Jakarta Globe [15/5/15]:
Nearly 800 “boat people” were brought ashore in Indonesia on Friday but other vessels crammed with migrants were sent back to sea despite a UN call to quickly rescue thousands set adrift in Southeast Asian waters.
Smugglers have abandoned ships full of migrants, many of them hungry and sick, in the Andaman Sea following a Thai crackdown on human trafficking. Thailand is the first stop on the most common trafficking route used by criminals preying on Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis seeking to escape poverty.
“The latest information we have is about 794 people were found in the middle of the sea and brought ashore by fishermen at 5 a.m. on Friday morning,” Khairul Nova, a search and rescue official in Langsa, a town in Aceh, told Reuters by phone.
“They are now in a warehouse by the port as a temporary arrangement,” Nova added.
Nearly 1,400 migrants have landed in Aceh on Indonesia’s western tip, and over 1,000 have landed in Malaysia. Aceh is just across the Malacca Strait from Thailand and Malaysia.
But migrants on two other boats were turned away.
Indonesia’s navy prevented a boat with hundreds of migrants on board from entering its waters, an Indonesian military spokesman said.
A vessel carrying around 400 migrants that the Thai navy towed out to sea was heading toward Indonesia, a Thai government radio station reported.
Malaysia, too, has said it would push boats full of migrants back to sea as Malaysian people did not want to see large numbers arriving in the country.
Inter-governmental agencies called on the region’s governments to rescue the migrants first and worry about long-term solutions later.
“The situation is very grave,” said Joe Lowry, regional spokesman for the International Organization for Migration in Bangkok.
“They have no food, no water and are drinking their own urine. This is a game of maritime ping pong with human life. We expect governments in the region to find a solution rapidly … or we will be finding boatloads of desiccated corpses floating around in the Andaman Sea in coming days.”
A human tragedy unfolds in the Straits of Malacca.
Australia's protected and unaccountable Immigration Minister is suddenly interested in the environment.
Joint media release - The Hon Peter Dutton MP, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture [15/5/15]:
The Australian Government has welcomed news that the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessel Perlon has been detained by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).
This latest detention brings the total number of IUU fishing vessels detained in Asian ports to three, following the recent detentions of the Viking and the Kunlun.
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said the detention of the Perlon on May 9 occurred following enforcement action by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service (ACBPS) who boarded the vessel last month to determine its flag state.
The Perlon was caught in the south-east of the Malaysian peninsula offloading approximately 300 tonnes of toothfish (claimed to be groper) to a barge for transport to shore. All vessels involved in the offload, including the tug, the barge, and several containers were detained.
Tell the Prime Minister that Australia needs to rescue the 8000 Rohingyan refugees adrift at sea [Petition - Senator Sarah Hanson-Young]:
A humanitarian emergency is unfolding in our region.
The United Nations has called for an immediate international search and rescue mission to save the lives of these people.
Australia must step up and take a leading role. As a regional leader you have an international responsibility to provide immediate assistance.
Turning a blind eye is not acceptable. We are a nation with a big heart. We must do the right thing.
We will stand up for people who need Australia’s help.
Najib's silence on Rohingya tragedy damning [Malaysiakini -15/5/15]
Brisbane youth worker criticises police after terrorism charge struck out
A Brisbane mosque youth worker has described his shock over being arrested by counter-terrorism police and says he wishes they had weighed evidence more carefully before laying a charge that was struck out in court.
Robert Maestracci was charged in 2014 with dealing with money under the foreign incursions act but commonwealth prosecutors entered no evidence in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Thursday.
Maestracci said he was relieved to be vindicated but that the gravity of allegations by Queensland and Australian federal police and the resulting media attention had been “very taxing”.
“I’m happy with the result but at the end of the day I wished that they’d examined the case a bit more thoroughly at the start rather than at the end,” he told Guardian Australia.
“Because the way I was sort of thrown under the bus, with the allegations made against me and the word ‘terror’ used in connection with my name, was very uncomfortable.
“[But] I always knew the charge against me had no strength to stand in the court of law. I had trust in our judicial system and I am sure the AFP recognised the weakness of the case against me hence the withdrawal of the charge.”
Maestracci was arrested in a series of high-profile raids in September last year in connection with a reported 12-month counter-terrorism investigation by the AFP.
That operation also led to the arrest of Omar Succarieh, 32, and Agim Kruezi, 22, who remain in custody on charges of preparing for “incursions into foreign states”.
Succarieh, who is further accused of funding terrorist organisation Jabhat al-Nusra, and Kruezi, are due to have their cases heard again in the magistrates court next week.
Maestracci, who is currently the manager of the youth services department at the Slacks Creek mosque in Brisbane’s south, said he held “no harsh feelings to anyone but I was disappointed in the way media reported my case”.
“I believed it has tarnished my reputation for a crime I did not commit,” he said.
“I would urge them to be very cautious before they sensationalise an issue like this as it has a huge impact on the lives of innocent people like myself.”
While media widely reported he had been accused of holding money intended to fund terrorist activity in Syria, Maestracci said there had been no reference to Syria in the evidence against him.
He had been formally charged with “dealing with proceeds with recklessness to the risk the funds may be become an instrument of crime under the foreign incursions act”.
Maestracci said he was likewise unaware of the source of reports that he had been charged in relation to a bank account allegedly holding the funds, as there had been no mention of a bank account in the brief.
Queensland council of mosques spokesman Ali Kadri said Brisbane’s Muslim community had also been shocked by the allegations against Maestracci, who was “an outstanding member of the community who’s got a lot of passion for the community and the youth work”.
“But we were always confident in the legal system of our country to serve justice,” Kadri said.
Maestracci said his lawyer had declaimed the lack of evidence against him as soon as a brief had become available.
“From what I was told, as soon as the prosecution got the brief, they agreed.”
Maestracci, who converted to Islam three years ago, said he was “thankful to Allah, Islam, my family and the Muslim community for supporting me through this difficult time”.
“I didn’t commit a crime, I never committed a crime. I had confidence that this would be the outcome but at the same time, the stress and the media circus and everything else involved got very taxing,” he said.
“I’m happy to have it behind me.”
US Man Charged with Lying to FBI about IS Allegiance [Naharnet - 14/5/15]:
A U.S. man born in Iraq was arrested Thursday for allegedly lying to the FBI about supporting the Islamic State jihadists after a pledge of allegiance to the group's leader was found on his computer, the Justice Department said.
Bilal Abood, 37, of Mesquite, Texas, is believed to have traveled from the United States to Syria through Mexico and Turkey in 2013, the Justice Department said.
Upon his return four months later, he allegedly told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he intended to fight alongside the Free Syrian Army to overthrow President Bashar Assad. He also said he stayed in a camp with the rebels.
"He denied ever providing financial support to Al-Nusra Front (ANF), the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or any other terrorist organization," according to the Justice Department.
The FBI reviewed Abood's computer in July 2014, and the Justice Department said investigators discovered an "oath" to the leader of the IS group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Authorities said they found that "Abood had been on the Internet viewing ISIL atrocities such as beheadings, and had used his Twitter account to tweet and retweet information on al-Baghdadi," the statement said.
When FBI agents returned his computer this year, Abood said he knew it was a crime to lie to the FBI and denied pledging allegiance to the IS leader.
A criminal complaint charged him with "making a false statement to the FBI," the Justice Department said Thursday.
IS controls swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and is targeted by a U.S.-led air war trying to eliminate the group.
The organization's radical ideology has inspired thousands of people to support the group around the world, including some in the U.S.
A month before departing for Syria in April 2013, Abood had been denied permission to leave the United States at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. At that time, he told authorities he intended to travel to Iraq to visit his family before saying he wanted to fight for the rebels.
He could face a maximum sentence of eight years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
Abood, a naturalized U.S. citizen, migrated to the United States in 2009.He appeared in a federal court in Texas Thursday.
