Government settles in Christmas Island child detention case

The relieved family of a girl being compensated over her detention on Christmas Island as a five-year-old want to get on with their lives in Australia, her lawyer says.


The federal government has agreed to pay a confidential settlement to the now nine-year-old, who is living with her family in the community on a temporary bridging visa pending a decision on their refugee status.

The family of ‘AS’ will be relieved the three-year legal case is over, the girl’s litigation guardian Sister Brigid Arthur says.

“I think they’re very, very relieved at this stage to have it behind them,” the Brigidine Asylum Seekers Project co-ordinator told reporters.

“In one way while it’s an effort to get justice, it’s also an extra trauma for them and an extra thing that they were waiting for a response to.”


The Victorian Supreme Court on Wednesday approved the settlement of AS’s case,which was launched in 2014 as a class action and alleged the girl received inadequate care while in the Christmas Island immigration detention centre.

AS spent a total of 10 months detained on Christmas Island after arriving by boat with her parents in July 2013, when she was five.

Her treatment in detention caused the girl significant psychiatric and physical harm, including post traumatic stress disorder and a recurrent dental infection, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal Tom Ballantyne said.

“Mostly it’s been about the traumatic experiences that they had on Christmas Island, the role that the conditions of detention played in that,” Mr Ballantyne said outside court.

“They’re ongoing, as they are for most people who went through that, but the family are now trying to just get on with their lives.”

Mr Ballantyne said hundreds and possibly thousands of other asylum seekers detained on Christmas Island may be able to bring claims over their treatment despite a judge stopping AS’s case running as a class action.

About 35,000 asylum seekers in total were detained on Christmas Island between August 2011 and August 2014, the period covered by the class action claim.

The class action against the immigration minister and Commonwealth of Australia, who denied the allegations, sought compensation for those detainees who allegedly suffered injuries as a result of inadequate care at the Christmas Island detention centre.

Mr Ballantyne said the court’s removal of the class action was an administrative issue that did not affect the rights of individuals to bring their own claims if they suffered injuries during their detention on Christmas Island.

“It in no way judged the actual conditions on Christmas Island,” he said.

“There’s still thousands of people out there who were detained on Christmas Island who may have their own claim.

“There’s thousands of people out there who have been deeply affected by their experiences and we’d encourage them to seek legal advice if they wanted to.”

AOC investigating bullying allegations

The Australian Olympic Committee’s executive board held a crisis meeting on Wednesday evening in response to a formal complaint made against media director Mike Tancred.


In a statement, the AOC Executive said it had “agreed to delegate the determination of the complaint to an independent committee with appropriate experience and ability, and the committee will comprise three senior counsel or retired judges, including at least one female”.

“The committee will be asked to inform the Executive of their determination within one month of their appointment.”

Mr Tancred temporarily stood down from his role ahead of the meeting, despite denying bullying allegations against him.

He will stand aside until the resolution of a complaint made against him by ex-AOC chief executive Fiona de Jong.

It comes amid an increasingly bitter contest for the AOC presidency, with incumbent John Coates facing a challenge for the first time since taking the role 27 years ago.

Olympic hockey gold medallist Danni Roche is challenging Coates with a vote to be held on May 6 at the AOC’s annual general meeting.

Ms De Jong has lodged a formal complaint alleging Tancred threatened her after she quit from her job last year.

Mr Tancred on Wednesday rejected Ms de Jong’s claims.

“I deny all the allegations made against me,” he told AAP.

“I have made no comment to any of the allegations because I am bound by a confidentially agreement which I signed.

“Ms de Jong also signed that agreement but breached it over the weekend.”

Several former AOC staffers have also alleged harassment from Tancred while working at the organisation, which he has denied.

Trump less predictable after 100 days

Donald Trump has become less predictable as he reaches his first 100 days in office, a group of academics has warned, raising problems for global security and the world economy.


The Australian National University on Wednesday launched a series of essays marking 100 days of the Trump administration in the United States.

Professor Michael Wesley, who heads the university’s College of Asia and the Pacific, said Mr Trump had “broken the mould” in terms of global politics.

The ANU created a “predictometer” to gauge the Trump administration’s delivery on its policy agenda.

The meter was set at 25 per cent on day one, but based on the three factors of what the president said he would do, what has been done and the policy positions of senior appointees in the administration – this has gone backwards and is now nudging single digits.

Prof Wesley said the gap between what Mr Trump said and did had “left friends and rivals alike unsure of what the administration really thinks about crucial issues, or whether there is anyone doing very much policy thinking at all”.

“Uncertainty is going to continue to be part of the Trump administration for the foreseeable future,” he told the National Press Club at the essay launch.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will hold his first face-to-face meeting with Mr Trump in New York next week.

Professor Warwick McKibbin, who also contributed an essay, said the prime minister should push the benefits of open trade and sticking to global trade rules as he sought to gauge the president’s economic policy.

