Apr 07

Kirner spent life pursuing social justice

Joan Kirner fought against unfairness even as a child.

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When her dog faced being put down after being caught by the council dog catcher, Ms Kirner and her cousin Max Cole crept up to the dog cart while the catcher was chasing another dog and opened the door.

“We, with five other dogs, ran for the lick of our lives,” Dr Cole recalled.

“Joan hated unfairness and always acted against it.”

The girl with the mischievous sense of humour and no-nonsense attitude grew into a passionate community activist and eventually Victoria’s first and only female premier, never losing her commitment to justice and a fair go.

Former Labor state secretary Jenny Beacham said her friend of more than 40 years stayed absolutely true to the values she started out with.

When a Melbourne primary school principal told new parents their children would be in a class of 54, it was Ms Kirner who stood up and said “no he won’t” and led other young mums in a successful protest to get new classrooms and then teachers.

“Joan didn’t change,” Ms Beacham told Ms Kirner’s state funeral.

“She was still just as ready to stand up for something she didn’t think was fair at the end of her life as she was 50 years ago.

“Those years as premier were tough, but she never stopped grappling with the issues, trying to find a just and reasonable solution.”

She was a tireless crusader for women and education before, during and after her 1990-1992 tenure as premier.

“She was challenging, she was funny, she was generous and loving, sensible and completely glorious all at once,” said Emily Lee-Ack, who worked with Ms Kirner in the Emily’s List Australia organisation she founded to increase women’s participation in Labor politics.

Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard, regarded Ms Kirner as an inspiration and a mentor, as did former Emily’s List national co-convenor Hutch Hussein.

“For many she’s not just given us wings, she’s taught us how to fly and along the way challenged and supported us to stretch those wings,” Ms Hussein said.

Osteoporosis made her shorter in stature in her later years but everyone still looked up to a woman who spent her life pursuing social justice, Ms Hussein said.

Friday’s state funeral, attended by senior state and federal Labor figures and former Victorian premiers from both sides of politics, heard Ms Kirner was interested in every aspect of life and had an abiding respect and love of people.

In the days before her death on Monday after a near two-year battle with oesophageal cancer, the 76-year-old apologised to Ms Hussein that she would not be around any longer as a mentor and surrogate mother.

“‘I’m sorry to do this to you,’ she said, as if she had not given me enough over the last 20 years.”

Apr 07

Death toll climbs to 97 as China rights capsized ship

Death toll climbs to 97, hundreds still missingFrustration and anger grow among relatives of the missingShip righted, divers search cabins but no more survivors found

The rescue mission has become an operation to recover hundreds of bodies from the ship, which was carrying 456 people when it overturned in a freak tornado on Monday night.

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Only 14 survivors have been found, including the captain.

Frustration over the lack of information has grown among families of the missing. Seventy-year-old Xia Yunchen burst into a room where senior officials had just finished a media conference, screaming and yelling and demanding answers.

“Is it necessary to treat the common people, one by one, as if you are facing some kind of formidable foe?” said Xia, whose sister and brother-in-law were on board the Eastern Star. 

Xia, from the eastern city of Qingdao, told reporters she had wanted to get into the news conference to hear for herself what the government was saying, and that she wanted an honest investigation because family members doubted the weather was the real cause of the disaster.

“You view the common people as if we are all your enemy. We are tax payers. We support the government. You had better change your notion of this relationship. You are here to serve us. You need to be humane,” Xia said, before being escorted out.

Police then kept reporters back while they moved away relatives and passersby on the street outside.

“The next step is to concentrate on doing a good job of purging the water, raising the boat, overall salvage and looking for victims’ bodies,” Transport Ministry spokesman Xu Chengguang said just before Xia’s dramatic intervention.

Rescuers, many from the military, worked through the night to right the ship. Pictures on state television showed the ship, which had capsized completely, sitting upright in the water.

Large dents and gashes scarred its blue roof. 

Most of the four-deck ship remains under water, sitting on the river bed.

More than 200 divers have groped through murky water after cutting through the hull, searching every cabin on board, but have found no more survivors. 