Woman dies, man in custody after double shooting on suburban road in Hobart
A 37-year-old woman has died after a daylight shooting on a main Hobart road on Thursday afternoon.
Police said a 73-year-old man, the woman's estranged partner, allegedly confronted her in her car and fired several shots from a shortened rifle, hitting her in the face.
She was taken to hospital but later died.
A 53-year old woman who was also shot in the car sustained arm and hand injuries and remained in a serious but stable condition at Royal Hobart Hospital.
Police said a passing motorist restrained the man until they arrived at the scene at New Town, in Hobart's north.
The Huon Valley man will appear in court on Friday charged with murder.
Police were called to the area to respond to reports of shots being fired on Risdon Road near the Brooker Highway about 3:15pm (AEST).
Inspector Grant Twining said officers were on the scene within minutes.
"There's been a number of witnesses that have observed what has happened and they've been very forthcoming to the attending police," he said.
"There's nothing to indicate that there's anyone else involved, apart from the parties that were here."
There were children playing at a nearby soccer field at the time of the incident.
Risdon Road was closed to traffic between Albert Road and the highway.
The area was treated as a crime scene and police have appealed for more witnesses.
Appeal verdict reserved for Queensland man who dissolved wife's body in wheelie bin acid bath
The Queensland Court of Appeal has reserved its decision regarding a Cairns man convicted of murdering his wife and dissolving her body in acid.
Klaus Julius Andres, 72, received a life sentence for the murder of Li Ping Cao, 42, in 2011.
A jury rejected Andres' admission he accidentally killed his wife and that he was acting in self-defence.
At the start of his trial, he pleaded guilty to one count of misconduct with a corpse - Andres dumped his wife's body into a wheelie bin and poured 20 litres of hydrochloric acid over her.
Defence lawyer Simon Lewis told the Court of Appeal there was no proof his client was responsible for his wife's death and argued the guilty verdict was therefore unreasonable.
But prosecutor Michael Byrne QC told the hearing while there were no eye witnesses and the case was circumstantial, the murder was premeditated and Andres' motives were both personal and financial.
He said Andres claimed to be "in fear for his life" as Ms Cao attacked him with a fork at their Brinsmead home and injured his hand in 2011 after she learned he was having an affair with a Thai woman.
Andres told a jury he pushed his wife who fell to the floor.
He said Ms Cao had no pulse and was not breathing but he did not ring for an ambulance because he believed she was dead and feared he would be blamed.
Mr Byrne read emails exchanged between Andres and his mistress both before and after Ms Cao died.
He said Andres referred to his wife as "a problem" and promised his lover he wanted a future with her.
Andres wrote "I think she [Ms Cao] has an idea there's another lady involved ... so I have to be careful."
Mr Byrne said Andres became more desperate for the woman to move to Australia in the lead up to his wife's murder.
"I will make sure the other woman is out of my house and is ready for you," Andres wrote.
The crown prosecutor told the hearing Andres emailed his mistress 24 hours after his wife's death, telling her: "I do have good news for you. The other person has left the house".
"The emails paint a damning picture," Mr Byrne said.
He told the court the crown case was strong "and the jury were quite entitled to reject his account".
The judges reserved their decision.
Man shot dead near Cooma
Sydney Morning Herald [15/5/15]:
A man was shot dead during an argument in a house in Nimmitabel, south of Cooma on Friday.
Four people were inside the house when a 32-year-old man and a second man began arguing about 3.15am, NSW police said.
The 32-year-old was shot and wounded and despite the efforts of those at the scene and emergency services, he could not be revived.
A 28 year-old man sustained minor injuries, while a third man, whose age was not released by police, was not injured.
Following inquiries, police later found the body of a 58-year-old man in a car in Nimmitabel.
Early investigations suggest the 58-year-old's death is not suspicious.
Police said they are not looking for any other people in relation to the shooting death.
Catholic bishop faces child sex charges
West Australian [15/5/15]:
A Catholic bishop will stand trial in August charged with historic child sex offences.
Max Leroy Davis has been charged with four counts of committing indecent practices between males in public and four counts of unlawfully and indecently dealing with a child under 14.
In Perth Magistrate's Court this morning, defence lawyer Seamus Rafferty entered pleas of not guilty to all of the charges.
It is understood the charges relate to two complainants.
Bishop Davis, 68, allegedly abused the boys in 1969 when he was teaching at St Benedict’s College in New Norcia.
He is believed to be the first Australian bishop and the most senior Australian church official to be charged with child sex offences.
Bishop Davis was not required to appear in court today.
He will appear in the District Court on August 7.
Child sex abuse victims launch action against former Ballarat Bishop
Victims of paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale have begun "unprecedented" legal action against former Bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns, saying he could have protected them from child sex abuse.
Ten of Ridsdale's victims began proceedings in the Victorian Supreme Court this week, saying Bishop Mulkearns was aware of complaints about the predatory priest but failed to act.
High-profile lawyer Viv Waller said the action was the first to bypass the Ellis Defence- a loophole where the church cannot be sued.
"Because the church technically isn't a legal entity, it cannot be sued for the actions of priests and bishops," Dr Waller said.
"Unless individuals responsible for the act are still alive, there is no one who you can commence proceedings against.
"Because Mulkearns is still alive, but his age is advancing and he is apparently too unwell to appear at the Royal Commission, we have launched this action now so it will be heard."
Dr Waller said seven of the victims involved in the action had won convictions against Ridsdale at his most recent trail.
The diocese's current Bishop Paul Bird told the 2013 Victorian Parliamentary inquiry into church abuse it was a "tragic mistake" to keep Ridsdale in the priesthood after 1975, when allegations were first brought to Bishop Mulkearns' attention.
Instead, Ridsdale was sent for counselling and moved around the diocese, including a stint at Mortlake in the 1980s where many children were abused.
Bishop Mulkearns declined to front the 2013 parliamentary inquiry and is unlikely to appear at Royal Commission public hearings in Ballarat next week.
In 1996 he told the ABC's Four Corners program he had acted within his conscious. He felt Ridsdale was "tragically flawed" and was now paying the price in jail.
"For many of my clients, their abuse wouldn't have occurred if Ridsdale had been taken out of circulation in 1975," Dr Waller said.
"I'm hopeful the Royal Commission hearings will shed some more light on what the church knew and when."
Dr Waller said she was hopeful the matters could be resolved in settlement meetings rather than taking proceedings to court.
"Lawyers for the diocese have indicated they are willing to engage in meetings, so I am hopeful."
The Bishop's office has been contacted for comment.
Judge's son to avoid jail after conviction for child abuse material
A former teacher from one of Australia's most distinguished families of judges is likely to avoid jail despite being convicted of possessing child abuse material.
Robert Emmett, son of NSW Court of Appeal judge Arthur Emmett and Federal Circuit Court judge Sylvia Emmett, was arrested in 2013 for possessing almost 10,000 child abuse images - including some involving bestiality, pain and humiliation.
Emmett's grandfather is Sir Laurence Street, former Chief Justice of the NSW Supreme Court.
In the NSW District court, a judge said Emmett, a former maths teacher at St Andrews Cathedral School, was remorseful and a sentence of no more than two years was appropriate.
He will be assessed for an intensive corrections order and is likely to avoid going to jail.
Turnbull staffer granted bail in ACT
West Australian [15/5/15]:
A senior staffer for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been granted bail after being charged with public indecency.
Policy adviser Stephen John Ellis, 48, was charged on Thursday with behaving offensively in public, an act of indecency, and also faced two drug charges.
He was held in police custody at the Canberra watch house overnight.
Ellis appeared dishevelled, wearing a blue pin-striped suit during a brief hearing at the ACT Magistrates Court on Friday.
The court heard he was allegedly in possession of LSD and amphetamines and that the alleged act of indecency happened at Canberra Airport in the presence of a man named as Andrew Donaldson.
