Minggu, 31 Agustus 2014

Greens try to force debate on Iraq (AAP)

Greens leader Christine Milne is pushing for the Senate to debate Australia s involvement in Iraq.AAP Greens leader Christine Milne is pushing for the Senate to debate Australia's involvement in Iraq.

The Greens are trying to have the Senate debate Australia's involvement in Iraq, saying there is no greater responsibility than sending personnel into war.

But the attempt is being opposed by the government and the opposition.

At the beginning of parliament on Monday, Greens leader Christine Milne moved to suspend standing orders to allow a debate in the upper house.

"I believe that it is time that the Australian parliament was brought into this debate," she said.

"There is no greater responsibility that a parliament has, that a prime minister has, than to send our armed service men and women into a war zone, into a war."

The move comes a day after Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Australia would take part in an international airlift of military equipment to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic extremists in northern Iraq.

"We are into mission creep," Senator Milne warned.

Defence Minister David Johnston said a parliamentary debate on operational activities in Iraq would imperil lives.

What was occurring in Iraq had no comparison in recent history and only Kurdish forces had provided any significant resistance to the forces of the Islamic State, he said.

"We would not want to see that resistance fail for want of ammunition or other supplies.

"Were we to delay making decisions as the events confront us, people's lives will be seriously at risk as we have seen so far."

Opposition defence spokesman Stephen Conroy dismissed the Greens' move as "a stunt to score cheap political points".

And he rejected their view that parliament have a say in military deployments.

"Executive government is the most appropriate body to exercise civilian control of the Australian Defence Force," he said.

Former Labor defence minister John Faulkner agreed but said the government needed to be as open as possible in frankly explaining what was going on.

Senator Johnston needed to make a ministerial statement on activities in Iraq as soon as possible and that should be followed by a full debate in the Senate, he said.

"It is responsible, it is serious, it is open, it is consistent with past practice in this chamber."

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm said any military deployment should require a two-thirds majority of both houses of parliament.

Although he supported the airlift of weapons to Kurdish forces, the decision was "too profound" to be left to government.

He also dismissed concerns that operations could be jeopardised by debate in the parliament.

"We are talking about the commitment of troops, not what they do," he said.

"It's whether they go at all."

Greens senator Scott Ludlam said Australia was practically at war because the operation was no longer humanitarian.

Parliament might well approve the operation but the government would be required to impose some boundaries.

"I suspect the reason that you won't do that is that we are once again ... acting at the behest of the United States government, not the people of Australia," Senator Ludlam said, citing the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars as previous examples.

The motion was defeated 13-44 with Senator Leyonhjelm, independent Nick Xenophon and the Palmer United Party's Jacqui Lambie voting with the Greens.

In the House of Representatives, the sole Greens MP Adam Bandt failed in his bid to bring on a similar debate.


Abbott rules out ground troops in Iraq (AAP)

Nick Xenophon has backed a push for a parliamentary debate on the growing involvement in Iraq.AAP Nick Xenophon has backed a push for a parliamentary debate on the growing involvement in Iraq.

Tony Abbott has again ruled out sending combat troops into Iraq, saying there has been no request for Australia to get more heavily involved in the conflict.

The prime minister on Sunday announced Australia will help deliver military equipment to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State extremists in Iraq's north.

But Mr Abbott has dismissed speculation that could lead to a ground troop deployment.

"What President Obama has said all along - and what I say likewise - is that we are ruling out combat troops on the ground," he told the Nine Network on Monday.

Australia would continue to talk to its allies about military involvement "down the track".

"There has been no formal request and no decision taken to get further involved in actual military conflict," Mr Abbott said.

The prime minister dismissed complaints from the Greens and independents that parliament was not consulted about Australia's involvement in arming the Kurdish regional government.

He says military action is a matter for the executive government, not the parliament.

Mr Abbott defended the decision to boost Australia's involvement in the conflict beyond humanitarian airdrops.

The situation in Iraq was a humanitarian catastrophe and security nightmare, which posed a direct threat to Australia, he said.

"While it seems a long, long way away, it is reaching out to us," he said.

However, Australia would not follow the UK by increasing its terror threat level because of home-grown extremists.

"Obviously, we are constantly monitoring it," he said.

Mr Abbott said the weapons airlifts would begin in "coming days".

Fairfax newspapers are reporting SAS soldiers will provide protection to air crews during the operation, which will involve Australian planes landing in Kurdish territory.

But Defence Minister David Johnston disputed the SAS claim.

"To the best of my knowledge that's not happening," he told ABC radio.

"And we won't discuss what special forces are doing, were they to be involved in the future."

Senator Johnston conceded the mission would be dangerous and said every effort would be made to protect Australian personnel.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said it was "insane" that the power to approve military action rested with the prime minister and his senior ministers.

"It should be debated in the parliament and the evidence presented, hard evidence presented, so people can make a considered decision," Mr Wilkie told ABC radio.

"If the case is as compelling as the government claims ... then the parliament may well authorise the action."

Fellow independent Nick Xenophon backed the push for a parliamentary debate on Iraq, despite supporting the airlift.

"I think it's important that if we follow the US, we follow them after looking at all the facts," he said.

However, Family First Senator Bob Day rejected talk of parliament being involved in the Iraq deployment.

"I've got absolutely no reason to doubt that the government is handling this at the moment," he said.

But Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt also called for a full parliamentary debate on military involvement in Iraq.

"It seems when the United States says `jump', Tony Abbott and Labor say `how high?'" he told reporters in Canberra.

"Where is the case that (military intervention) will somehow make Australia safer?"

Mr Bandt said that horrific events were happening all over the world, but Australia did not intervene militarily in all of them.

He said the case had to be made for why military force was the only option.

"We have a very poor record picking sides in that part of the world and we're about to do it again," he said.

Labor frontbencher Tony Burke said so far there was bipartisan support for the government's decisions.

"I think it's quite clear what we're dealing with is quite different to what was dealt with a decade ago," he said.

There were opportunities to raise issues during parliamentary proceedings, so a specific Iraq debate was not necessary, he said.


Sabtu, 30 Agustus 2014

Final defeat looms for World War II heroes as Darwin Z Special Unit commando camp site faces demolition to make way for commerce (ABC)

The Darwin site of a WWII camp for a commando unit seen as the forerunner to the modern day SAS is in imminent danger of being demolished to make way for industry.

The camp site of Z Special Unit — an elite special operations commando unit — is under threat because of the $110 million Marine Supply Base which opened on August 19 and is set for further expansion in the East Arm land area of Darwin Harbour.

A bid to have the site protected by heritage listing could come too late, with a large swathe cut through the site for a drain and plans to develop the entire area.

A heritage application to protect a nearby WWII RAAF base was refused — and that will soon be demolished.

Formed in 1942, Z Special Unit was a commando squad trained in covert skills such as silent killing, poisons, swimming undetected, plastic explosives and sabotage.

Consisting mainly of Australian, British, Dutch and New Zealand members, but also — notable in a time ruled by the White Australia policy — it recruited fighters of Timorese and Indonesian heritage.

It is credited by the Australian Army as the basis for the modern Special Air Services Regiment (SAS).

A plaque or statue is enough: Planning Minister

Of the original Z Special Unit camp which ranged over several kilometres of coastal mangrove forest about 17 kilometres by road or 4km as the crow flies from Darwin city, only concrete slabs, hut bases, a slip-way, a well, rusted metal objects and corrugated iron remain.

"A track has been pushed through to the mangrove line, across concrete slabs at the (Z Special Unit) base" said maritime archaeologist Dr Silvano Jung, who wrote to the NT Government to complain about the work at the camp site last week.

He said the Z Special Unit camp was nominated for heritage listing in the 1980s — and an interim order protecting it should have been issued then.

The area is earmarked as part of Darwin Port Corporation's 'Masterplan 2030' — a "blueprint for the East Arm Wharf and adjacent strategic land and sea areas for the next 20 years".

In a statement, Peter Chandler, the Minister for Lands, Planning and Environment, said "some limited clearing has taken place on site to allow for an open stormwater drain ... to deliver stormwater from a cleared area behind the Z Special Unit base, to the harbour".

He said the Government was working with the Heritage Branch to minimise impact on the remains of the Z Special Unit camp, but said "it's important to remember historical sites and events, but it needs to be balanced with the environment".

He said he would "shortly be signing an instrument provisionally declaring the base as a heritage place".

"The Heritage Council then needs to consider all comments made, and make a recommendation as to whether the site is permanently declared as a heritage place."

Mr Chandler said he would receive the council's recommendation "early next year".

"This wouldn't stop a developer, or anyone for that matter, to go there tonight and flatten the whole site," Dr Jung said.

"This would make the Minister's tardy October heritage decision irrelevant and farcical. There should have been an interim order on the site as soon as it was nominated."

Mr Chandler would not rule out the site being cleared.