The weather improved markedly on Friday, after days of heavyrain, which should help rescuers. However it was forecast to worsen again at the weekend.

About 1,200 relatives have come to Jianli county in Hubei province where the disaster happened.

Showing the sensitivity of the disaster, the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, China’s apex of power, called on local authorities to take measures to help grieving families and to “earnestly safeguard social stability”.

Relatives have asked the government to release the names of survivors and the confirmed deaths, and questioned why most of those rescued were crew members.

Some have demanded to know why the boat did not dock in the storm, and how the rescued captain and crew members had time to put on life vests but did not sound any alarm.

Beijing has pledged there would be “no cover-up” in the investigation.

Police have detained the captain and chief engineer for questioning, although authorities have given no details. An initial investigation found the ship was not overloaded and had enough life vests on board. 

(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan, and Engen Tham in SHANGHAI; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait)

Apr 07

Dutton flags citizenship law details for dual-national ‘terrorists’

Judicial review of decisions to strip terror-suspect dual nationals of their Australian citizenship will not cover the substance of the cases.

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Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will bring a bill granting him the power to deal with dual-national Australians supporting terrorist groups such as Islamic State to parliament within weeks.

Judicial oversight and whether the laws could render someone stateless could be sticking points when the bill is debated.

Mr Dutton said on Friday when asked whether judicial review would not relate to the substance of the case against the suspect: “You’re right and the government’s not going to have the court second-guessing ministerial decisions, as we don’t in relation to other areas of law.

“We’ll do whatever is within our power to keep people safe from terrorism.”

The laws will also have a prospective or starting date, meaning they could apply to people who head off to support IS before the bill is passed.

Mr Dutton said ministerial discretion, rather than the courts, would enable more nuanced decisions to be made.

He compared the hypothetical cases of a 17-year-old who murders people in the name of IS and a teenager who has gone to Syria or Iraq and come back because they “got cold feet before they went into the theatre of war”.

“We have to make a decision about whether or not you would apply the same outcome, stripping of citizenship, to both of those young men in that circumstance,” Mr Dutton said.

“If your argument is that … it should be mandated that if somebody goes there in the name of ISIL, regardless of the circumstances, they still come within the act of being involved in terrorism, by their association, or because they are a party to that particular act, I think that is problematic.”

Apr 07

Yeo, Sheed back for Eagles, Darling closer

West Coast head to Tasmania on a six-game AFL winning streak to face the under-fire North Melbourne on Sunday with Elliot Yeo and Dom Sheed straight back in, and star forward Jack Darling potentially a week away.

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West Coast have battled injury problems since the pre-season with key defenders Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown out for the season after knee reconstructions.

Darling has yet to play in 2015 due to a foot stress fracture.

But the Eagles have exceeded all expectations to compile a 7-2 win-loss record to be in second spot heading to Blundstone Arena to play an enigmatic North Melbourne without coach Brad Scott for up to a month due to back surgery.

West Coast coach Adam Simpson and Kangaroos caretaker Darren Crocker were teammates at North Melbourne and played in a premiership together in 1996.

While not missed in last Sunday’s 56-point thumping of Geelong at Domain Stadium, the versatile Yeo is straight back from suspension while midfielder Sheed returns after a hand injury.

“I was reasonably worried that he (Yeo) wasn’t in our side last week and we did contemplate the appeal, but we got through the game, got the win and now we have him back,” Simpson said.

“It’s a good problem to have and things can change really quick. But this week we had a really good match committee and we think we’ve got a pretty good side.”

While the Eagles are in Tasmania, 22-year-old forward Darling will play his first game of the season in the WAFL for East Perth on Saturday.

If he gets through unscathed, Simpson sees no reason he couldn’t then come in to face Essendon the following Saturday in Perth.

“We’ll see how he goes, manage his game time and see how he pulls up. He’s pretty fit. If he can manage 80 to 90 minutes then we’ll look at him next week,” Simpson said.

“He’s been keen and other coaches have been keen as well but we’ve really taken a cautious approach. This week is another step. We’ll just worry about trying to beat North.”

Mar 07

Jokowi must rethink war on drugs: experts

Indonesia’s president should drop the death penalty and adopt strategies that are proven to reduce drug harm, say experts in the leading health journal, The Lancet.

