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High-pitched ‘anti-loitering’ devices targeting young people breaches human rights: advocates

Related Story: Sonic security aimed at the homeless sparks ethical debate Related Story: Reducing youth crime requires knowing which policies actually work

Human rights advocates are calling for a ban on sonic devices used to stop young people from loitering in public spaces.

The devices emit high frequencies which can only be heard by people aged 25 or under.

A number of shopping malls and businesses are deploying the so-called 'mosquito devices' to combat what they describe as anti-social behaviour.

Zak Wazir is the owner of VSP, which sells security equipment across Australia.

He says he sells hundreds of the devices each year.

“You'll find they're used in places such as car park operators, councils where they use them in parks and car parks, they're used in some shopping centres. Schools also use them”.

“They're not turned on, they're not used throughout the day or 24 hours a day. They're generally used only after dark when they have ..

Related Story: Sonic security aimed at the homeless sparks ethical debate Related Story: Reducing youth crime requires knowing which policies actually work

Human rights advocates are calling for a ban on sonic devices used to stop young people from loitering in public spaces.

The devices emit high frequencies which can only be heard by people aged 25 or under.

A number of shopping malls and businesses are deploying the so-called 'mosquito devices' to combat what they describe as anti-social behaviour.

Zak Wazir is the owner of VSP, which sells security equipment across Australia.

He says he sells hundreds of the devices each year.

"You'll find they're used in places such as car park operators, councils where they use them in parks and car parks, they're used in some shopping centres. Schools also use them".

Sonic security device

"They're not turned on, they're not used throughout the day or 24 hours a day. They're generally used only after dark when they have loitering problems".

Sonic security devices used around the clock

Melissa Seymour-Dearness, principal solicitor at the Taylor Street Community Legal Center in Queensland's Fraser Coast region, received a number of complaints from young people, including a supermarket employee, about a high-pitched piercing sound they could hear at a local shopping centre in 2016.

"As a first step, we contacted centre management and they told us that it was installed particularly for that purpose to deter people from loitering. It was on 24 hours a day and they said that it was actually for the purpose of deterring people during business hours. So they didn't want people loitering at the front of the stall," she told RN Breakfast.

The device was eventually removed from the shopping centre, but Ms Seymour-Dearness wants to see a national ban. And she has spent the last two years writing to various community leaders and politicians about the issue.

"The response we've received to date has been sympathetic, but ultimately no-one has been willing to take any action", she said.

Listening to heavy metal can suppress anger and provide inspiration.

A 'sonic assault' on young people

While the devices are not banned, National Children's Commissioner Megan Mitchell is "deeply concerned by any device that has the potential to discriminate against and/or cause harm to young people."

"I have requested that the Australian Local Government Association raise awareness among councils of the potentially harmful impacts of the device on young people. I will continue to monitor this issue," she said in a statement.

In 2010, the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental human rights organisation, found the use of acoustic devices to disperse children and young people was a disproportionate interference with their rights under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It's still unclear who is using these sonic devices in Australia.

The ABC has contacted every state and territory local government association in the country. Only South Australia, Queensland and NSW responded. They said they were not aware of any councils using such devices.

Council of Small Business of Australia CEO Peter Strong said he hoped no businesses were considering using the mosquito devices.

"It seems quite a shallow response to a much serious problem about young people who are loitering around because they've got nothing to do," he said.

"People could be walking past and all of a sudden they've got acute hearing problems and they get affected by it, and that's wrong".

But Zak Wazir from VSP says the devices are not discriminatory.

"It's targeting those that are loitering around car parks and schools and shopping malls after hours when they're not meant to be," he said.

"When a shopping mall is closed, it's closed. The car park is not there for juveniles to hang around and conduct anti-social behaviour.

"When they're set up correctly, and in most cases we believe they are, they won't be turned on and they won't be used [during the] day or that time of the evening when shopping malls and shopping centres are still open. That's not the idea of this product at all."

Long term effects on children unclear

In Scotland, the Children and Young People's Commissioner Bruce Adamson successfully stopped trains operator ScotRail from using the mosquito device at several train stations.

He's now campaigning to have the devices banned, claiming they are discriminatory and may cause harm and distress.

"I'm very concerned about the fact that we don't know the effect this has on young children and babies who might not be able to verbalise the distress that they're in," he said.

"Particularly children and young people with autism or other neuro-diverse conditions that may be sound frequency sensitive," Mr Adamson said.

The ABC contacted various product safety regulatory bodies about the regulatory framework for the mosquito device.

"Bans and mandatory standards are only made when evidence indicates a risk of serious injury, illness or death associated with a product," Consumer Affairs Victoria said in a statement.

The UK company which invented the mosquito device, Compound Security Systems, said it was safe and is not loud or painful — just highly annoying.

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Australia

Michelle Guthrie suing ABC after being dumped as managing director

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is taking the broadcaster to court over her dismissal, with sources confirming she will claim the board “had no reason to trigger the termination clause”.

