Steyn kicks Springboks to narrow victory

January 12th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

A last-minute penalty by fly-half Morne Steyn sealed an unimpressive 22-17 win for South Africa over Argentina Saturday in a scrappy Rugby Championship Test.

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After a humiliating 60-point defeat in Soweto last weekend, the passionate Pumas were the better side in chilly Mendoza for much of the match and led until eight minutes from time.

Steyn slotted two penalties in the closing minutes to keep South Africa top of the table — level on nine points with New Zealand but ahead on points difference.

South Africa started with the same side that won 73-13 in the first round while Argentina made five changes and still lacked injured skipper and No. 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

Desperate to put the huge loss behind them, the Pumas made a fiery start and were ahead within two minutes when flanker Juan Martin Leguizamon dived over in the corner.

The veteran took the ball after a line-out near the try-line, burst into the short side and swivelled past several Springboks to dot the ball down with centre Felipe Contepomi converting.

Argentina were struggling in the early scrums and South African pressure earned a penalty on nine minutes which ace goal-kicker Steyn placed between the posts.

Within two minutes a far more fired-up Pumas side than that of last weekend regained a seven-point advantage as veteran Contepomi kicked a penalty.

But South Africa drew level on 15 minutes as Steyn converted from the touchline a try by left-wing Bjorn Basson in the left corner at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.

After brave defending repelled several Springbok attempts to score in the right corner, Argentina failed to clear and the visitors passed along the backline for Basson to sprint over.

Juandre Kruger went over the try-line soon after only for the score to be disallowed because fellow lock Eben Etzebeth had knocked on in an aerial duel.

South Africa opted to kick for touch a penalty well within the range of Steyn and Argentina drove the green and gold back to leave the visitors questioning their decision.

A Contepomi penalty drifted to the right from in front of the posts, but Argentina were back in front on 37 minutes when centre Marcelo Bosch dived over near the posts.

Patient multi-phase Pumas pressure took them within a few metres of the line and Bosch drove between centre JJ Engelbrecht and prop Jannie du Plessis for a try Contepomi converted.

Steyn narrowed the gap to four points in first-half stoppage time by kicking his second penalty and four minutes after half-time he repeated the feat to leave just one point between the sides.

With Contepomi replaced by Santiago Fernandez, Bosch took over as goal kicker and was not far off target with a long-range attempt midway through the second half.

With 20 minutes to go it was 17-16 to Argentina — a far cry from seven days ago when the Springboks ran in nine tries for a record Rugby Championship victory.

But eight minutes from time South Africa gained the lead for the first time as prop Marcos Ayerza collapsed a maul and Steyn maintained his 100 per cent kicking record from the penalty.

Another Steyn penalty one minute into additional time sealed success for the Springboks, who trooped off knowing they will play better in future and lose.

Rudd, Abbott back Lib candidate over gaffe

January 12th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd don’t agree on much, especially during an election campaign.

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But they were united on Tuesday in sympathy for Liberal candidate Jaymes Diaz.

Both men leapt to Mr Diaz’s defence after he was left red-faced in a television interview on Monday night.

In the five-minute interview, the Liberals’ hope in the west Sydney seat of Greenway is unable to detail the coalition’s six-point asylum plan.

“The key point would be stopping the boats where safe to do so,” is Mr Diaz’s best reply to questioning from Network Ten’s John Hill.

Mr Abbott was quick to defend his candidate over the interview, which has since gone viral on YouTube.

“I’m afraid it happens to all of us from time to time,” he told ABC radio in Sydney.

He said an occasional gaffe was just part of being in politics.

“Inevitably, a very experienced and slightly aggressive journalist shoves a microphone in your face and starts barking at you and it is possible to freeze,” he said.

“I’ve done it myself.”

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, too, was in Mr Diaz’s corner.

“I understand the Liberal candidate for Greenway had a few challenges yesterday. I’m sure some of ours will at some stage or another,” Mr Rudd told reporters in the Queensland seat of Griffith.

“That’s just life in an electoral campaign. If you’ve been through as many as I have you’ve seen anything happen.”

Mr Diaz, a local family lawyer, is running against Labor’s Michelle Rowland, who holds Greenway on 0.9 per cent.

Mr Diaz did not return AAP’s calls.

Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said although it was the first gaffe of the 2013 campaign, it wouldn’t be the last.

“I think anyone who’s never made a mistake ever is entitled to have a go,” he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.

But he said it was important that politicians were able to support the policy of their party.

“Particularly when there’s not much there to support,” he added.

“This person’s been a candidate before of course.

“He was chosen by the Liberal Party last time around, they’ve selected him again, they obviously think he’s one of their best.”

The coalition needs a swing of just 0.9 per cent to claim the seat from Labor MP Michelle Rowland, making it the most marginal in NSW.

SKorea facing power crisis

January 12th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

South Korea has ordered government offices to turn off their air-conditioning as two power plants stopped operations, a day after a minister warned of an imminent national energy crisis.

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The Dangjin III plant, with a capacity of 500,000 kilowatts, was taken offline by mechanical issues and will likely remain shut for a week, a spokesman for the state power distributor Korea Power Exchange (KPE) said on Monday.

