Rabu, 30 April 2014

Alice Springs supermarket pulls deodorant from shelves as child sniffing rates rise (ABC)

View Comments A youth service has collected almost 500 used cans of deodorant from around Alice Springs in the last fortnight.ABC A youth service has collected almost 500 used cans of deodorant from around Alice Springs in the last fortnight.

Rexona deodorants have been pulled from supermarket shelves in Alice Springs in response to a spiralling rate of inhalant abuse by the town's children.

Supermarkets have voluntarily agreed to sell Rexona from behind the counter because of its popularity among children trying to get high. Other brands of aerosol deodorant remain on the shelves.

The Central Australian Youth Link Up Service (CAYUS) has collected almost 500 used cans of deodorant from public places in Alice Springs in the last fortnight.

CAYLUS manager Blair McFarland says the situation is out of control and a large number of young children are involved.

"[There are] lots - like more than 50 kids under 12 - who have been referred to welfare because of their sniffing," he said.

"[Police] went to Billy Goat Hill one night and there were 100 kids up there. Maybe not all of them were sniffing, but that's where we've found 460 cans so far."

Mr McFarland says the situation has worsened because the Youth Street Outreach Service (YSOS) was closed.

"Without a YSOS to give us the heads up, we didn't hear about it until after Easter and by then there was a huge cohort of kids sniffing," he said.


Andrew Broad*s *gun-slinging* joke raises eyebrows (ABC)

There was mixed reaction when a Federal MP made a 'gun-slinging' joke when he introduced one of his colleagues who is facing firearms offences.

The member for Mallee Andrew Broad made the joke at the opening of a student trade training centre in Mildura.

He introduced his Coalition colleague, the member of Mildura Peter Crisp, as his "gun-slinging" mate.

The term raised some eyebrows because Mr Crisp has been charged with firearms offences in New South Wales.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges including possessing an unauthorised firearm and will face court next month.

The ABC has been told the audience, which included students, laughed at the comment but a Labor party supporter has condemned Mr Broad and called for an apology.

Mr Broad's office has confirmed the remark but says he is not available for an interview today.


PNG guards in tribal mode: expat guard (AAP)

An Australian G4S guard has told of a stand-off between asylum seekers and Papua New Guinea guards in a "tribal sort of mode" during the violence on Manus Island that resulted in the death of an Iranian man.

The unnamed former Australian soldier, who served in the army for 20 years in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor, was working for G4S at the detention centre and has made a submission, including photos and videos, to a Senate inquiry into the riot.

The man, who has sought to remain anonymous, describes in detail the initial flare up on February 16 and says the expatriate guards had to "jump on" the asylum seekers to stop the PNG guards from kicking them.

"Initially, the PNG guards didn't stop kicking," he said.

"I remember being struck many times but my adrenaline level was quite high so I didn't feel pain until later that night."

He estimated the days of violence, which culminated in the beating death of 23-year-old Iranian Kurd Reza Barati, involved 100 PNG guards and 30 asylum seekers.

"This caused a Mexican stand-off situation," he said.

The man describes the behaviour of the PNG guards in his submission.

"The problem with the PNG guards was they went into a tribal sort of mode," he said.

"They were in a trance-like state of mind and nothing was going to get in their way.

"They wanted to drag all the (asylum seekers) out and maybe not kill them but show them that `this is our country'."

The man said there was no crisis management plan at the centre and limited communication options to provide situational reports to managers about the incident.

He also claimed senior manager John McCafferty had told the expatriate guards to withdraw half-way through the incident.

"We, the expat G4S guards stated `no, no we're not leaving'," he said.

"We were the only thing stopping the PNG guards."

He said Indian, Sri Lankan, Rohingya and Asian detainees weren't involved in the clash, which mainly involved Iranian, Iraqi and Middle East-based groups.

"The thing that absolutely pissed me off the most was officers had previously warned duty operation managers of the problems ... but this had fallen on deaf ears," he added.

The guard told of ripping the shirt off one asylum seeker, whose throat had been slashed, to stop the bleeding.

On February 17, the violence escalated and 62 asylum seekers were injured, with Iranian Reza Barati, 23, beaten to death.

The guard said 20-40 gun shots were fired and PNG police later collected shell casings "to cover up their actions".

He said PNG G4S guards, PNG Salvation Army and PNG Spic and Span cleaning staff and locals entered the centre.

"Again they went into tribal mode," he said.

"The PNG were more brutal and savage. I'm under the belief they wanted to kill every single one of the (asylum seekers)".

An Australian guard was shot at, as a PNG policeman yelled "traitor" because he was helping the wounded. Mr Berati was knocked down and two PNG G4S guards kicked him in the head.

"As Reza was trying to get up a PNG Spic and Span cleaner hit Reza over the head with a lump of wood," he said.

Medical staff got him breathing but then he died.

PNG staff looted asylum seekers' rooms for cigarettes, MP3 players and other valuables.

The next day a G4S supervisor gathered star pickets in case there was a third day of riots.


New Vic offence for drug, drunk drivers (AAP)

Victorian motorists who drive with a cocktail of drugs and alcohol in their systems will face hefty new penalties under a new drink and drug offence.

Drivers will face court fines of up to $4330 for first offenders or up to almost $39,000 for repeat offenders, a minimum 12-month license cancellation and immediate vehicle impoundment if caught driving with drugs and alcohol in their system.

Roads Minister Terry Mulder said it was part of a bid to cut road trauma by clamping down on the danger created when drivers mix drugs and drink.

"This is going to hurt," he told reporters.

"We will not tolerate people who have no duty of care to other motorists."

Research showed motorists with alcohol and drugs in their system are on average 23 times more likely to be killed in a crash than others, he said.

They're also more likely to cause a crash than people with just alcohol in their system.

The penalties will be introduced into parliament this month and take effect from mid next year.

Mr Mulder said the state is one of the few places in the world to create a separate offence for combining alcohol and drug driving.

First-time drink drive offenders with blood alcohol levels of .10 or more will also have their vehicles impounded by police for 30 days.

At the moment, only repeat drink drivers with a reading of .10 or more have their vehicles immediately impounded.

The new combined alcohol and drug driving offence carries a maximum fine 50 per cent hire than the maximum for drink driving alone.

Motorcyclists will also have a new graduated licensing system, introduced from October 1.

The program includes better training, education and testing to ensure new motorcyclists are more prepared for the road and less likely to be injured.

Under the new licensing system, learner riders must always have headlights on, not use mobile phones and wear a high visibility vest or jacket.

The requirement for zero blood alcohol, no pillion passengers and a ban on mobile phone use will be extended from 12 months to three years, bringing riders into line with car drivers.


Melbourne rail services back on track (AAP)

Melbourne train services have resumed following a blaze that threw services into chaos.

New cabling has been installed by rail operator Metro and the four lines which were still experiencing major delays during Wednesday evening's peak hour are back to normal.

A Metro spokeswoman says there has been a very small number of cancellations, but otherwise services have resumed to normal on the Frankston, Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sandringham lines.

Fire near Richmond Station on Tuesday evening threw services into chaos for commuters, leaving thousands stranded in the CBD.

Four lines were still experiencing major delays during Wednesday evening's peak hour with city loop passengers on the Frankston, Cranbourne, Pakenham and Sandringham lines being asked to travel to Flinders Street station by foot or tram.

The fire damaged telecommunications equipment which controls signalling.


Canberra may cut government agencies (AAP)

Audit to finally see the light of dayAudit to finally see the light of day

Federal agencies should be abolished, privatised or made state responsibilities in recommendations to be outlined by the federal government's Commission of Audit on Thursday.

The Commission has recommended Canberra devolve responsibility for health, education and other services in a bid to reduce the size of government in a direct snub to former prime minister Kevin Rudd's ideal of co-operative federalism.

The report, seen by a small group of ministers and bureaucrats, is believed to be built around the theme of competition, Fairfax media reports.

News Corp reports the radical reforms will stop short of calling for the dismantling of federal health and education departments, but recommend selling federal assets to pay down debt and move from non-essential services.

Among the report's 86 recommendations are calls for axing agencies, including the National Preventive Health Agency, which is due to release its report into a minimum floor price for alcohol on Thursday.

As well, Defence Housing Australia, which manages and owns properties for defence families, is also earmarked for privatisation or abolition.

Ministers and bureaucrats accept that some proposals will be adopted, while others are considered "untenable", or will be modified or placed into long-term planning frameworks, Fairfax said.

The Audit Commission report will be published at 2pm (AEST) on Thursday.


Family, friends to farewell NSW miner (AAP)

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Friends and family of a popular NSW miner who was killed alongside a colleague in an accident will gather at Hunter church for his funeral.

Jamie Mitchell, 49 and Phillip Grant, 35, died after being trapped 500 metres below the surface at the Austar Coalmine in Paxton on April 15 following a wall collapse.