Key points

Ms Guthrie was sacked last month, mid-way through her five-year tenure
At the time of her sacking, Ms Guthrie said she was considering her legal options
By the end of that week, the broadcaster's chairman Justin Milne had resigned

Ms Guthrie has begun the formal legal process and lodged paperwork at the start of this week.

A spokesperson for Ms Guthrie told the ABC she had lodged a claim with the Fair Work Commission, but did not confirm what damages were being sought.

The ABC also confirmed Ms Guthrie had made a complaint, but according to a spokesperson, “details of the complaint are not a matter of public record”.

Ms Guthrie was last month sacked from the position, mid-way through her five-year tenure.

At the time of her departure, then-ABC chairman Justin Milne..

Former ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is taking the broadcaster to court over her dismissal, with sources confirming she will claim the board "had no reason to trigger the termination clause".

Key points

  • Ms Guthrie was sacked last month, mid-way through her five-year tenure
  • At the time of her sacking, Ms Guthrie said she was considering her legal options
  • By the end of that week, the broadcaster's chairman Justin Milne had resigned

Ms Guthrie has begun the formal legal process and lodged paperwork at the start of this week.

A spokesperson for Ms Guthrie told the ABC she had lodged a claim with the Fair Work Commission, but did not confirm what damages were being sought.

The ABC also confirmed Ms Guthrie had made a complaint, but according to a spokesperson, "details of the complaint are not a matter of public record".

Ms Guthrie was last month sacked from the position, mid-way through her five-year tenure.

At the time of her departure, then-ABC chairman Justin Milne said directors had resolved it was not in the best interests of the broadcaster for Ms Guthrie to continue to lead the organisation.

He said the board had made the decision in the interest of "the millions of Australians who engage with ABC content every week".

He would not be drawn on exactly what had led to the decision "out of respect" to Ms Guthrie, however when pressed, said her "leadership style" had been a factor.

At the time, Ms Guthrie said she felt her termination was unjustified and that she was considering her legal options.

"While my contract permits the board to terminate my appointment without cause and with immediate effect, I believe there is no justification for the board to trigger that termination clause," she said.

"At no point have any issues been raised with me about the transformation being undertaken, the Investing in Audiences strategy, and my effectiveness in delivering against that strategy."

Ms Guthrie was sacked on Monday, September 24, and by the end of the week Mr Milne had also resigned amid accusations he interfered in the broadcaster's editorial independence.

In the days after Ms Guthrie's acrimonious departure, explosive reports in Fairfax and News Limited publications claimed Mr Milne had urged the then-managing director to sack two prominent reporters because the Government "hated" them.

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Australia

Unions furious about Government’s decision to join casual workers court case

Related Story: Unions slam push for 'perma-flexi' workers that would see casual loading slashed

The Federal Government has joined a court case trying to stop casual workers “double dipping” on leave entitlements, arguing recent decisions have caused “anxiety” among small businesses around the country.

Jobs Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said a case currently before the Federal Court risked allowing casual workers to claim leave entitlements on top of their casual pay loading.

“It's generally one or the other, but not both, and the certainty needs to be made very clear,” Ms O'Dwyer said.

“That's why the Commonwealth is intervening in this particular case, small businesses need that certainty.

“Each and every day they face decisions about whether or not they employ people, and that is somebody's future.”

Labour hire firm WorkPac has brought the case against an employee, after the Federal Court ruled against the company in a similar dispute to allow a cas..

Related Story: Unions slam push for 'perma-flexi' workers that would see casual loading slashed

The Federal Government has joined a court case trying to stop casual workers "double dipping" on leave entitlements, arguing recent decisions have caused "anxiety" among small businesses around the country.

Jobs Minister Kelly O'Dwyer said a case currently before the Federal Court risked allowing casual workers to claim leave entitlements on top of their casual pay loading.

"It's generally one or the other, but not both, and the certainty needs to be made very clear," Ms O'Dwyer said.

"That's why the Commonwealth is intervening in this particular case, small businesses need that certainty.

"Each and every day they face decisions about whether or not they employ people, and that is somebody's future."

Labour hire firm WorkPac has brought the case against an employee, after the Federal Court ruled against the company in a similar dispute to allow a casual truck driver to claim leave entitlements.

"This is a new test case particularly looking at the offset arrangements," Ms O'Dwyer said.

"I am intervening in this case to clarify what was not clarified in the previous court decision.

"The anxiety that this has created among small businesses right across the country is one that needs to be settled and settled very quickly."

Unions are furious with Ms O'Dwyer's decision, accusing the Minister of fundamentally misunderstanding both the law and the circumstances of the case.

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) President Michele O'Neil said the truck driver in the first case had been employed for two-and-a-half years, and was paid 30 per cent less than permanent workers at the company.

"What the company did was, instead of employing him as a permanent worker as they should have, they used a labour hire firm to bring him in on a rate that was 30 per cent less," Ms O'Neil said.