Technical problems also shut down the nearby Seocheon power plant on Monday morning.

Although operations resumed after an hour, the plant is only working at half its 200,000-kilowatt capacity, the spokesman said.

The timing could hardly be worse, with South Korea in the grip of an extended heatwave and a lengthy disruption in its nuclear power sector.

“We are facing potentially our worst power crisis,” Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Yoon Sang-Jick said on Sunday.

“We may have to carry out a rolling blackout … if one single power plant goes out of operation,” Yoon said, appealing to factories, households and shops to curb consumption over the next three days.

The last time the government was forced to resort to nationwide load shedding was in September 2011, when unexpectedly high demand pushed power reserves to their lowest level in decades.

If national reserves drop below 2.0 million kilowatts, it triggers an automatic alert requiring all government offices to turn off air conditioners, lights and any non-essential devices.

In a pre-emptive move on Monday, the energy ministry ordered such measures effective immediately, even though the key reserve mark had not been breached.

Describing the current situation as “extremely urgent”, the ministry also ordered government offices to turn off water coolers and staff to use staircases where possible, rather than elevators.

The ministry added it would tighten monitoring on shopping malls, which face fines for bringing indoor temperatures below 26 degrees Celsius.

Higher than normal summer temperatures – forecast to last at least another week – have resulted in a sustained energy consumption spike.

At the same time, South Korea’s nuclear industry is struggling to emerge from a mini crisis which has forced the shutdown of numerous reactors – either for repair or as the result of a scandal over forged safety certificates.

The country has 23 reactors which are meant to meet more than 30 per cent of electricity needs. Currently six reactors are out of operation.

News Corp Aust chief Williams departs

October 9th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

News Corp Australia boss Kim Williams has abruptly exited the company after just 20 months in the job – to be replaced by the retired former head of the Murdoch empire’s Victorian operations.

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It marks the end of a short but turbulent reign which has seen a major restructure of the company’s operations, major job losses and open political conflict with the federal government over media regulation.

His departure also comes less than two weeks after News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson dispatched New York Post editor Col Allan to Australia to provide “extra editorial leadership” to the company’s newspapers during the next three months.

The appointment was seen by many commentators as a sign Mr Williams’ position was under threat.

He will be replaced from Monday by Julian Clarke, who has not served in a management role with the company in six years.

Mr Clarke was managing director of the News Corp-owned The Herald and Weekly Times for 16 years until 2007, before serving as chairman of the company – a role he stepped down from in June.

But Australian Shareholders Association spokesman and media industry commentator Stephen Mayne believes Mr Clarke is a short-term appointment.

“He has been retired from management for more than five years so it’s certainly unusual,” he said.

“So I would think this would be a relatively short-lived appointment to smooth everything over after the massive restructure Kim Williams did.”

In an internal email to staff Mr Williams’ said he was leaving the company with mixed feelings.

“An action like this is always taken with a heavy heart and a mixed bag of feelings and reflections on a wide range of experiences with News Corp across almost 20 years,” he said.

“It is certainly not a decision made lightly, or without an awareness of the impact decisions like this inevitably have on many close colleagues, clients and diverse bodies within the media community.”

Mr Williams joined News Corp in 1995 as the CEO of Fox Studios Australia and was CEO of Foxtel for 10 years before being promoted to chief executed of News Ltd (later News Corp Australia) in late 2011.

News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch thanked Mr Williams for his service to the company.

“Kim has been a steady and courageous leader at a time when our businesses have faced unprecedented pressure and economic challenges,’ he said in a statement.

“I want to thank him for his unwavering commitment, and the blood, sweat and tears he has put into News Corp Australia.”

News Corp chief Robert Thomson said Mr Williams had decided it was the right time to go and paid tribute to Mr Williams’ role in successfully opposing the Gillard government’s proposed media reforms earlier this year.

“His leadership against hastily conceived reforms ensured that the vigorous and vital debate that has characterised our country will endure,” he said.

Bur Mr Mayne said Mr Williams’ departure was the result of internal News Corp politics.

“I think he ended up losing a power struggle with some of the editors who are close to Rupert Murdoch.”

Dubai: Alien City

October 9th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

There are just over 2 million residents in Dubai, 80 per cent of them are expatriates.

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Around 14,000 are Australian.

It’s one of the very few places in the world where expats outnumber locals to such a degree.

Given the large amount of international guests calling the UAE’s biggest city home, one must question whether some of the perceived cons of living in a such a city, is valid.

I travelled to Dubai as a guest of Qantas as part of its strategic alliance with Emirates earlier this week.

While I was only there for two full days, I tried to speak to as many people as possible to get an idea of where it is economically and what Aussie expats really think of this growing city.

The International Monetary Fund says the United Arab Emirates economy grew by 4 per cent in 2012 and is expected to slow to 2.6 per cent this year.

The head of Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Helal Al Marri told me, that while growth in 2009 was 1 per cent, the average from 2006 to now has been 8 per cent.

Dubai is expected to grow at just over 4 per cent this year.

The city has always been a trading hub, but its wealth exploded in the late 1960s when oil was discovered.