Mr Mitchell's children, Ryan, Renae, Cameron, James and Jessie, and granddaughter Layla, who he never met, will farewell the Cessnock local at a church on Thursday.

"Jamie loved life and enjoyed shooting, fishing, motorbikes and most of all partying," his family said in a statement.

At 16, Mr Mitchell started as a boot end boy in 3 tunnel at the Old Pelton Colliery, and during his 33 years on the job became "very experienced ... in all aspects of mining".

"One of his favourite sayings while at work was 'I can't believe they pay me to do this'," his family said.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has expressed its condolences to the Mitchell family.

"Jamie was a well-liked and active member of his lodge," CFMEU northern mining district president Peter Jordan said.

"He will be badly missed by his friends and workmates."

A service for Mr Grant was held in Bathurst on Monday.


Independent retailers call for stronger laws to prevent Coles, Woolworths eliminating competition (ABC)

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The Federal Government's recently launched competition policy review has set the scene for a bloody battle over the increasing market dominance of supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths.

Among the proposals is one to beef up competition law by introducing an "effects test", which would enable regulators to take strong action if strategies of the big supermarkets have the effect of killing smaller competitors - even if the retail giants claim their actions were innocent.

Independent supermarkets say at the rate Coles and Woolworths are expanding, smaller competitors will become extinct unless action is taken and Australian consumers will then pay a very high price.

Local butcher in the northern Victorian shire of Bright, Peter Ricardi, says his business has struggled to survive since Woolworths opened in the town three years ago.

"When Woolworths came another butcher across the road, he just closed up," Mr Ricardi said.

"We dropped probably between 60 and 70 per cent. We had 10 staff, now we're back to three."

Woolworths built its 2,500-square-metre super store outside Bright's shopping strip, dividing the retail hub and sending local independent supermarket IGA to the wall.

"Most of the Ireland Street traders would acknowledge they've seen a downturn in sales and are struggling," IGA proprietor Nick Cook said.

"We've seen a butcher close. The dairy has lost probably 80 per cent of its business. We are 60 per cent down and struggling.

"[Woolworths] built a development which is really unsustainable, but they can support that on the turnover of a $50 billion plus company until they drive the competition out."

Soon after the opening of Bright's Woolworths, a Foodworks supermarket in the nearby town of Myrtleford collapsed.

"Forty staff members ended up losing their jobs because the store had no other choice but to shut the doors," Foodworks partner Brad Munroe said.

"It's cost me a lot financially but probably not as much as it's cost the staff in the town emotionally.

"They would have to leave the town to look for work, which doesn't do a lot for a small town like Myrtleford."

Industry experts call dominance by big retailers 'a growing trend'

Independent supermarket association Master Grocers Australia says the dominance of major supermarkets in Australia is unique.

"What we have seen is the growth in the market dominance of Coles and Woolworths. Their market power is unsurpassed. Nowhere else in the world have we seen such dominance," chief executive Jos de Bruin said.

Bright is typical of many rural and suburban centres across Australia where small retailers are going under, according to Michael Sherlock, founder of the Brumby's bakery chain.

"Fruit shops, butcher shops and delicatessens ... projecting forward over the next 10 years this trend is going to continue and you will see less and less of these specialty retailers in the market place," he said.

The big retailers have long argued they do not deliberately set out to kill competitors using predatory practices and are fiercely resisting competition laws that would help regulators to act.

Neither Woolworths nor Coles agreed to be interviewed to respond to claims they deliberately try to eliminate competition, instead deferring to their industry body, the Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA).

"We're very confident that there's a highly competitive marketplace out there and consumers are getting great prices as a result," ANRA chief executive Margie Osmond said.

"Coles and Woolworths are very large Australian companies. They employ hundreds of thousands of Australians and they are pivotal to the survival of a whole range of regional communities.

"They do a great job and they're proud Australian companies."

But former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chairman Professor Allan Fels says the companies are aware that they wield enormous power.

"They say: 'I am a big fish and if I waggle my tail I may inadvertently kill small fish, so I shouldn't be guilty'," Professor Fels said.

"Big business knows what it's doing but you often can't prove it.

"The duo dominate retail across many fields and markets; they have enormous power."

Battle lines drawn between big and small business

Coles and Woolworths have a combined market share of more than 70 per cent and last year reaped revenues of $68 billion on food and liquor alone.

They currently have 170 new stores in the pipeline.

Aldi and independent stores only have about 10 per cent of the market each.

"What you are actually seeing here is a hugely competitive marketplace here in Australia. Prices are lower than they've been for years," ANRA's Ms Osmond said.

"The current legislation provides the ACCC with all the powers it needs.

"Certainly from the large retailer's perspective, we've been the subject of many reviews - and the most recent one, in fact, has said we've got a workably competitive environment."

But Mr Sherlock says in the long-term, consumers will be worse off.

"They're just taking more and more market share and as their competitors - the small operator competitors - disappear, the consumers will end up in the long run paying high prices," he said.

Professor Fels says any new competition laws are not going to be implemented without a fight from the big supermarkets.

"It's a real battle ground between big and small business," he said.

"Governments have not wanted to cave in to small business pressures when they know big business is against that change.

"When a powerful firm uses its power to harm competition and thereby harm the economy and small business and farmers and consumers - that's against the law in just about every country except Australia and New Zealand.

"I'd like to see the ACCC support an effects test. The time has come for this change."


Pilot escapes injury as light plane crashes at agricultural show Agfest (ABC)

View Comments The pilot walked away uninjured.ABC The pilot walked away uninjured.

A light plane has crashed at the Agfest agricultural show at Carrick in Tasmania's north.

There were no passengers on board and the 32-year-old pilot was not injured.

Police say the pilot of the Cessna lost control on landing and the aircraft ploughed through two fences, coming to a stop on its roof.

The accident happened near the exhibitor's car park.

Police say the plane was extensively damaged and is likely to be a write-off.

Sergeant Anthony Roughan says it is not known if pilot error or a problem with the plane caused the crash.

"I'm not an expert in this kind of investigation but certainly that will be a matter for the investigating authorities, we'll be assisting them, but there are some skid marks to indicate that the pilot tried to do everything he could to pull the plane short," he said.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority and Australian Transport Safety Bureau will investigate the cause of the crash.


Police release audio of emergency call about Troy Buswell*s night of dangerous driving (ABC)

Police have released a recording of a call to police made on the night former WA treasurer Troy Buswell left a trail of destruction after crashing his ministerial car in Perth.

In the recording, the unidentified male caller describes seeing Buswell "swerving all over Roberts Road" in Subiaco, then "struggling to stand up" when he gets out of his car.

"The bloke was dolled up to the nines and he clearly couldn't stand on his own two feet," the caller tells police.

"He was driving all over the place on Roberts Road.

"He was taking up two lanes, nearly hitting everything on the side as well.

"When we pulled up behind him out the front of his premises, his whole front bumper was hanging off, the whole front end looked like it had been pretty smashed up."

On Tuesday, Buswell pleaded guilty in a Perth court to 11 traffic offences committed in the early hours of February 23.

He was fined $3,100 and disqualified from driving for 12 months.

However, because none of the offences carry a jail term, he cannot be disqualified from Parliament.

The triple-0 caller did not know it was Buswell when he made the call, but told police he and his passenger "actually joked between ourselves, we thought it looked like Troy Buswell".

He said Buswell got out of his car when he reached his home, but had to try three or four times before finally being able to unlock his front gate.

After getting back into the car, Buswell then hit the front gate while trying to drive up the driveway.

"He had his foot on the accelerator, he's basically rammed into the gate and he's just sitting there with his foot on the accelerator and the back wheel is spinning, and then he's realised that he wasn't going anywhere and he's reversed up, turned to the right and driven through the gate," the caller said.

Buswell did not attend court on Tuesday but issued a statement of apology.

"I offer no excuses for my actions, I apologise to those upon whom I have impacted and accept fully the consequences," the statement said.

After the night in question Buswell had what has been described as a breakdown and resigned from cabinet.

However, details of his driving offences did not emerge until weeks later.

Buswell, the member for Vasse, has been on leave but is due back in Parliament next week.


Eat wild mushrooms and risk death (AAP)

View Comments A fourth Canberra resident has been poisoned after eating a Death Cap mushroom.AAP A fourth Canberra resident has been poisoned after eating a Death Cap mushroom.

Don't pick and eat wild mushrooms in the ACT at this time of year or you risk death.

The ACT chief health officer's warning follows a fourth case of death cap mushroom poisoning this weekend, after three from a shared meal of mushrooms.

Paul Kelly said the latest patient was in Canberra Hospital after eating wild mushrooms.

The other three remain in hospital, two of whom are in Sydney.

Dr Kelly said these mushrooms were so toxic that just 5g - enough to fill a teaspoon - was sufficient to cause fatal liver damage.