"If development goes ahead on these sites I would like to see, as part of the development, that a plaque or statue is used to recognise the history of the site.

"Even our very own Parliament House was constructed on a significant bomb site and it is well recognised with a marker and plaque."

Dr Jung said a shell midden — a mound of shells collected by Aboriginal people — next to the Z Special Unit base was also in danger.

An environmental impact survey commissioned by the NT Government in 2011 conducted radiocarbon analysis on selected middens in the East Arm area and found all "belong to the pre-European period".

Catalinas no match for commerce

Not far from Z Special Unit's camp is what little remains of the WWII 20 Squadron RAAF Catalina Flying Boat base which will be destroyed by the Marine Supply Base and adjacent developments after an application for heritage listing was turned down.

Mr Chandler said the Catalina base was on land "intended to be significantly developed for marine industry purposes, including the possible development of a Marine Industry Park".

"Paspaley Pearls Properties Pty Ltd holds the land on which the remains of the Flying Boat Base is situated under the terms of a Crown lease that requires development of the land for marine industry purposes," he said.

"The land on which the remains of the Flying Boat Base are situated cannot be developed as intended for marine industry purposes if the remains of the flying Boat Base are declared a heritage place."

An NT Government commissioned report into the heritage value of the Catalina Flying Boat base at East Arm said what remained of the base was "highly valued by veterans who served there and by veterans and their families who have a special appreciation for RAAF operations".

'Too late to save' Z Special camp: RSL

Don Milford, president of the Darwin Sub Branch of the RSL said he was in awe of Z Special Unit's exploits against the enemy in the Pacific but the days were numbered for the camp at East Arm.

"It's probably all too late to save it," he said.

Mr Milford said at the very least "a commemorative plaque should be erected to let people know of the history".

"The significance of the site should not be lost."

But Dr Jung said the Z Special Unit Darwin camp deserved better than a plaque or sign.

"You would have thought that with such public interest in Z Special, that their bases would be preserved and conserved in their honour," he said.

"Financial considerations are more significant than heritage sites in the Northern Territory, it would seem."


Muslim meeting constructive, insists A-G (AAP)

Attorney-General insists a meeting with Muslim leaders over anti-terrorism laws was useful.AAP Attorney-General insists a meeting with Muslim leaders over anti-terrorism laws was useful.

Attorney-General George Brandis says he received useful feedback at a meeting with Muslim leaders, who have criticised his tardiness and remain sceptical about proposed changes to anti-terrorism laws.

Mr Brandis was an hour late to his meeting with key Muslim leaders in Sydney's west on Friday. A spokesman said he had been held up in traffic.

The leaders said that after the attorney-general arrived, they had only 30 minutes to review draft amendments to the federal government's anti-terrorism legislation.

Muslim leader Hany Amer said there was not enough time to look over the proposals, which aim to stop young Australians being radicalised and taking part in wars in the Middle East.

As they stand, the laws did not have enough safeguards for the innocent, he said.

The leaders say they left the meeting in Parramatta with the same concerns they had at the start about the Muslim community being unfairly targeted.

But a spokesman for Mr Brandis said the meeting was "friendly and constructive".

He said the attorney-general delayed his flight to be able to stay longer than scheduled and the proposals were only a few pages.

Further consultations have been agreed, the spokesman says.

"The attorney-general received useful feedback which will assist in the development of legislation," he told AAP on Saturday.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said the government was sincere in its wish to work with community leaders.

"We think it's important for Muslim leaders to demonstrate leadership and to do what they can also to ensure that all Australians - Muslim and non-Muslims - living in Australia can do so in safety and without risk of there being outbreaks of violence," Mr Truss told reporters in Canberra on Saturday.


Doone Kennedy, Tasmania*s first female Lord Mayor, dies aged 87 (ABC)

Doone Kennedy spent 17 years on the Hobart City Council, including a decade as Mayor.ABC Doone Kennedy spent 17 years on the Hobart City Council, including a decade as Mayor.

Tasmania's first female Lord Mayor, Doone Kennedy, has died in hospital aged 87.

Mrs Kennedy grew up in New South Wales but came to Tasmania as a teenager, where she fell in love with her future husband and new home.

She spent 17 years on the Hobart City Council, including a decade as Mayor in the 1980s and 90s.

Two years into her term, the conservative council became embroiled in controversy by banning a gay rights stall at Salamanca market.

Mrs Kennedy was known for being pro-development and often found herself in the middle of Hobart's perennial heritage debate.

She worked tirelessly for dozens of charities and societies, including Red Cross, Variety and aged care groups.

In 1994, she was made an Officer in the Order of Australia.

She is survived by a son and a daughter.


Man crushed to death by falling tree, woman injured after incident at Logan (ABC)

A man has died after being crushed by a falling tree at Logan, south of Brisbane.

Emergency Services said the deceased man, who was aged in his 60s, was struck by a falling branch at Munruben about 3:30pm.

Police said it was unclear whether he was a worker or lived on the property.

A woman who was nearby was also injured and taken to Logan Hospital.

Neighbour Philip Eadie said tree loppers had been working at the property on weekends.

"Most of the morning they have been lopping down trees at the back of the house. "They are fairly tall gum trees," he said.

"We came home and saw the police out the front. Once we got out of the car ... the chopper was overhead, so we knew something was going on.

"Knowing ... they were doing that tree lopping, we knew there had been an accident."

It is not yet known what caused the tree to come down.


Fremantle beats Port Adelaide by eight points at Subiaco Oval to tie up fourth spot and the double chance (ABC)

Fremantle s Michael Walters kicked three in the Dockers vital win over Port Adelaide at Subiaco Oval.ABC Fremantle's Michael Walters kicked three in the Dockers' vital win over Port Adelaide at Subiaco Oval.

Fremantle has sewn up a top four spot and the double chance with an eight-point win over Port Adelaide at Subiaco Oval.

The Power pushed the home side hard in the first two and a half quarters, but the Dockers kicked clear in the second half before withstanding a late comeback from the visitors to win by 16.9 (105) to 14.13 (97) win.

Port Adelaide missed a series of early chances, but kicked three first-quarter goals to be level with the Dockers at quarter-time.

Both sides kicked four goals apiece in the second term as the visitors went in with a one-point buffer at the main break.

The Power then silenced the vocal home crowd with two early goals in the third term to Jay Schulz and Hamish Hartlett, before the Dockers finally clicked, booting six goals without reply to take a 22-point lead into the final quarter.

Goals to David Mundy and Hayden Ballantyne looked to have sealed the win for Fremantle, who led by 38 points at the 12-minute mark.

But the Power fought back again to get within nine points in the final minute before Justin Westhoff missed a meaningless kick after the siren to leave the final margin at eight.

For Fremantle, small forwards Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters kicked four and three goals respectively, while Schulz led the way for the visitors with a six-goal haul.

The Dockers will travel to play either Sydney or Hawthorn in a qualifying final next weekend, while Port Adelaide will host an elimination final at Adelaide Oval.

More to follow.


Jumat, 29 Agustus 2014

Small Tasmanian town hopes to ride on success of new mountain bike trail (ABC)

The rugged terrain of Tasmania s north west is hoped to be a drawcard for bike riders.ABC The rugged terrain of Tasmania's north west is hoped to be a drawcard for bike riders.

A mountain bike trail project in Tasmania's north-east is expected to boost an area hit hard by a dwindling economy.

The construction of world-class tracks at Derby is underway and will be ready to ride by the end of the year.

Like many regional Tasmanian towns, Derby is struggling and Dorset Mayor Barry Jarvis is hoping mountain biking can lead the recovery.

"This will be a huge boost to tourism and open up this area that hasn't had any impact before so this is a huge boost for Derby," he said.

Mountain bikers are always looking for new tracks and Derby is getting part of $4.6 million being spent on trails from Hollybank near Launceston to the Blue Tier near St Helens.

The Derby site will rival some of the best tracks in the country, according to track builder Nick Bowman.

"Its a dream to work here and its going to be a dream to ride here, the trees, the moss, the flowing rivers, its gorgeous countryside," he said.

Thousands of enthusiasts from Australia and overseas are expected to ride the 80-kilometre network of north east Tasmanian tracks each year.

"Its the biggest mountain bike trail project in Australian history," said Mr Bowman.

The appeal of rugged terrain is expected to bring million of dollars to the local economy.

"I've seen this kind of development succeed on all different levels around the country and certainly overseas, and this place has kind of got everything," Mr Bowman said.

The development has Derby residents excited.

"We are a small town and we don't have a lot of people come through so if we can get something out there to bring them in that's good for us," local business owner Vicki Way said.

"There's been a lot of changes and a lot of people leaving the area and we hope this will bring people back and stimulate the business," business owner Patty Hughes said.

New businesses are already looking to set up in the town and cash in on the development.

The Derby trails have already secured a national championship next year.