The profits were used by its leader to develop the city, and it modernised very quickly.

Property prices soared in the mid-2000s when the real estate sector opened to foreign investors granting them freehold ownership at many developments.

But the 80 per cent increase in value seen in many parts of Dubai wasn’t sustainable, and following the global financial crisis, the sector was hit hard.

Some buildings were left unfinished, while others just took a bit longer to build.

The World Islands for example, were quickly created. While most have been sold, only two islands have been developed. They sit on the city’s coast as a reminder of just how hot its economy got.

The sector has stabilised, and John Iossifids from Mashreqbank told me prices altogether are around 40 per cent off their lows now, but still 20 per cent off their 2007 peaks.

One of the reasons why Dubai has been able to ride out the global storm, is because of its diverse economy.

While Dubai’s riches may have come from oil, its focus is now on tourism, services and trade.

Tourism for example contributes to one quarter of total GDP.

There has been a 10 per cent increase in the number of visitors to the city in the last 2 years, year on year according to Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

What the city is doing, is positioning itself as a luxury family holiday destination.

It’s home to a number of ‘big’ things. The world’s biggest building completed in 2010 is the Burj Khalifa, which now incidentally is close to 90 per cent occupied. The Dubai Mall is the world’s biggest shopping centre. The JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is the world’s tallest hotel.

It is also home to some major sporting events, like the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup.

One of its next big hopes, is Expo 2020. The city is bidding for the event which will be awarded later this year. It is expected to create 250,000 jobs in the lead up, and pull in 25 million visitors to the event.

Then there is the visual opulence of the city which attracts visitors. Its unusual buildings and manmade structures.

The Palm for example was built in such a way, to maximise waterfront property. Waterways are now being extended into the desert.

Business large and small are attracted to the city thanks to its generous tax advantages. No personal income tax is paid.

Its location is also a big factor.

Dubai is 4 hours from a third of the world’s population.

Dubai International Airpot saw nearly 58 million passengers enter its terminals, and only recently overtook Charles De Gaulle as the world’s second busiest airport behind Heathrow. It’s expected to take out the top spot by 2015.

It also opened the world’s first dedicated A380 Concourse which will help Emirates Airlines build on its 68 per cent first half profit increase.

Dubai International is expected to get so busy, its parent company Dubai Airports is preparing to expand its second airport about 30 kilometres south of its main site. Dubai World Central will have room for 80 million passengers by 2027 and eventually grow to 160 million.

The challenge for it, along with Dubai generally, will be to successfully manage this growth.

It’s this growth, which has drawn more than 200 nationalities to the city, and a surge in expats which outnumber nationals, or Emirati people, 4 to 1.

Of course those who have decided to live in the city, must abide by its rules.

Islam is the official religion of the UAE, but the government has blended the interpretation of Sharia Law with the customs on non-Muslim expatriates making Dubai, somewhat more relaxed than other centres around the country like Abu Dhabi, and other parts of the Middle East.

Aussie expat, Penny Couchman described it as “The latte of the Middle East,” meaning that it is a soft entry into the region.

Still, their customs and traditions have been around for hundreds of years, and while Dubai may be a little more lenient than other parts of the Arab world, rules do exist.

Kissing in public and swearing is not allowed, people are warned not to stare too long at the locals or members of the opposite sex, drinking or being drunk in public, along with acts of homosexuality can be punishable, sharing a hotel room with a member of the opposite sex unless you’re married is unlawful, and some over the counter medicines bought in Australia, like codeine based products, are banned.

However, it is not unusual to see people sunbaking on the beach in bikinis. Sometimes, it may be difficult to exactly interpret the law, which I’ll touch on later.

The Australian government encourages anyone travelling to, or through the region, or any other part of the world for that matter, to refer to its smart traveller website (南宁桑拿网,www.smarttraveller.gov.au).

Dubai Tourism’s Helal Al Marri told me “There is definitely a need for people who visit, to at least understand the local customs and cultures.”

There has been a 17 per cent increase in the number of Australians in Dubai in the past two years. Dubai tourism estimates around 200,000 Aussies have visited in that time.

The recent alliance between Qantas and Emirates may see that number increase, and while there has been a bit of scaremongering in the media, about the dangers of Dubai, and the possibility of tourists being caught out unawares, the reality is Australians have been in, and travelling through the city for decades.

There have of course, been high profile cases of Australians in trouble with authorities, whether they be tourists or business people.

Roderick Crouch from the Australia Dubai Business Council told me, “When you go and live anywhere else in the world, you’ve got to expect to live and work by their rules.”

Expats say, that elements of the law can be frustrating, especially when no precedent has been set. Some feel that it’s not so black and while, compared with Australia.

Ultimately, expats agree that taking the time to understand the process, makes doing business in Dubai easier.

And Dubai does want business, especially with Australians.

Australia is the UAE’s 14th largest market.

Food and the equine industries are big while some Australian manufactured goods have also found a market in the city.

In fact, the Victorian made Toyota Camry is probably the most successful export with many taxis in the city using the make.

Education is also playing a key role, as Dubai expands its knowledge based economy.