At first, it was suggested mushrooms responsible for the first three cases came from Woolworths.

But Dr Kelly said it was conclusively proved they did not.

Death caps are native to Europe but have spread around the world, with populations found in Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide. In the ACT, death caps are found near oak trees.

In Canberra in 2012, a man and a woman died and two others were poisoned but recovered after a meal containing the mushrooms.

The ACT has recorded 16 poisonings and four deaths in the past 15 years.

Dr Kelly said the mature death cap was readily recognisable. But young death caps resemble edible varieties found in Asia.

"The reality is these mushrooms pop up like mushrooms. They are there. Every mushroom has millions of spores and every one of those spores can lead to a new mushroom," he said.


Selasa, 29 April 2014

Labor luminaries to join Wran mourners (AAP)

AAP Labor luminaries will be among those honouring former NSW premier Neville Wran at a state funeral.AAP Labor luminaries will be among those honouring former NSW premier Neville Wran at a state funeral.

Former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Paul Keating will be among up to 1500 people expected at the state funeral of former NSW premier Neville Wran in Sydney on Thursday.

Mr Keating and former Labor NSW premier and recent federal foreign minister Bob Carr will deliver tributes to Mr Wran, who led NSW for more than a decade from 1976 and has been hailed as one of Australia's most successful political leaders.

Mr Wran died at a Sydney nursing home on April 20, aged 87, after suffering dementia for several years.

NSW Premier Mike Baird said Mr Wran was a "towering figure" and the state funeral, which will be held at the Sydney Town Hall at 11am, was an appropriate gesture.

"It is an entirely fitting tribute to a man who has left his mark on this state," Mr Baird said.

Former High Court judge Michael Kirby and Rodney Cavalier, a minister in the Wran government, will also deliver addresses at the funeral.

Mr Wran's widow, Jill Hickson, and his children are also expected to give tributes and a video commemoration of his time in public life will be shown.

Mr Wran was premier of NSW from May 1976 to June 1986, winning four elections including the massive 1978 and 1981 "Wranslide" victories.

Controversy touched his career when Mr Wran stood down as premier for three months during a 1983 Royal Commission investigation into allegations of attempting to influence a magistrate.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Before entering politics Mr Wran was a successful barrister, and following his resignation in 1986 he forged a career in business, partnering with Malcolm Turnbull, now federal minister for communications, in a number of ventures.


Gold stars at refurbished Perth Mint (AAP)

The biggest, heaviest and most valuable gold bullion coin in the world is the centrepiece of a new permanent exhibition at the refurbished Perth Mint.

The piece is one tonne of 99.99 per cent pure gold - making it worth more than $50 million.

The coin, which is 80 centimetres in diameter and more than 12cm deep, depicts a red kangaroo surrounded by rays of sunlight.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said the $5.5 million redevelopment of Perth Mint, which was completed in two stages, was the biggest since it was founded 115 years ago.

Other items on display in the exhibition include more than $25 million worth of natural and refined gold, a rare opportunity to handle a solid gold bar worth more than $500,000, gold pours, the minting of Australian precious metal coins, and a multimedia heritage tour.

Perth Mint was established as a branch of Britain's Royal Mint in 1899.

Its primary functions of refining gold from the eastern goldfields and striking gold coinage continues today but at its refinery near Perth Airport, with precious metal coins struck onsite at the mint.

The Mint, which attracts almost 80,000 visitors a year, also issues the nation's official bullion and commemorative coins.

In 2012-13, Perth Mint refined more than 300 tonnes of precious metals, reported close to $3 billion worth of holdings in its depository, and sold 4.3 million gold, silver and platinum coins.


Gonski funds shortfall might hit teenage education options, SA warns (ABC)

South Australian Education Department CEO Tony Harrison says some transitional programs for teenagers might have to be cut back because of a shortfall in Gonski schools funding.

NDIS: Parents say disability scheme failing to deliver support promised (ABC)

Parents of disabled children say the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is failing to deliver what was promised.

It was launched nearly 10 months ago at five trial sites across Australia, and in South Australia has a focus on children up to the age of 14.

But some parents say they are feeling ambushed and confused as they try to negotiate the bureaucracy.

Michaela has a three-year-old son, Harry, with cerebral palsy.

She says the South Australian trial of the NDIS started off well but did not last.

"The first plan was very supportive, we felt quite prepared and aware of the process and then we got to our second plan review and it was very rushed, it was with someone new that we'd never met before who didn't know Harry or his unique set of challenges and suddenly his access to therapy was significantly slashed," she said.

Harry's mother says the initial assessment meeting with NDIS workers was positive about what her son required.

But she says the follow-up sessions left her feeling judged, unsupported and confused about how to negotiate the support system.

"I guess we were seeking something very unique to Harry and to what he needs as an individual and what we got was more of a one-size-fits-all plan, so 'here you go, here's your funding, try and make that work for you'," she said.

Some people 'fought like crazy' or 'knew somebody'

It would seem Michaela is not alone. David Holst, who chairs the Intellectual Disability Association of South Australia, says it is frustrating that support goes to those who make the best case and some parents are better able to do that than others.

"There have been people who've had good services because they've fought like crazy or got lucky or knew somebody," he said.

"The greater majority haven't been able to do that and they shouldn't have to do that."

Mr Holst says there has been dramatic change since the NDIS first was proposed.

He says the funding available is being tightened and limits put in place.

"With the budget becoming very much about money, my information is that a therapy package is about $12,000 a year, not $16,000, and that they'll only go to 16 in special circumstances or if parents can present a compelling case," he said.

Instead of the tailor-made programs which were promised, parents say they are being directed about how to spend the money.

Many are turning to peer support groups which have been set up by families affected by disabilities.

Jennifer is involved with one of those groups.

"My husband was brain-injured in an accident in 2008," she said.

"That led me to realise the incredible need for people to engage in the system and it's a complicated system.

"Suddenly you're thrust into disability, whether it's a child or like our family."

Advocacy groups on the rise

Mr Holst thinks more people will join advocacy groups, Facebook pages and other social media campaigns until the system is made clearer.

"That is likely to be a growth area and a growth business. The rules aren't even clear on who can go to the assessment meetings, who a person with a disability or family can take with them to argue their case and there is - obviously when a situation is confrontational or by negotiating - there's a need that people are properly represented," he said.

South Australia's Minister for Disabilities Tony Piccolo says he is aware of the concerns raised by parents.

"I don't think they should have to fight for their rights but I don't see the creation of the advocacy groups as a bad thing," he said.

"[The NDIS] is providing funding for these groups. Shared experiences help people understand the system and better communicate their needs," he said.

Mr Piccolo says parents should persist in advocating for their children's needs and can appeal if they do not think they are being given a fair budget.

"What I would ask is that parents be patient and also be persistent and if there are indications that the scheme is being, if you like, changed to fit a reduced budget we'll be monitoring that very closely and we will fight the Federal Government if they were attempting to wind it back in any way," he said.


Police arrest arson suspects after chopper search (ABC)

View Comments Police arrested the trio in suburban New Town.ABC Police arrested the trio in suburban New Town.

Hobart police have arrested three people wanted for questioning over arson attacks on cars.

Streets were cordoned off during a major search, involving 20 police and the rescue helicopter.

The search began when two men wanted over the fires were seen driving through Glenorchy.

They allegedly ran a red light and cordons were set up around New Town.

One man was arrested near where the car was dumped in New Town.

Three others fled on foot but were later arrested.

A Goodwood man, aged 21, and a 17-year-old boy from Gagebrook have been charged with unlawfully setting fire to property, attempting to set fire to property and multiple counts of burglary and stealing.

They were remanded in custody.

Police expect to lay further charges.


Firm says finds plane debris in Bay of Bengal - CNN (Reuters)

UK-MALAYSIAAIRLINES-BENGAL:Firm says finds plane debris in Bay of Bengal - CNNReuters A woman prays for passengers onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 at Kechara retreat centre in Bentong outside Kuala Lumpur April 13, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said

(Reuters) - A private company said it had found what it believes is wreckage of a plane in the Bay of Bengal that should be investigated as possible debris from the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, CNN reported.

The Joint Agency Coordination Centre managing the multinational search for the missing plane dismissed the possibility, saying it continued to believe that the plane came down in the southern Indian Ocean off Australia.

The Bay of Bengal is located between India and Myanmar, thousands of miles from the current search area.

The wreckage was reported by Australian geophysical survey company GeoResonance.

"The company is not declaring this is MH370, however it should be investigated," CNN quoted GeoResonance as saying in a statement. (http://link.reuters.com/syr88v)

GeoResonance says on its website that it offers a unique and proven method of geophysical survey that detects electromagnetic fields suggestive of subsurface deposits.