Prof McKibbin said one of the biggest risks for Australia was the US retreating into protectionism and raising tariffs, which could cause a global recession.

“What you do get is the potential for a trade war three or four years down the track because once the fiscal policies are in place and once the imbalances in the external accounts get worse, somebody has to be blamed,” he said.

“You won’t blame the administration … you will blame the foreigners.”

Another essay author, Jane Golley, said this made it all the more important for Australia to take a leadership role in promoting open markets and borders.

“It’s no time to be talking Australian jobs for Australians and shutting down our doors,” she said.

One of the biggest policy uncertainties is how the US will respond to North Korea.

“The economic costs of protectionism … really become immaterial if someone decides to press that button and drop the bomb,” Dr Golley said.

“I think it’s going to take far more clever foreign policy to ensure that doesn’t happen and that matters more than anything else.”

Thompson warns Buckley over AFL future

AFL premiership coach Mark Thompson has a basic warning for Nathan Buckley – the Collingwood players will save or doom you.


Thompson has great sympathy for the embattled Magpies coach and knows exactly what he is going through.

He went close to being sacked from Geelong at the end of 2006, only to lead them to their drought-breaking 2007 premiership and another two years later.

Collingwood’s Anzac Day loss to Essendon inevitably ramped up the pressure on Buckley, with their failure in the biggest home-and-away game of the season leaving the Magpies floundering at 1-4.

Last August, Buckley acknowledged his coaching future at Collingwood was tied to making the finals this season.

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire pledged support to Buckley on Wednesday and is adamant the club will not turn on their own.

Thompson said Buckley’s priority must be to make sure of the relationship with his players.

“You’ve got to get to your players and keep talking to them – they don’t deliberately go out and lose,” Thompson told Fox Sports.

“They are the ones who are going to save your job.

“It (the pressure) is horrendous – everywhere you walk, you think people are looking at you.

“You think you’re a failure, but what you have to do, if he wants to fight for his job, he has to let all that go and just get to his players and just be positive.”

Collingwood are far from the AFL’s worst team this season – their biggest losing margin is only 19 points.

But their forward line is impotent and they will need a massive turnaround to threaten the top eight.

Again, Buckley put it best when he said after Tuesday’s loss that they are not far off, but they are a mile off.

Since Buckley took over from Mick Malthouse in McGuire’s controversial succession plan, the Magpies have slid from fourth in 2012 to 12th for the past two seasons and their last final appearance was in 2013.

On Wednesday, McGuire strongly defended Buckley and backed him to turn around the floundering team’s fortunes.

“Every time I’ve looked to Nathan Buckley as a player, as a person, as a coach he has never let me or Collingwood down,” McGuire said.

“There has been no greater servant of the Collingwood Football Club.

“There is no better person to have our club’s future in his hands than Nathan Buckley.”

And McGuire, president since 1999, said their on-field woes would not cause off-field division.

“We’ll never give up, we’ll never dog it, we won’t turn on our own,” McGuire told TripleM.

“We won’t desolate people who give to the club day in and day out and we don’t turn on our people. We stand side-by-side.”

Collingwood’s next assignment is unbeaten Geelong on Sunday at the MCG.

“Geelong are a great club, they might beat us but I tell you what. It will be the spirit of Collingwood that will be tested on Sunday afternoon,” McGuire said.

McCann case may never be solved: UK police

Almost a decade after three-year-old Madeleine McCann vanished, London police are still following critical lines of inquiry but say they might never solve the case.


McCann disappeared from her bedroom on May 3, 2007 during a family holiday in Portugal, while her parents were dining with friends at a nearby restaurant in the resort of Praia da Luz.

Despite a massive international search and media coverage, her fate remains a mystery.

“Sadly investigations can never be 100 per cent successful,” said London Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley. He said police had no definitive evidence as to whether Madeleine was alive or dead.

Her parents, Kate and Gerry, said the 10-year anniversary was a “a horrible marker of time, stolen time”.

In the 10 years since McCann vanished, the media has suggested a host of explanations for her disappearance, ranging from a burglary gone wrong to abduction by slave traders.

Madeleine’s parents were named as official suspects by Portuguese police four months after the disappearance but in 2008 were cleared.

The McCanns and friends who were with them on the night Madeleine went missing later won large payouts from newspapers over stories that they were involved. Another Briton was awarded STG600,000 ($A1 million) in damages over false allegations he had abducted the girl.

“We are bracing ourselves for the next couple of weeks,” the McCanns said. “It’s likely to be stressful and painful and more so given the rehashing of old ‘stories’, misinformation, half-truths and downright lies which will be doing the rounds in the newspapers, social media and ‘special edition’ TV programmes.”

The Portuguese closed their inquiry in 2008. London police launched a review of the case in 2011 after the McCanns wrote to then British Prime Minister David Cameron.

“Where we are today is with a much smaller team focused on a small number of remaining critical lines of inquiry that we think are significant,” Rowley said.

“If we didn’t think they were significant, we wouldn’t be carrying on.”