The University of Wollongong has expanded its Dubai campus, and its President, Professor Trevor Spedding told me that it started with a business course with just six or seven students, which has grown over the last 20 years to about 3,500.

Despite the cultural differences, expats say Australians and Emiratis are similar in business, stemming from an economy based on natural resources and a multicultural society.

Emiratis like Australian’s can do attitude. Small talk before a deal is essential, and is part of the UAE way of life. Luckily, this is where Australia’s mostly relaxed approach to business can be advantageous.

I found an extremely useful business customs guide on the Australian Government’s Austrade website, (南宁桑拿网,www.austrade.gov.au).

It’s also important to understand the social structure which exists in the UAE. The Emiratis. The expats. Those from developing countires.

The Emirati people do lead privileged lives. It is after all, their land. They get free education, healthcare along with access to housing funds and marriage funds.

Expats lead privileged lives too, with many affording luxuries they just couldn’t back home, like live-in help.

Construction workers for example, particularly those from India and Pakistan do it a bit tougher.

The Business Council’s Roderick Crouch adds, “You do have a lot of people from very poor parts of the world, in fairly poor paid jobs, but it’s still better than where their life may be back home.”

Speaking of back home, there is one distinct disadvantage for Australians working in Dubai, and that’s the very strong Australian dollar, especially for those wanting to send money back home.

The other disadvantage is for those expats wanting a short stay, with many businesses keen on longer term employees.

Middle East-based recruiter, Michael Leonard told me, that Dubai is a very transient type of place, so getting people to stay for more than two years who aren’t chasing the dollar is difficult.

Dubai may sound like an appealing place to work, live and do business, but as with every aspect in life, there are risks.

Some worry about just how far Dubai’s economy may expand for, and whether the European financial crisis will spread into the city.

But it seems the biggest threat may be regional.

The Arab Spring has actually been beneficial for Dubai. The uprising around the region has seen cash flood into the UAE which is more stable, and international businesses set up regional offices in Dubai.

However, John Iossifids says, if that spreads, it may be a problem, but highly unlikely.

Roderick Couch adds, any conflict between the US and Iran, which has deep historic relations with the UAE may also add to instability, but again, that’s unlikely.

As for my own personal experience, obviously two full days isn’t enough, but it did give me a taste for what Dubai offers.

While the city does literally rise up from the desert, it is eternally clean and safe. Dubai Tourism tells me it is one of the safest cities in the world, with a crime rate of just 1 in 100,000.

What was frustrating, was the process to gain filming permits across the city for various locations, which I must admit Dubai Tourism and Qantas did help with, but even in approved areas, we were stopped by police a couple of times, who asked to see papers. In our situation, we had no issues though.

Did I also mention my upset tummy on day one? Sometimes I don’t travel well.

There are a lot of things that I didn’t get to see, nightlife being one of them, but I guess I may have to leave that for another trip.

How endangered is the Great Barrier Reef?

October 9th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

It’s happened before and will most likely happen again – an oil spill on one of the world’s great natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef.

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Huge port developments are underway along the World Heritage-listed natural wonder to ship coal and gas to resource hungry economies like China and India.

 

UNESCO is threatening to list the reef as endangered.

 

Stefan Armbruster reports.

 

“I think the Barrier Reef is one of the hardest places in the world to contain and control an oil spill.”

 

It’s a worrying assertion from Russell Reichelt, chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, known as GBRMPA.

 

“A collision or grounding is something that is likely to happen at some point.”

 

Oil spills like the Shen Neng in 2010 show safeguards are not foolproof.

 

The Chinese coal ship ran aground off Rockhampton and spilt four tonnes of heavy fuel oil.

 

It left a three-kilometre long grounding scar across the reef that is expected to take decades to recover.

 

Four-thousand ships use the reef annually; six-thousand are expected by 2020.

 

Felicity Wishart is the campaign director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society

 

“What we are seeing is this massive pressure to increase shipping through the GBR because of the coal developments in Queensland. The opening up of the Gallilee basin as well as ongoing coal from the Bowen Basin, Surat and so forth.”

 

So concerned is UNESCO it is threatening to list the reef as World Heritage endangered at a meeting in June.

 

“The World Heritage Committee has been very concerned with the large scale industrialisation and development of new ports, the dredging and the shipping that would increase, it has said if this isn’t better managed, then the World Heritage Committee may list the GBR as in danger. This would be a list of shame. It would highlight that Australia hasn’t been looking after one of the great natural wonders of the world, that it is letting it suffer because of pursuit of mining interests in the short term and I think Australia would be internationally embarrassed.”

 

GBRMPA’s Russell Reichelt explains Australia’s response.

 

“Now the Australian position is that the impact of these developments that have received a lot of media attention is significant but quite localised to the designated port areas, in the case of Gladstone, for instance, it’s not in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, it is in the World Heritage area. That doesn’t lessen the concerns we have domestically to manage them properly, but we do tell the committee every year that it’s large area, the far-north is near pristine, has suffered no coral decline, and the decline that’s occurring in the southern two-thirds region are due principally to storms, when I say storms I mean massive cyclones, and crown of thorn starfish, and huge flooding events over the last five to eight years.”