Flight MH370, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew, went missing in March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

GeoResonance could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Reporting By Lehar Maan in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)


Cambodia open *in principle* to Australia refugee deal (AFP)

View Comments Cambodia open in principle to Australia refugee dealAFP Cambodia open 'in principle' to Australia refugee deal

Phnom Penh (AFP) - Cambodia has agreed "in principle" to accept asylum-seekers bound for Australia, an official said Tuesday, despite controversy at the prospect of refugees being "dumped" in one of Asia's poorest nations.

A senior Cambodian foreign ministry official said that no firm deal had been reached but that the kingdom was open to taking in migrants intercepted en route to Australia.

"In general, the government has agreed in principle," Ouch Borith told reporters, adding that the Cambodian authorities were still studying the proposal.

"Agreeing in principle means that we are considering it and we will do it in accordance with international standards," he said.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made an unannounced visit to Cambodia earlier this month, raising speculation that Phnom Penh would join Papua New Guinea and Nauru in helping resettle asylum-seekers.

Australia has adopted a hardline policy against asylum-seekers arriving on unauthorised boats as it seeks to control its maritime borders and prevent would-be refugees from drowning at sea.

Under the policy, boat-people have been sent to camps on remote Nauru and Papua New Guinea's Manus Island in the Pacific for processing and denied resettlement in Australia.

"We're very pleased to have been getting the support from PNG and from Nauru that we've had and we look forward to further support from other countries in our region, including from Cambodia," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said earlier this month.

He described people-smuggling as "a regional problem".

Refugee advocates and the Australian Greens have criticised the government's policy, which includes turning back boats.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young this month accused the government of "looking for the next poor country to dump" refugees.

Visiting UN rights envoy Flavia Pansieri declined to comment on the tentative agreement after talks with Ouch Borith because the details were still unclear, but she offered a general pledge of assistance if needed.

"What we think is important is to note that Cambodia is well aware of its international commitment to human rights standards, keen to abide by them and to the extent there is any need for cooperation, we stand ready to provide support to ensure that standards are met," she added.

Cambodia's strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen is regularly accused of ignoring human rights and suppressing political dissent.


Qld woman*s alleged killer to face court (AAP)

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A crocodile tour guide is set to face court to be charged with murdering a young woman who led white water rafting adventures in tropical Queensland.

Jo La Spina's accused killer Musa Brandon Ngwira will be extradited from Sydney to Cairns on Wednesday morning.

Later that day, he is expected to appear in Cairns Magistrates Court where he will be formally charged with murder.

Miss La Spina, 26, was found dead in a bedroom of a Bingil Bay home, south of Cairns, on April 19.

The local rafting guide, described as lovely and caring by her family, spent the previous evening having dinner and dancing with a group of friends before returning to a friend's house and heading to bed alone.

Detectives haven't revealed how she died but have said they aren't looking for a weapon.

Miss La Spina's mother Shelley is struggling to come to terms with her daughter's death.

"Every morning I wake up hoping this is just a nightmare," she wrote in a letter to the Cairns Post.

"We will love you for ever and ever and then more."

Ngwira, a 31-year-old South African citizen, moved to far north Queensland from Sydney in March to take up a job as a tour guide. He has lived in Australia for at least a year.

Police have said he wasn't in a relationship with Miss La Spina but the pair had socialised on a number of occasions as they worked in the same industry and had mutual friends.

Far north Detective Acting Inspector Kevin Goan said on Monday that police were not seeking anyone else in connection over the death.


Investment not yet widespead: Deloitte (AAP)


Australians appear to be spending more at the shops and the economy is bracing for a housing construction boom.

But a prominent independent forecaster warns this good news is "not quite good enough" on its own.

Deloitte Access Economics says a key component in the transition away from resources investment spending - non-residential spending - "is yet to stir".

Its latest quarterly Investment Monitor says the pipeline of proposed projects remains impressive, but the lack of new plans is becoming apparent - that is, the value of definite investment continues to outweigh planned work.

Deloitte partner Stephen Smith says engineering activity has been static for close to two years.

"That is unlikely to be true from much longer ... the modest fall in engineering is set to accelerate," he said.

The total value of projects in its Investment Monitor database as of March was $878.8 billion, a 1.4 per cent increase on the previous three months, but down 5.4 per cent from a year earlier.

Definite projects - those under construction or committed - totalled $442.3 billion, while planned projects - those under consideration or possible - were valued at $436.5 billion.

Deloitte expects overall economic growth to remain stuck below its long term average of just above three per cent through to late 2015, despite retail spending and housing construction responding to low interest rates.


Royal commission into child abuse: Victim *living a nightmare* after sexual abuse by Christian Brothers (ABC)

View Comments Clifford Walsh told the royal commission he was severely beaten and sexually abused by Christian Brothers.ABC Clifford Walsh told the royal commission he was severely beaten and sexually abused by Christian Brothers.

A man has described being "consumed by guilt and shame" as a result of savage abuse he suffered at church-run institutions north-east of Perth.

The man, known only as VV, was giving evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sex Abuse in Perth on Tuesday.

He described being molested by his school's priest as the man comforted him following a brutal sexual assault by one of the Christian Brothers.

"When I look back on my life I'm consumed by guilt and shame and a sense of betrayal, denial and abandonment," he said.

"I have an overwhelming sense of helplessness, hopelessness and my inability to change my past and of complete desperation, knowing that my future would always be tainted by the past. 

"I'm tired and weary from always wearing a mask, of portraying a false sense to the outside world, of bearing this guilt and shame regarding my past while living a nightmare of inner turmoil every single day of my life".

VV told the commission he was attacked while out on a tractor with one of the Brothers within weeks of arriving at the Bindoon school north-east of Perth.

He said the man sexually assaulted him, then dumped him in a water drum and said "clean yourself up boy".

"It was terrifying, I was consumed with fear," the abuse survivor said.

Walking back to the institution, VV came across a Father Williams, who took him back to his room and put cream on cuts and abrasions he sustained in the attack, but then the man began to fondle him.

He said the physical and sexual abuse continued over many years, and was perpetrated by more than a dozen people including older boys, Brothers and priests, and a regular visitor to the school who took boys on "picnics".

Another abuse survivor, known as VG, described in graphic detail the brutal sexual assaults he endured and witnessed, including one so horrific he was hospitalised for six weeks.

He said he often saw boys' beds soiled with blood and the boys themselves could barely walk or talk.

VG, who had come to Western Australia as a child migrant from Malta, told of the night a man known as Brother Simon came for him.

"I had always feared this. He came to my bed and said, 'Get up and come with me,'" he said.

"After I got into his room he started pulling my pyjamas down, exposing my buttocks.

"He pressed me down on him and I felt an agonising pain on my backside, and I realised it wasn't just his fingers that he was hurting me with. I somehow managed to get free and a got hold of a chair and hit him."

VG was strapped on the head and lost consciousness. He spent six weeks in hospital. When he returned to Tardun, he told a priest what had happened during confession.

Afterwards he was taken to an office and beaten by Brother Simon with a leather strap. Another Christian Brother told him he had a "dirty mind".

"I felt isolated and desperate. It seemed suicide was the only option," he said.

Victims call for adequate compensation

Clifford Walsh, another abuse survivor who gave evidence at the commission, called on the Catholic Church to pay compensation to victims.

Outside the hearing, Mr Walsh told reporters the conditions at the school in Bindoon, north-east of Perth, were horrendous.

"The way we were treated at Bindoon was horrific, and the Christian Brothers and the Catholic Church should be brought to task for allowing it to happen," he said.

Earlier, in his evidence to the inquiry, Mr Walsh described being sexually abused by one Brother who lured him into his room with the promise of molasses.

He said another brother attacked him after he stayed back to polish wooden floors.

Mr Walsh told the hearing he was also beaten and that he witnessed horrific attacks during which children were punched in the face and body, and hit with straps.

Children at the Bindoon school were malnourished and forced to do hard labour, Mr Walsh added.

He said he spent time at both Bindoon and Castledare, two of the four institutions being examined by the commission.

Mr Walsh said he reported some of the abuse to the school's priest at Bindoon but that he was made to feel very scared and, thinking that he was in trouble, backtracked on the story.

He was sent to a monastery in New Norcia for almost two years, an effort he believes was taken by the brothers to get him out of the way.

Payment offered but inadequate: abuse victim

Mr Walsh said he had taken part in legal action against the Christian Brothers but they had argued the statute of limitations on the crimes had expired.

He eventually received a payment of $45,000 from the Redress WA scheme.

Mr Walsh also received a $20,000 payment from the church, which he said was inadequate.

Outside the inquiry, he said each victim of abuse should be compensated.

"The Catholic Church, who have more money than is measurable, they will never do anything," he said.

"All they want us to do is to shut up and go away."

He said he was gratified that he had been able to tell his story and be believed.

"So many things happened, and I would tell people and they wouldn't believe me," Mr Walsh said.