"As a tourism spot this will be a hot spot in Tasmania," Mr Jarvis said.

The first stage of the Derby trails will be finished by December.


Higher education changes create *huge amount of uncertainty* for students, potential for fees to change mid-degree (ABC)

Students have protested against proposed changes to higher education fearful of high university fees.ABC Students have protested against proposed changes to higher education fearful of high university fees.

University leaders say there is a huge amount of uncertainty around what to tell prospective students who face potential changes to course fees part-way through their degrees.

Universities across Australia are currently in the middle of Open Day season for students planning further study in 2015.

The Government has introduced legislation into parliament to deregulate fees from the start of 2016 but is facing an uphill battle to get its higher education reforms through the Senate.

The reforms also propose a 20 per cent cut in course funding and an increase of interest rates on student loans.

University of Sydney vice chancellor Michael Spence said students would not be targeted with high costs but cannot say how much universities will charge until the reforms are finalised.

"The purpose is not to gouge money out of students. The purpose is to be able to continue to provide a high quality education and therefore very dramatic fee increases are unlikely," he said.

"There is a huge amount of uncertainty and that for me is why the timing is quite important.

"If this is going to happen we have to get it to happen as quickly as possible so we can give certainty to parents and students and universities for that matter."

Australian Catholic University vice chancellor Greg Craven said: "We're telling them the situation is quite fluid and it's hard to know exactly what the fees might be".

"I can certainly guarantee they won't suffer enormous fee hikes," he said.

ACU attracts large number of nursing and teaching students who are often the first in their families to go to university and are often from low socio economic backgrounds.

Professor Craven reacted angrily to suggestions the country's top universities might scrap nursing schools which could attract lower fees than other courses.

"The present bill is very careful to make sure that nursing and education is cut by less than other areas," he said.

"It is imperative that that is maintained. There are some other universities that would like that to be changed. That must not change if we want schools and hospitals.

"It shows a priority that says perhaps money is more important than producing the professions of care. We clearly do not take that view and would be most alarmed if that type of financial view was to triumph over public interest."

Expected spike in 2015 enrolments

There are suggestions the proposed higher education reforms could lead to a spike in enrolments next year.

Some year 12 students are being encouraged not to take a gap year in 2015 and go straight onto further study ahead of expected higher prices for some courses in 2016.

Dr Spence said the UK experience shows there was a surge in enrolments before course prices went up with many students deferring their gap year until after graduation rather than taking it between school and university.

He was reluctant to offer his own advice but Dr Spence said he would not discourage young people from taking a break in 2015.

He said it would be a "real pity if someone had plans for next year and decided to defer them".

"It's a very difficult decision ... I can say our commitment is to make education affordable whether you start in 2015, 16 or 17," he said.

Most in the higher education sector support fee deregulation to make up the shortfall in government funding and reduce the reliance on fees from foreign students.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne wants the bill passed by the end of year to give universities enough time to prepare for the changes but is facing strong opposition to the reforms in the Senate.


Man stabbed during Vic home invasion (AAP)

A man has been stabbed by a gang of four people during a home invasion in Melbourne.

The group broke into his unit in Dandenong North about 3.30am on Saturday.

Police say the man, aged 41, was assaulted while the gang ransacked the house before fleeing.

He suffered stab wounds to his face and upper body and was treated at The Alfred hospital.

The offenders are believed to be Pacific Islander in appearance, police say.

It remained unclear if anything was stolen from the property.

The man remains in a serious but stable condition.


Coal seam gas project divides residents of NSW*s Gloucester Valley as blockade begins (ABC)

Anti-coal seam gas protesters gather in Gloucester Valley.ABC Anti-coal seam gas protesters gather in Gloucester Valley.

The Gloucester Valley in mid-north New South Wales is bracing for an invasion of protesters over the state's first new coal seam gas project in more than five years.

Opponents of energy company AGL's four-well Waukivory pilot project are already converging on the town for a blockade, which began peacefully this week.

Gloucester Shire Council is considering an application for a primitive camp for more than 1,200 protesters on farm land next to the project site.

A 28-day objection period closed on Thursday and is likely to be approved when the council meets next month.

Deputy Mayor Frank Hooke said the council was worried about the impact of such a camp but it may have no choice but to approve it.

"It's not improperly zoned for that purpose and if we were to reject it they [the proponents] could go to the Land and Environment Court where it would probably be approved," Cr Hooke said.

Already the project has caused bitter division between the shire's 5,000 residents with rival groups established to co-ordinate the opposition campaign or to publicly support the economic development, which would flow from the proposed 330-well project.

Former mayor Julie Lyford heads Gloucester Groundswell, which is calling on opponents of the coal seam gas industry to take a stand in Gloucester.

"We know now that Gloucester is the flashpoint for NSW," Ms Lyford said.

"If fracking of 330 wells goes ahead here than the rest of NSW is up for grabs with the coal seam gas industry.

"We know people are going to come, so we want to be responsible and actually contain that and have a really good camp, a really good blockade situation, so it doesn't get out of hand.

"Because whether the Gloucester people or the NSW Government like it or not, people are going to come because they care enough about water, productive land and the health of people.

Protesters do not see the benefits: AGL supporters

A rival group of residents calling itself Advance Gloucester has been actively supporting AGL and the jobs and opportunity which it says come with extractive industries such as mining and coal seam gas.

Dairy farmer Rod Williams said the group comprised of generational farmers, residents and business owners and was concerned that opponents to the CSG project were from out of town or were new residents.

"At the end of the day, the youth of the area deserve every opportunity they can get," Mr Williams said.

"It's one thing to cater for life-stylers and tree-changers, which these areas are magnets for, that's fine.

"[We] don't have a problem with that but if we're going to be held out to ransom by these people that have no social or economic investment in our area, we're sort of scratching our heads and thinking, 'who is driving the bus?'."

AGL has begun earthworks on the Waukivory site.

The company's manager of upstream gas, Mike Moraza, said it would take about eight months before it began hydraulically fracturing or fracking four gas wells.

"We are going to flow gas and water in order to gather data and gather information which is going to help us make a final investment decision for the Gloucester gas project," Mr Moraza said.

He said the project had the potential to supply 20 per cent of the state's gas needs and was likely to "put downward pressure on prices".

In the meantime, he said the company had stepped up security at the site.

"We've got a lot of security on the ground here obviously to look after our staff, to look after our operations and our contractors and we're pretty satisfied with the steps that we've taken."

For Sean Murphy's full story watch Landline on ABC TV on Sunday at noon.*

Man charged after woman hit with shovel (AAP)

A man who allegedly attacked a woman with a shovel after she stopped her car to use a mobile phone in Sydney's west has been charged with assault, robbery and attempted carjacking.

Police say the 56-year-old woman stopped on Rippon Avenue, at Dundas near Parramatta, at about 10pm on Thursday when the man approached the car and hit it with the shovel, yelling at her to get out.

He then allegedly opened the driver's side door and struck the woman in the head and arms before stealing her mobile phone.

She drove from the scene to a service station and police were contacted.

The woman was taken to hospital for treatment of cuts to her face, nose and arms.

Officers searched around the crime scene and at 10.45pm, with the assistance of a police dog, apprehended a man on Rippon Avenue and seized a mobile phone from him.

Following treatment at Westmead Hospital, the 32-year-old was charged with robbery armed with offensive weapon cause wounding, aggravated assault with intent to take/drive motor vehicle armed with weapon and revocation of a parole warrant.

He was refused bail to appear in Parramatta Local Court on Saturday.


Man arrested after Sydney school bus crash (AAP)

A knife-wielding man who threatened the driver of a packed school bus involved in a collision in Sydney's southeast has been charged with assault.

About 57 primary school students and three teachers were on board the bus when it collided with a car on Anzac Parade in Kingsford on Friday afternoon.

It's alleged the 22-year-old driver of the car got out and tried to force open the bus door, causing damage.

The 60-year-old bus driver struggled to restrain the man, before he returned to his car and armed himself with a utility knife, police said.

The bus driver re-boarded the bus, locked the door and drove away before calling police.

Officers seized the utility knife and allegedly found a pipe for smoking methylamphetamine in the 22-year-old's car.

The Kingsford man was charged with common assault, and destroy or damage property.

He was granted conditional bail and is due to face Waverley Local Court on September 17.


Sydney Muslim leaders left *disappointed* by meeting with Attorney-General George Brandis (ABC)

Hany Amer, a spokesman for 15 Muslim and community groups, said they were disappointed by a Sydney meeting with Attorney-General George Brandis.ABC Hany Amer, a spokesman for 15 Muslim and community groups, said they were "disappointed" by a Sydney meeting with Attorney-General George Brandis.

Muslim leaders say they have been left disappointed by a meeting with Attorney-General George Brandis to discuss proposed anti-terror laws in Sydney.

