself at home in even less time than that. Home isn’t about one place or another really; it’s about the people you surround yourself with.

Amber: Home is where you are happy. Home is where your feet can walk. Do you have any possessions or rituals that you use to make yourself feel more at home in a new place?

Johnny: We sometimes pick up things to make the place feel more homely, but none of us care too much about that kind of thing. I worry about being too materialistic so I don’t have very many special things. As I said, home isn’t really about possessions, it’s about people.

Amber: I have a special box that I carry around with me everywhere, and keep hidden. My home is in that box, I buried it two feet underground. Tell us about the people - what is it like to be a part of Bristol’s squatting community?

Johnny: Bristol is one big melting pot for squatters – everybody comes here to squat. We call it the ‘Bristol vortex’ because once people come here to squat even for a few nights, they just can’t leave. I knew a guy who planned on ‘passing through’ Bristol five years ago and has been squatting here ever since. There’s just something about Bristol – it’s the vortex. It’s addictive.

There are so many of us and the sense of community is so strong that once you’re a part of it you can’t just walk away. It becomes a family so quickly and you just don’t want to leave. The thing is though, with communities like ours, even when people do leave, it’s never for long. I’ve learned never to say long goodbyes because I know we’ll all see each other again – we’re part of the same world now, which means no-one is ever gone for good. We know they’ll be back.

Brendan: In this community, everyone is made to feel welcome until you do something to make us feel otherwise.

Amber: We’re very family orientated here. I’ve known her all my life, she’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to a sister. And these men and boys are my brothers. I’d protect anyone here.

Do you ever have arguments around the squat?

Brendan: The biggest arguments in a squat are about the washing up! We are all messy but decent people. The last time there was a big fight in here was over a year ago, and I can’t even remember what it was about!

What’s your favourite home-cooked meal?

Brendan: Definitely squirrel pie. They’re very meaty; you need three squirrels. You catch them with nuts.

Do you feel that squatting is a big part of your identity now?

Johnny: Yeah, it is. Growing up as a travelling kid and being a squatter as an adult has definitely shaped who I am. I grew up differently to other kids – I was forced to grow up much quicker than everyone else because I was moving around so much and my mum abandoned me when I was thirteen. I didn’t have a choice but to become an adult, all of a sudden I had to look after myself. Also, when you’re living in a squat everyone is treated equally, with the same amount of respect no matter how old they are. Everyone treated me like an adult even though I wasn’t. I was taking care of myself and because of that I was treated like everybody else. Everyone is treated with that respect. You can’t find this kind of environment in any other part of society.

Would you ever choose to live alone?

Johnny: Definitely not. Home is all about company, maybe it’s to do with the way I grew up but I always feel more comfortable when I’m around other people. Of course sometimes it gets a bit much having so many people around all the time and not always having your own space, but I like it this way. Sometimes I think I need to get away from it all, I’ll go to a friends flat to chill out and be on my own, but every time I find myself getting sick of it. At the end of the day I want to be surrounded by people.

Amber: You know what? I don’t think I would ever want to live alone. What have you learned about living with other people?

What advice would you give to other squatters?

Johnny: I’ve learnt so much about getting along with other people from squatting and travelling my whole life. Firstly, you learn very quickly that you always have to stand up for yourself and you can never let people take advantage of you. At the same time though, I’ve learnt that you have to take things with a pinch of salt sometimes. If someone says something out of line you have to remember that they might be going through something you couldn’t possibly understand. You have to give people a chance sometimes.

My advice to squatters? You have to learn when to trust people and when to keep your mouth shut. We learn that you can never let your guard down until you’ve decided a person is trustworthy, because we get undercover cops and stuff in here all the time. You always have to be careful. Also, you have to remember that one of the golden rules of squat ting is you never leave someone if they have nowhere to go. No-one is ever left out on the street.

What do you see in the future of the squat?

Brendan: At the end of the day, the squat is going to go the way it’s going to go. I want to stay here until they knock it down – I want the lead off the roof when they do though.