"I was dubbed a chronic liar. It's now very gratifying for someone to actually believe me."


ICAC: NSW builder tells inquiry into party donations *something stunk* about payments to Eightbyfive (ABC)


A Central Coast builder has told the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that he was duped into making a hidden donation to the Liberal Party.

Matthew Lusted donated $5,000 to the Liberals in 2011 at the request of Ray Carter, an assistant to former NSW energy minister Chris Hartcher, the inquiry heard.

Mr Hartcher and two other Central Coast Liberal MPs are being investigated by ICAC for allegedly receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal political donations through a company called Eightbyfive.

It is alleged that property developers, banned from giving political donations in NSW, are among those who contributed to Eightbyfive.

This morning, Mr Lusted told the inquiry he discovered his donation had been made in the form of an invoice to the company, and that Mr Carter later told him not to declare it to the Electoral Funding Authority.

Mr Lusted, who claimed to have "never heard of Eightbyfive", said he was assured by Mr Carter that "no one's going to find out anything, you've got nothing to worry about".

"He said it would be taken care of at his end. That's when I realised something stunk," Mr Lusted said.

He said he took his concerns to Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, who reported it to the party.

Lusted denies 'sour grapes' over failed preselection

Mr Lusted denied that his appearance at ICAC suggested "sour grapes" at a failed bid for Liberal preselection in the seat of Dobell before the last federal election.

He said then-opposition leader Tony Abbott had urged him to seek preselection during a chance meeting at a restaurant in early 2011.

"Some say your role here represents sour grapes," counsel assisting ICAC Geoffrey Watson put to him.

Mr Lusted replied: "I've heard that said."

"Is it true?" Mr Watson asked.

"It's not correct," came the reply.

Business owner admits drawing up fake invoices

The owner of a business that was allegedly being used as a Liberal Party slush fund has admitted to ICAC that he drew up fake invoices.

Ekarin Sriwattanaporn identified himself to the inquiry as the partner of Ray Carter.

The inquiry heard that a business registered under Mr Ekarin's name, Micky-Tech, was being used to hide payments to the Liberal Party from banned developers.

The company invoiced several parties including developers Roy Sergi and Angelo Maggiotto for IT services.

But under questioning from Counsel Assisting Geoffrey Watson, Mr Ekarin admitted no work had ever been perform.

When asked why he had drawn up the invoices, Mr Ekarin told the inquiry that Mr Carter had asked him to.

The inquiry heard there was evidence that there was no money left in Micky-Tech's bank account, but Mr Ekarin said he did not know what had happened to it.

The inquiry continues.


Senin, 28 April 2014

Australia warns of meth pandemic as drug busts hit record (AFP)

Australia s illicit drugs trade hits all-time highAFP Australia's illicit drugs trade hits all-time high

Sydney (AFP) - Australia is facing a crystal meth pandemic, authorities warned Tuesday as they announced arrests and seizures over illicit drugs reached an all-time high last year.

The government-run Australian Crime Commission (ACC) said in a report that the situation was "gravely serious", with international cartels at the heart of the problem.

"National illicit drug seizures and arrests were at record or decade highs for nearly all drug types in this reporting period," said ACC acting chief executive Paul Jevtovic.

"Illicit drug use in Australia, and the profits gained from it, is directly linked to transnational organised crime groups that are implicated in large-scale criminality and corruption overseas."

During the financial year to July 2013, a record 101,749 arrests were made and there were 86,918 seizures of illicit drugs -- a 66 percent increase over the past decade.

Police have previously said Australia's wealth and the strength of the Australian dollar meant traffickers were pouring drugs into the country.

"Australians, for whatever reason, are prepared to pay a high price for illicit drugs, probably because they can," ACC official Judy Lind told reporters.

"And in the last four or five year, international drug cartels have cottoned on to that."

While cannabis continues to dominate the Australian market, the prevalence of cocaine and performance-enhancing drugs was also at record highs.

There was also a massive surge in the availability of ice -- or crystal methylamphetamine -- which is now second only to cannabis in popularity, with seizures up more than 300 percent in a year.

Jevtovic said the issue was a "national concern", with the drug linked to violent assaults as users can become highly aggressive, and compared it to the crack crisis that gripped the US in the 1980s and 1990s.

"With its relative accessibility, affordability and destructive side-effects, crystal methylamphetamine is emerging as a pandemic akin to the issue of 'crack' cocaine in the United States," he said.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan agreed that the ice epidemic was becoming a major problem.

?Ice is a devastating, insidious drug. It affects everyone from users, their families, and their communities, and the authorities who deal with the users,? he said, adding that the report provided authorities with a robust picture of the illicit drug market.

?The information released today is as encouraging as it is challenging. Law enforcement is making significant inroads in the fight against illicit drugs. We?re detecting more criminals and disrupting more illicit drugs before they hit the streets,? said Keenan.

"But there is much more work to be done and this report also provides critical evidence so that decision makers and law enforcement officers can develop further strategies to undermine the business models of organised crime and combat the threat of illicit drugs."


Covers off Darrel *Doc* Baldock statue of St Kilda football legend (ABC)

Baldock s statue was unveiled at the Latrobe Recreation Ground where he led the Demons to four consecutive premierships.ABC Baldock's statue was unveiled at the Latrobe Recreation Ground where he led the Demons to four consecutive premierships.

St Kilda football legend Darrel "Doc" Baldock has been honoured with the unveiling of a life-sized bronze statue in north-west Tasmania.

Hundreds of people gathered under grey skies for the unveiling at the Latrobe Recreation Ground watched by family, friends and devoted fans.

Darrel Baldock captained St Kilda to its only premiership in 1966 and then went on to lead the Latrobe football club to four flags.

He also coached the Saints for two years in the late 1980s.

Football commentator Tim Lane, formerly of Devonport, led the unveiling ceremony in what he called "footy weather."

Mr Lane said early in his career, Baldock dominated the code and went on to become a true Tasmanian patriot.

At 20 years of age, Baldock became the youngest ever player to captain Tasmania in a representative match.

Triple Brownlow medallist Ian Stewart also paid tribute to his former team mate and hero.

"Darrel the footballer was the best player to have ever come out of Tasmania, and that's unequivocal," he said.

It's just a pity that the better player never ever won the Brownlow, but he didn't need to win the Brownlow.

Braddon MP Brett Whiteley told the crowd Baldock, also known as Mr Magic, had a profound impact on many people.

As well as the statue, the memorial includes a garden and story panels detailing his career.

The $400,000 statue was paid for by community and government funding.

His widow Margaret is happy with the result, but says her late husband would not have understood the fuss.

"He'd be saying 'why are they doing that?' He's a bit humble like that," Mrs Baldock said.

"But we're all very proud of it and we just can't thank the community and government and the people who've provided the funds, we just can't thank them enough."

Baldock was a Labor MP in the Tasmanian Parliament and was also a well known horse trainer and breeder.

He died two years ago, aged 72, after a series of strokes.


Canberra jail*s $54 million expansion to better separate prisoners (ABC)

The ACT Government will spend $54 million expanding Canberra's jail.

There has been significant growth in detainee numbers at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) over the past 15 months, with a rapid surge last year forcing a temporary expansion from 332 to 366 beds.

Corrections Minister Shane Rattenbury says two new accommodation blocks will be built to house up to 142 beds.

He says that will accommodate both current prisoner numbers and projected increases.

"The new design is all about flexibility. It's about maximising the ability to separate prisoners, to have a high level of segregation which has been the key issue at the AMC," he said.

"It's also designed in a way where extra beds can be added at short notice if required."

Mr Rattenbury says the Government is also working on new strategies to reduce reoffending and slow the growing prison population.

"The AMC already has a range of programs and services aimed at reducing recidivism, such as the Throughcare program, which provides support to detainees as they reintegrate into society," he said.

"To enhance this agenda, I will be working with the Attorney-General to develop a justice reform strategy, including justice reinvestment proposals, to provide viable long-term solutions to improving crime reduction outcomes for the ACT."

But the Canberra Liberals say the expansion is the result of poor planning and mismanagement by the Government.

Opposition spokesman Andrew Wall says the extra beds will only address current overcrowding.

"Today's announcement is wholly and solely to address the overcrowding issues that the jail faces and doesn't take into consideration too much capacity building for the future," he said.

"It was never designed to be a facility operating in this fashion."

Mr Wall says the jail was prematurely opened for political gain during the 2008 ACT election.

"The Government is now spending $54 million to take the jail to a capacity which was recommended more than a decade before it was built," he said.

A development application has been lodged for the expansion project.


We can*t let debt control us: Abbott (AAP)

View Comments

Prime Minister Tony Abbott won't confirm whether a new debt levy is on the budget table but insists a temporary tax hike wouldn't be a broken promise.