No other information was given about the charges.
Magistrate Bernadette Boss granted Ellis bail and adjourned the matter to June 5.
Bail was conditional on him agreeing to not consume any illicit substances and residing at his home in Darlinghurst, Sydney.
Ellis left the court without speaking to the media.
When asked about the charges, his lawyer James Lawton said: "No comment."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was a personal and private matter.
"I just make the general point that when people have personal issues, they should be given all the support and all the encouragement that they possibly can to work through those issues," he told reporters in Sydney.
Comment has been sought from Mr Turnbull's office.
Suspicious fires, Townsville
QPS Media [15/5/15]:
Police have charged a man following investigations into multiple fires in the Townsville CBD early this morning.
Between 3:40am and 5:20am this morning police responded to reports of multiple fires in the Townsville CBD, including; a vehicle fire on Hanran Street, a fire at a building on Ogden Street, a fire at a tyre business on Hanran Street, an industrial bin fire on Woolworths, Sturt and Stokes Street, an industrial bin fire on Wills Street and reports of arson offences on Flinders Street.
A 19-year-old Townsville man has been charged with arson of structure or building, arson of motor vehicle, burglary and commit indictable offence, endangering particular property by fire, possession of a knife, obstruct police and five counts of wilful damage.
He is expected to appear in the Townsville Magistrates Court tomorrow (May 16).
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should
contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au
24hrs a day.
Man lights fire, thrown out the window, tasered by police [Sunshine Coast Daily – 15/5/15]
Drug charges, Bethania
QPS Media [15/5/15]:
Police have charged a man with drug charges following a search warrant that was executed overnight.
Around 6pm, detectives have entered a residence on Jan Court in Bethania where it will be alleged that equipment suspected of being used to produce drugs and a quantity of drugs were located.
A 39-year-old Bethania man has been charged with one count each of supplying a dangerous drug, producing a dangerous drug and possession of utensils, three counts of possessing relevant substances of things and two counts of possession of dangerous drugs.
He is due to appear in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court on June 18.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Drugs and cash seized in raids, South Brisbane
QPS Media [15/5/15]:
Detectives from the Upper Mt Gravatt Criminal Investigation Branch have seized a significant amount of drugs, $500,000 in cash and three motor vehicles in raids conducted across Brisbane and Logan.
Search warrants were executed at several properties in South Brisbane and Logan police districts last night and early this morning.
Officers seized a combined total of around 100 kilograms of cannabis, amphetamine, drug paraphernalia, approximately $500,000 in cash, two cars and a four-wheel-drive during the raids.
A 35-year-old man has been charged with 260 counts of supplying a dangerous drug and one count each of trafficking in dangerous drugs, possessing dangerous drugs, and possessing property in the commission of a crime.
A 45-year-old woman has been charged with 101 counts of supplying a dangerous drug and one count of trafficking in dangerous drugs.
They are due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today.
Investigations into the seizures are ongoing and further arrests are expected to occur.
Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should
contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au
24hrs a day.
Armed robbery, Kingston
QPS Media [15/5/15]:
Logan detectives investigating the armed robbery of a Kingston bottle shop yesterday afternoon are appealing for the man to hand himself in as they believe he may be in need of medical assistance.
Tony Bristow, the detective senior sergeant in charge of Logan CIB said the man had apologised when he robbed the store telling the female attendant that he was ‘sick’.
“This man has committed an armed robbery which has obvious legal consequences but from the information we have received and the footage we have reviewed it appears that he may be ill and may be in need of medical assistance,” Detective Senior Sergeant Bristow said.
Around 5.45pm yesterday a man aged in his 40s and wearing a grey and red shirt, beanie and carrying a yellow backpack, entered the Juers Street business and threatened a female staff member with an object.
After obtaining cash the man ordered two staff members to the rear of the store before he ran off.
The two employees, 46-year-old woman and an 18-year-old man, were not physically harmed.
The man is described as being Caucasian and of a heavy build.
Charges: sexual assault investigation, Greenslopes
QPS Media [15/5/15]
Detectives from the Dutton Park Criminal Investigation Branch have charged a teenager with 11 offences including sexual assault, rape, deprivation of liberty and armed robbery following investigations into the alleged assault and robbery of a woman at Greenslopes on Wednesday night, May 13.
Police will allege a 39-year-old Melbourne woman answered the front door of an Upper Cornwall Street residence around 11.40pm. A man forced his way inside claiming to be a police officer and threatened the woman with a knife before sexually assaulting her and then stealing cash and personal items.
A 19-year-old Kingston man was arrested by detectives yesterday and is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court today where he also face charges including assuming the designation of a police officer and possession of a dangerous drug and a drug utensil.
Detectives also charged an 18-year-old Kingston woman with enter dwelling and commit an indictable offence and robbery with violence in relation to this incident. He is due to appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on June 3.
Operation North Gulf: Further anti rights charges, Gold Coast [QPS Media – 15/5/15]
Former Bandido member charged, Sunshine Coast [QPS Media – 15/5/15]
Woman struck by car, Broadbeach
A woman has reportedly been struck by a car on the Gold Coast this morning.
The woman was hit by a vehicle on Albert Avenue in Broadbeach.
The 65-year-old woman is currently being treated by paramedics for minor injuries.
Emergency services remain at the scene.
The incident comes after a nine-year-old boy was hit by a car in Mermaid Beach this morning.
A car has rolled into a house on the Gold Coast this morning leaving a woman with a leg injury.
Paramedics confirmed they were called to the scene at the corner of Bedford Road and James Street, Pimpama, near the Strawberry Farm at 9.48am. ... [MYGC - 15/5/15]
Two women struck by cars, Perth
West Australian [15/5/15]:
Two women were taken to hospital to hospital with minor injuries after they were believed to be struck by cars this morning.
A female pedestrian was hit by a car on the corner of Eight Avenue and Whatley Crescent just before 8am.
Saint John Ambulance took her to Royal Perth Hospital.
A female cyclist was taken to Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital with minor injuries after she was believed to be struck by a car at Park Street and Brittain Street just after 8am.
WA Today [15/5/15]:
A man has been taken to Royal Perth Hospital after being freed from a vehicle after a crash with a truck in Lexia - about 34 kilometres north of Perth.
The accident occurred around 12.30pm near the intersection of Beechboro Road North and Baal Street.
Two firecrews from Ellenbrook and Wangara attended, while rescue equipment was used to release the injured man.
Major crash investigators are on the scene.
Cattle truck rolls, Cloncurry
More than a dozen cows are on the loose after a livestock truck rolled in north-west Queensland.
The cattle were being transported from the Northern Territory when the truck crashed at Cloncurry on Tuesday night.
While a large number of the animals were recovered, some 17 are still missing.
Police have appealed for the community to help locate the remaining
cattle and have released pictures of their brandings.
Man knocked out by bull in central Queensland
A man has been rushed to hospital with a head injury after being knocked out by a charging bull in central Queensland.
Queensland Ambulance Service say the 50-year-old man was taken to Biloela Hospital in a stable condition.
The incident happened at a property on Auburn Street, Biloela, about 2.45pm.
Regarding the Minister’s reference to the SMP-program Greek Government bonds held by the ECB
Greek Minister for Finance Media Release [14/5/15]:
The Minister of Finance, Yanis Varoufakis, in his keynote address at the Economist Athens Conference, referred to the idea that the ECB’s SMP-program Greek government (pre-2012) bonds (face value appr. 27 billion euros) be repaid through the ESM, with a possible parallel swap between new Greek government bonds and the ESM.
Some journalists chose to report this as the Minister having threatened, or announced, that the Greek government would not redeem the SMP-program Greek government bonds held by the ECB in July and August.
This type of ‘journalism’ must, at long last, be isolated and shamed by the vast majority of journalists striving properly to inform the public.