Article

Unlocked poetry

Arts feature on a program teaching poetry to prisoners across NSW.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Honi Soit
  • Published:
    21 May 2013

Unlocked poetry

It’s art that will set you free, writes Lucia Osborne-Crowley.

When the pen hits paper
When the words start to pass
When the poetry starts to happen
The day will slowly begin.

Over the past four years, the Red Room poetry company has joined forces with members of the NSW Correctional Services team to create ‘Unlocked’, a collaborative poetry program for NSW prisoners.

The program was created as a means of encouraging self-exploration amongst prisoners through creative expression, teaching inmates to express themselves poetically and, in so doing, connect with and form a deeper understanding of their emotions and relationships, past and present.

The workshops have made a profound impact on the outlooks of many NSW prisoners. Daragh McCallum, a literacy teacher at the Mannus Correctional Centre, said that “several inmates stated that they had no idea poetry was so diverse and attainable,” alluding to the inmates’ delight upon discovering that the world of literary expression was open to them as a means of self-discovery and communication.

As another means of helping inmates explore and appreciate poetic creativity, Sydney rapper Nick Bryant-Smith, AKA Solo of hip hop outfit Horrorshow, connected with inmates through his own poetry in the form of rap music and taught the inmates how to compose their own hip hop verses.

Hip hop music can serve as a first point of contact with poetry for many people, making this part of the project an important contribution to the prisoners’ creative development. Nick’s work with the inmates culminated in the creation of a collaborative rap song, a professional recording of which is forthcoming.

As well as this collaborative effort, the Unlocked project has produced a number of written anthologies that showcase the inmates’ literary works. The collection of works express an impressive array of emotions and experiences – ranging from sombre, to wistful, to hopeful and back again – and speak to an incredible development of self-understanding. McCallum observed that “it was uplifting to see the pride participants took in sharing their work.”

Claire Shume, literacy teacher at the John Morony Correctional Centre, told Honi that the program has encouraged inmates to “rise above their immediate circumstances and see beyond the fence, to unlock their minds and creativity.”

While these accolades certainly confirm the success of the project, the poetic voices of the participants themselves speak far louder, as they end hopeful poems with sentiments such as “just for a moment, I want for nothing,” and descriptions such as “a young touched prisoner…searching and determined, to confront his dangers – to be free.”

Article

Meet the young Australian playwright using theatre to attack the epidemic of domestic violence

Profile of an Australian playwright tackling big political issues with her scriptwriting.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    Women’s Agenda
  • Published:
    04 September 2015

Meet the young Australian playwright using theatre to attack the epidemic of domestic violence

In Australia, intimate partner violence is the number one non-disease related cause of death, disability and illness for women aged 15-44.

In the home, where women should feel safest, is actually the most dangerous place for them, statistically.

This quote, from celebrated author Tara Moss in an interview with domestic and family violence advocate Rosie Batty, sparked a new theatre production dealing with the realities of domestic violence in contemporary Australia.

Laura Jackson, a young Australian playwright and actress, says the idea for her new play came to her fully formed; an idea built upon a wave of recent public and political attention focused on the need to protect victims of family violence.

The work is called The Culture, and it confronts the modern Australian culture that oppresses groups in society through omnipresent threats of violence. For Katie, one of the two main characters, this exists in the form of a violent relationship and years of feeling unsafe in her day-to-day life. For Will, a young gay man and Katie’s closest friend, this exists in the form of relentless homophobia and intolerance.

However it manifests, the oppression is ubiquitous throughout our culture. We want to fight it, but we don’t know how.

“How do you put yourself out there in a world where you aren’t equal?” That’s the question Jackson says she wants the play to address. How do you keep yourself safe in a society that uses the constant threat of violence as its greatest oppressive weapon?