Attendees said they were frustrated that Senator Brandis showed up almost an hour late, leaving them just 30 minutes to review the draft legislation and offer feedback.

Hany Amer, a spokesman for 15 Muslim and community groups, said the meeting "proved to be disappointing".

"Despite our better judgement and facing considerable pressure to disengage, we attended in the hope of being proven wrong," he said.

The proposed legislation, aimed at stopping Australians participating in foreign wars, would make it an offence to visit certain areas dominated by terrorists without justification.

The attendees included representatives from the Office of the Grand Mufti, Australian National Imams Council, Islamic Council of NSW and others.

Senior officials from ASIO, the Australian Federal Police, NSW Police and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also attended.

Mr Amer said the proposed legislation dealt with complex issues that required "measured and thorough examination of research".

"We were given 30 minutes to review and consider the draft legislation despite the Attorney-General's assurance that draft laws would be provided to Muslim representatives with sufficient time for review," he said.

"I think under all circumstances, that's not sufficient."

Anti-terror laws not targeting Muslims: Brandis

Senator Brandis declined to comment after meeting, but he told the group the laws were not targeting Muslims.

Mr Amer said the proposed measures would affect all Australians' rights and freedoms.

"Australian Muslims unequivocally share the same concerns as the wider Australian public for the safety and security of our nation," he said.

"However, this should not come at the cost of our core values, freedoms and civil liberties afforded to all Australians."

Attendees said Senator Brandis indicated more further consultation would be considered, but he may not be present.

A similar meeting will be held in Melbourne next week.


Kathy Jackson likens trade union inquiry to *judicial gang rape*, dismisses *charity shag* with interrogator (ABC)

Union whistleblower Kathy Jackson has likened an investigation into her alleged misuse of union members' funds to "judicial gang rape", and dismissed a past fling with one interrogator as a "charity shag".

Ms Jackson, who is on leave as the national secretary of the Health Services Union, finished giving evidence to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption on Friday by saying she would not try to expose union corruption again.

She said she "could not believe the audacity" of one-time lover Mark Irving, now the barrister for the Health Services Union (HSU), cross-examining her before the commission about her alleged improper use of union funds.

She had fought to prevent Mr Irving questioning her, claiming he would be biased - a claim rejected by the commission.

But after completing her evidence, she dismissed their brief affair of 21 years ago.

"Forget the former lover stuff - everybody makes mistakes and has a charity shag along the way," she said.

Ms Jackson said she understood the community concern about union slush funds like one she operated as national secretary of the HSU.

But she said her detractors at the HSU had pursued her unfairly.

"These people at the Health Services Union rely on a judicial gang rape of Kathy Jackson because they can afford to do it; they've got lawyers, guns and money," he said.

She later apologised for the use of the term "gang rape".

"I was referring [to] the actions the union, the Health Services Union, are taking against me in the Federal Court on numerous fronts, not only this year but in previous years," she told Macquarie Radio.

"But I just want to apologise, and I realise it's offensive to refer to what has been happening in the judicial system as that."

Union funds 'protection' for members: Jackson

The commission has investigated Ms Jackson's use of a $280,000 union fund known as the National Health Development Association - including a $50,000 withdrawal that was paid to her ex-husband.

Ms Jackson said all unions and union officials should be investigated like she had been.

"They should be looked into because I understand now the community concern," she said.

"But the reason they're there and the reason they were set up, not just in my time but before my time, is to get around electoral disclosure."

Ms Jackson said funds were needed to protect the union from "vultures" in the Labor Party "that are circling these unions to take them over".

Asked if she was playing along with the game, Ms Jackson said, "of course I was".

"But it was more than that - I was buying protection for my members," she added.

Ms Jackson has been excused from the commission, which will continue next week with an investigation of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.


Rupert Ward, guilty of possessing euthanasia drug Nembutal, given spent conviction (ABC)

Rupert Ward speaks outside an Albany Court after receiving a spent conviction for possession of euthanasia.ABC Rupert Ward speaks outside an Albany Court after receiving a spent conviction for possession of euthanasia.

An Albany man has been fined $1,400 for importing a banned euthanasia drug but has escaped having the conviction recorded.

Rupert John Ward, 68, pleaded guilty to importing six grams of pentobarbital, commonly known as Nembutal.

He was charged after raids by police of the homes of 12 members of euthanasia group Exit International earlier this year.

In sentencing, Magistrate Tanya Watt said she had discounted the fines which totalled $2,600 for related drug offences and recorded a spent conviction, so Ward could travel without a drug record.

Ms Watt took into account Ward's cooperation with police and his limited finances allowing him time to pay the fines from his pension.

She also took into account his clean record and his references that said he was a kind and gentle man.

She made reference to his troubled past and the anxiety he had experienced when police charged him for importing what he thought was a legal amount of Nembutal.

Ward had at first pleaded not guilty, but he later changed his plea when police identified the drug as being an illegal substance.

Ms Watt said she consequently viewed his plea as showing co-operation with authorities, and applied a 25 per cent discount to the fines.

Police had also charged Ward for possessing cannabis and drug paraphernalia which he said he used to help his anxiety.

Ms Watt she said she applied the fines because she wanted to deter Ward from possessing illegal drugs.

Ms Watt said Ward had potentially put the community at risk given the high number of burglaries committed by robbers looking for drugs.

Ward allowed to travel to US for cryogenic freezing

Outside the court a relieved Ward said he had made a "big mistake" but he was thankful to the magistrate for not recording the five charges.

"My main concern was that all this stress would give me a heart attack," he said.

"That would be ironic, getting busted for a trace of Nembutal and ending up in a casket."

He said he wanted to travel to the US to investigate cryogenics and having a drug conviction would have prohibited that.

When asked why he had bought the drug when he was not terminally ill, Ward said it was a case of "having foresight".

"I mean the people who have the least, almost zero foresight, get into cars without seatbelts, I mean that's incomprehensible to me," he said.

"I'd rather just have the peace of mind knowing that I can avoid a long, drawn-out death."

He said he would purchase an end-of-life device from Exit International that was legal, and "stick it under the bed and forget about it".

He also said that Exit International had offered to pay the fine for the euthanasia drug.


Case against Aleksander Vojneski for Paula Conlon murder based on *flimsy hypothesis*, jury told (ABC)

The case against a Canberra man accused of murdering his girlfriend is based on a "flimsy hypothesis of guilt", a jury has been told.

Aleksander Vojneski, 31, is accused of killing 30-year-old Paula Conlon in her Macgregor home on the evening of March 27, 2012.

The ACT Supreme Court heard Conlon died after a frenzied stabbing attack during which the knife went through her arm and a chest wound caused catastrophic internal injuries.

Both the prosecution and defence have finished giving evidence after more than a month of hearings, and the jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict on Monday.

During the trial, prosecutor Shane Drumgold outlined a circumstantial case against Vojneski.

However, defence lawyer Jack Pappas said the crown had used selective evidence and taken a quantum leap to suggest that when Vojneski could not get drugs he went about stabbing people.

"When you start to look at this hypothesis it starts to look flimsy, and that's the hypothesis of guilt," he said.

Mr Drumgold that said on the night of Conlon's death, Vojneski became aggressive and violent and that his behaviour was fuelled by alcohol, drugs and frustration at being unable to buy drugs on credit.

In an unusual move, the prosecution was allowed to present evidence to the jury which outlined Vojneski's previous involvement in violent incidents, including when he attacked his sister's boyfriend with a knife.

The court heard evidence from Vojneski's mother and brother that when he was becoming out of control, he would annoy the neighbours by being loud and throwing things around.

Mr Pappas told the court the police had been too quick to focus on his client and to reject any evidence that someone else may have been involved.

Mr Pappas also questioned whether the estimated time of Conlon's death was accurate.

No knife, no definitive evidence linked Vojneski: defence

The jury has heard that no knife has been found and no definitive forensic evidence linked Vojneski to Conlon's death.

In summing up to the jury, Mr Drumgold said he had a strong circumstantial case against Vojneski and there was evidence from Conlon's friends about violence between the pair.

But Mr Pappas said there were substantial pieces missing from the forensic evidence.

"How do you commit a crime like this and leave no forensic evidence not only on your clothes, not only on your body, not only on the body of the deceased," he said.

Small amounts of Vojneski's blood were found on the door handle of the bedroom and the hallway floor.

The prosecution told the court Vojneski had cut his index finger during the attack on Conlon, and that is where the droplets of blood had come from.

But Mr Pappas said that was not plausible and the cut could have happened when Vojneski was cutting fruit in the kitchen.

Conlon's body was not found until the afternoon after her death, despite the fact her young boarder was at home playing games online in his room.

Mr Pappas reminded the jury the boy had said the pair were happy on the evening of hear death and were getting along.

The boy gave evidence he heard a scream and Conlon said "no" several times, but he did not go out of the room until much later because he was scared.

