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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte ‘could face international court’

by admin on 04/12/2018

Bangkok: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte could face international criminal charges as the death count in his relentless war on drugs tops almost 2000, human rights advocates say.

Comments by the tough-talking former provincial mayor such as “all of you are into drugs, you sons of bitches … I will kill you” could be used as evidence to prosecute him, they say.

Sam Zarifi from the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) says it is likely that as the killings continue lawyers will gather evidence to initiate legal proceedings against Mr Duterte like 9541 victims of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos did in the United States in the 1990s.

In 1995 a US court awarded the victims $US1.9 billion after finding that Marcos, who died in exile in 1989, was responsible for massive human rights abuses, including torture, murder and “disappearances of fellow Filipinos”.

At the time lawyers said the verdict set a ground-breaking precedent upholding the principle that military “command responsibility” for wartime misconduct is applicable in a class-action suit alleging peacetime human rights abuses by the agents of a political leader.

Mr Zarifi, the ICJ’s regional director for Asia and Pacific, told the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand that the killings in the Philippines since 71-year-old Mr Duterte was swept into office at May elections are widespread and systematic, meeting the criteria under international law of crimes against humanity that could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

He said while anyone can submit a case to the International Criminal Court, prosecutors there would be unlikely to initiate proceedings unless pressed by a global political movement.

But he said criminal charges could be laid against Mr Duterte in any country.

“I am not holding my breath for international action but if these (killings) continue at the same velocity I would expect cases to start popping up,” he said.

Mr Zarifi said Mr Duterte has made many comments that could be used against him in foreign courts, including several weeks ago declaring: “My order is to shoot to kill. I don’t care about human rights … this is a war against drugs and we have to fight it.”

Phelim Kine, Human Rights Watch’s Asia director, described the first weeks of Mr Duterte’s rule as “nothing less than absolute human rights disaster”.

“We have the highest elected official of the land openly, actively, aggressively calling for the extrajudicial killing of criminal suspects,” he said.

“The numbers are absolutely shocking.”

Mr Duterte promised during the election campaign that 100,000 people would die in his drugs crackdown and that fish in Manila Bay would grow fat from eating bodies.

But amid condemnation from human rights groups, the United Nations, the United States, the Catholic Church and some politicians, Mr Duterte has in recent weeks denied security forces have carried out extra-judicial killings, saying police have only killed in self-defence.

The latest police data shows that around 1000 accused drug suspects have been killed in police operations and another around 1000 in shootings by unidentified assailants.

Opinion polls show approval of Mr Duterte continues to hover around 90 per cent in the country of 100 million people with one of Asia’s highest rates of illegal drug use and crime.

Mr Duterte claims there are more than three million drugs users in the country.

More than 600,000 have surrendered to police since July 1, packing prisoners into already overcrowded jails.

Claudia Karvan to star in new ABC drama; Are You Being Served? remake savaged

by admin on 04/12/2018

Brett Tucker, Claudia Karvan and Toby Schmitz will star in Newton’s Law for the ABC. Photo: Lachlan MooreDrama for Judge Judy

Television judge Judy Sheindlin, who presides over the long-running televised small claims court show Judge Judy, is to become the subject of a scripted drama. Her Honor will be based on Sheindlin’s own life as a young New York judge who presides over a turbulent family court. The pilot is being developed for CBS Studios by Law & Order writer Michael Chernuchin; Sheindlin is credited as a story co-writer on the project. Though her earlier career as a serving judge was legendary, television has been generous to Sheindlin: the deal for her daily court show Judge Judy is worth more than $US50 million ($66 million) per year and is secured until 2020 under its present agreement. The 73-year-old Brooklyn-born Sheindlin has also written several books, including the memorably named Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining. (The sequel: Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever.) Spin on music awards