The play’s theme is established in its opening scene, a split monologue between Katie and Will. In the monologue, Will tells a story about walking home at night behind a woman he didn’t know and accidentally frightened her. He didn’t mean to, he tells us, but he understands why she was scared. That’s the culture.

Katie’s monologue describes a lecturer in one of her classes asking the men in the room what they do in order to keep themselves safe. They couldn’t answer. The teacher then asked the women what they do to keep themselves safe in their everyday lives, what precautions they keep in the backs of their minds. The list of answers is endless. A shared understanding of the rules of engagement; an artillery of defences.

Don’t walk home alone. Always have a buddy. Lock the car as soon as you get into it. Keep your keys in your hands at all times in case you need a weapon. Don’t let your phone go dead.

These mechanisms are well known and widely shared, a response to a threat we have long understood. But the question the lecturer asks in Katie’s story speaks to a threat we have, for so long as a nation, failed to properly understand or address.

What do you do to keep yourselves safe in your own home?

In the home, where women should feel safest, is statistically the most dangerous place for them.

This, Jackson explains, is the central theme of her work.

“Domestic violence is finally garnering the attention it needs in the public conversation and I wanted to be a part of that conversation with my work,” she said.

“I’ve always felt that theatre has a real power to open peoples’ hearts and minds and I hope this new play encourages people to think more deeply about the issue of domestic violence.”

Crucially, Jackson wants her play to encourage people to connect with the realities of domestic violence on a personal level, through the journey of her female character, caught in a cycle of abuse.

“Katie is a strong independent woman who ends up in a violent relationship with a terrible person. It’s not her fault; it happens because there are terrible people out there. That’s the culture.”

Jackson hopes her exploration of Katie’s character and relationship will cause the audience to think about how they can be more keenly aware of the signs of a violent relationship and speak out when they see them developing. In the play, Katie uses social media to project images of a happy, loving relationship to the world, but there are warning signs that cut through the façade. Jackson wants us all to look out for them.

“I want people to walk away thinking about what they do and don’t know about domestic violence. I want them to walk away determined to change the culture,” she said.

Jackson’s new play was developed as a follow up to her acclaimed work Handle It, which confronts difficult themes of online harassment, misogyny, sexual assault and victim blaming. Handle It is now in its eighth season, and Jackson says its success has inspired her to continue writing about the issues facing young women in contemporary Australian society.

Handle It and The Culture will both feature in the upcoming Sydney Fringe Festival. Handle It will run from the 23rd-24th September at the Erskineville Town Hall. The Culture will run from the 25th-27thof September, also at the Erskineville Town Hall. The Culture will also be showing at the Phoenix Theatre in Woollongong from September 11-13.

Article

The Shins, Husky – The Hordern Pavillion

Review of The Shins’ performance at the Hordern Pavillion.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The Music
  • Published:
    25 July 2012

The Shins, Husky – The Hordern Pavillion

There was a very particular sense of anticipation and energy at the Hordern Pavilion as audience members prepared for the long-awaited return of The Shins to an Australian stage.

The night was confidently opened by Melbourne indie four-piece Husky, who immediately commanded the vast space with remarkable conviction; the audience, captivated. The set opened with a clean, clear guitar melody and lead singer Husky Gawenda's dominant vocals as the band performed Tidal Wave.

The group's set moved from championing simple guitar melodies and Gawenda's vocal talent to instead focusing on their ability to create an incredible breadth of sound with complex keyboard, guitar and vocal melodies. The set closed with The Woods, which was upbeat and catchy and a perfect note on which to close a very accomplished set.

The Shins then graced the stage, facing a room filled with excitement and awe, and opened what was to be an incredibly dynamic and captivating set featuring a satisfying mix of new Shins releases and powerful older tracks.

The band immediately introduced their overwhelming musical dexterity and ability to thoroughly enthrall, and managed to maintain a powerful hush from the crowd throughout the set. The band confidently performed Kissing The Lipless, with masterful vocals that filled the big room effortlessly.