The court heard the boy had gone off to school the next day without realising Conlon lay dead in her bedroom.

During the trial, the jury was told how Vojneski and Conlon had been in a stormy six-month relationship.

The two met at a mental health facility where Conlon was receiving treatment for depression after the break-up of her marriage.

Justice John Burns will address the jury on Monday before it retires to consider its verdict.


More complaints on Vic Christian Brother (AAP)

A Victorian court has heard four new people have made complaints against a former Christian Brother.AAP A Victorian court has heard four new people have made complaints against a former Christian Brother.

Four more people have made complaints against a former Christian Brother charged with child sex offences, a Victorian court has heard.

Ted Bales, 64, already faces 48 charges of indecent assault and gross indecency against 14 boys in the 1970s and 1980s.

But another four people have come forward to make complaints against Bales including one based interstate, the prosecution told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday.

The court heard police were still waiting on statements from the new complainants.

Bales, of Thomastown, was stationed with the Christian Brothers at Ballarat and Warrnambool, a previous court hearing was told.

Bales was arrested by the Sano task force, established by police to investigate historic and new allegations arising from the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse.

The case was adjourned until September 19.


Kamis, 28 Agustus 2014

30 years jail for Qld double murderer (AAP)

A Queensland mechanic will spend at least 30 years behind bars for the execution-style killing of two customers over a financial dispute involving a panel van.

Jurors took about two hours to find Brandon MacGowan, 43, guilty of murdering Mount Isa couple Scott Maitland and Cindy Masonwells in Cairns in July 2012.

Friends and family of the couple applauded when he was handed two life sentences in the Supreme Court in Cairns on Friday.

"Your calculated, callous execution of Mr Maitland and Ms Masonwells, essentially to eliminate the financial problem they presented to you, involves such a high level of culpability," Justice Jim Henry said during sentencing.

The court heard MacGowan killed the couple, who were in their 30s, because of a long-standing dispute over $14,000 worth of restoration work he had agreed to do on Ms Masonwells' 1970s panel van.

He collected the couple from the Cairns airport on July 5, 2012, before shooting Mr Maitland in the back of the head and fatally stabbing Ms Masonwells in the back.

Their bodies were dumped in scrub near Cairns.

MacGowan denied the murders, telling the court the last time he saw the couple was when they left his Cairns workshop in a white van on the night they were killed.

Justice Henry said MacGowan was under mounting pressure because he had spent the couple's money while telling them he had carried out the work on their van even though he had not.

He said MacGowan had been caught out by his lies and the "plethora" of circumstantial evidence against him.

Crown witnesses included two men who recalled seeing a screaming woman fall out of a parked van MacGowan was driving on the night of July 5, 2012.

CCTV showed MacGowan collecting the pair from the airport in a white van, which was later found splattered with the couple's blood.

A friend of MacGowan testified that MacGowan turned up at his apartment in the early hours of July 6, 2012, covered in blood.

MacGowan's claim that a third party killed the couple was "utterly fanciful" and it was unbelievable the accused tried to say Mr Maitland was somehow involved, the judge said.

Mr Maitland and Ms Masonwells married in 2009 and moved to Mount Isa from Cairns the following year to work at the mines.

In her victim impact statement, Mr Maitland's mother, Marjorie, said: "When we finally got the news Cindy and Scott were dead, we thought our lives had hit a brick wall.

"It was so overwhelming we couldn't absorb the magnitude of the evil, violent crime."

She also spoke of the heartache of having to watch her grandchild, Scott Maitland's child from a previous relationship, grow up without a father.

Ms Masonwells' stepfather and mother, Terence and Sharon Dexter, said in their statement to the court that her death would haunt them until they died.

MacGowan was sentenced to two life sentences with a non-parole period of 30 years.


Tinkler *regrets* Buildev investment (AAP)

Businessman Nathan Tinkler is scheduled to front a corruption inquiry in Sydney on Friday.AAP Businessman Nathan Tinkler is scheduled to front a corruption inquiry in Sydney on Friday.

Nathan Tinkler says he rues the day he invested in NSW developer Buildev.

The former coal mogul has fronted the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for a second time to face allegations he and top executives at the Hunter Valley company secretly funnelled money to NSW Liberal MPs.

Mr Tinkler is also accused of footing the bill for a smear campaign to unseat the former Labor MP for Newcastle, Jodi McKay, because she stood in the way of a Buildev coal-loader proposal worth tens of millions of dollars.

The watchdog has heard Tinkler's company Boardwalk Resources gave $53,000 to a Liberal front company, the Free Enterprise Foundation, and that $35,000 of this money wound up in the campaign coffers of the man who dethroned Ms McKay, sidelined Liberal MP Tim Owen.

But Mr Tinkler denied any knowledge of this, or a damaging anti-McKay leaflet campaign he is said to have funded, telling the ICAC he was nothing more than an investor in Buildev.

"An investment I deeply regret now," Mr Tinkler said.

He flatly rejected suggestions he knew of an alleged slush fund known as EightByFive, which is said to have been set up by a staffer to ex-NSW energy minister Chris Hartcher to fund political campaigns in the lead-up to the 2011 state election.

The ICAC has heard allegations Mr Tinkler gave orders to channel money to EightByFive through his horse-racing business, Patinack Farms, and that the payments were obscured by a sham consultancy agreement.

"I've never given permission for Patinack to be used for anything like that," Mr Tinkler said on Friday.

Property developers have been banned from making political donations in NSW since 2009.

The ICAC's long-running cash-for-favours probe has focused heavily on Buildev and other businesses with links to Mr Tinkler.

The saga has already dethroned Mr Hartcher and former police minister Mike Gallacher, forced two MPs to resign from parliament altogether and sent others to the crossbenches.


New laws allow home ownership in Indigenous communities in Queensland (ABC)

Workers build houses in the Kowanyama Indigenous community on Cape York.ABC Workers build houses in the Kowanyama Indigenous community on Cape York.

People living in Queensland's Indigenous communities now have the option of private home and land ownership under new freehold laws passed in State Parliament.

Since the 19th century, land in the state's 34 Indigenous communities has been held by Indigenous local councils or trusteeships that prevented private home ownership.

The new laws give Indigenous people the opportunity to transfer the tenure of selected land from communal ownership to freehold title for the first time.

Under the changes councils will be able to set rates for any land moved to freehold.

Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps said the decision to transfer land to private ownership will be left to individual communities, with councils to set rates.

"Queensland is leading the way," he said.

"We are ahead of other states and territories and we are ahead of the initiatives being pursued by the Commonwealth Government to provide equity, dignity and fairness to Indigenous Queenslanders in this country.

"The new legislation delivers not only economic independence and opportunity, but also an enormous boost in confidence in Indigenous communities."

Premier Campbell Newman said the new laws do not prescribe what communities should do.

"It gives them the tools to make the best choice," he said.

"A community can identify to what extent if any freehold suits them and then implement it."

Indigenous community leader Ray Robinson said the new laws would end a 200-year battle in Queensland.

"They have ownership now - ownership of their own houses and their own land," he said.

"I think that enables them to move towards now economic independence and self management and self determination."


Vic govt to act fast on mine fire report (AAP)

The Victorian government says it will move quickly to respond to the recommendations to come out of the inquiry into the Hazelwood mine fire that burned for 45 days.

On Friday, the board of inquiry will deliver a 400-page report on the blaze that cloaked the Victorian town of Morwell in smoke which included carcinogenic particulate matter.

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan said the government was conscious of the impact the blaze had had on the people of Morwell.

"We will respond to that as soon as we are able to," Mr Ryan said.

"We are conscious the people of Morwell in particular and the Latrobe Valley more generally went through a very very difficult time when that mine fire started on February 9."

The report follows a five-month inquiry that included four weeks of public hearings.

It is expected to be tabled in parliament on Tuesday.


Qld police bitten and scratched at bar (AAP)

Two women who allegedly bit and scratched police officers and a security guard at a Brisbane bar have been charged with assault.

Police say the women were being evicted from a licensed premises on Edward Street at around 11pm on Thursday when a security guard was assaulted.

Police attended and when an officer attempted to arrest one of the women, he was allegedly bitten on the arm.

The 48-year-old officer received medical treatment at St Andrews Hospital and will be required to undergo disease testing.

It's also alleged the same woman scratched another male officer while the other woman scratched a 24-year-old male security guard.

Both men were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

A 21-year-old woman from the Northern Territory has been charged with one count each of serious assault police, assault police and common assault and is to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday.

A 22-year-old Stafford Heights woman was charged with one count of assault occasioning bodily harm and is to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on September 11.


Tinkler to front corruption watchdog (AAP)

Businessman Nathan Tinkler is scheduled to front a corruption inquiry for a grilling about his company's role in illegal campaign donations.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has heard allegations Mr Tinkler's company Buildev funnelled money into the campaign accounts of several NSW Liberal MPs before the 2011 election.