 

The 2,000-kilometre long reef is home to hundreds of types of coral, fish, birds and endangered turtle and dugongs.

 

It was world heritage listed by UNESCO in 1981.

 

The UN’s International Maritime Organisation, that regulates global shipping, declared the reef a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area in 1991 – the first in the world.

 

“It enables Australia to pass laws domestically which heighten the protection of that sea area.”

 

Often described as one of the natural wonders of the world, the reef is the basis of a six-billion-dollar-a-year tourism industry.

 

“It’s a huge part of our industry, about 20 per cent of employment in the Cairns region is tourism.”

 

Quicksilver is one of the biggest reef tourism operators be done,cout of the far north Queensland city.

 

Managing director Tony Baker is fearful of what an accident or spill could do to his business, even if it is not near Cairns.

 

“Like the Shen Neng which happened in the southern GBR, we continually got phone calls from agents overseas concerned that the reef had been destroyed, by that one little event. Now everyone involved with that knows that while it was a very significant event, it was in a very localised area.”

 

Australia’s Maritime Safety Authority is responsible for shipping safety in the Great Barrier Reef.

 

The Authority will release its draft northeast shipping plan next month as part of Australia’s response to UNESCO.

 

“I would love to be able to eliminate the risk totally, but to do that you’d have to eliminate shipping totally.”

 

Mick Kinley is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Australian Maritime Safety Authority and says almost everything is on the table.

 

“The plan is intended to be comprehensive and not just look at what we do as a safety authority and that’s stopping ships from having collisions and groundings. It’s also looking at the other risks to the outstanding universal value of the region such as aesthetics, looking at whale strikes, whether there are issues there and the long terms issues how we manage all of those.”

 

GBRMPA’s CEO Russell Reichelt sits on Maritime Safety Authority’s board and is privy to the draft plan.

 

“Look, wait for the publication but it will show the increase in numbers brings with it an increased risk. What it will show though is that the number of incidents hasn’t gone up with that risk.”

 

Authorities keep supplies of oil spill cleanup gear located along the Queensland coast from Brisbane to Cairns.

 

The Maritime Safety Authority has a rescue tug, the Pacific Responder, based in Cairns on stand-by at all times.

 

Mick Kinley says the Authority’s main focus is accident prevention.

 

“The main object is to keep the oil from getting out, that’s what we all want to do, when it does get out, there are limited response options.”

 

Last year the Hong Kong-registered bulk carrier Id Integrity lost steering and almost hit the outer reef.

 

In 2009, the tanker Atlantic Blue ran aground just outside the reef in the Torres Strait.

 

No oil was spilt but it was blamed on human error and resulted in a major review of pilotage in the strait and the Great Barrier Reef.

 

Mick Kinley from the Maritime Safety Authority says the reef is much safer since the 2010 Shen Neng oil spill.

 

“There were a range of learnings (lessons) from the Shen Neng and the first and most obvious one was the extension of the reef traffic service to cover the entire GBR area. That is now active, that’s been active since 2011, so we have far more active monitoring and we could intervene if there was another potential Shen Neng. We’ve also done a lot of work to strengthen the other arrangement we have in place like pilotage, our port state control ship inspection regime focused on fatigue and navigational safety and planning issues, so there’s a whole range of things that came out of that.”

 

But more could be done, says GBRMPA’s Russell Reichelt.

 

“Traffic management as opposed to traffic monitoring is probably the biggest single step Australia could take. But we’re quite concisious that would be quite adventurous in international shipping terms.”

 

Thirty-eight billion dollars in resource exports are shipped through the reef’s treacherous waters annually.

 

Australia is an island nation and shipping is vital for its economy.

 

Felicity Wishart, from the Australian Marine Conservation Society, says UNESCO will soon decide if industrialisation is being balanced with environmental sustainability.

 

“It only takes one ship to go the wrong way and crash and we could have a be done,c major disaster on our hands.”

 

Comment: Amendments could stymie PNG plan challenge

October 9th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

As expected, the Rudd government’s PNG plan is being challenged in the courts.

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Refugee advocates will certainly be emboldened by their recent success in convincing the High Court to strike down Labor’s Malaysian solution. The question now is whether this new plan will meet the same fate.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has said ”the government is confident that our policy complies with our domestic and international legal obligations”. Others are less sure. International lawyers have condemned the plan and suggested it breaches the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Australia’s most important obligation under the convention is that it must not ”expel or return a refugee” to a nation where their ”life or freedom would be threatened” on grounds such as their race, religion or political views.

For example, a person who has fled Iran because they fear persecution due to their political beliefs cannot be returned to that place.

On the other hand, the convention says nothing about a person being sent to another country willing to receive them.

High Court Chief Justice Robert French said in the Malaysian case this ”permits removal of a refugee to a ‘safe’ third country”. There are, however, other grounds on which the convention may be breached.

Professor Ben Saul from the University of Sydney has taken the view that the new arrangement is ”almost certain” not to comply with international law.

He identifies several violations of the refugee convention, including that the PNG plan discriminates against asylum seekers who arrive by boat and not plane, and that asylum seekers will be faced with mandatory detention for protracted periods in poor conditions and subjected to substandard processing arrangements.