Two student activists were killed in Chile Thursday, amid nationwide protests demanding education reforms.
The two students were shot in the city of Valparaiso, near the Plaza Victoria, at the end of a massive rally.
According to local media, both students were gunned down by a Valparaiso store owner as they attempted to hang a banner over his shop. Local police say the pair were aged 18 and 24. ... [teleSUR - 14/5/15]
State-owned office buildings and shares in lucrative developments will be sold along with a slew of power assets including wind farms and streets lights in a bid to fix the Barnett Government’s ailing bottom line.
On the same day it emerged the Government would put Fremantle’s historic port on the chopping block in a move aimed at raising billions, Treasurer Mike Nahan fleshed out the details of a planned “second tranche” of asset sales while handing down today’s State Budget. ... [West Australian - 14/5/15]
Bombardier has begun the slow process of closing its Maryborough factory with the first wave of redundancy notices handed to 13 employees.
The 12 from the pre-assembly part of the factory and one from the store area will go to work for the last time today after they were handed their notices earlier this week.
Senior employees with mortgages and families are among those to find themselves out of a job.
Neighbouring factory Downer EDI has recently been awarded a State Government contract worth $20 million.
In November 2013 the state LNP government awarded an order of 75 new six-car trains with maintenance services for 30 years, valued about $4.4 billion to Bombardier.
However, the work wasn't done in Maryborough, but at a facility in India, with some maintenance done in Ipswich.
In the lead-up to this year's State Election local candidates lined up to slam then Maryborough MP Anne Maddern for talking about Ipswich's needs being similar to Maryborough. [Fraser Coast Chronicle - 15/5/15]
Adani’s ‘absolute failure’ revealed in court
Daily Mercury [15/5/15]:
Adani left out a vital piece of information in its environmental assessment for the Carmichael Mine; the population of birds at the mine site is the largest population of the species left.
That is one of the main points an environmental group's lawyer argued when summing up the case against mining company Adani.
Closing submissions were heard at the Queensland Land Court yesterday in a five-week case between environmental group Coast and Country and Adani.
Saul Holt, representing Coast and Country, summed up his case in about four hours.
Adani's lawyer spoke for about one hour.
Mr Holt said the proposed mine site was home to the world's largest population of the endangered black throated finch.
He also highlighted how Adani's environmental assessment had understated the population numbers and indicated there were no flocks of more than 50 birds.
Mr Holt said this was an "absolute failure" of Adani's four years of work on the mine site.
Mr Holt said the most significant population of the vulnerable waxy cabbage palm was at the Carmichael Mine site.
But in his closing submissions, Peter Ambrose, representing Adani, said this wasn't the only place in the world where the palm and finch could be found.
He said the mine would not cause the extinction of the waxy cabbage palm and black throated finch.
"Both of those have substantial populations elsewhere," he said.
"We're not talking about this mining causing extinction of these species.
Mr Holt told Land Court judge Carmel MacDonald she was in a better position than any past decision makers to reject or approve Adani's Carmichael Mine because the case was the first time such a public, transparent and rigorous process had been undertaken.
Mr Holt expressed concerns the mine would dry up a wetland springs complex and how Adani "grossly overstated" the number of jobs the mine would create.
He said Adani claimed the mine would create more than 10,000 jobs but evidence given during the case showed the figure was closer to 1400.
Mr Ambrose criticised some of Coast and Country's witnesses, saying their evidence could not be relied on.
He said one witness, Associate Professor John Webb, who indicated there could be underground faults at the mine site, dressed up opinion as "pseudo-science".
Mr Ambrose said Mr Webb based his opinion that there could be faults at the Carmichael Mine site on the fact that one existed 5km away.
Mr Ambrose said some of the environmental group's witnesses were critical of Adani's processes but some did not provide evidence.
Judge MacDonald has reserved her decision.
Traditional owners disgusted Queensland Government did not consult before opening land for gas exploration [ABC – 15/5/15]
Gladstone is becoming an economic gateway for Queensland as LNG exports ramp up, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in Gladstone today.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony of the QCLNG Plant on Curtis Island, the world’s first facility to produce LNG from natural gas, Ms Palaszczuk said Queensland’s overseas merchandise exports were up 10.8 per cent between the March Quarter this year and the March Quarter last year. ... [Media Release - 15/5/15]
Protocol for seed infected with cucurbit virus is 'suicide': growers [ABC – 15/5/15]
Five years after BP disaster, drilling resumed in Gulf of Mexico
Democracy Now [14/5/15]:
We turn now from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico, where drilling has resumed near the site of the BP-operated offshore oil rig that exploded five years ago in the worst industrial environmental disaster in U.S. history.
On Wednesday, Harper’s Magazine revealed a Louisiana-based oil company purchased the area from BP and is now drilling into the Macondo reservoir.
The report also looks at the ongoing impact of the 2010 spill.
We speak to reporter Antonia Juhasz, who spent two weeks on a ship in the Gulf of Mexico as part of a scientific research mission exploring the impacts of the BP Gulf oil spill.
She participated in a dive in the Alvin submarine nearly a mile below the ocean surface, getting closer to the site of the blowout than anyone had ever been.
M5.1 quake strikes off Fukushima coast
Japan Today [15/5/15]:
An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.1 struck off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture on Friday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, adding there was no danger of a tsunami.
The epicenter of the quake, which struck at 12:30 p.m., was 50 kilometers deep in the sea off the Fukushima coastline. There were no immediate reports of damage or injury.
Tohoku Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said there were no abnormalities at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The quake registered a 4 in Fukushima Prefecture and a 3 in Miyagi Prefecture.
Protest in Tokyo over security bills
Over 500 people gathered in front of the Japanese Prime Minister's Office in capital Tokyo on Thursday to protest security bills which the cabinet is slated to approve later in the day.
The bills, including a new permanent legislation and others comprising revisions to 10 existing laws, would give Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) greater power, including removal of geographical restrictions on where the forces can operate, Xinhua news agency reported.
People held placards in front of the Prime Minister's Office, condemning that the move would undermine the country's pacifist constitution and drag Japan into war.
"This will be security legislation that enables the JSDF to engage in warfare overseas," a protester said.
"If a war starts, it will be our generation that will be dispatched," said a 23-year-old graduate in Tokyo participating in the protest.
"Abe's government is downplaying the constitution, and it makes me worry that Japan could end up in shambles," another protester said.
The cabinet will present those bills to the Diet, Japan's bicameral legislature.
United States, “allies” continue bombing Iraq and Syria
Coalition military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria and Iraq between 8 a.m., May 13, and 8 a.m., May 14, local time.
In Syria, coalition military forces conducted nine airstrikes using attack, bomber and fighter aircraft.
Separately in Iraq, coalition military forces conducted 22 airstrikes approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense using attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft against ISIL terrorists.
“Coalition airstrikes targeted Daesh terrorists and equipment near Al Hasakah, Syria,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley, CJTF-OIR chief of staff.
“These strikes degrade their ability to conduct operations near this city result in more and more territory being ceded to Kurdish forces.”
The following is a summary of the strikes conducted since the last press release:
Near Al Hasakah, eight airstrikes struck six ISIL tactical units, destroying four ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL vehicles, an ISIL mortar position, an ISIL warehouse and an ISIL building.
Near Kobani, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL bunker, an ISIL checkpoint and an ISIL vehicle.
Near Al Asad, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and occupied land features, denying ISIL a tactical advantage and destroying an ISIL VBIED.
Near Al Qaim, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL vehicle.
Near Bayji, eight airstrikes struck one large and six small ISIL tactical units, destroying four ISIL weapons caches, three ISIL buildings, three ISIL vehicles, two ISIL structures, an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL staging point.
Near Fallujah, two airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit, destroying two ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL excavators and an ISIL crossing point.