The ICAC has also heard Buildev put money into a campaign to dethrone Newcastle Labor MP Jodi McKay in 2011 because she opposed plans to build a coal-loading facility on the Newcastle foreshore.

Property developers have been banned from making political donations in NSW since 2009.

Tinkler, who appeared at the corruption watchdog in May, is scheduled to front the corruption watchdog on Friday.

Former Labor ministers Tony Kelly and Joe Tripodi, who have both been found corrupt in the past by the ICAC, are also listed to give evidence.


Shaun the sheep shorn, but fleece fails to break world*s woolliest record (ABC)

Shaun the sheep, shorn after six years on the run.ABC Shaun the sheep, shorn after six years on the run.

The sheep thought to be the world's woolliest has finally felt the shears, but the bid for a record fleece fell short.

After six years on the run, it was well and truly time for Shaun to be shorn.

The woolly wonder was discovered hiding in scrub on a farm in Tasmania's midlands at the weekend and finally faced the barber this morning.

There were fears it could be a fatal fleecing, so the shearer made sure it was not too close a shave.

Shaun took his first haircut surprisingly well and the shearer described him as a true gentleman after the 20-minute job.

The sheep's new owners, Peter and Netty Hazel, had a rug on standby to keep him warm after losing several jumpers' worth of wool.

The fleece-yield was weighed but the Tasmanian animal failed to take the title from the New Zealand record holder, Shrek, whose fleece weighed a whopping 27 kilograms.

Shaun's fleece weighed in at just under at 23.5kg.

Mrs Hazel said she was just pleased Shaun has been relieved of the load.

"He will go to our spoilt paddock and probably do a few guest appearances around the state," she said.

The fleece will also tour the state agricultural show circuit.


Man charged over alleged chicken torture (AAP)

A Sydney man is accused of cruelty against a pet chicken before setting his dog on the tortured animal.

Police allege the 20-year-old bought the live fowl from a produce pet store in Enfield, in Sydney's inner-west, in July.

Officers found video footage showing the man maiming the chicken.

He then allegedly incited his dog to attack and kill the bird.

The man was arrested at his Haberfield home on Thursday morning and charged with a string of offences, including animal cruelty and torture.

The RSPCA has taken the man's dog.

The man was granted bail to appear at Burwood Local Court on September 25.


Canberra homeowners await delayed government response to Mr Fluffy asbestos crisis (ABC)

The owners of Canberra homes contaminated with deadly Mr Fluffy Asbestos insulation face several more weeks of waiting to find out what government action will be taken in response to the unfolding crisis.

More than 1,000 houses in Canberra and New South Wales had loose-fill asbestos pumped into the roof spaces by the Mr Fluffy company in the 1960s and 1970s.

Breathing in asbestos fibres can cause the lung cancer mesothelioma.

The ACT Government's Asbestos Response Taskforce was due to give its final advisory report to the ACT Government but has been granted an extension.

Cabinet has considered recommendations from the taskforce, but Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said a final decision was at least another month away because the Government did not have all the information it needed.

"If we say we want to agree in principle to a demolition program or a remediation program for that matter, that will be informed by the cost of that program without a doubt," Ms Gallagher said.

"There's going to be hundreds of millions of dollars needed either way.

"I think it's fair that cabinet, and indeed the Commonwealth, consider what the financial requests are going to be around implementing the recommendations."

Expert advice has been leaning towards a mass demolition of all homes contaminated with the Mr Fluffy product.

Ms Gallagher said she was conscious people were waiting for the advice to be released.

"That's why I've been trying to keep the momentum going and have that advice provided to cabinet in August," she said.

"That was done but we've got some other questions that need to be answered before we can finalise our position."

Brianna Heseltine from the Mr Fluffy Owners and Residents' Action Group said many affected homeowners were poised to leave their homes and never return.

"With 40 families out of their homes, the answers can't come quickly enough, but we do know that there are budget issues here that need to be worked through," she said.

Inquiry into Mr Fluffy response likely

ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson has called for a board of inquiry, which carries the powers of a royal commission, to examine the entire response to the Mr Fluffy situation over more than four decades.

"A full and comprehensive inquiry that is a-political, that is independent, that can get to the bottom of what has gone so tragically wrong," he said.

"The ACT community, with an issue of this scale which is potentially the biggest bill that the ACT community has ever faced, with more people affected by this than potentially any other issue in the ACT's history, deserve a full and comprehensive inquiry."

Ms Gallagher said the priority was to form a plan for affected homeowners, but she agreed an inquiry was needed in some form.

"I genuinely do believe we need to have a look at it, review it, learn from everything that's happened," she said.


Case against man accused of murdering girlfriend *full of holes* (ABC)

The case against a Canberra man accused of stabbing his partner to death is full of holes, the ACT Supreme Court has heard.

Alexander Vojneski, 31, is accused of murdering his girlfriend, by stabbing her multiple times in a frenzied attack at her Macgregor home in 2012.

The crown has outlined a circumstantial case alleging Vojneski attacked Paula Conlon, 30, in a rage after he became frustrated because he was not able to obtain drugs on credit.

But during closing statements, Vojneski's lawyer Jack Pappas told the jury there were substantial pieces missing from the forensic evidence.

He said his client had been an easy target for police who investigated Ms Conlon's death.

"What an easy target he remains. He has a long history of mental illness," he said.

"He was the deceased woman's boyfriend and they were involved in a rocky relationship.

"What we have is a case full of holes, some of them big holes, some of them small holes.

"Some policeman's theory is not enough to convict someone of murder."

Mr Pappas questioned the crown's assertion that Vojneski had flown into a rage the night of Ms Conlon's death.

He recounted evidence from a boy who boarded in Ms Conlon's home, who told the court the couple had been in a happy mood early that evening.

Mr Pappas also raised concern that some items worn by Vojneski the day after the death, including a shirt and shoes, had not been tested forensically.

He accused the prosecution of "moulding" the evidence.

The prosecution has argued it was significant that Vojneski had stopped ringing Ms Conlon the day after her death, despite texting and calling her repeatedly in the period beforehand.

But Mr Pappas said Vojneski had run out of credit on his phone.

The trial continues.


Rabu, 27 Agustus 2014

Cairns double murder trial: Jury retires to consider verdict in *whodunnit* (ABC)

Jurors have begun deliberations in the trial of a Cairns' mechanic accused of murdering a Mount Isa couple over a car.

Brandon Peter MacGowan, 43, is accused of shooting Scott Maitland in the head and stabbing Cindy Masonwells after failing to fix a panel van they had paid him $14,000 to restore in 2012.

Summing up, Justice Jim Henry told the Supreme Court jury the case was essentially a "whodunnit" and the identity of the couple's killer was "hotly contested".

He urged the jury to be cautious in considering lies told by MacGowan in determining his guilt or innocence.

MacGowan told the court he last saw Mr Maitland and Ms Masonwells when they stole his customer's van and his lawyers said they might have been killed by an unknown third party.

The accused has admitted he lied to police but has denied murdering the couple.

The couple had arrived in Cairns to attend a friend's party and pick up the panel van they had paid the accused to restore.

Justice Henry said the jury could theoretically return manslaughter verdicts, but commented the manner in which the couple was killed and their bodies being dumped in remote bushland could point to the killer intending to murder or do grievous bodily harm to the pair.

He said this was not a formal direction but something the jury could consider.

The judge also said the prosecution's case was circumstantial as there were no eyewitnesses to the killings and MacGowan had denied involvement.

He said if the jury were to find MacGowan guilty, that verdict "should be the only rational inference".

He said they had to rule out competing theories pointing to MacGowan's innocence or acquit him.

Accused's defence scenario 'ridiculous'

In his closing address, prosecutor Todd Fuller said MacGowan's contention that he last saw the couple when they drove off in anger in his customer's vehicle was a fantasy.

Mr Fuller told the court that MacGowan had resorted to numerous lies to cover up the fact he had squandered the money paid to him and had not fixed the van.

With pressure mounting, MacGowan felt he had no other option but to kill the pair, Mr Fuller said.

"He put himself under pressure by his inactivity, by his squandering of their money, and the day of reckoning was coming and his only response to that was ... extreme violence," he said.

"He took advantage of his relationship with these two people when they were in a vulnerable position and he killed them."

Mr Fuller told the court the alleged killings were the acts of a "calculated man".

He said if MacGowan's story was true, he was a very unlucky man.

"They've then been killed by somebody who has turned up at Fearnley Street and put on a bandanna and called themselves "Brando", then dumped their bodies and put the van back in a carpark in the street over from where [MacGowan] works, and snuck back in and hung the keys up on the board in his office," he said.

"The word ridiculous doesn't even describe that scenario."

Mr Fuller said MacGowan's DNA and Ms Masonwells' blood were found on a hose reel.