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Joko Widodo has committed to sending more than 60 death row drug offenders to the firing squad, demonstrated last month with the executions of eight men, including Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

In an open letter to Mr Joko in The Lancet, a group of prominent Indonesian academics and experts call on Indonesia to urgently discontinue strategies that have proven ineffective, such as involuntary rehabilitation and the death penalty.

One of the experts, Indonesia’s veteran drug and HIV researcher Professor Dr Irwanto, welcomed the government’s increased commitment to addressing drug-related harm.

But he said proven strategies were being neglected in favour of a punitive approach that risked frightening drug users away from the treatments they needed.

“The current drug war approach has been a proven failure around the globe, even causing more harm than good,” Dr Irwanto, of the HIV and AIDS Research Centre at Atma Jaya University, said in a statement.

“Each human life matters.

“Productive human lives may be compromised by misguided policies.”

The 11 signatories to the letter also questioned the data Indonesia relies on to demonstrate the “drug emergency”, which it says necessitates the death penalty.

Mr Joko frequently cites the National Narcotics Board (BNN) figure of 40-50 drug deaths a day when explaining why extreme measures are needed.

The experts say that research is unorthodox and unreliable, and they are calling for accurate data collection urgently.

Meanwhile, Dr Irwanto said there is a wealth of information supporting harm reduction and health-focused programs deserving of expansion: needle exchanges, opioid substitution therapy and voluntary treatment.

Mar 07

Warriors win game one; Cavs count the cost

A shirtless Andrew Bogut sat in the corner of the Golden State Warriors’ locker room with a towel wrapped around his waist and an ice pack over a bruise under his left eye.

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The Australian centre looked like a gladiator who had just survived a hellish battle.

The truth wasn’t too far off.

Bogut’s Warriors overcame a slow start and a 44-point onslaught from Cleveland Cavaliers’ star LeBron James on Thursday to take game one of the best-of-seven NBA Finals 108-100 in an overtime thriller.

The Warriors held the Cavaliers to just two points in the overtime period.

“Thankfully we got through the first game with a win,” Bogut told reporters crowded around him.

“Now we know what to expect in game two.”

The Cavaliers not only lost after James and guard Iman Shumpert had two three-point attempts in the final seconds to steal the game in regulation, but they have likely lost their NBA All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving.

Irving had been battling knee tendinitis in his left knee and a sprained right foot throughout the playoffs, but was in sensational form playing 43 minutes, scoring 26 points, seven rebounds, six assists and containing Warriors’ League MVP Stephen Curry.

With two minutes to go in the overtime period Irving had the ball and was charging to the basket, stopped and then fell to the court.

His face was anguished as he immediately limped to the locker room and later left the Warriors’ Oracle Arena on crutches.

Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt said Irving was being evaluated by doctors.

“It was very tough to see,” James said.

“I saw how hard he worked the past eight days to get himself to play tonight.

“To see him walk out of the locker room on crutches, that’s a tough blow for our team.”

It was an historic game for Australia with three Australian-born players on the court – Bogut, Irving and Cleveland guard Matthew Dellavedova.

Dellavedova, who played just nine minutes and went scoreless, will likely start in Irving’s place in Sunday’s game two.

“I’m not sure, we’ll have to wait and see,” Dellavedova, asked if he expected to get more court time, said.

James, playing in his fifth-straight NBA Finals, was extraordinary in the first four quarters, but in the extra period missed three shots and had two turnovers.

As well as the 44 points, James had eight rebounds, six assists and four turnovers from almost 46 minutes on the court.

Curry had 26 points, eight assists and four rebounds.

Bogut set the defensive tone early, blocking a James shot which led to a Klay Thompson fast-break opportunity and a few seconds later Bogut intercepted a James pass.

“I was thankful I got LeBron early,” Bogut said.

“He was kind of looking for me for the rest of the game.”

Bogut finished with seven rebounds, two blocked shots and four points and was engaged in wrestling matches with Cavaliers’ big men Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson.

It was Mozgov who bruised Bogut’s eye with an elbow.