Near Mosul, six airstrikes struck four ISIL tactical units and two ISIL staging areas, destroying three ISIL excavators, an ISIL building, an ISIL heavy machine gun and an ISIL vehicle.
Near Ramadi, two airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL fighting position.
Near Sinjar, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit, destroying an ISIL building.
Airstrike assessments are based on initial reports. All aircraft returned to base safely.
President Barack Obama, facing Persian Gulf countries deeply skeptical about his proposed nuclear deal with Iran, said Thursday that the U.S. would use military force if necessary to defend its Arab allies.
Obama had spent the day huddled with leaders from the region at his Camp David retreat, and emerged from their summit declaring that he was as committed as ever to protecting them from aggression, a reference to Iran.
A joint statement delivered at the end of the gathering declared that the U.S. will continue to "deter and confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War," and that the U.S. Is ready would work with them to determine an appropriate response in the face of such aggression, "including the potential use of military force."
Obama, speaking to reporters at the conclusion of the summit, said his country's relationship to the Gulf states was entering a new era based on strong defense ties.
"I was very explicit," Obama said. "The United States will stand by our GCC partners against external attack and will deepen and extend the cooperation that we have when it comes to the many challenges that exist in the region."
He listed specific areas the United States would commit to defending Gulf allies, including aiding in the development of a collective missile defense system.
But even the stepped-up commitments to the region stopped short of the formal mutual defense pact that some of the nations -- wary of an empowered Iran -- desire. ... [CNN - 15/5/15]
ISIS fighters advanced to the gates of ancient Palmyra Thursday, raising fears the Syrian World Heritage Site could face destruction of the kind the jihadis have already wreaked in Iraq.
As it overran nearby villages, ISIS executed 26 civilians – 10 of whom were beheaded – for “collaborating with the regime,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Irina Bokova, head of the U.N.’s cultural body UNESCO, called on Syrian troops and extremists to spare Palmyra, saying it “represents an irreplaceable treasure for the Syrian people, and the world.” ... [Daily Star - 15/5/15]
2 Afghan children killed as Azakhel refugee camp demolished
Two children from Afghan refugee families died on Thursday after Pakistani police using bulldozers and evacuators started demolishing their camp in the Azakhel area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
“Once again the Pakistani forces have started demolishing homes and shops of Afghan families in the Azakhel camp using bulldozers and evacuators,” said Sawabuddin Makhkakh, head of the Dubandiwal Society.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News the operation began around 2pm on Thursday.
He said 50 homes were demolished and the families left in the open under a under a scorching sun.
A resident of the camp, Sardar Mohammad, told Pajhwok Afghan News over the telephone that the Pakistani forces entered the camp around 8am and started demolishing shops first.
He was talking to Pajhwok around 4pm on Thursday.
“Before noon, the Pakistani forces demolished all shops and then starting demolishing homes in the afternoon,” Mohammad said.
He said 50 to 60 security personnel took part in the operation in order to deal with any resistance from the camp dwellers.
“The security forces are demolishing homes without noticing if anyone is inside. Two children aged six and five years old were killed when the wall of their home fell on them.”
The authorities in Pakistan had given the camp dwellers three days to vacate the areas or face eviction. Sardar Mohammad said they possessed refugee documents, but still their houses were demolished.
Attempts were made to seek comments from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, but in vain.
An official at the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul said he had no immediate answer and would respond later.
Thousands of Afghan families became unwanted in Pakistan after a Taliban massacre at a Peshawar school.
More than 65,000 Afghans have returned since the start of the year after coming under intense scrutiny following the December massacre.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled Afghanistan during the last three decades of war, with a majority of them taking refuge in neighbouring Pakistan.
There are an estimated three million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan either officially or unofficially, most of whom left their country to escape conflict in the 1980s and 1990s.
Pakistan deports 29 Afghan refugees to Khost [Pajhwok - 14/5/15]
One Afghan National Army (ANA) officer and two policemen were killed on Thursday by Taliban in a clash erupted in the Pasapand district of western Ghor province. ... [Pajhwok - 14/5/15]
NATO announces transition to civilian-led mission in Afghanistan [Centcom -14/5/15]
At least 12 dead after attack on Nigeria's Maiduguri city
At least six civilians and six members of a youth vigilante group were killed in an attack by Boko Haram militants on Nigeria's northeastern city Maiduguri, two military sources said on Thursday.
The attack was reported late on Wednesday in Maiduguri, which is the capital of Borno state and the birthplace of the Islamist jihadi group.
One of the sources said the vigilantes in the so-called civilian joint taskforce died after they mistook female suicide bombers for residents fleeing the Boko Haram raid.
Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in its attempt to carve out an Islamist state in the country's northeast, is on the backfoot foot following a co-ordinated offensive by military forces from Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
However, Wednesday's assault shows it is still capable of pulling off bloody assaults.
Defence spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade said the insurgents began their attack on the outskirts of Maiduguri with the detonation of two female suicide in Ladi Kayamla area.
He said the attack was likely intended as a diversion to "slow down the ongoing assault on the Sambisa forest, it was carried out by those insurgents escaping from locations that have been destroyed".
Boko Haram has become scattered across Borno, but maintains a final stronghold in the Sambisa forest reserve. Nigeria began a ground assault on the area in April and said it has overrun many camps and freed over 700 abducted women and children.
The army imposed a 24 hour curfew on Maiduguri following the attack.
Gaza officials: 70 hurt as Israel ordnance explodes
Dozens of Palestinians were injured in a large explosion in the northern Gaza Strip on Thursday, witnesses and medics said.
Medical sources said at least 70 Palestinians were injured. Fifteen of those were taken to al-Shifa hospital for treatment as a result of the explosion.
The Palestinian ministry of interior said the explosion happened during the dismantling of an unexploded F16 rocket left by the Israeli army.
Ambulances rushed toward the scene of the blast in the al-Atatra neighborhood of Gaza City, with black smoke plumes visible from a distance.
Locals reported that the blast caused an electricity blackout in the area.
Israeli forces injured three Palestinian children with live fire during severe clashes that erupted between soldiers and school students in the Jabal al-Tawil neighborhood of al-Bireh in the occupied West Bank Thursday, witnesses said. ... [Maan - 14/5/15]
Israel invites bids for 85 West Bank settler homes [Maan – 14/5/15]
Freedom Flotilla III sets sail from Sweden to break Gaza siege [Middle East Monitor – 13/5/15]
‘Untold suffering’ of South Sudanese people must end, UN envoy tells Security Council [Media Release – 14/5/15]:
... Ms. Løj, who also serves as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan, said that the most serious situation is currently in Unity state, where there are reports of Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) advances and fighting as they push into southern areas of the oil-rich region towards Koch, Leer and Adok.
In all, over 2 million people remain displaced, with more than 1.5 million internally, and some 500,000 in neighbouring countries. More than 2.5 million people face severe food insecurity, especially in the greater Upper Nile region, and this figure will most likely increase significantly. ...
President returns to Burundi after army says coup bid failed [Reuters – 14/5/15]
Judge, lawyers rule out death sentence against Morsi
A Cairo criminal court set to rule on Saturday in the espionage and jailbreak trials of deposed president Mohamed Morsi will likely hand out jail terms to some defendants and exonerate others, a judge has said, ruling out death sentences against the accused.
Judge Moataz Khafagy, head of a Cairo criminal appeals court, said that the court is not expected to adjourn the cases either, as it has had months for deliberation.
Khafagy as well as lawyers, including those of the defendants, said death sentences were not very likely since the bench had not referred the cases to the Grand Mufti, the country's top religious authority who reviews all death penalty cases but whose rulings are not binding.
"Normally a court refers sentences to the [Grand] Mufti then sets a date for the verdict, which did not happen in these two cases," he said.
Morsi and 35 others are charged with conspiring with foreign powers — including the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guards — to destabilise Egypt.