He said in the aftermath of alleged killings, MacGowan tried to say the couple had driven off in their green panel van, but it had poor tyres and the Cardwell range was dangerous.

"That is an attempt at a sculpted tale and that's because he knows what he's done," Mr Fuller said.

Lies did not make accused a murderer, defence says

However, defence barrister Joshua Trevino argued the dispute over the $14,000 debt was not a credible motive and pointed to weaknesses in the crown's forensic and witness evidence.

"Doesn't such a motive seem like a pretty unbelievable reason to kill two people?" Mr Trevino said.

"It would be an understatement to say that would an extreme way to deal with a civil debt, a civil dispute."

Mr Trevino said while MacGowan had told many lies, it did not make him a murderer.

"He's a big-note, he's a blowhard, but that doesn't make him a murderer," he said.

The jury is likely to retire to consider its verdict later today after Justice Henry finishes summing up the case.


Australia says MH370 may have turned south *earlier* than thought (AFP)

Canberra (AFP) - Australia said Thursday the hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 will focus on the southern part of the existing search zone after new information suggested it "may have turned south" earlier than thought.

The new detail came after "further refinement" of satellite data and as investigators attempted to map the position of the jet during a failed attempt to contact it earlier in its flight path, Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss said.

"The search area remains the same, but some of the information that we now have suggests to us that areas a little further to the south -- within the search area, but a little further to the south -- are of particular interest and priority in the search area," he said.

His comments came as Australia and Malaysia signed a memorandum of understanding in Canberra over the next phase of the hunt for the plane, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board.

It is believed to have crashed into the southern Indian Ocean far off the west coast of Australia, but a massive air and sea search failed to find any wreckage while an underwater probe gave no answers.

Experts have now used technical data to finalise the most likely resting place of the plane deep on the ocean seabed and are preparing for a more intense underwater search, beginning next month.

It will focus on an area of ocean measuring 60,000 square kilometres (23,000 square miles).

Truss said investigators still believed the aircraft was resting somewhere on the search zone's seventh arc, where it emitted a final satellite "handshake".

"It remains on the seventh arc -- that is, there is a very, very strong view that this aircraft will be resting on the seventh arc," he said.


Cadbury funding: No business case made for federal grant, says Labor*s Anthony Albanese (ABC)

Labor says FOI emails show no business case has been made by the company, despite Government assurances.ABC Labor says FOI emails show no business case has been made by the company, despite Government assurances.

A year after Cadbury was promised $16 million, Labor says no business case has been made for the federal grant.

The Opposition has obtained emails under Freedom of Information (FOI) laws that it says shows no proposal has been put forward by the company.

The funding was promised to the confectionary company by the Coalition in the lead up to last year's federal election.

At one stage the grant was believed to be for the company to develop its tourism operations.

Labor's Anthony Albanese said the Assistant Minister for Trade told Parliament in April this year that a strong case had been made.

"At the same time the department was saying 'well, we'd better sort this out before the ABC asks the ministerial office, what information?' Because at that time, as it is still, Cadbury was yet to provide a business case for this proposal," he said.

Mr Albanese said the money was originally pledged to boost tourism, but there was confusion over what the money would actually be used for.

"It appears to be a different thing for different ministers at different times," he said.

"What's consistent is that they all say this grant should be approved in spite of the fact that one year on, there is still no business case," he said.

Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz has told 936 ABC Hobart Cadbury advised the Federal Government the tourism element of their proposed expansion would not be viable without public funding.

"We accepted that at face value and we are now going through with Cadbury to determine if that's the case," he said.

"And if the case doesn't stack up then we'll have to reconsider because we will, at the end of the day, protect taxpayers' dollars."


NSW downpour set to ease (AAP)

Heavy rain has led to flood emergency rescues in northeastern NSW but the wet weather is easing.AAP Heavy rain has led to flood emergency rescues in northeastern NSW but the wet weather is easing.

Emergency services have made five flood rescues in northeastern NSW, but improved weather conditions have been forecast for the area.

One person in Teven, near Ballina, was rescued on Wednesday by State Emergency Services after getting stranded in the floodwaters.

Four cars with people inside were also rescued in the flooded rural Ballina and Lismore regions, where 182mm and 163mm of rain fell respectively.

Almost 100 calls were fielded overnight for flash flooding, sandbagging and leaking roofs.

"All persons are safe and well," NSW SES said on Thursday morning.

"With better weather today call volumes should be reduced."

Heavy conditions will continue to affect the far north of the state on Thursday but the Bureau of Meteorology says the severe weather will ease off later in the day.

Severe weather warnings have been issued for the northern rivers and tablelands regions, where heavy rains and damaging wins are expected.

Gale warnings have also been issued for the Byron Bay and Coffs Harbour coastlines, with seas expected to rise.


Music star Redfoo glassed at Sydney pub (AAP)

X-Factor judge Redfoo has been injured in a glassing incident at a pub in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

Redfoo, 39, suffered a cut above his right eye when a glass was thrown at his head at the Golden Sheaf Hotel in Double Bay in the early hours on Thursday, police say.

The US singer was treated at the scene by paramedics, police say.

A 21-year-old man, who allegedly attempted to flee the scene, was stopped by security guards and arrested.

He was taken to Waverley Police station where he's been charged with malicious wounding.

He's been granted conditional bail and will appear at Waverley Local Court on September 24.

Redfoo confirmed the glassing via social media by responding to a witness to the attack, who had contacted the star on Twitter.

"Just saw @RedFoo get a bottle thrown at his head at the Golden Sheaf bleeding! Jesus Christ! What is wrong with people .. Hope your'e okay mate," Josh Allerton tweeted.

Redfoo replied: "Jealously is a hell of a drug!".


Open cut mines could be refuges for Devils (AAP)

A wildlife biologist says open cut mines in Tasmania's Tarkine region could prove to be safe havens for endangered Tasmanian devils.

Nick Mooney says the drama over mining and its impact on the environment, especially species such as the devil, is overblown, Hobart's Mercury newspaper reports.

Mr Mooney and Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council chief Jeremy Kouw believe open cut mining operations, which are free of dogs, have low speed limits and population monitoring, could help the endangered species.

Savage River mine, which will be in operation for at least the next 20 years, has a small population of around one devil every two square kilometres.

"In these sort of areas there are just a few devils covering a lot of ground and the bush on the leases surrounding the mine workings can provide a refuge," Mr Mooney said.

"Yes, they have dug a great big hole in the middle of devil habitat but there is a lot of habitat to share."

For their part the mining industry is required to record all sightings of devils and other native species on their sites and report any injuries to animals.

"As an industry we are keen to understand the science and minimise the impact on the environment we are operating in and demonstrate that in a practical way," Mr Kouw said.


Pyne to introduce university bill to parly (AAP)

The Abbott government is expected to introduce its higher education reforms to parliament on Thursday.

The legislation will spell out its budget plans to deregulate university fees, expand commonwealth funding for private providers and sub-bachelor courses, cut per-student funding and increase the interest rate for HELP debts.

The bill is guaranteed to pass the lower house unchanged.

But Education Minister Christopher Pyne has conceded the package won't get through the Senate in its original form.

He's set to step up negotiations with the Palmer United Party and the Australian Greens to persuade them to back the reforms.

Both want university education to be free.

Labor has called on the government to "see sense" and scrap the package.


SES rescues people trapped by floodwaters on NSW north coast amid flashing flooding concerns (ABC)

Richmond Tweed SES team work in Lismore with a crane to remove a fallen tree.ABC Richmond Tweed SES team work in Lismore with a crane to remove a fallen tree.

People trapped in two vehicles surrounded by floodwaters have been rescued by the State Emergency Service (SES) on the New South Wales north coast.

Heavy rain battered the region on Wednesday.

SES spokesman Phil Campbell said a woman was rescued from floodwaters at Ballina and another group were trapped in a car at Maram Creek near Ballina.

He said there were concerns flash flooding could impact residents.

"In particular the towns of Ballina, Lismore and also Coffs Harbour, where localised flash flooding has been recorded," Mr Campbell said.

"We're also concerned about some main river flooding that may occur along the Bellingen River later on this evening which could isolate quite a number of properties in the upper Bellingen Valley."

On Wednesday evening the service had received more than 350 calls for help from Ballina and Lismore.

Most calls for help were for leaking roofs, minor property damage caused by fallen trees and sandbagging.

On Tuesday, heavy rain and widespread flooding created chaos for emergency services, with at least five rescues being carried out on the south coast.


ICAC: Bart Bassett stands aside from Liberal Party amid NSW political donations inquiry (ABC)

A ninth New South Wales Government MP has gone to the cross benches as a result of revelations at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Member for Londonderry Bart Bassett is the latest MP to stand aside from the parliamentary Liberal Party as ICAC probes alleged illegal political donations by NSW developers.