These powerful vocals continued to take centre stage in Caring Is Creepy and the band's first single from their new album, Simple Song. The band's capacity for an incredibly strong and multi-layered yet entirely cohesive instrumental sound was then showcased in another new track, Bait & Switch.

The set then transformed once again into a powerful combination of exciting synth sounds and light shows, with the band's sound and energy lifting to a new level entirely. Their vast array of elements, this time including an expert violin line, fell together flawlessly to create an incredible rendition of Saint Simon, which was certainly one of the highlights of the set.

The room was once again captivated by soft but commanding vocals in No Way Down and New Slang, which was certainly one of the crowd's favourites. The group's encore began with September, in which once again the group's musical prowess commanded the hushed attention of every member of the audience. The band then performed Port Of Morrow and finished the set with One By One All Day.

The set, characterized by the extraordinary musical expertise of each of its members as well as their ] unfaltering cohesion, truly was a triumph on all accounts.

Article

Homebake, 2012

Review of large Australian music festival Homebake.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The Music
  • Published:
    08 December 2012

Homebake, 2012

The Domain was utterly transformed into an overheated, sunburn-ridden representation of the true beginning of the Sydney summer festival season, with thousands of excited punters dressed up in their festival best and incredibly eager to appreciate some truly outstanding Australian music.

The day began with Sydney band Sticky Fingers performing an incredibly impressive set at the main stage in the bright afternoon heat. The group's set featured expertly-performed, catchy guitar melodies and clear, strong vocals that felt effortlessly powerful.

Seth Sentry performed one of the most upbeat sets of the day. The rapper began by performing Vacation and Room For Rent, then satisfied more long-standing Seth Sentry fans with an energetic performance of The Waitress Song. After a remarkably impressive interlude by DJ Benny, the rapper delivered short but very entertaining freestyle. The MC was then joined by Horrorshow's Solo and the two lifted the mood at the main stage once again with Our Song. By the time the set closed with Float Away, a very satisfied audience dispersed.

Over to the Dome stage, where Tim Rogers performed a vocally and instrumentally impressive, although not overly engaging, set. In the smaller and more intimate Rowland S. Howard stage, DZ Deathrays performed one of the most popular and well-received sets of the afternoon so far. The small space was packed full of committed fans and the heavy guitar and drum music inspired some seriously energetic dancing right across the crowd.

Brisbane indie-rockers Ball Park Music graced the main stage, who impressed a very large crowd with their technically masterful, well-rehearsed performance. Fittingly, the band closed their set with It's Nice To Be Alive.

Back on the Rowland S. Holland stage, the charming Emma Louise entranced an audience with her soft, steady voice and sweet guitar melodies. Last Dinosaurs then performed at the main stage, and although their set was well-received and enjoyed by a large crowd, it suffered under the weight of technical difficulties with the sound system and as a result sounded slightly muffled and confused at times.

Tame Impala on the main stage opened their set with a full, synth-heavy sound followed by an incredibly textured guitar and drum sound. The band did seem to lose their energy slightly at times, but nevertheless performed impressive renditions of hits such as Solitude Is Bliss and Elephant to a very happy crowd. As always, the band performed the set with flawless cohesion.

Under the Big Top tent, Hermitude absolutely stole the show. The beats were so captivating that they truly gave the Big Top stage an air of blissful seclusion from any hint of the less-energetic world outside. The set varied from fast, exciting piano and synth melodies to slower, heavier bass beats that really energised the large crowd. The two even got the crowd singing along enthusiastically to their version of The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

Back across the park at the Rowland S. Howard tent, Jinja Safari took to the stage and immediately commanded the space with their energy and enigmatic collective demeanour. The band opened with the wonderfully entrancing melodies of Forest Eyes, which simultaneously established the sheer attentiveness of the audience and the competence of the performers. The combination of captivating vocals and varied, catchy melodies made this set one of the highlights of the day.