In a dramatic demonstration of the shifting sands between traditional and streaming television, the MTV Video Music Awards posted a steep decline of roughly a third of their television audience. The music network spun the bad news to say the streaming numbers were up, but when coupled with audience declines for the Oscars, Emmys and Golden Globes overall, it signals a weakening in the power of “live television events” – once billed as traditional TV’s salvation – on the digital landscape. MTV roadblocked the telecast across 11 channels and drew just 6.5 million viewers; compare that with 2013 when, with just the one channel, they managed to pull 10.1 million viewers. The good news was all social media: trending on Twitter, record Facebook streams and almost all TV-specific social media posts while they were on air. Now someone just has to work out how to turn all that noise into money. Top cast for ABC series

Claudia Karvan will headline a new Australian drama, Newton’s Law. The series, from Every Cloud Productions, the company behind the ABC’s hit series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, will also star Toby Schmitz, Georgina Naidu, Sean Keenan, Brett Tucker and Miranda Tapsell. Karvan will play Josephine Newton in the series, a “suburban solicitor with an over-developed sense of responsibility who attempts to return to her briefly glorious stint at the Bar.” The series will be produced by two of Australia’s best drama producers, Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger, whose collective credits include SeaChange, Crash/Burn, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, The Gods of Wheat Street and The Society Murders. Newton’s Law will be filmed in Melbourne and will air on the ABC in 2017. ‘Dreadful’ remake

The BBC’s remake of the iconic comedy Are You Being Served? has made its debut in the UK to scathing reviews. The remake was one of several one-offs commissioned to mark the 60th anniversary of sitcom as a form, but even when the plan was announced last year it was met with some scepticism. The reboot was well cast – notably John Challis from Only Fools and Horses and Niky Wardley from The Catherine Tate Show – but that wasn’t enough to save it. Fans of the original series piled on social media to voice their objections (“Unfunny, canned laughter, dreadful acting. Why do they think they can do it?” said one) and London’s venerable Daily Telegraph newspaper punished it with two stars and said it was loaded with “mothball-worthy gags”. Footnote: the BBC’s comedy commissioner Shane Allen said the script was “a riot”; one imagines he didn’t mean would literally provoke one.

‘Woefully inadequate’: lack of text message policy for NSW Police criticised in budget estimates

by admin on 04/12/2018

NSW Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn leaves the Lindt Cafe siege inquest earlier this month. Photo: Michele Mossop Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn fron a budget estimates hearing on Thursday. Photo: NSW Parliament

Deputy Police Commissioner Catherine Burn has revealed she has a setting on her mobile phone that automatically deletes text messages.

The revelations came in a budget estimates hearing on Thursday in which Commissioner Andrew Scipione said the police force has no policy or rules to stop officers from deleting work-related texts.

Ms Burn and Mr Scipione were grilled on the subject after Ms Burn deleted two potentially-important text messages from the night of the Lindt Cafe siege.

The deleted messages became the subject of intense scrutiny and criticism earlier this month as the inquest into the December 2014 siege examined possible failings by police during the 16-hour standoff.

In an unexpected and embarrassing twist, they were discovered in Ms Burn’s email inbox on the morning of her second day in the witness box.

In several fiery exchanges with Mr Scipione on Thursday morning, Greens MP David Shoebridge asked whether the police should have a policy for not deleting work-related text messages.

“To the extent that they’re records for policing work, they could well be essential,” he asked.

Mr Scipione said officers must keep emails, under the State Records Act, but text messages are often private, short or inconsequential texts such as “see you in five minutes”.

He said it wasn’t always necessary to keep texts.

Mr Shoebridge suggested it was “woefully inadequate” for the police to have no policy on retaining text messages.

“Given the nature of the 21st century, often critical information is retained by way of text message. It may well be ‘I will see you there in half an hour’ but that may ultimately be critical information,” he said. Crucial police information is no doubt communicated in police text messages, but there is no policy to protect this information #nswpol— David Shoebridge (@ShoebridgeMLC) September 1, 2016

He then asked Ms Burn if she had a policy of routinely deleting text messages. She replied that she retains very few texts.

“Those that I retain are normally retained in hard copy or email format,” she said.

Asked why she routinely deletes messages, she said one reason was that phones can be set to automatically delete text messages.

On an iPhone, it can be set to 30 days or one year.

“I don’t keep emails either but there’s a storage system that retains them,” she said.