These are all credible arguments as to why the plan puts Australia in breach of its commitments under the convention.

This may affect Australia’s standing in the international community, but it does not, by itself, provide a basis for challenging the plan in the High Court.

Conventions and treaties do not have direct legal force in Australia. They only form part of Australian law when they are given effect by legislation enacted by the Federal Parliament.

In the case of the refugee convention, the Migration Act sets down the rules and processes for seeking asylum in Australia in accordance with the convention.

If a challenge is mounted in the Australian courts, it would be on the grounds that the PNG plan is not consistent with the Migration Act. This was the basis upon which the Malaysian solution was struck down.

The same result is less likely this time round.

This is because the Federal Parliament has since amended the Migration Act to remove important checks and human rights protections on the transfer of asylum seekers to other countries.

The Migration Act had said boat arrivals could be taken to another country if the Immigration Minister had declared the country possessed, for example, ”effective procedures for assessing their need for protection” and ”relevant human rights standards”.

The High Court held in 2011 that Malaysia did not meet this test. The test was removed from the Migration Act in the following year.

This test has been replaced by provisions that seek to give a blank cheque to the government.

The law now says the ”only condition” for the minister to approve the transfer of asylum seekers to another country is that doing so is in Australia’s ”national interest”. It is hard to see how this new open-ended discretion provides any basis for challenging the PNG plan.

However, the problem for the government goes deeper than this particular provision.

The success of refugee advocates in the High Court is due more broadly to a tension at the core of Australia’s approach to asylum seekers.

The Migration Act purports to implement faithfully Australia’s obligations under the convention. Yet government policies and practices have sought to evade the spirit, if not the letter, of that convention. This conflict may yet open up other angles of attack in a field in which lawyers have proven ingenious at identifying winning arguments.

It is within the power of the Federal Parliament to remove this legal risk. It only needs to amend the Migration Act to authorise the PNG plan, irrespective of whether the plan is consistent with the terms of the refugee convention.

However, this would require the enactment of new legislation by Parliament, and in recent times this has proven fraught. Legislating to implement the plan in breach of the convention would be especially difficult.

This may be a step too far for members from all sides of Parliament. Indeed, even some members of the ALP are only likely to support the plan if they can hold onto the fiction that it respects Australia’s international obligations. For them, the refugee convention is an article of faith.

George Williams is a Professor of Law at UNSW.

UK teens in hospital after acid attack

October 9th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

Two British teenage girls are being treated for burns at a London hospital after acid was hurled in their faces in the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar.

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Doctors said on Saturday that Kirstie Trup and Katie Gee, both 18, were doing “well” after Wednesday’s attack, and Gee took to Twitter to thank supporters for their good wishes.

The girls, close friends who were working for three weeks as volunteer teachers on Zanzibar, were attacked by two men on a motorbike as they strolled through the historic centre, Stone Town.

The island’s authorities have offered a reward for the capture of those responsible, and police said on Friday that seven people had been questioned.

The girls’ families released a photograph of one of the victims’ injuries, showing dark burns seared across her jaw, neck and chest, without identifying her.

Trup’s father, Marc Trup, told The Times newspaper that efforts to help one of the girls after the attack had actually made her injuries worse.

One was immersed in the sea, where the salt water soothed the wounds, but the other was doused with dirty water which only made things worse, he said.

Gee’s father, Jeremy Gee, earlier described the burns as “horrendous”, telling The Daily Telegraph: “We are absolutely devastated. The level of the burns are beyond imagination.”

The girls, who are due to start university in the coming weeks, were flown to Tanzania’s economic capital Dar es Salaam for treatment, and then on to London on Friday.

In a Twitter message from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in the British capital, which has a specialist burns unit, Gee wrote: “Thank you for all your support x”.

Andy Williams, consultant burns and plastic surgeon, said on Friday that the team was still assessing the girls’ injuries.

“Both girls are well and their families are with them,” he said.

Zanzibar’s Tourism Minister Said Ali Mbarouk offered a reward of 10 million Tanzanian shillings ($A6,850) for information leading to the arrest of the suspects, describing the attack as “a shame on the people of Zanzibar”.

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, who visited the two girls in hospital in Dar es Salaam, said the attack had “tarnished the image” of the country.

Tanzania is predominantly Muslim, and the attack happened at the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as people were beginning to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Some of the island’s more conservative Muslims object to foreign tourists who wear revealing clothes, as well as bars selling alcohol.

One of the girls had posted on her Twitter page that she had been hit by a Muslim woman in the street earlier in the trip, apparently for singing during Ramadan.

There were also reports that the pair had argued with a local shopkeeper.

But their families insist they had been careful to dress modestly while out on the streets of Zanzibar. Both from Jewish families, they also avoided any prominent displays of their faith.

Wife of China’s Bo Xilai testifies in his trial

September 12th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

Gu Kailai said she became worried after her son Bo Guagua, who was studying in the United States, told her Neil Heywood had threatened him after arrangements involving the property in Cannes went sour.