Seasoned professionals at engaging a festival crowd, Hilltop Hoods certainly did not disappoint on this occasion. The last moments of the set were certainly its strongest, however, with powerful performances of I Love It and Rattling The Keys To The Kingdom, both of which firmly established the 'Hoods as among the most exciting artists of the day.

The strong, powerful vocal skills of Daniel Merriweather commanded the Big Top stage, with the audience totally entranced by these intense vocals and the understated but effective instrumental lines that complimented them. Across at the Dome stage, Angus Stone performed a charismatic set and again commanded the attention of an engaged crowd. While both artists were perhaps odd choices for this time of the evening as both sets were very relaxed and somewhat sombre, both singers nevertheless captured and inspired their gathered crowds.

The best performance of the day was, however, without a shadow of a doubt, given by the unbelievably enigmatic and immeasurably talented Kimbra. One of the highlights of the set was her performance of Two Way Street, where she displayed her incredible ability to sing, dance and play complex tambourine rhythms simultaneously. Another of the set's highlights was Settle Down, which was also certainly one of the crowd's favourites. Something about Kimbra's energy, charisma and musical prowess made this performance a real triumph.

International headliners Blondie also performed an incredibly energetic headlining set. Frontwoman Deborah Harry was incredibly successful in creating an excited vibe at the main stage with her quirky hair and clothing choices and her incredibly powerful voice. The set also, in true rock'n'roll fashion, featured a remarkable guitar solo and impressively complex drum lines. The band performed their own classics, such as Rapture, plus also entertained the audience with a brief cover of the Beastie Boys' (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!).

The group then finished their set with the incredibly fun One Way Or Another, before returning for an encore. More energetic than ever, the crowd danced happily as the band finished their encore with Heart Of Glass and an incredibly successful Homebake came to an end.

Article

Bluesfest

Review of five-day blues and roots festival in Byron Bay, NSW.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The Music
  • Published:
    28 March 2013

Bluesfest

Thousands of gumboot-wearing, rain jacket-clad music lovers from all over the country descended on Byron Bay for another rainy long weekend of Bluesfest. The rain barely let up all weekend and the resultant mud covered absolutely everything, but despite all of this, as ever, the event consistently has the most relaxed, tolerant atmosphere of any other Australian festival.

On the first day the intensely soulful voice of Joan Armatrading played to an overflowing tent of excited punters on the Jambalaya stage. The singer opened with Show Some Emotion and followed this up with a heartfelt rendition of All The Way From America, which encouraged a lot of simultaneous arm-waving. The highlight of the set, which garnered full crowd participation in every chorus, was her closing classic Drop The Pilot.

Rodriguez combined his charming Bob Dylan-esque sound with muted, syncopated trumpet lines to give his first day set something of a Latin feel. The singer delivered a powerful performance of Sugar Man to rapturous applause, followed by Like A Rolling Stone (which was, dare this reviewer say it, perhaps a more exciting version of the song than the one we saw performed by Bob Dylan himself at Bluesfest 2011).

Across at the packed out Mojo tent, Bluesfest veteran Ben Harper graced the stage with new accomplice Charlie Musselwhite. In true Bluesfest style, the two opened with a classic 12 bar blues melody, which engaged the crowd from the opening. The highlights of the set were certainly the pair's energetic renditions of I Don't Believe A Word You Say and Don't Look Twice. American Rocker Chris Isaak then closed the evening over at the Crossroads Stage. With his powerful vocals and enigmatic stage presence, the singer held the captive audience's attention throughout his entire performance.

Day two of Bluesfest saw Taj Mahal produce some signature driving electric blues. He varied the tone with the delicately finger-picked rolling country blues of Fishin' Blues. Much to the crowd's delight, he closed his set with The Blues Is Alright, which again attracted plenty of crowd participation. Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, on the small but charming APRA Stage, performed impressive renditions of Blue Roses Falling and Gentlemandolin to a particularly engaged audience.