Mr Shoebridge suggested it was “grossly inadequate” for her to be routinely deleting text messages that may be essential.

The State Records Act does not include any reference to text messages.

Mr Scipione said he would look into whether they should be any guidance on the issue for police officers.

Peter Hartcher: Christopher Pyne’s night of chaos failed Malcolm Turnbull and he has to go

by admin on 07/05/2019

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese, Tony Burke and other Labor MPs talk tactics. Photo: Andrew Meares Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull makes a pitch on government stability at his campaign launch in 2001 Photo: Andrew Meares
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Mr Pyne tells the opposition what he thinks of them. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The successful Labor ambush of the Turnbull government in the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon will not, in itself, bring down the government, but it’s highly instructive.

The lessons learned?

One, that the election campaign has not ended. Bill Shorten considers that the contest for power has merely moved into a new phase, fought on the floor of the House instead of on the hustings.

Shorten does not accept that Turnbull has won a mandate. He considers that his policy to hold a banking royal commission is every bit as valid as Turnbull’s position not to. In Shorten’s view, the election did not settle anything.

Two, that Shorten intends to wage a campaign of political guerrilla war against the Turnbull government. He will not allow the government a moment of peace but will harry and harass it, probing every vulnerability.

He’s not doing this from a position of strength but of anxiety. Although Labor regards Shorten to have waged a strong election campaign, he is not taking any chances.

Have you noticed all the publicity about Anthony Albanese and his life story recently? It’s not mere sentimentality. He’s positioning for the leadership. Albanese and his supporters will swoop if they see an opportunity. Shorten will fight hard and deny him an opportunity.

The post-Howard restiveness of Australia’s political parties – the syndrome of revolving-door leadership – lives on in both Labor and Liberal parties.

Three, that the government is not up to the contest. Christopher Pyne, as manager of government business, is responsible for losing control of the House. He should be replaced.

The government was guilty of complacency. It won its first vote on the floor of the House by 75 to 73, when Labor first tried to pass its bank royal commission proposal.

Relaxing vigilance as members looked forward to their escape to the airport for the end of the sitting week, they allowed Labor an opportunity.

Pyne has long experience and knew the stakes yet failed.

Four, aggressive Labor tactics can embarrass the government and rattle its nerves, as they have on this occasion. But they cannot bring down the government unless the Coalition is guilty of internal division or indiscipline.

Malcolm Turnbull has taken heart from the fact that Bob Menzies used to say that the best majority is a majority of one. Why? Because it demanded strict discipline.

The Turnbull government has just demonstrated indiscipline. It cannot afford to make this a habit.

Malcolm Turnbull’s move on Tony Abbott cost public $60,000 in US visit cancellation cost

by admin on 07/05/2019

Tony Abbott’s official visit to the US cost taxpayers $60,000 even though he never boarded the plane. Photo: Alex EllinghausenAn official visit to the United States for Tony Abbott cost taxpayers $60,000 – even though the former prime minister was rolled by his colleagues before he could get on the plane.
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The charge for the cancelled trip has shown up in the latest instalment of parliamentarians’ expenses, released by the Department of Finance late on Thursday afternoon as politicians prepared to leave Canberra after the first week of the new Parliament.

The records show Mr Abbott had been slated to visit the US for a three-day visit from September 25 to 27 last year. The travel was part of annual international summit season.

His leadership was terminated by his Liberal Party colleagues in a party room ballot 10 days earlier on the night of September 15.

Entitlement records shows some senior members of Parliament spent more than $400,000 on international and domestic airfares, Commonwealth cars, office supplies and the cash “travel allowance” for nights spent out of home in the six-month period from July to December 31 last year.

MPs and senators, particularly those with large electorates, can also charter private flights.

Thursday’s disclosure included the infamous $5000 helicopter charter that ended the political career of Bronwyn Bishop and caused mortal damage to the Abbott government.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce spent $7000 on a one-day charter for flights within his New England electorate, flying from Armidale to Urbenville and Liston in the northern part of his seat.

In April, Fairfax Media revealed Mr Joyce had spent $2211 on a 120-kilometre flight from Armidale to Copeton Dam.