"So how is that worker doing anything other than ensuring that his rights are protected? And that's what the court has done.

"The court has looked at the circumstances and said, 'This isn't casual, this is fake casual and he's entitled to be paid his accrued annual leave'."

She said Ms O'Dwyer was wasting taxpayer funds, and was simply backing big business.

"The Minister doesn't understand the law, this is not that unusual a decision," Ms O'Neil said.

"There's been more than 20 years of precedent cases like this where the courts have said if you enter into a sham, if you have someone that's employed long term, if you have someone that's on a regular shift, regular hours, then you can't just call that person a casual and get away with it.

"So for the Minister to suggest, and for the business lobby to suggest that somehow this is an unusual case that has put at risk the whole employment of casuals is wrong."

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The South Tyrol question, explained

A South Tyrolean separatist holds a sticker saying: “South Tyrol will be free!” Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

South Tyrol, known to Italians as Alto Adige, has been a bone of contention between Austria and Italy for decades. Here's what you need to know about the latest dispute.

The Austrian government has angered Italy with plans to offer dual citizenship to the majority German-speaking population of South Tyrol province.

As voters elect the province's parliament this weekend, with dual citizenship a hot-button issue during the election campaign, here are some facts about a region where many still feel a deep affinity to Austria.

What is South Tyrol's status?

South Tyrol, or Alto Adige in Italian, covers an area of around 7,400 square kilometres and has a population of around 500,000.

It formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for 550 years until it was ceded to Italy in 1919 just after World War I. After World War II, South Tyrol and the neighbourin..

A South Tyrolean separatist holds a sticker saying: "South Tyrol will be free!" Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

South Tyrol, known to Italians as Alto Adige, has been a bone of contention between Austria and Italy for decades. Here's what you need to know about the latest dispute.

The Austrian government has angered Italy with plans to offer dual citizenship to the majority German-speaking population of South Tyrol province.

As voters elect the province's parliament this weekend, with dual citizenship a hot-button issue during the election campaign, here are some facts about a region where many still feel a deep affinity to Austria.

What is South Tyrol's status?

South Tyrol, or Alto Adige in Italian, covers an area of around 7,400 square kilometres and has a population of around 500,000.

It formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for 550 years until it was ceded to Italy in 1919 just after World War I. After World War II, South Tyrol and the neighbouring province of Trentino formed the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige.

The rights of the German- and Ladin-speaking minorities were officially protected under the 1948 Autonomy Statute. But the South Tyrolean People's Party began pushing for greater provincial autonomy in the mid-1950s, and in the 1960s German-speaking militants even carried out a series of sometimes deadly bomb attacks against symbols of Italian state authority.

A revised statute came into force in 1972, devolving most powers to the provinces and setting up power-sharing between the linguistic groups in South Tyrol.

Around 65 percent of South Tyroleans identify themselves as German speakers, 27 percent Italian and four percent Ladin, a Romance language.

Are people happy with the current status quo?

Most people seem to be. The Open Democracy website reports that the proportion of South Tyroleans
comfortable with "socio-political cohabitation" between the linguistic groups rose from eight percent in 1991 to 53 percent by 2014.

While many parties representing German- and Ladin-speakers still have pro-independence statutes, the province is proud it is frequently held up as a model of peaceful cohabitation.

READ ALSO: Italy's South Tyrol: where an identity crisis lingers

Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

What is Austria's proposal?

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's idea is to offer Austrian passports to South Tyrol's German- and Ladin-speaking populations, but not to Italian speakers. But Vienna has not spelt out in detail who would be eligible.

Guenther Pallaver, political science professor at Innsbruck University, sees two possibilities.

"The first would be historical or genealogical, where the applicant must prove that their parents or grandparents were citizens of the former Austrian Empire," Pallaver said. "But as successive generations pass, such a lineage becomes increasingly difficult to prove."

The second variant would be ethnic and linguistic. "South Tyroleans must officially choose which linguistic group they belong to. But no language tests are carried out to verify a person's fluency," Pallaver said.

Another complication is that Austria does not permit dual nationality.

Who is for and against?

Most parties representing German- and Ladin-speakers are in favour, while most of the Italian parties are against, echoing Rome's position.

South Tyrol's Green Party says excluding Italian speakers would be problematic and could fuel resentment between the different language groups.

Some opponents also argue the scheme could be used as a back door for migrants to gain Austrian nationality.

Is a solution likely any time soon?

With no concrete proposal on the table from Vienna and fierce resistance in Rome, no solution is in sight in the near term, says Marc Roeggla, researcher in minority rights at the EURAC institute in Bolzano.

"It's very, very difficult to say. I could say it will happen within the next few years." But it all depends on what solutions Austria puts forward, he says.

READ ALSO: Italy and Austria at odds over South Tyrol dual-citizenship


Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

By AFP's Simon Morgan

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