Ben Harper returned for a solo acoustic set, which was perhaps the standout performance of the entire festival. Harper performed a very moving rendition of Hallelujah, which the audience particularly enjoyed, then went on to perform some of his older classics such as Here Comes The Sun and Burn One Down. He was then joined on stage by fellow Bluesfest regular Xavier Rudd, and together they performed a phenomenal ten minute set.

Jimmy Cliff at the Mojo Stage was another highlight of the long weekend. The sprightly 64-year-old reggae veteran belied his age in a dynamic performance to an adoring crowd. The singer combined old hits like Wild World, The Harder They Come and I Can See Clearly Now with politically charged material from last year's record Rebirth. The entire band played the African drums for a beautiful and moving version of Rivers Of Babylon. A perfect way to close the night, the incredibly enigmatic Manu Chao performed an eclectic but exciting mix of rock, reggae and ska, which got the entire Crossroads tent dancing well into the night.

The third day of the Bluesfest saw the seven vocalists of Sweet Honey In The Rock – supplemented by a variety of hand-held percussion – create stunningly complex harmonies, notably on a passionate version of Bob Marley's Redemption Song and Nina Simone's See-Line Woman. The Jambalaya stage was overtaken by the power and incredibly energetic presence of Ruthie Foster. Byron Bay has always loved Ruthie Foster and it was clear immediately that the feeling is mutual. Combining soul and gospel influences with a powerful base and solid percussion, Foster epitomises the heart and soul of Bluesfest.

The night was then closed by an incredibly powerful performance by rock legend Robert Plant, the Mojo Stage overflowing with excited music lovers desperate to get a glimpse of the man himself. With an incredible amount of energy for a rock star of his age, Plant delivered an impressive set. He pleased the crowd by playing a satisfying number of Led Zeppelin tracks, with the highlight of the set undoubtedly being his performance of Whole Lotta Love.

With the rain falling harder than ever, Sunday featured an exciting set by Canadian rockers Current Swell at the APRA Stage. The band performed a combination of classic rock beats with blues rhythms, pleasing a committed crowd who had braved the heavy afternoon rain to see their performance. The Cavanbah Stage was graced by the impressive Ben Caplan, who delivered one of the most vocally accomplished performances of the festival.

The entrancing Lotus Palace arena witnessed an incredible performance by Playing For Change. One of the most heartfelt, captivating sets of the entire festival, this eclectic group of street musicians from around the world won the heart of every audience member. Their renditions of classics such as Etta James' I'd Rather Go Blind and audience favourite Stand By Me truly encapsulated the group's goal of creating 'peace through music'. Across at the Jambalaya stage was the matriarch of political gospel herself, Mavis Staples. The singer performed a fantastic up-tempo version of Wade In The Water, her powerful voice underscored by thunderous percussion and heavy guitar licks. The Mojo tent was brought to life by Bluesfest regular Xavier Rudd, who, as ever, entranced the vast audience with his impressive didgeridoo melodies and beautiful vocal harmonies. Another of the festival's highlights was Fat Freddy's Drop, who performed a satisfying set full of heavy bass and infectious beats, encouraging the entire audience to dance enthusiastically.

Rodriguez: Pic by Linda Heller-Salvador

The final day of the 2013 Bluesfest had Kitty, Daisy & Lewis' set skip through some classic swing and country with skiffle-influenced drumming, chugging harmonica and some honky-tonk piano riffs. All the young people at the festival then seemed to congregate at the Jambalaya stage to see Melbourne rapper Grey Ghost. Dancing to a hip hop show at Bluesfest did make for an interesting variation on the theme, however the audience thoroughly enjoyed the set and the rapper garnered a very full crowd by the end.

Another music legend, Paul Simon, then took to the Mojo Stage. Playing many songs from the hit album Graceland, his talented ensemble delivered tight percussive African rhythms combined with the Latin inflections that are signatures of his later work. Bowing to the inevitable, he sang a competent but uninspiring version of The Sound Of Silence.