He has taken two $4000 helicopter flights to visit the small New England community of Drake, 44 kilometres away from his second ministerial office in Tenterfield but a four-hour drive away from his Tamworth home.

According to the latest entitlements, he spent $51,000 on charter flights in his capacity as Agriculture Minister.

In total, Mr Joyce spent $424,000 in the six-month period, including $18,000 on travel for family members.

Under pressure Labor Senator Sam Dastyari​, who accepted a donation from a Chinese donor to cover his $1600 overspend on travel entitlements, spent $24,500 on domestic fares in the second half of 2015 and $7000 on private and Commonwealth cars.

Shadow infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese​, known for his energetic approach, notched up $43,000 in domestic fares.

Tanya Plibersek, then in the shadow foreign affairs role, spent $401,000, including $69,000 on official visits overseas.

Under the Department of Finance accounting rules, the travel of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop does not show up in entitlements records.

New rules adopted after “choppergate” compel MPs to only use helicopters if there is a “compelling” reason to do so.

Contractor IHMS fined $300,000 as official audit finds serious failings in asylum seeker healthcare

by admin on 07/05/2019

Nauru asylum seekers. Photo: Angela WylieThe contractor responsible for the health of asylum seekers has been slugged more than $300,000 for problems relating to treatment of tuberculosis and other serious diseases in onshore detention, raising grave questions over the quality of care delivered to vulnerable people behind the wire.
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A report by the Australian National Audit Office into onshore detention also found some detainees at severe risk of self-harm were being reviewed only once a fortnight, rather than every 24 hours as prescribed by official clinical guidelines.

It also found cost-cutting had led to changes to the way medication was distributed, creating the risk of prescribing and dispensing errors.

The findings cast into serious doubt assurances by the federal government and Department of Immigration and Border Protection that healthcare in both onshore and offshore detention meets community standards.

In just six months between July and December last year, health services provider IHMS was charged $309,000 – or 2 per cent of its service fee – for “significant failures” under a penalty and incentive regime.

IHMS failed to fully comply in all but one performance measure.

In a statement the company, which also provides healthcare in offshore detention centres, said the fines related to reporting failures “and not for failures of clinical care”, including incident reports not sent to the department within the required timeframe.

The performance of IHMS in such reporting had since improved, it said.

The failings related to, among other measures, identification and treatment of active tuberculosis and serious communicable diseases, and timely provision of healthcare, mental health screening and vaccinations.

Despite those in immigration detention being at high risk of mental illness, clinical guidelines to prevent self-harm and suicide were not followed for a “large number” of detainees.

Between February and November last year, there were 407 instances of a detainee being deemed at high imminent risk of self-harm.

Under the department’s own program, such detainees should be clinically reviewed every 24 hours at a minimum – but the audit found they were reviewed, on average, every three days. Some were reviewed once or twice a fortnight.

The report found the department did not formally monitor whether IHMS was properly implementing such procedures.

IHMS said in a statement it was discussing the need for a review of psychological support procedures with the department.

In response to the department’s demand for cost-cutting, IHMS implemented a new model under which just 14 per cent of detainees would need a nurse to administer their medication – for reasons such as the risk of self-harm or medication misuse.

However, the number of detainees needing nurse-administered medication was as high as 75 per cent. IHMS “flagged the risks associated with medication administration” to the department in December last year, citing “risks including prescribing and dispensing errors” by overworked nurses.

The report also found the department was failing to monitor the quality of primary healthcare in offshore detention, 15 months after the contract with IHMS was signed.

A department spokeswoman said the report found its administration of health services in onshore immigration detention “has been improved”, and that onshore detainees “receive care at a comparable level to that available to the Australian community”.

She said the department has accepted the report’s recommendations and was working to implement them.

This included identifying risks to the effective delivery of onshore healthcare services and a proposed performance assurance review program to manage these risks.

“The department has also instigated a robust auditing process of detainee complaints relating to the provision of health services delivery, including weekly reporting of detainee complaints and the outcomes of those complaints,” she said.