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Her comments — the first detailed account of events leading up to Heywood’s death in November 2011 — appeared in evidence at Bo Xilai’s trial at the Intermediate People’s Court in Jinan.

   

Gu, who was not in court, stopped short of directly implicating her husband — then the Communist Party boss of the southwestern city of Chongqing — in the killing.

   

“In 2011 Guagua’s security was in danger and Bo was definitely aware of that,” said Gu, a former lawyer.

   

Gu said she discussed the threats with Wan Lijun, Chongqing’s police chief and Bo’s right-hand man, who she described as being “responsible for Guagua’s personal security in the US”.

   

“We made a blacklist of suspicious people, including Neil Heywood. I told Bo about these,” she added.

   

“We were worried Guagua would be killed in the US, and I read Guagua and Neil Heywood’s email exchanges so I became more worried.

   

“Although Wang said he arranged security for Guagua I was not relaxed at all. That’s why the November 15 murder happened.”

   

According to the transcripts, which the court is posting online, Bo responded in court that his wife was “insane” and had compared herself to Jing Ke, who more than 2,000 years ago tried and failed to kill the man who would become the first emperor of a unified China.

   

It was “sufficient to prove that she was mentally disordered” at the time of the killing, Bo said.

   

Gu also outlined the web of business dealings surrounding the French Riviera villa that led to the falling-out with Heywood.

   

More details were provided by Patrick Devillers, a French architect who maintained a business relationship with both Bo and Gu, forged when the politician ran the industrial port town of Dalian.

   

He was the first manager of the villa, and was charged with negotiating “compensation” with Heywood after the Briton’s involvement with the property ended.

   

Heywood demanded £1.4 million ($2.2 million), a figure which according to the transcripts Devillers said left him “shocked” and speechless.

   

“Neil Heywood sounded outraged and went on ranting about Gu and that he was tricked by her (legally) and threatened if his request was not met he would ‘reveal everything’,” he said.

   

“I felt the danger as I had never seen him so angry before.”

   

Abbott’s schools pledge a sham: union

September 12th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

The education union has launched an advertising blitz warning voters not to trust Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s “sham” promise to match Labor when it comes to schools funding.

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The Australian Education Union has placed the ads in major papers across the country, claiming voters have a “stark and important” choice to make this election about the future of schools.

The ads claim an Abbott government would invest $2.8 billion in schools over four years to compared to Labor’s pledged $10 billion over six years.

“Mr Abbott. 1/3 is not enough,” reads the banner topping an image of a teacher helping a child.

After months of insisting the current funding model wasn’t broken, the coalition this month vowed to honour and match the school funding agreements entered into under Labor’s Better Schools plan.

Mr Abbott said as far as school fund was concerned, he and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd were “on a unity ticket”.

The AUE’s president Angelo Gavrielatos rubbished the claim, and warned parents not to be misled by Mr Abbott’s efforts to take education off the election agenda.

“This is no unity ticket on schools funding,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Overall, the Coalition plan for extra schools funding comes up $7 billion short.”

The union is particularly concerned by the coalition’s plan to cut short the six-year deals already signed by federal Labor and the NSW, Victoria, ACT, Tasmania and South Australian governments.

Meanwhile, the Australian Salary Packaging Industry Association has also run full-page ads against the Rudd government’s changes to the fringe benefits tax.

It says the changes mean the cost of living for thousands would increase and there’d be job losses in associated industries.

“The knock-on effect means everyone loses. Make your voice heard so you wont be next,” the ad says.

Education Minister Bill Shorten said teachers’ pay was “in the toilet” and not sustainable.

However, he said the issue was one for the states and he had not come along with a cheque book to help fix it.

Mr Shorten told the Asia Education Foundation National Conference in Melbourne a re-elected Labor government would see if there were other ways it could help.

“I don’t have a simple solution but if Labor’s fortunate enough to be given a third term, I undertake to you to see how we can work on that more innovatively because there’s value propositions in the remuneration of teachers which I think can just help people hang in there and feel like they’re going forward and not just treading water,” he said.

Mr Shorten did not take questions from media to elaborate on his statement.

Tuqiri open to rugby union return

September 12th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

Lote Tuqiri hasn’t ruled out the prospect of returning to rugby union with the former dual international set to make an announcement on his future in the next month.

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Tuqiri is off-contract with the Wests Tigers at the end of the season and been told by the NRL club there’s unlikely to be a new deal on the table.

The powerful winger has played in the Tigers’ last two games having spent the best part of two years out of the game due to complications stemming from a broken arm.

And having struggled to get himself fit again the 33-year-old isn’t ready to hang up his boots and keen to stay in the NRL or potentially have another stint in the 15-man code.

“I am going alright and if it’s not here at the Tigers then it will probably have to be somewhere else,” Tuqiri said.

“I am sifting through a few things at the moment and hopefully have something for everyone in the next couple of weeks.

“There are a few things there, I will just have to weigh them up with the family and take it from there.”

Tuqiri, along with Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers were tempted away from the NRL at the turn of the century to play for the Wallabies in the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Tuqiri joined the NSW Waratahs on a lucrative deal from Brisbane Broncos, then spent time with English giants Leicester before linking up with the Tigers in 2010.