Workers earning more than $80,000 could reportedly be slugged an extra one per cent tax for the next four years as part of the government's bid to plug the deficit.

Those on incomes above $180,000 could pay an extra two per cent.

But asked to confirm the government would introduce the levy in the May budget Mr Abbott would only say the government was looking at a range of options to sort out the "debt mess".

Mr Abbott pointed out Australia faced $123 billion in deficit and $667 billion in debt.

"$25,000 per man, woman and child," he told Fairfax Radio on Tuesday.

"It cannot be ignored. Debts at that level, they control you."

But Mr Abbott denied a temporary levy would break his pre-election promise not to introduce any new taxes.

"I think if there was a permanent increase in taxation that would certainly be inconsistent with the sort of things that were said before the election," he said.

Mr Abbott flagged widespread cuts to government spending in a speech to the Sydney Institute think tank on Monday night, with health and welfare given particular mention.

However, the prime minister remains committed to his generous paid parental leave scheme, which some Liberal colleagues want him to scale back because of the tough fiscal environment.

The $5.5 billion a year scheme would offer working women their regular wage for six months, capped at a total payment of $75,000, after giving birth and would be funded by a 1.5 per cent levy on big business.

"It's not a welfare entitlement it is a workplace entitlement," Mr Abbott said, when asked if he would rethink the policy.

"That's a fundamental principle, and this government is absolutely committed to it."

Mr Abbott conceded the May 13 budget would hit all Australians in some way and everyone do "his or her bit".

"I suspect that on budget night if you are looking to something to complain about you will certainly be able to find something to be unhappy with," he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the debt levy would be break an election promise made by the prime minister.

"Not one single person voted for Tony Abbott at the election expecting an increase in their income tax but that's exactly what they are getting after the election," he said.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne doesn't support a debt or deficit levy.

The government had itself increased the deficit by abandoning the carbon tax and depriving the budget of billions in revenue, she argued.


Industry safety campaign urges workers to stand up for their rights (ABC)

View Comments Kane Ammerlaan in front of the CFMEU campaign billboard featuring his face and story.ABC Kane Ammerlaan in front of the CFMEU campaign billboard featuring his face and story.

Building apprentice Kane Ammerlaan was aged just 16 when, while carrying an overloaded bucket of concrete, he fell off a roof and was blinded in one eye.

Today the 20-year-old is helping to launch a national safety campaign by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), urging workers to stand up for their rights.

Mr Ammerlaan's accident happened while he was working on a construction site in Melbourne in March 2010.

"It was about my eighth overloaded bucket of cement - about 40 kilograms - when my legs actually buckled and gave way," he said.

"The bucket caught around my arm, pulled me off the roof and the bucket emptied its contents into my left eye.

"By the time my boss laughed at me, told me to get back to work and called his girlfriend instead of an ambulance - because he didn't have ambulance cover - the cement was already dry."

Mr Ammerlaan has lost 100 per cent of his vision in his eye and says his injuries were easily preventable.

"There was no rail on the roof, no personal protective equipment, no workplace health and safety," he said.

"If I had 20c protective glasses, $100 worth of railing, ambulance cover which he should have had, I wouldn't be here talking about this today."

This morning a service was held in Canberra to commemorate International Workers' Memorial Day.

Injured workers and families of workers who have died as a result of workplace accidents attended the annual service to pay their respects and lay flowers at the official memorial.

CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor says a worker is seriously injured or dies every six minutes in the construction, mining and forestry industries.

He says last year 19 workers died in the construction industry and 10 in the mining industry.

"One of the most dangerous jobs you can have is as a construction labourer, they are killed at four times the rate of workers in all other jobs," he said.

"Too often, many workers feel they can't speak out, or stand up to their employer - with devastating consequences."

Mr O'Connor hopes the campaign will help others heed the warnings and stand up for their own safety at work.

"To stand up for themselves, to stand up for their workmates, to stand up for the standards that we've fought for over the years," he said.

"In every state, in every territory, in every workplace that we cover, we'll ensure that our members are encouraged to stand up, to speak out so that they can come home."


65-y-o Tweed Heads woman on drugs offences (AAP)

A 65-year-old Tweed Heads woman will appear in court next month on drugs charges.

Police allege cannabis, cash, a set of scales and a number of small resealable plastic bags were found at a Florence Street residence just after 4pm (AEST) on Monday.

A 65-year-old woman was arrested and taken to Tweed Heads police station where she was charged with possessing and supplying a prohibited drug and dealing with the proceeds of crime.

She has been conditionally bailed to appear in Tweed Heads Local Court on May 19.


Man charged over double fatality in NSW (AAP)

A man will face court following a fatal crash on the NSW south coast earlier this week.

Emergency services were called to Bolong Road at Bolong, just before 12.30pm (AEST) on Thursday, after two cars collided.

A 79-year-old man died at the scene and his 72-year-old wife was airlifted to St George Hospital, but died on Saturday.

A two-year-old boy who was a passenger in the second car remains in Wollongong Hospital in a serious condition.

A 35-year-old man was arrested at Wollongong Hospital on Monday, police say.

He was taken to Wollongong Police Station and charged with two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death and dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.

He was refused bail to appear at Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday.


PM to states: more roads, less red tape (AAP)

AAP State leaders will sit down with PM Tony Abbott on Friday to work out how to cut duplication.AAP State leaders will sit down with PM Tony Abbott on Friday to work out how to cut duplication.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott will enlist the help of the states to cut red tape and get new road and rail projects moving.

Mr Abbott will join state and territory leaders in Canberra on Friday for the year's first Council of Australian Governments meeting.

On the agenda will be the terms of reference for a new federalism policy, which Mr Abbott promised at the 2013 election.

Combined with the results of the national commission of audit, the white paper will map out how better cooperation between the different levels of government can improve the lives of all Australians and get budgets under control.

Overlap between the functions of local, state and federal governments is wasting billions of dollars a year.

The previous COAG meeting in December agreed on a "one-stop shop" approach to environmental regulation for major economic projects.

The premiers are expected to sign off on the white paper terms of reference on Friday.

The state leaders will be seeking an indication of how much they will receive in infrastructure funding following an asset sales deal struck in March with Treasurer Joe Hockey.

Under the deal, the commonwealth will provide an additional 15 per cent of the value of an agreed asset sale back to the states.

The proceeds of any assets sold - such as electricity networks or ports - would be put into new road, rail and port projects.

Also on the agenda is the removal of red tape and overlap from the system of adopting children from overseas.

School and disability care funding will be discussed, as will a report on the future of manufacturing.

It will be the first COAG meeting for Tasmania's new Liberal premier Will Hodgman.

SA's Jay Weatherill and the ACT's Katy Gallagher will be the only Labor leaders in the room.


ICAC: Marie Ficarra, NSW Liberal MP *implicated* at inquiry into party donations, stands aside (ABC)

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A NSW Liberal MP, Marie Ficarra, has stood aside after being implicated in a scheme to solicit donations for the party that is at the centre of the latest Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inquiry.

The inquiry, which began hearings today, was set to focus on three other state Liberal parliamentarians accused of failing to disclose political donations.

The MPs - Chris Hartcher, a former energy minister, Darren Webber and Chris Spence, all from the Central Coast - are accused of corruptly soliciting, receiving and concealing payment from various sources between 2009 and 2012 in return for political favours.

A company called Eightbyfive was allegedly set up as a slush fund for prohibited political donors to secretly funnel money to the MPs.

It is alleged that property developers, banned from giving political donations in NSW, are among those who contributed to the company.

It is also alleged that Australia Water Holdings (AWH), at the centre of a previous ICAC inquiry that led to the resignation of Premier Barry O'Farrell, donated $183,000 to Eightbyfive.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson SC has told the inquiry that evidence will show Ms Ficarra is implicated.

"Marie Ficarra solicited a donation from the property developer, Tony Merhi, knowing that Mr Merhi was a prohibited donor," he said.

"Both knew what they were doing was wrong. The same evidence will show Ms Ficarra was complicit in the Eightbyfive scheme."

A spokesman for Ms Ficarra, an upper house MP, says she vigorously denies the allegations.

In a statement Ms Ficarra says her record against developers, lobbyists and speaking out against corruption is well documented in the NSW Parliament.

She has voluntarily stood down as a member of the Parliamentary Liberal Party pending the conclusion of the ICAC hearing.

Ms Ficarra was parliamentary secretary to Mr O'Farrell but a spokesman for Premier Mike Baird says the position has not yet been reappointed.

Meanwhile, NSW Resources Minister Anthony Roberts has acknowledged he was a close friend of the Gazal family, who were named in ICAC today as illegally donating funds to the Liberal Party.

Mr Roberts says he joined Nabil Gazal on his yacht for a short holiday in 2007 but paid his own airfares and associated costs.

He says he did not disclose the matter because he was not required to and held no shadow portfolio at the time.