IHMS said its performance in offshore detention system was not within the scope of the audit and rejected suggestions that healthcare in onshore detention did not meet community standards.

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Australian Shaun Davidson jailed in Bali for using another man’s passport

by admin on 07/05/2019

Shaun Edward Davidson, right, going into a holding cell after his court appearance. Photo: Amilia Rosa Shaun Edward Davidson at the holding cell after being sentenced to a year’s jail minus time served. Photo: Amilia Rosa
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Australian Shaun Edward Davidson has been jailed in Bali.

Bali: A West Australian man jailed for a year in Bali on Thursday for using another man’s passport has told of his life behind bars at the notorious Kerobokan jail.

Shaun Edward Davidson said he was expecting “a living hell” when he was initially incarcerated in April after being formally named a suspect over immigration offences.

“It [Kerobokan jail] was built for 300 prisoners, there are1200 there,” Davidson said.

“The first couple of weeks you get there, there are 20 other people here in the cell the size of this area here,” he said, gesturing to the tiny holding cell crammed with prisoners outside Denpasar District Court.

“No beds, no nothing, you don’t get given anything. Just like concrete floors. In the corner they have got a bit blocked off where there is a hole in the ground. That’s pretty much the toilet and the shower.”

He said prisoners were not even given a mat.

However, Davidson said conditions were bearable if you had money and support from the outside.

“My sister has been the biggest help, she’s been over here for a bit, she was here today, she helped me with money.”

Davidson was due to face Perth Magistrates Court on January 28 last year, charged with possessing methamphetamine and cannabis and two other offences.

When he didn’t attend, an arrest warrant was issued.

But instead of going to court, Davidson skipped the country, arriving in Indonesia on a one-month tourist visa,

Davidson said he lost his passport. He said he had contacted the Australian passport office and reported his own missing but then began using a passport under the name of Michael John Bayman, which Davidson said he had found in a hotel room.

Bali immigration authorities told Fairfax Media the passport had been reported missing by the real owner in 2013.

Davidson spent the year in Bali boxing and partying.

But he came to the attention of authorities in March when he was staying at Rabasta Hotel in Kuta.

Ngurah Rai airport immigration officer Mohamad Soleh told Fairfax Media in April that a report was made of a foreigner staying in Kuta who was suspected of overstaying his visa.

When immigration authorities investigated, they found he had not only overstayed his visa but was using a fake identity.

Mr Soleh said the Australian government and Australian Federal Police had confirmed Davidson’s real identity.

Head judge Made Pasek said on Thursday he found Davidson “convincingly guilty” of misusing a travel document belonging to someone else.

He sentenced him to one year jail, minus the time already served, and a 100 million rupiah ($AUD10,000) fine or additional five months in jail.

Mr Pasek said mitigating factors were that Davidson had been polite during his trial and admitted his guilt.

However had used fake documents and what he had done was harmful to Indonesia.

Davidson said he thought it was a fair judgement and he would serve the extra five months instead of paying the fine.

“It’s not what I was hoping for of course, but everyone knows the legal system here. I didn’t conform to the legal system. I didn’t pay any money, I did my defence myself.”

He said he would continue to teach boxing inside Kerobokan jail.

“I have about 15 to 20 people I train in boxing, so that’s pretty good. I guess it gives the locals something to do. It gives them something to look forward to. It’s pretty hard for some of the locals – if you don’t have money to get food you don’t eat.”

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Kerrin McEvoy thinks Orbec will enjoy the step up in trip in the Wyong Cup

by admin on 07/05/2019

Confident: Jockey Kerrin McEvoy believes Orbec will find the 2100 metres of the Wyong Cup to his liking on Friday. Photo: bradleyphotos上海m.auKerrin McEvoy believes Orbec will find the 2100 metres of the Wyong Cup to his liking on Friday and if it is wet, all the better. The French import finished midfield with McEvoy in the saddle first-up in the Premiers Cup Prelude and follows the same path as last year, when he ran third in the Wyong Cup.
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“He ran well and just ran out of condition late first-up, but he will be better suited at this trip,” McEvoy said. “He handled Wyong well last year and was a bit unlucky in the cup there. Looking at his form he will handle a wet track, so the indications are positive.”