The move came after ICAC commissioner Megan Latham announced that new evidence had emerged to widen the inquiry's scope to examine whether Nathan Tinkler's firm Buildev tried to influence Mr Bassett.

Mr Bassett rejected the allegation but said he did not want the issue to "become a distraction" for the party or the Government.

Counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson SC told the hearing that there was direct evidence that $18,000 from Buildev was paid through a different company owned by Mr Tinkler and then through the Free Enterprise Foundation to Mr Bassett's 2011 election campaign.

The money was used on advertising.

The inquiry heard that around that time Buildev was involved in a controversial housing development at North Richmond and Mr Bassett was the Mayor of Hawkesbury Council.

In May 2011, Mr Bassett voted for a council residential land strategy that would have benefited Buildev's project.

The project has since attracted significant community opposition, with 4,000 people signing a petition calling for road improvements before the development goes ahead.

Buildev co-founder Darren Williams was asked whether Mr Bassett was ever in a position where he could assist Buildev.

Mr Williams told the inquiry: "You could assume that."

Mr Watson replied: "It's a hard cold fact that he could vote on council in favour of a Buildev proposal, correct?"

"Yes," Mr Williams replied.

Mr Williams then told the inquiry that part of Mr Bassett's funding had come from Buildev.

In a statement, Mr Bassett said: "This morning the ICAC extended its inquiry to look into whether Buildev sought to influence me in my former role as Hawkesbury Mayor."

"I reject this allegation and I look forward to my opportunity to clear my name," he said.

"In the meantime, I have decided to stand aside from the Parliamentary Liberal Party.

"I have informed the Premier of my decision and he has accepted it.

"I am not prepared to allow this to become a distraction for the Liberal Party or the Government."


Police admit *system failed* during investigation into domestic violence death of Melbourne woman Kelly Thompson (ABC)

Senior police have ordered an urgent review of the investigation into a Melbourne murder-suicide after discovering local detectives conducted the probe despite officers from the same station failing to respond to a call for help on the night of the killing.

The parents of Kelly Thompson, who was stabbed to death by her ex-partner in February, are demanding answers as to why the conflict of interest was not detected earlier.

And while Kelly had taken out an intervention order against Wayne Wood - who had a history of violence against her - the Thompsons want to know why he was not jailed, despite breaching the order.

"When we spoke to her on the Friday night [her father] John had said to her 'Make sure all the doors are locked,' and she said 'Yeah, everything is locked, the windows are locked, the doors are locked, I'm fine, everything's fine,'" Kelly's mother Wendy told 7.30.

Barely a day later, Kelly was dead by the hand of Wood, who then suicided in the Point Cook home, leaving Kelly's traumatised dog Roxy with the two bodies.

"They have failed, miserably failed - they have failed two people that are now dead and families that are shattered and it should never have happened and it quite simply was so preventable," Wendy said. "So what do you do?"

Kelly and Wood, a truck driver, began going out in 2009. At first, Wood was likeable enough. Kelly's dad John described Wayne as "pretty harmless ... a quiet sort of fella".

During 2013, however, he began to change. He became moodier and more controlling of Kelly. In a statement Kelly made to police later, she said he became possessive and restricted her from doing "everyday things".

Things came to a head on a trip the couple took to China in December. John and Wendy would talk to Kelly via Skype, and noticed there was something amiss.

"It wasn't until she came home that she started opening up about what had happened over there, how he had locked her in hotel rooms and tried to choke her a few times," Wendy said.

"The other partners they were in business with were in China with them. They'd said to Wood that he had to get some psychological help when he came back to Australia or he would no longer be part of the business. But as we know now, things just escalated from there."

Kelly phoned police 34 times in weeks before death

When the couple returned to Australia, Kelly knew she had to act to protect herself. After Wood tried to run her over with his car, Kelly was granted an interim intervention order.

Under the order, Wood could not come within five metres of Kelly or communicate with her. Over the next few days, Kelly rang police in the nearby suburb of Tarneit numerous times.

On January 19, Kelly gave a statement to police at the Wyndham North police station at Tarneit saying Wood had breached the order by approaching her while she was having dinner and drinks at the Sanctuary Lakes Hotel. She said he had also tried to question her friends about her activities.

On January 23, during a hearing at Werribee Magistrates Court, Kelly was granted a full intervention order. She told her family that despite this, she was still frightened of Wood, and that he was continuing to stalk her.

On January 24, Kelly phoned the police station at Werribee nine times. Phone records show in the weeks leading up to her death, Kelly phoned Wyndham police 34 times.

The content of some of these calls is known, but the purpose of others is unclear. Victoria Police will not comment on what Kelly was telling the police officers she spoke to, because the case is now before the coroner.

'Call us back if you hear screaming or broken glass'

However, John and Wendy believe Kelly was reporting breaches of the intervention order and that the response by police was inadequate.

"The magistrate had said to him if you breach this order you go to jail, [but] there were never any consequences for Wayne," Wendy said.

"Every time he breached that intervention order, the police reinforced what he was doing by not acting - they just let him keep going and there were never any consequences for him.

"It was as if they were saying: 'It's okay, the intervention order is there, you take notice of it or you don't, we're not going to do anything.' So he just kept going."

On February 7, police escorted Wood to Kelly's house, where he collected his belongings. Just before midnight the next day, Kelly's next door neighbour texted her to say she had seen Wood driving past the house a few times and asked if she was okay.

Kelly did not respond to the text, so the neighbour's husband phoned police to tell them of his concerns about Wood. While he was on the phone, his wife looked out the window into Kelly's house and saw Wood in Kelly's bathroom.

The neighbour's husband immediately told the police this and mentioned that he knew there was an intervention order in place. According to the Thompsons' lawyer, Paula Shelton, Wyndham police did not respond as he hoped.

"In the hours before Kelly was killed, we understand that Wayne was sighted in the area on a number of occasions, and we do know that shortly before midnight there was a call made to police by one of Kelly's neighbours, concerned about his proximity, and that he had in fact been sighted in her bathroom," Ms Shelton told 7.30.

"The caller was told: 'Don't worry about it, call us back if you hear screaming or broken glass.'"

It was only three days later, after Wood's brother had phoned police twice, urging them to conduct a welfare check on Wood and Kelly, that police went to the house and found the bodies.

'The system has failed', assistant police commissioner says

In the weeks and months after Kelly's death, the Thompsons became concerned, then angered, by Victoria Police's handling of Kelly's case.

The thing that worried them most was the fact the deaths were being investigated by local detectives, despite the possibility that other local police failed Kelly in the lead-up to her death.

"It smacks of conflict of interest from the bottom right through. And even with the detectives that investigated the murder, [they] have from the word go had this attitude that it was a simple murder-suicide," Wendy said.

When 7.30 asked Victoria Police some weeks ago about the perceived conflict of interest, it was told the detectives preparing the crucial brief of evidence for the coroner were being "oversighted" by the homicide squad and professional standards command, and that this was entirely appropriate.

However, this week, Victoria Police command admitted the investigation should never have been handed to the local detectives.

When assistant commissioner Tim Cartwright was asked why it took so long for this to be acknowledged, he admitted senior police were unaware the investigation had stayed with Wyndham police.

"I would say we actually believed that the investigation was being undertaken from outside the division. It's only when the family's raised it that we've understood that the system's broken down there somewhere and that the investigation was remaining in that local division," Assistant Commissioner Cartwright said.

"It concerns me, it concerns the chief commissioner, it concerns the people down the line. The system's failed in ensuring that what we thought would occur has occurred. We'll be looking at that making sure it doesn't occur again."

Assistant Commissioner Cartwright said he was also seeking answers as to why professional standards command officers, who were apparently monitoring the preparation of the brief, did not point out the conflict of interest.

However, Assistant Commissioner Cartwright disputed that the brief was not suitable to be handed to the coroner, despite the fact it was prepared by local detectives. He said experienced homicide investigators are now examining it as a further safeguard.

Chief Commissioner Ken Lay - who has made the fight against domestic violence a cornerstone of his term in the top job - has also agreed to meet with the Thompsons to hear their concerns about the handling of Kelly's case.

However, the Thompsons are still angry and doubtful about whether the investigation as it stands will reveal the real circumstances around their daughter's death. They are calling for a full, public inquest to be held as soon as possible.

"In the last six months we've had a beautiful daughter that had so much to live for, was embarking on a whole new way of life in a business that she was setting up with people, who has now died," Wendy said.

"We've had to bury her, we've had her birthday and mother's day and I'm never going to hear her ring me and say 'Hey Mum, how do I cook this?' or 'What do I do with this, Mum?'

"How many times do I walk around the house and think 'I'll just ring Kelly' or I'll be looking at the enormous amount of paperwork I've been doing to close up her estate and I'll look at it and think 'Why did you do it like that? I'll just ring her and ask her'.

"But she's not there anymore. And she should be, she should be."

_Watch this story on 7.30 tonight on ABC TV._*