Premier Baird is vowing to overhaul the political culture of NSW in the wake of today's ICAC revelations.

In a statement, Mr Baird says the time has come for a public debate on whether political campaigns should be publicly funded.

He says he has also asked the newly appointed director of the state Liberal Party, Tony Nutt, to deal with any donations made in contravention of the law.

Mr Nutt says he has sought urgent and detailed information regarding the ICAC allegations.

He says it is important the party complies with the law and acts with integrity in the conduct of its affairs.

ICAC told of Tinkler's response to donations probe

Meanwhile Mr Watson has revealed mining identity Nathan Tinkler's angry response when he learned two of his Hunter businesses, one of which was Buildev, were linked to the company at the centre of the inquiry.

Mr Watson told the inquiry that Mr Tinkler asked "Who is ICAC?" when told by a colleague that it was investigating the firm Eightbyfive.

Mr Watson added that Mr Tinkler did not hold back when responding to an email about the commission's probe.

"Oh mate you are **** kidding me. What have I ever had to do with this business? I can't trust anyone," Mr Watson read to the inquiry.

"Sharpie (who Mr Watson said is thought to be the co-owner of Buildev) is a legend and I am a **** idiot. Another one of Sharpie's lobbyist mates.

"I am no doubt going to have to wear the headlines and I don't even know their names nor have never met."

ICAC to 'expose flaws' in political funding laws

Mr Watson said in his opening statement the current inquiry would "expose systemic flaws in the political funding laws of New South Wales".

He told the packed hearing room that ICAC did not claim the Liberal Party was corrupt as an entity.

"This is an examination of what's wrong with the system ... and all political parties in Australia should take note," he said.

"There is evidence of serious breaches of Australia's political funding laws."

Mr Tinkler and Karen MacNamara, the Federal MP for the seat of Dobell, are among the 30 people due to give evidence this week.

The list includes Troy Palmer, one of Mr Tinkler's senior executives, and former Newcastle MP and minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay.

Wealthy property developers will also be called, along with Liberal Party official John Caputo, who has been linked to Liberal Party fundraising on a federal and state level.

The public inquiry before Commissioner Megan Latham is expected to run for up to a month.


Accused Qld murderer set to seek bail (AAP)

A former brothel madam accused of murdering a Brisbane rugby league identity is expected to apply for bail on Tuesday.

Susan Ellen Stewart is one of two people charged with killing Tony McGrath in May last year.

McGrath, the 57-year-old president of the Brisbane Rugby League Referees Association, was shot in his Woolloongabba garage.

Police say Stewart had been in a relationship with Mr McGrath for a number of years.

A 38-year-old man has also been charged with the referee's murder, which police allege was financially motivated.


Minggu, 27 April 2014

Paxton miner farewelled in Bathurst (AAP)

One of two miners who died when a wall collapsed in a Hunter Valley coal mine has been farewelled.

The funeral for 35-year-old Phillip Grant was held in Bathurst on Monday.

Mr Grant and Jamie Mitchell, 49, of Aberdare, were killed in the accident 500 metres below the surface at the Austar Coal Mine in Paxton on April 15.

"Phillip had a passion for V8 car racing and enjoyed the outdoors particularly on his surf ski and push bike," the Grant family said in a statement.

"Above all, he was a devoted father to his seven-year-old son Shaun.

"Phillip's favourite time was spent with Shaun in the main in BMX bike riding, swimming and activities at Nippers at Newcastle Surf Lifesaving Club."

Mr Grant leaves behind his son Shaun and is survived by his parents, James and Carmel Grant.

"Phillip's workmates at Austar are grieving their friend," CFMEU official Peter Jordan said.

"Phillip will never be forgotten by the union or in the Hunter mining community.


Tasmanian Treasurer Peter Gutwein reveals $1.1b budget black hole (ABC)

The Tasmanian Treasurer has revealed a $1.1 billion budget black hole.

Peter Gutwein says the state budget is in a significantly worse position than the Government expected.

Treasury estimates that between now and 2017, the state will accumulate a $1.1 billion debt.

A report complied by Treasury has also predicted a revised net debt of $400 million over the forward estimates.

Treasury's report on budget risks shows an updated net deficit is $200 million more than what was predicted before the state election.

The Treasurer says it presents monumental challenges to the Government and some tough budget decisions will need to made.

The Liberals have already promised to reduce the public sector by 500 full-time equivalent positions, but Treasury has advised the government to shed an extra 1,000.

Mr Gutwein will not say if he will act on the advice.

"I'm not going to deal with hypotheticals about what may come out of the budget process," he said.

"That is Treasury's assessment about where Labor and the Greens have left us, that's their assessment."

"I don't want anybody in this room to walk out of here today and report that 1500 position to go.

"This is just advice from Treasury that outlines what they believe the forward estimates contain."

Tom Lynch from the Public Sector Union is worried.

"We don't know what the number is...is it the 500 they promised before the election, is it the 1,000 that's talked about in this report?"Departments to review spending

Mr Gutwein has instructed government agencies to review their discretionary spending on travel and consultants, and suspend all non-essential advertising.

He blames the previous Labor-Green government for the poor state of the budget.

The Liberal Government will bring down its first budget in August and Mr Gutwein expects to return the state to surplus in six years time.

The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is urging the State Government to get on with reducing government debt.

The TCCI's chief executive, Michael Bailey, says all Tasmanians must take responsibility.

"It is a formidable number but it can be fixed, we need to look at structural reform though, to fix that," he said.

"We also need to remember that this amount of money is owed by us all, this isn't just owed by government.

"Taxpayers generate revenue which government then spend, so it really belongs to us all to try to fix this."

The budget update comes on the same day as Deloitte releases a report showing the state's economy is starting to turn the corner.


ICAC: New inquiry probing Liberal Party donations will *expose systemic flaws* (ABC)


The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has begun a new inquiry focusing on three New South Wales Liberal MPs accused of failing to disclose political donations.

"This inquiry will expose systemic flaws in the political funding laws of New South Wales," said Geoffrey Watson SC, counsel assisting ICAC, in his opening statements today.

The Sydney-based inquiry will focus on the activities of Chris Hartcher, a former energy minister, Darren Webber and Chris Spence, all from the Central Coast.

The ICAC is investigating whether the three corruptly solicited, received and concealed payment from various sources between 2009 and 2012 in return for political favours.

The key to the inquiry is a company called Eightbyfive, allegedly set up as a slush fund for prohibited political donors to secretly funnel money to the MPs.

It is alleged that property developers, banned from giving political donations in NSW, are among those who contributed to the company.

It is also alleged that Australia Water Holdings (AWH) donated $183,000 to Eightbyfive.

AWH was at the centre of the previous ICAC investigation.

Its former boss, Nick Di Girolamo gave the bottle of wine to the former NSW premier Barry O'Farrell that led to his recent resignation.

Mr Watson told the packed hearing room that the ICAC did not claim the Liberal Party was corrupt as an entity.

"This is an examination of what's wrong with the system ... and all political parties in Australia should take note," he said.

"There is evidence of serious breaches of Australia's political funding laws."

Mining identity Nathan Tinkler and Karen MacNamara, the Federal MP for the seat of Dobell, are among the 30 people due to give evidence this week.

The list includes Troy Palmer, one of Mr Tinkler's senior executives, and former Newcastle MP and minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay.

Wealthy property developers will also be called, along with Liberal Party official John Caputo, who has been linked to Liberal Party fundraising on a federal and state level.

The public inquiry before Commissioner Megan Latham is expected to run for up to a month.


Chinese spies read Australian MPs* emails for a year - report (Reuters)

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A cyber attack on the Australian parliamentary computer network in 2011 may have given Chinese intelligence agencies access to lawmakers' private emails for an entire year, the Australian Financial Review reported on Monday.

The newspaper, citing government and security sources, said new information showed the attack had been more extensive than previously thought and "effectively gave them control of" the entire system.

"It was like an open-cut mine. They had access to everything," a source told the newspaper.

Australian officials, like those in the United States and other Western nations, have made cyber security a priority following a growing number of attacks.

The parliamentary computer network is a non-classified internal system used by federal lawmakers, their staff and advisers for private communications and discussions of strategy.

While inside the system, hackers would have had access to emails, contact databases and any other documents stored on the network, the report said.

The access would have allowed China to gain a sophisticated understanding of the political, professional and social links of the Australian leadership and could have included sensitive discussions between lawmakers and their staff.

Domestic media initially reported on the breach in 2011, although it was believed at the time that Chinese agents had only accessed the system for about a month.

Last year, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Chinese hackers had stolen the blueprints of a new multi-million-dollar Australian spy headquarters, as well as confidential information from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government upheld a ban on China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd from bidding for work on the country's $38 billion (22 billion pounds) National Broadband Network (NBN) when it came to power last year, citing cyber security concerns.