One of the closing sets of a fantastic festival was provided by the joyous 26-piece Melbourne Ska Orchestra. Their infectious high-octane ska had a packed crowd dancing and singing. Band leader Nicky Bomba's witty rapport with the audience added an entertaining dimension to a rousing finish to the festival. In a nod to their inspiration, their set included a bombastic version of A Message To You Rudy and the '60s ska hit My Boy Lollipop. With that, a surge of satisfied punters left the muddy festival ground and said a reluctant goodbye to Bluesfest for another year.

Article

Alt-J, An Awesome Wave

Review of Alt-J’s debut album An Awesome Wave.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The Music
  • Published:
    20 July 2012

Alt-J, An Awesome Wave

Alt-J's debut album, An Awesome Wave, is a fascinating combination of progressive alt-pop instrumentals and incredibly varied, intoxicating vocals, toying with structure and phrasing to produce an utterly sophisticated debut that rejects any one particularly genre and instead creates a complex, unique sound of their own.

Fittingly, the record introduces the band with Intro, which opens with a soft, sombre piano melody and builds towards an incredible breadth of instrumental sound and features deep, unusual vocal tones. This is followed by Interlude, which immediately introduces a change of tone with its fast, high-pitched acappella vocal line.

Tessellate is one of the standout tracks on the album, again featuring a haphazard but remarkably coherent instrumental arrangement and sophisticated vocal tone as well as fascinating lyrical content. Interlude 2 then features a well-placed sweet piano melody that perfectly foregrounds Something Good, which is certainly another of the album's highlights with its multi-faceted instrumental base and catchy, insightful lyricism. J

oe Newman's vocal range and dexterity is showcased most comprehensively in Matilda, in which, again, all the song's elements fall together seamlessly. MS has a more understated appeal than the other tracks on the album, and its soft, steady vocals allow its instrumental complexity to take centre stage.

Bloodflood, while certainly displaying the band's individual charm, is the least engaging track on the album as it is comparatively slow and relatively simple. The album's closing track, Taro, on the other hand, features a vast array of instruments and its composition is flawless, complimented again by confident, at times ethereal, vocals.

This album is a triumph on all fronts, with its instrumental and vocal sophistication making it both powerful and poignant; to say nothing of the fact that it is the band's debut record.

Article

Cat Power, Sun

Review of Cat Power’s album Sun.

  • Author:
    Lucia Osborne-Crowley
  • Client:
    The Music
  • Published:
    03 September 2012

Cat Power, Sun

Cat Power's new record, Sun, has all of the melancholic intrigue and musical sophistication the lady otherwise known as Chan Marshall has become known for, with each song carrying a confident, established sound and a complexity of tone and emotion that makes each one incredibly effective in very different ways.

The album opens with Cherokee, whose breadth of sound and intense lyrical tone make it a powerful opening track. The title track, Sun, has a vastly different sound to it, opening with an electronic melody and heavy beat accompanied by ethereal vocals that make the track intriguing but noticeably less accessible than the other songs on the record. Cat Power's lyrical sophistication and unique vocal sound take centre stage in 3, 6, 9, which, combined with a simple but powerful instrumental line, make it a standout track.

The singer's lyrical maturity seems to fall short, however, in Human Being, which is less complex both in terms of musical and lyrical content than the foregoing tracks, and feels somewhat difficult to follow. The following track, Manhattan, however, is another of the record's highlights, with a slow, steadily infectious rhythm and simple but masterful vocal lines.

Marshall showcases her vocal dexterity in Silent Machine, which portrays a very different lyrical tone with a distinct rock'n'roll feel and features heavy drum and guitar lines. The musical sophistication displayed in the majority of songs on the record is underplayed again, however, in Nothin But Time, which feels slightly repetitious and haphazard at times.

This tone also pervades the closing track, Peace And Love, with its busy, confused sound making it a strange choice of closer. The album certainly has some conspicuous weak moments, but also has particularly powerful moments in equal measure and is nonetheless a very satisfying collection.

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