Although he and his young family are well settled in Sydney Tuqiri’s open-minded about the prospect of moving inter-state or potentially overseas with Japanese rugby, who’ve long coveted his services, a possibility.

But the former Queensland star said the uncertainty surrounding his future isn’t something that’s concerned him.

“That’s (rugby) an option as well, having some experience in it and we’ll just see how the next few weeks pan out,” he said.

“I have struggled in the past with the weight of expectation around contract-time but I am older now and I can just go out there and enjoy myself.

“I have put two games together now and hopefully I can see out the season. It’s been a tough two years with injuries but hopefully I am over all that bad luck.”

Burnt bodies found in Indian sub

September 12th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

India’s navy has retrieved four burnt bodies from a submarine that exploded in a Mumbai dockyard, and says it’s unlikely any of the remaining 14 missing crewmen are alive.

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The diesel-powered INS Sindhurakshak sank in a military dockyard early on Wednesday, dealing a setback to India’s naval ambitions just days after it unveiled its first domestically made aircraft carrier.

Navy divers managed to enter the vessel, whose forward section was destroyed in the fire, but their progress was hampered by extreme heat, poor visibility and mangled hatches.

The first bodies were retrieved from the most easily accessible compartments on Friday and have been sent for DNA testing because severe burns prevented their identification, a navy statement said.

The state of the bodies and conditions within the submarine “leads to the firm conclusion that finding any surviving personnel within the submarine is unlikely”, the statement said.

It also suggested some personnel might never be found because of the fierce temperatures generated in the fire during which some of the weapons on board — cruise missiles and torpedoes — ignited.

Water inside the craft was still too hot for divers to enter 12 hours after the accident on Wednesday, and visibility inside was nil “even with high power underwater lamps”.

“The navy will continue to search every inch of the submerged submarine till all bodies are either located or it can be stated with finality that no bodies remain to be found,” the statement said.

“The body count is now four,” a navy spokesman told AFP. Senior navy officers also spoke of difficulties in pumping out seawater from the Russian-origin submarine and said the “top priority” was to refloat the mangled vessel.

“The divers who are being sent in one by one are also in great peril because of jagged metal and the distorted hull,” navy spokesman D.K. Sharma said.

Others said the only possible way to recover the bodies of the missing crew inside the hull was to raise it.

“Thinking at the highest level is that the top priority must be to bring her up from sea bed as it is vital to access the human remains because family members are distraught,” a senior officer said, asking not to be named.

“Besides, it will also help a board of enquiry which has been ordered into the disaster,” he added.

The families of the 18 men on board at the time of the explosion, whose names have been released, have gathered in Mumbai.

“The navy is not a salvage company so the option of (enlisting) a specialised international company to bring it up is also on the mind of the navy,” the officer added.

The inquiry will seek to determine what caused the blasts, which turned the recently refurbished Russian-built submarine into a fireball.

While some media reports have suggest sabotage might have caused the blast, the navy chief said Wednesday that “the indicators at this point of time do not support that theory”.

The 16-year-old submarine, whose name means “Protector of the Seas” in Hindi, returned from Russia in April where it underwent a two-year overhaul of its communication, weapons and propulsion systems.

It is still covered by a Russian warranty and the Russian company responsible for the refit, Zvyozdochka, has offered its assistance.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, addressing the nation in a traditional Independence Day speech on Thursday, voiced sorrow at the blast.

“The accident is all the more painful because the navy had recently achieved two major successes in the form of its first nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, and the aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant,” Singh said.

Labor star Beattie faces tough fight

September 12th, 2019 by admin | Permalink

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s star Labor recruit Peter Beattie may be facing an uphill battle to win the federal seat of Forde.

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A ReachTEL poll conducted for the Seven Network shows the Liberal National Party’s Bert Van Manen leading Mr Beattie 54 to 46 in two-party preferred terms in the Queensland seat.

Mr Rudd twisted the former Queensland premier’s arm to make his first foray into federal politics, as internal Labor polling showed existing candidate Des Hardman trailing Mr Van Manen four weeks out from the September 7 election.

“I have got the biggest fight of my political life ahead of me,” Mr Beattie told the Seven Network on Friday.

Mr Rudd said he knew Labor was behind in Forde, which the coalition holds by a 1.6 per cent margin.

Labor is the underdog right across the country, he said.

“Peter Beattie has his job cut out for him but I know he’s a person who’ll rise to the challenge,” Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd was not concerned about Brisbane newspaper The Courier-Mail’s Friday front page, showing Mr Rudd and Mr Beattie with the headline “Send in the Clown”.

“It’s a free country,” he said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said voters were right to be sceptical about “celebrity blow-ins”.

“Obviously if he were to get up it would radically increase leadership tensions within the Labor party,” Mr Abbott said of Mr Beattie, who was premier of Queensland from 1998 to 2007.

“It’s yet another example of a Labor party that is focused on itself,” he said.

Labor’s campaign spokeswoman Penny Wong said Forde was a must-win seat for Labor.

“I don’t accept that this is a stunt … it’s about Labor holding government and making sure that Tony Abbott doesn’t become prime minister,” she said.

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