(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Paul Tait)


Aussies being stung by super fees: Grattan (AAP)

View Comments Australians with superannuation accounts are paying three times more in fees than other countries.AAP Australians with superannuation accounts are paying three times more in fees than other countries.

Australians with superannuation accounts are paying three times more in fees - about $1100 a year - than other comparable countries.

Over time those fees reduce account balances at retirement by more than 15 per cent.

Research by the Grattan Institute finds Australians pay about $20 billion in fees each year.

That's three times more than the median paid by OECD economies where superannuation pools are much smaller.

The analysis is timely as a debate rages over the need to lift the retirement age amid rising costs to the federal budget.

The report's author, economist Jim Minifie, says there is an argument that the complexity of Australia's superannuation regulations increases the cost of the system.

"If this is true, it reveals the urgent need to reduce regulation," he says in the report released on Sunday.

However, the wide variation in fees charged by funds suggests super businesses are choosing to charge higher imposts.

Dr Minifie also believes recent reforms will not help much.

MySuper - a more uniform set of products for people who do not actively choose their funds - makes funds easier to compare, but does little to relieve the pressure of fees.

Dr Minifie says fees should be at least halved.

He believes the cost could be substantially reduced if the government selected a small number of default funds every few years with a tender based on fees.

All new job starters would pay into these funds, unless they opt out and choose their own.

To push down fees for existing accounts, tax time at the end of June should also be superannuation choice time.

A new step in the tax return process should encourage taxpayers to compare their current fund with the low-cost winners of the default tender.

Dr Minifie concedes these measures may reduce the revenues of super funds.

"More importantly, they will reduce the sting of high fees," he said.


Former child migrant tells harrowing tale of abuse as royal commission heads to Western Australia (ABC)

A group of child migrants sent from Britain to Western Australia.ABC A group of child migrants sent from Britain to Western Australia.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will begin two weeks of hearings in Western Australia today.

The focus will be on four institutions run by the Christian Brothers: the Bindoon Farm School, St Mary's Agricultural School, St Vincent's Orphanage Clontarf and Castledare Junior Orphanage.

John Hennessey, who migrated to Australia as a child, is one of a number of men set to give evidence.

Mr Hennessey was 10 years old when he was taken from his orphanage in Bristol, England, in the mid-1940s and sent to Western Australia.

He says the commission will open old wounds.

"I remember one day - it was a Sunday - these three Christian Brothers came to the hall and the nuns told us the Brothers are looking for children to go to Australia," he said.

"They said 'You go to Australia - kangaroos will take you to school, there's fruit everywhere'. We were only little kids and this was music to our ears."

'A living hell': hard labour, savage beatings and sexual abuse

Mr Hennessey was among a group of children shipped to Fremantle and then taken to Bindoon, about an hour north of Perth.

"I remember Brother Keaney, he was a big man dressed in his black habit. He said: 'Welcome. We're going to make men of you, we don't want you to be little girls'," he said.

"The place was half built. Now you look at it, I can't understand why nobody checked out where we were going."

The boys were forced to help construct the property's Spanish-style buildings with their bare hands.

But Mr Hennessey says hard labour was not the worst of it, with savage beatings and sexual abuse making Bindoon a living hell.

"In those days, we were little kids, we didn't know what paedophilia was," he said.

"You'd go to bed at night time fearing that someone was going to come to your bed and pick you up.

"We used to go to confessions and tell them all sorts of things. And we didn't know that the priest also was a paedophile."

Mr Hennessey was emotional as he recounted a particularly brutal beating he believes caused the stutter he has lived with ever since.

He said he was confronted by Brother Keaney in the dining hall after sneaking into his vineyard and stealing grapes.

"He lashed out with his walking stick, it had a metal bottom to it, and he belted me over the head and what have you," he said.

"Then he stripped me, put me over a chair and nearly flogged me to death.

"Abuse and bullying was just the norm."

'Extreme cases' of abuse to be put forward: commission

The royal commission will spend two weeks in Perth listening to the stories of victims from the four children's homes.

The commission's chief executive, Janette Dines, warned some of the evidence presented would be particularly severe.

"These stories are probably quite well-known to people in Western Australia because the Christian Brothers institutions have been the subject of a number of inquiries," she said.

"Certainly, from what we're aware, the stories of physical and sexual abuse are very confronting, and there will be some quite extreme cases of abuse put before the royal commission."

The Christian Brothers apologised to West Australian victims in the 1990s and reached an out-of-court settlement with some of them.

Ms Dines said the Perth hearings would look at that response, as well as the way the State Government handled complaints and compensation claims.

"This is the first time that the commission has really specifically gone into redress," she said.

"It can do so very effectively through this case study because there are so many different schemes featured.

The body set up by the Catholic Church to respond to the commission says it is expecting horrific stories of abuse and has called for full transparency.

"It's incumbent on the Christian Brothers to come forward again and explain themselves, to make sure the truth is revealed and demonstrate to the community the sincerity they hold for the victims," said Francis Sullivan, the chief executive of the Truth Justice and Healing Council.

"Whether it's the Christian Brothers or the State Government or any other element in how this was handled - how the legal, civil actions were handled - it all needs to be revealed."

Mother told child had died at birth

Mr Hennessey campaigned for the royal commission and says it is important for victims like himself to come forward.

He was reunited with his mother when he was 57 and spent six years with her before she died.

"She'd been told I died at birth," he said.

"I never told her of my childhood days because I thought it was enough what she went through and it would break her heart.

"I'm doing this for my mother. If I can only save one child from what I went through, it's all worthwhile.

"We will be washed clean but forever tortured. There's no way out of that one."


Three dead on NSW roads on Anzac weekend (AAP)

Three men have died in separate NSW accidents on the final day of the Anzac Day long weekend, with police booking more than 2800 motorists for speeding and other offences over the three days.

A 25-year-old man died about 10.30am (AEST) on Sunday when he lost control of his car and hit a pole on Kanangra Drive at Gwandalan on the Central Coast.

The sole occupant died at the scene with police believing wet weather was a factor.

A man died when his motorbike and a car collided at Sanctuary Point on the state's south coast about 4pm. The driver of the car was not injured and was taken to hospital for mandatory blood and urine testing.

The third fatality occurred at Burrabadine, near Dubbo, just before 5pm when a car left the road and hit a tree.

Police said his death took the Anzac Day long weekend toll to five.

They said the holiday road safety blitz, Operation Go Slow, resulted in 2412 people being charged with speeding offences, while 333 drivers were issued tickets for driving unrestrained and 94 were caught for drink-driving offences.

Four men were charged with drug offences after officers allegedly found an amount of cannabis, amphetamine and ecstasy during a random breath test on Saturday in Temora, about 50km northwest of Cootamundra.

The 19-year-olds were granted bail to appear at Wagga Wagga Local Court on Wednesday June 4.


Perth child abuse inquiry opens (AAP)

Survivors of physical and sexual abuse in orphanages and children's homes across Australia will be in Perth to support men giving evidence at a hearing into Christian Brothers-run residences in Western Australia.

The hearing, beginning on Monday at the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission, is the 11th case study by the royal commission examining how Australian institutions responded to child sexual abuse. It is the first hearing in WA.

The evidence from men who were resident at Castledare Junior Orphanage, St Vincent's Orphanage Clontarf, St Mary's Agricultural School at Tardun and the notorious Bindoon Farm School/Boys Town, an isolated institution north of Perth, is expected to be some of the most shocking and explosive heard by the commission.

The hearing will run for two weeks.

Thousands of children, some as young as five, were sent to Australia as part of various British child migrant schemes in the 40s and 50s, with many housed at Bindoon which opened in 1938.

Many of the child migrants were told they were orphans only to discover years later that they were not. Some of those will join a rally outside the commission hearing.

Leonie Sheedy, co-founder of support and advocacy organisation Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) said a fortnight of early morning rallies would be held.

"It is time for the Christian Brothers to be made accountable for the rapes, floggings, cruelty, neglect, brutality, child slave labour, inhumane treatment and lack of education of boys in their care," Ms Sheedy said.

The rallies were being held to make the general public aware of the criminal treatment of the boys, she said.

The Christian Brothers had a lot to answer for, as well as their maltreatment of child migrants "they were raping Aussie boys in the 1920s", Ms Sheedy said.

CLAN members will attend the hearings to offer support to witnesses, she said.

The Perth inquiry will investigate the responses of the Christian Brothers and relevant Western Australian State authorities to the abuse allegations at the residences.

It will also look at the experience of people who went through the Catholic Church's Towards Healing process, Redress WA, civil action and/or directly to the Christian Brothers for compensation or assistance.

Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe last week published an open letter in which he reiterated his full support for the work of the commission.

In his letter he expressed "horror and deep shame" at what happened and asked forgiveness from those whose lives had been badly damaged.