With 31.9 seconds left in regulation and the Warriors up 98-96 Mozgov went to dunk, but Bogut went up hard and hit the Russian with a hard foul.

“There’s no layups at that point of the game,” Bogut smiled.

Bogut also didn’t go easy on his Australian teammate Dellavedova.

Just seconds after Dellavedova entered the game for the first time late in the second quarter Curry was bringing up the ball and Dellavedova was guarding him.

Bogut saw an opportunity to set a screen and blindsided Dellavedova with a legal check.

Mar 07

Former All Blacks captain Collins killed in France

The ministry said it was not in a position to confirm how the accident occurred but Le Figaro newspaper reported Collins and his wife, Alana Madill, died in a collision with a bus on the A9 motorway in Herault, southern France.

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The couple’s three-month-old daughter was taken to hospital in serious condition, according to the report.

The ministry said New Zealand’s embassy in Paris was in contact with local authorities and consular assistance would be provided to relatives.

The 34-year-old, who played 48 tests for the All Blacks and captained them three times, was playing for Narbonne in France’s second division.

Wellington Hurricanes, his former team in New Zealand, said they would hold a minute’s silence before their game against the Otago Highlanders in Napier later on Friday, with the players to wear black armbands as a mark of respect.

“We are shocked and saddened to hear the news of Jerry and his wife Alana passing,” Hurricanes Chief Executive James Te Puni said in a statement.

“Obviously Jerry was a special part of both the Hurricanes and Wellington Lions over the years.

“He was an extraordinary leader and player, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this time.”

Known for his hard-edged, abrasive style and crunching tackles, Collins was widely considered one of the most intimidating players to ever play for the All Blacks.

A former rubbish collector, Collins captained his club side as an 18-year-old and made his provincial debut for Wellington in 2000, though he did not play for the Hurricanes until 2001 due to a broken leg.

He also made the All Blacks that year aged 20 and went on to play 48 times for the national side, including at the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.

He left New Zealand in 2008 for playing stints in Wales, France and Japan.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Mar 07

Sharks sign first major sponsor since 2011

Cronulla has secured its first major long-term naming rights sponsor in almost four years, with Southern Radiology signing on with the NRL club until the end of 2017.

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Sharks skipper Paul Gallen is also a confirmed starter for Sunday afternoon’s clash against the Roosters, while Sosaia Feki has officially been recalled for an injured Ben Barba.

But today’s sponsorship announcement is a major step in Cronulla’s rebuild and comes after years of off-field dramas, including the infamous supplements scandal of 2011 that almost brought the club to its knees.

CEO Lyall Gorman said it was a deal they would never have been able to negotiate two seasons ago.

“There’s no doubt the last couple of years have brought those challenges off the field and certainly last year with the wooden spoon on the field as well,” Gorman said.

“We had to come from the back and re-establish a little bit of credibility and brand equity and belief in the external market, both within with our members and external with our corporate partners.”

The move means for the first time since the club’s partnership with Hisense, all properties on the jersey have been sold for the short-term future.

“And that has a roll on effect, because we haven’t been able to sell home jerseys because they haven’t had a major sponsor on it,” coach Shane Flanagan said.

“That’s another massive income to the club long-term. If we can sell that jersey, sell them over Christmas, that’s all income and it all helps.”

Flanagan confirmed Michael Gordon will step in at fullback after Barba succumbed to a rib injury late this week. Feki will fill the vacant wing slot.

“Benny’s been struggling for two weeks with his rib, he had to get some painkillers last week and it didn’t work real well with a rib injury,” he said.

“With a bye coming up it was one of those calls that I just had to make as a coach, to give him the rest so he’d be right for our game after the bye.”

Flanagan also hinted at the possibility of keeping Gordon when his contract finishes at the end of the season.

The 31-year-old was slated for a mid-season move to Parramatta a month ago but was sensationally blocked by the Sharks and will now play out the rest of the year in the shire.

“He could still be here next year. No decision’s been made there yet. Michael could earn himself a contract here next year. Form’s indicative of all that,” Flanagan said.

Mar 07

Key quotes from the Sydney siege inquest

MONIS APPRAISED:

“We all believed that there was something going on with this guy.