In another case, the ex-president, along with 130 co-defendants, is accused of breaking out of jail. The case is rooted in the escape of more than 20,000 inmates from Egyptian prisons during the 2011 uprising, including Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood members.
Verdicts in both cases are due on Saturday, May 16.
Presiding judge over both the espionage and jailbreak cases, Shaaban El-Shamy, said on Thursday that the court had looked at over 30,000 papers as evidence over the span of 26 months since the trials began.
Shaheen said that the defendants have since received fair treatment, with the court enforcing international trial regulations, despite some of them — namely Morsi — refusing to acknowledge its legitimacy.
In the first verdict against him in a third case, Morsi was sentenced in April to 20 years in prison, as he was convicted of inciting violence, and ordering the arrest and torture of demonstrators during 2012 clashes while he was in office. The ruling was denounced by Amnesty International as "travesty of justice".
Morsi, who came to power following the 2011 ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak, was himself toppled after a year in office on the back of massive street protests.
His Muslim Brotherhood group has been banned as a terrorist organisation and targeted in a sustained police crackdown that has seen thousands landed in jail.
Trapped Colombia gold miners feared dead [Al Jazeera – 15/5/15]
Protests against a copper mining project in southern Peru have left a dozen people injured and spread to other parts of the region.
Demonstrators in Cocachacra, at the epicentre of the conflict, threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas.
Twelve people were reported injured, and authorities said protests had erupted in other cities, including the regional capital of Arequipa.
Residents of this southern coastal valley are opposing the $1.4bn Tia Maria project of Mexican-owned Southern Peru Copper.
Farmers fear the project would contaminate their crops. ... [Al Jazeera - 15/5/15]
Haiti: senior UN official says cholera outbreak needs ‘urgent attention’
UN Media Release [14/5/15]:
The cholera outbreak in Haiti remains the largest in recent world history, according to the United Nations official coordinating the Organization’s cholera response in the country, yet the health crisis has fallen off the international agenda after having ceased appearing in the media.
“When cooperation funds dry up, the response teams on the ground no longer have resources to adequately respond to alerts, treat patients and prevent further deaths,” wrote Pedro Medrano Rojas, the Senior Coordinator for the Cholera Response in Haiti, in an opinion piece published in Wiener Zeitung.
Mr. Medrano said the epidemic has caused 9,000 deaths and affected more than 735,000 people since October 2010 when the outbreak began in the aftermath of the earthquake.
“Engraved in our memories are dreadful images of dilapidated buildings and people trying to survive in the midst of the disaster,” he said.
“And we can also remember the outstanding international mobilization, committed both to reconstructing the country and fighting the cholera epidemic that emerged months later.”
He said it was understandable that television cameras were now in Nepal, where an earthquake similar to the one in Haiti had occurred.
“But we cannot forget cholera,” he said. “The cholera epidemic in Haiti is still a humanitarian emergency that requires urgent attention. How would we react if any other country forecasted 28,000 cases of cholera for 2015?”
That World Health Organization (WHO) forecast could be even worse if efforts were not made to correct the course and Mr. Medrano said the latest UN cholera fact sheet revealed that the situation is going through its worst moment in the last three years.
Heavy rains in September 2014 combined with the lack of resources for an appropriate response reversed previous declines, he said, adding that since then Cholera cases “skyrocketed” from approximately a thousand per month to nearly a thousand per week, with 113 people dying between January and March.
“Despite the alarming situation and the worrying estimates for 2015, the cholera epidemic has fallen off the radar of most donors,” Mr. Medrano said.
“The lack of resources has already led to the closure of 91 of the 250 treatment centres in the country and has caused the departure of many international partners from the country.”
He said the humanitarian community needed $36 million to secure the response capacity and he stressed that the disease was “easily treatable” through antibiotics and hydration.
“No one should die from cholera in the twenty-first century,” Mr. Medrano continued. “But Haiti is at a disadvantage, as the poorest country in Latin America and one of the poorest in the entire world. Its health system is very limited and its national sanitation system barely covers one in every four people.”
He pointed to the many positive results in Haiti stemming from international cooperation, including a huge drop in the number of displaced persons, an 88 per cent increase in primary school attendance and the reaching of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on underweight children in 2012.
“Cholera in Haiti can be eliminated,” he said. “We have the strategies, roadmaps and coordination mechanisms with the Government in place to do so. What we need now is a stronger commitment of the international cooperation. Stopping our support now will risk losing everything.”
PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill regales the Frank Lowy Institute with tales of deported and exiled refugees
The National [15/5/15]:
The Government is offering 129 asylum seekers on Manus “the opportunity to live in the country”, according to Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
He told the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney yesterday that more than 400 asylum seekers “have voluntarily left PNG”.
He said the operation and future of the Manus regional processing centre had been the subject of debate.
“Papua New Guinea has played an important part in stemming people smuggling in our region,” O’Neill said.
“This dangerous trade has cost countless lives lost at sea.
“We are now facilitating the processing of refugee applications. To date, 129 applicants have been deemed to be genuine refugees and are being offered the opportunity to live in PNG.
“There has been criticism at the time taken to settle refugees from Manus to their new lives, is taking too long.
“We have an obligation to explain this to Papua New Guineans and to the refugees as they make this transition so they can be included in our communities.”
He said there had been so much negative news about the asylum seekers in Australia “that there is concern about refugees coming to live in our communities”.
“Our Government has the job of explaining that to our people and the genuine refugees will be welcomed by our people in their respective communities,” O’Neill said.
“We are currently undertaking extensive public awareness and stakeholder engagement in areas where refugees will be resettled.”
Uncle Sam mutters something about rescuing migrants as the plunder of Myanmar accelerates. [ABC - 15/5/15]:
... US ambassadors in the region are coordinating with UN agencies and with the governments who have refused entry to the migrants to "discuss ways of providing assistance".
"We are concerned about the situation and we urge countries of the region to work together to save lives at sea," US State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters.
"There are many lives that are in danger... and we urge governments to continue to accommodate these people who are on the seas."
Mr Rathke said Washington "appreciated" that some governments in the region had taken in many refugees, and welcomed plans by Thailand for a regional conference on the issue on May 29.
Singapore Windsor bags $39-m Ooredoo tower contract for Myanmar [Deal Street Asia - 15/5/15]
A boat carrying about 300 Rohingya Muslims that was stranded off the coast of Thailand for a week has been moved away by Thai officials. ... [BBC - 15/5/15]
Thailand may set up temporary camps for boat people, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told journalists yesterday, even as a decrepit boat with some 300 desperate Rohingya aboard was found drifting off Koh Lipe island, west of Satun province.
The rust-encrusted boat, located by the Thai Navy from information from fishing boats and occasional mobile phone calls from the people on board, had been abandoned by the crew, who had left it with a disabled engine about a week ago. It bore a banner with the English words "We are Myanmar Rohingya" painted on it.
With food and water running out, 10 people aboard the vessel had died and their bodies had been thrown overboard, the Rohingya people on board said. Some had resorted to drinking their own urine. Thai fishermen were giving them some food, reporters at the scene said. ... [The Straits Times - 15/5/15]
United States says a
"healthy democracy" should have access to Facebook in its refugee concentration
Pacific Island Living: A sneak peek at our next Nauru Airlines Cover featuring Miss Nauru. Photo by Clint Deidenang. [15/5/15]
Nauru enters 15th day of Facebook blackout - Australian political and media establishment fret over Johnny Depp's "stateless" dogs.
US State Department Daily Press Briefing [14/5/15]:
QUESTION: And a second question, different topic. This is on Nauru and it deals with social media. There are reports saying that it has blocked social media, in particular Facebook, because of what the government says is concerns about protecting children. But advocates for refugees say the ban was designed to restrict asylum seekers who are in detention there to keep them from communicating with the outside world. Do you have any response?
MR [Jeff] RATHKE: We’re aware of that, and we’re concerned by reports of recent internet restrictions imposed by the Government of Nauru, including that they blocked Facebook and other social media sites. Freedom of expression online and offline is essential to a healthy democracy, and so ensuring that a country’s citizens have access to an unrestricted and open internet is in accordance with Nauru’s own expressed desire to the higher – to the highest standards of democracy, and we’ve certainly conveyed our views to the government there and reiterate our call for these restrictions to be lifted.
Judith Cefkin - US Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu [Term of Appointment: 11/20/2014 to present]
All Gov [11/10/14]:
... Since 2013, Cefkin has been senior advisor for Burma (Myanmar). She has spent much of the time working on normalizing relations between the United States and that nation, traveling there as part of that effort.
Cambodian official reportedly visits Australia as disappeared Nauru refugees reportedly await exile in Darwin [Phnom Penh Post - 15/5/15]
Senate Hansard [14/5/15]:
Select Committee on the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru
The Clerk: A notification has been lodged by the Select Committee on the Recent Allegations relating to Conditions and Circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru to hold private meetings today at 9.35 am and 3 pm.
The PRESIDENT (09:31): Does anyone wish to have
that matter put before the Senate? There being no such request, we will proceed.
Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee
Government Response to Report
Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (15:46): I present two government responses to committee reports as listed at item 14 on today's Order of Business. In accordance with the usual practice, I seek leave to have the documents incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows—
Australian Government response to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Interim Report:
Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014
Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee report: Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014
AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO INTERIM REPORT
The Australian Government notes the Committee's Interim Report dated 5 December 2014.
Australian Government response to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee Report:
Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014
The Australian Government welcomes the opportunity to respond to the report of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee titled Incident at the Manus Island Detention Centre from 16 February to 18 February 2014. The report was published in December 2014.
The events of 16 to 18 February 2014, which resulted in the death of Mr Reza Barati and serious injuries being sustained by others, were tragic. The Australian Government has previously, and continues to, extend condolences to the family and friends of Mr Barati. The Australian Government also acknowledges the efforts of all those involved in resolving disturbances around the incident, in trying circumstances, including service providers and officials of PNG and Australia.
Regional processing of illegal maritime arrivals has been an important component of the Australian Government's framework for restoring integrity to Australia's borders and facilitating managed migration. Operation Sovereign Borders has been effective in preventing vulnerable people from joining dangerous, illegal people smuggling ventures—circumstances that claimed the lives of 1,200 people between 2008 and 2013.
The Australian Government continues to work with regional partners to dismantle the entire people smuggling trade, while also ensuring that people who are owed protection receive it. The Government of Papua New Guinea has been at the forefront of these regional efforts, in its management of the Manus Regional Processing Centre and commitment to offer settlement to refugees. The Australian Government continues to support Papua New Guinea in its endeavours.
The Government acknowledges the work of the Senate Committee and notes its recommendations. The Government also notes that an investigation by PNG authorities into the Manus incident of 16-18 February 2014 is still to be concluded. Two persons await trial for Mr Barati's death as a result of this investigation. Recommendations made by the Senate Committee also relate to facts and issues currently before the PNG and Australian courts. The Government considers that it would therefore be inappropriate to respond to the Committee's recommendations at this time.
The Government notes as well that an independent investigation into the Manus incident was undertaken by Mr Robert Cornall AO. In his report, which was publically released on 26 May 2014, Mr Cornall recommended a number of remedial measures. The recommendations directly relevant to Australia have been progressively implemented by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Not our problem?
Soon we may all be refugees.
And the regional example Australia has set will inevitably bite us on the bum.
Senate Hansard [14/5/15]:
Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:48): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Brandis. My question is in relation to reports that up to 8,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi asylum seekers are adrift in the South-East Asian seas, in boats that have been abandoned by smugglers after being turned back by Indonesian and Malaysian authorities. It has been reported that many of them are starving and sick and without provisions. The UNHCR and the IOM have called for an international—
Government senators interjecting—
The PRESIDENT: Order on my right.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG: search and rescue mission to save these people. Can the minister inform the Senate on the situation with these asylum seekers and the unfolding human tragedy?
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:49): Well, Senator Hanson-Young, yes I can, but can I say at the start that the problem that you have identified, and this was a very, very serious problem, is a problem that Australia no longer has. It is a problem that Australia no longer has—no thanks to you, or to the Labor Party, by the way. It is a problem that was solved by the Abbott government, in the teeth of your opposition and in the teeth of the opposition of the Australian Labor Party. Let me remind you, Senator Hanson-Young, that, in the six years of the previous government, policy supported by you saw more than 50,000 illegal entrants attempt to arrive in Australia on leaky boats, saw more than 800 leaky boats seek to make the dangerous journey across the Timor Sea, and saw more than 1,200 deaths. That is a humanitarian problem—a terrible humanitarian problem—that Australia had, and was shamed by, but no longer has because of the policies of this government.
Turning directly to what is happening on the Andaman Sea, in relation to the Rohingya and Bangladeshis stranded there on boats: this is a regional issue demanding a regional response. The foreign minister has had talks with regional governments about the need to find a solution to managing the challenge of large-scale movement of people from Myanmar, and the foreign minister raised the matter in Thailand last week.
The Abbott government welcomes the Thai government's plan to hold a regional officials meeting to address the situation. Australia will attend that officials-level meeting.
I should inform you, Senator, that Australia has provided a total of $10.7 million for urgent humanitarian assistance for the people in the Rakhine State in Myanmar, including many Rohingya. Peace and security are essential for the country to achieve long-term stability and economic growth, and Australia, through its aid program, is contributing to that.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:51): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the Attorney-General, representing the foreign minister, please inform the chamber as to whether the government has received any requests for assistance from Indonesia, Malaysia, the UNHCR or the IOM in relation to this specific tragedy?
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:52): What I can tell you is what we have done in responding to the specific tragedy, and that is, as I said in answer to your primary question, the provision of some $10.7 million of urgent humanitarian aid, and, as well, our attendance at the regional summit. I am advised that Australia has not been approached directly for assistance of the kind that you mentioned.
Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (14:52): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the government in the process of providing any assistance to the search and rescue mission, and, if not, why not?
Senator BRANDIS (Queensland—Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, Vice-President of the Executive Council, Minister for Arts and Attorney-General) (14:52): The search and rescue mission is being undertaken on the Andaman Sea. The assistance that Australia is providing is financial assistance in the form of the $10.7 million package I described to you. The Indonesian authorities and the Malaysian authorities are dealing with the search and rescue aspects of this tragedy, but, of course, Australia is engaged with the issue. We are keeping the matter under review with an alert eye to further opportunities to be of assistance.
UN Media Release [14/5/15]:
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today expressed alarm that some Southeast Asian countries may be refusing entry to several thousand people believed to be stranded on smugglers’ boats in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca, and urged leaders in the region to keep their borders and ports open.
“The Secretary-General is concerned about the crisis evolving in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca, where several thousand people are believed to be stranded on smugglers’ boats,” said a statement issued through his spokesperson. “He is alarmed by reports that some countries may be refusing entry to boats carrying refugees and migrants.”
In the statement, Mr. Ban also urged governments in the region to ensure that the obligation of rescue at sea is upheld and the prohibition on ‘refoulement’ is maintained.
Refoulement is the forcible return of individuals to their country of origin where they could face persecution.
The Secretary-General “also urges Governments to facilitate timely disembarkation and keep their borders and ports open in order to help the vulnerable people who are in need,” the statement said.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has also expressed alarm at reports suggesting that Indonesia and Malaysia may have pushed back boats carrying vulnerable people from Myanmar and Bangladesh.
UNHCR said it has asked countries in Southeast Asia to approach this issue as a regional one with real human consequences and has offered to support States to interview the different groups and to help target solutions to their specific needs, as those being rescued are likely to be a mix of refugees, economic migrants, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied and separated children among those being smuggled.