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A cousin of a girlfriend of Monis who met him in 2008.

“He came across as someone who was very well-off.”

“I was a bit uncomfortable with his presence – I thought that there was something odd about it.”

Amanda Morsy, whom Monis dated and wanted to marry in 2003.

“I formed the view that he was a hero in his own story.”

A social worker on her impressions after interviewing Monis in 2012.

“What she described about him was a manipulative man who successfully duped her and eventually intimidated and emotionally blackmailed her.”

A social worker recounts what Monis’s former wife told her about her ex-husband in 2012.

“One individual said that no one in the club liked him and he was ‘weird’. Another said he was strange and weird, that things didn’t add up with him.”

“Ultimately he was rejected by the Rebels and they took his motorbike around the middle of 2013.”

Junior counsel assisting the inquest Sophie Callan details how Monis’s bid to join the Rebels bikie gang ended.

“I found Mr Monis to be a smart guy, but a very evil smart guy.”

“If I knew he was the hostage-taker, I would call police to shoot him on (sic) the head and no negotiation.”

Lawyer Dr Nazir Daawar, who represented Monis during his offensive letters case in 2010.

“David Koch is the boss. He’s a killer and a terrorist.”

Seven Network security manager Scott McIlveena recounted the words Monis screamed as he ran towards TV personality Mr Koch in Martin Place in 2008.

“He said I need a report to indicate that I’m not suffering any mental illness.”

Psychologist Dr Kasim Abaie, who helped Monis with anxiety and depression issues in 2010.

“He felt that he was being watched all the time, even in his bathroom.”

“My impression was that he had chronic schizophrenia and my treatment plan was to start anti-psychotic medication.”

Psychiatrist Dr Kristen Barrett, who saw Monis in 2010.

“Was Monis a so-called lone wolf prosecuting an ISIS-inspired terrorist act or was he a deranged individual pursuing some personal, private grievance in a public manner?”

NSW Coroner Michael Barnes in his opening address to the hearing.

Feb 05

Parties dispute size of ‘budget holes’

Labor and the Coalition are embroiled in claim and counter-claim over election costings and budget savings.

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Treasurer Wayne Swan says the coalition has an $800 million black hole in its budget savings because it has overestimated the savings from scrapping Labor’s national broadband network (NBN).

But the opposition has countered by claiming the government has a $3.4 billion black hole caused by the fact it’s spending much more than saving.

Mr Swan said today the Coalition couldn’t save $2.44 billion over four years as planned by axing the NBN.

“There’s certainly an $800 million hole in a budget saving that they are claiming when it comes to interest to the cost of the NBN,” he told the Fairfax Radio Network.

Mr Swan was referring to a Treasury analysis released to The Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday. But the opposition says it hasn’t seen the analysis.

Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey attacked the newspaper for running the story without seeking a reaction from the coalition.

Asked if the story was correct, he told ABC Radio: “How do I know?” “I don’t know what’s in the document.

“This is a secret Treasury document … that we have not seen.”

Mr Swan used the analysis – coming just a day after Mr Hockey contradicted his leader Tony Abbott to the tune of $7 billion on the size of the coalition’s spending promises – proved the opposition wasn’t fit to manage the economy.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he was sceptical about the Treasury analysis and was confident the coalition’s own figures would “absolutely stack up”.

“No one’s seen this thing,” he told Sydney’s TripleM Radio.

“This is coming from the government which couldn’t get its mining tax figures right.”

Mr Abbott was referring to Treasury estimates for revenue from Labor’s planned super profits tax on mining companies. Initially in May, it said $12 billion would be raised from the tax.

Two months later it revised that figure to more than $20 billion because of higher estimates for commodity prices.

Opposition finance spokesman Andrew Robb said it was not good enough for Labor projects to have been costed from the budget without providing the details.

“They haven’t identified where it was in the budget, how it was in the budget,” he told ABC Radio.

The coalition yesterday listed 211 of Labor’s spending pledges, saying they amounted to $5.8 billion.

But Labor had only ever said it was spending about $2.9 billion, leaving a $3.4 billion hole, Mr Robb said.