In his statement today, the Secretary-General said he “has taken note of the efforts to organize a regional summit and calls on all leaders of Southeast Asia to intensify individual and collective efforts to address this worrying situation and tackle the root causes, of which the push factors are often human rights violations.”
“In this regard, he reminds States of their obligations under international law; he emphasizes the need for a timely, comprehensive, rights-based, predictable and effective response,” according to the statement.
Thai Navy pushes refugees out to sea, defers Rohingya camp move until 29 May summit [Bangkok Post - 15/5/15]
... "We are sending them the right signal, to send them to where they came from," Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said.
"Their country is not at war. If there is nothing wrong with the ship, they should sail back to their own country."
Many of the arrivals are Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority from Bangladesh and Myanmar described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. ... [Channel News Asia - 14/5/15]
Jakarta Globe [14/5/15]:
The Indonesian government has pledged to continue monitoring its territorial waters after the country’s Navy found ships carrying hundreds of mainly Rohingya refugees from Myanmar stranded in Ace province.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said that based on information received, the ships were going through the Malacca Strait, the heart of the busiest trade route in Southeast Asia.
The ministry will continue to monitor the situation and is prepared to respond if necessary, he said.
“There is a ship carrying a number of foreigners in the Malacca Strait. This information we received from the Indonesian Navy through the KRI Sutanto [ship], which is coordinating patrols there,” said Arrmanatha on Thursday.
The government has said the foreign ship asked Navy personnel for food, clean water and fuel.
The Navy is not authorized to arrest or deport those on ships in the Strait, due to peaceful traffic principles. These principles allow any foreign ships to cross the territory, particularly as many are headed to other destinations, not strictly Indonesia.
The UNHCR has said several thousand migrants have been abandoned at sea by smugglers following a Thai crackdown on human trafficking.
Warning that the situation could develop into a “massive humanitarian crisis,” the UN refugee agency said “it is key for states to share the responsibility to disembark these people immediately.”
The crackdown has made traffickers wary of landing in Thailand, the
preferred destination for the region’s people smuggling networks, and led to a
surge in migrants to Indonesia and Malaysia.
Washington Examiner [14/5/15]:
The Pentagon backpedaled Thursday after its assistant secretary of defense for the Asia Pacific told Congress that B-1 bombers were headed to Australia.
The B-1 bomber is a sleek, supersonic four-person aircraft that has been integral to the fight in Afghanistan and a regular presence against the Islamic State in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.
On Wednesday, Assistant Defense Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear, under a line of questioning at the Senate as to why the U.S. isn't better positioned to respond to China's island-building efforts in the South China Sea, said the U.S. is building a long-term robust presence of Marines and Littoral Combat Ships in the region.
Then Shear noted, "we will be placing additional Air Force assets in Australia as well, including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft."
Pentagon reporters pushed on the story to find out that Shear's testimony was the first time anyone had brought up the idea of sending B-1s to Australia.
On Thursday, Air Forces Pacific Command said in a statement that "the U.S. Department of Defense has routinely deployed bomber assets through Australia in the past, including a B-52 visit last December.
With regard to our force posture initiatives in Australia, the Department is currently exploring a range of options for future rotations with our Australian counterparts. The specifics of future force posture cooperation are yet to be finalized."
If the B-1s do go, they won't need much in terms of supporting infrastructure, unlike their B-2 counterpart, which requires a fairly sterile hangar environment to operate.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to pass legislation giving Congress the right to review, and possibly reject, an international nuclear agreement with Iran.
The 400-25 vote sends the legislation to the White House, where administration officials have said President Barack Obama will sign it into law.
The Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015 passed the Senate last week after lawmakers reached a compromise removing some of its toughest provisions, and Obama dropped his threat to veto the measure as a threat to continuing negotiations between the United States and other world powers and Iran. ... [Reuters - 14/5/15]
Channel News Asia [14/5/15]:
Five Iranian boats fired shots across the bow of a Singapore-flagged vessel in the international waters off the Gulf on Thursday.
The captain of the oil and chemical tanker told Channel NewsAsia that the vessel, Alpine Eternity, was first approached by two armed skiffs, which are small vessels consistent with those used by Iranian forces in the Gulf.
He recounted that three more skiffs arrived later and shots were fired. He was then ordered to stop the vessel, but he refused. The captain was then told to head to the Iranian port of Abu Musa, an island in the Gulf.
The captain said he again refused the order, and headed to Dubai's territorial waters.
The captain added that he was 15 miles off the Iranian coast at the time of the incident, and that would put the vessel three miles outside the territorial waters of Iran.
The ship apparently does not appear to have been hit and there were no reports of injuries. The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) confirmed that all the crew members are safe, and that no Singaporeans were on board the vessel.
The captain said he will conduct a full assessment of the ship to check for damage.
The Pentagon said it is investigating reports that five small speedboats manned by members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard fired shots across the bow of the tanker. It is not clear why the Iranian Revolutionary Guards started opening fire.
However, Reuters reported that Iran had attempted to intercept the vessel in international waters because Tehran says the tanker is liable for damage to an Iranian-owned oil platform it hit on Mar 22, quoting a US official speaking on condition of anonymity.
A US Navy warship was in the area, but it was apparently not contacted for help by the captain of the Alpine Eternity, who shortly after the incident turned his craft around.
As of Thursday evening, MPA said the tanker was the territorial waters of UAE.
Australian parliament strips Norfolk Island of its autonomy
Both houses of Australia's parliament have passed legislation stripping Norfolk Island of its political autonomy.
Norfolk Island has had significant autonomy since 1979, but the law change will shut its parliament and reduce the administration to that of a local-level regional council.
The final reading of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Bill was completed in the Senate today in just a few minutes, without any dissenting comment.
Less than a week ago Norfolk Island completed a referendum in which a large majority asked Canberra to allow the islanders some say in determining their political future before any vote happened.
But Norfolk's Culture Minister, Robin Adams, says their wishes have been ignored.
She says it's the first time an Australian government has removed a democratically elected parliament and the right to self-government.
Italy rescues 3,600 refugees in two days
Al Jazeera [14/5/15]:
Almost 3,600 migrants have reportedly been rescued from overcrowded boats sailing from Africa to Europe over the past 48 hours, with sea conditions seen as perfect for attempting the crossing.
While more than 600 migrants were brought ashore at the port of Catania in Sicily on Thursday, rescuers picked another 2,500 from boats off the coast of Libya, Italy's coastguard said.
Most of those who arrived in Catania had been picked up by the British warship HMS Bulwark and were Somali and Nigerian, Catania port officials said.
Sandra Dike, a heavily pregnant 20-year-old Nigerian woman, said she left her home country because of the danger of attacks by the Boko Haram.
"It's not safe to go to a public place, like a church, the market. They [Boko Haram] might bomb the place at any time," she said.
"The war in Libya is worse. That's why we decided to come to Italy."
Boko Haram, which has killed thousands in its attempt to carve out a state, has suffered major setbacks this year following a co-ordinated military offensive by Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
A German ship, Italian navy vessels, a merchant ship and Italy's finance police and coast guard all conducted rescue operations on Thursday, a coast guard official told Reuters.
The 40-metre Phoenix, based in Malta and run by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) and Doctors Without Borders, rescued 561 people, including 136 women and 60 children, mostly from Eritrea.
The ship picked up 188 people on Wednesday.
The surge in rescues comes just a day after the EU announced a plan to distribute asylum-seekers more fairly around its member states and take in 20,000 more refugees.
At the beginning of the month when the weather also was favourable, about 6,800 people were rescued over three days, while dozens were said to have drowned.
With the estimated number of migrant deaths at sea this year approaching 2,000, and after as many as 800 died in a single shipwreck last month, the EU has bolstered its Triton sea mission to help Italy conduct the rescues.
15 May 2015