Boost for McDougall

John Thompson has rewarded his apprentice Blaike McDougall by keeping him on Signposted as he looks for four in a row at Randwick on Saturday.

“He started riding him in trackwork and worked him out and turned him around into a winner,” Thompson said. “He gets on really well with him. He had three rides for three wins and they have all been good rides. He just gets him to relax and rates him well in front and that’s what he will be trying to do on Saturday. He is a good kid and it is chance for him to see what goes on a carnival day.”

McDougall has picked up five rides for the day, including Forget for Kim Waugh and I’m Imogen in the Furious Stakes.

Balmain Boy ready

Les Bridge believes he has a miler in Balmain Boy, but he is ready to make his mark first-up at Randwick on Saturday. Balmain Boy stepped up to the three-year-old group races in the autumn, but it came a bit soon for him.

“He probably wasn’t ready for that, but he is stronger this time in and his barrier trials have him ready for a good preparation,” Bridge said. “I think he is going to be at his best at the mile, but he is fresh and ready to run a good race on Saturday.”

Glamour set to shine

Global Glamour, a winner at her only start, returns in the Furious Stakes after having a similar operation to Winx, removing a bone chip from a fetlock. Co-trainer Adrian Bott said the Star Witness filly had always been near the top of their list as a two-year-old and showed that at her only start, a 6 length win at Kembla Grange in January.

“She has come back and been very good in both trials and we are mindful that she is going to 1200m first-up,” Bott said.

Richard Flanagan lauds the Nauru files as great Australian writing

by admin on 07/04/2019

Author Richard Flanagan has questioned why Australian politicians have such hostility towards writing. Photo: Simon SchluterRichard Flanagan has poured scorn on the concept of a national literature but declared the centrality and necessity of writing to Australian life.
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And he said the most moving Australian writing he had read for a long time was the trove of “anonymous short stories” leaked to The Guardian – the incident reports of violence, sexual abuse, and self-harm involving asylum seekers on Nauru.

If anyone was expecting a gentle trot through the whys and wherefores of writing, the pros and cons of great writers – from Australia or elsewhere – in Flanagan’s first public lecture as inaugural Boisbouvier Professor of Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne they were in for a surprise.

The Man Booker-winning author of The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a man guaranteed to have a wider take on writing and its place in the world and in his address, titled “Does Writing Matter?”, at the Athenaeum Theatre on Thursday as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival, he was characteristically challenging.

“Nations and nationalisms may use literature, but writing of itself has nothing to do with national anythings – national traditions, national organisations, national prizes – all these and more are irrelevant,” he said.

The impact of the Nauru files had been profound. “All around us we see words debased, misused, and become the vehicles for grand lies,” Flanagan said. “Words are mostly used to keep us asleep, not to wake us. Sometimes though writing can panic us … This writing has woken me from a slumber too long. It has panicked me.

“The stories are very short, what might be called in another context flash fiction. Except they are true stories. I suspect they will continue to be read in coming decades and even centuries when the works of myself and my colleagues are long forgotten.”

Flanagan wondered why Australian politicians had such hostility towards writing. Australia spent $1.2 billion each year to “keep innocent people in a state of torment and suffering” but less than $2.4 million a year on direct subsidies to its writers. “What Australia is willing to spend in one year to create a state-sponsored hell on earth for the innocent is what Australia would spend in 500 years supporting its writers.” And he stressed he was not arguing for more support for writing.

What, he asked, was the connection between him standing on the stage and “a child sewing her lips together … her act and the act of writing share the same human aspiration”. Asylum seekers were asserting the fact that in the face of attempts to dehumanise them, their lives still had meaning. “And is this not the very same aspiration as writing?”

The role of the writer was to keep words alive in an attempt to divine truth. And he answered the question he had set himself in his lecture title. “But even when we are silenced we must continue to write. To assert freedom. To find meaning … Because writing matters. More than ever, it matters.”

Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa goes from Wallabies cauldron to Canberra Vikings duties

by admin on 07/04/2019

The Brumbies’ Allan Alaalatoa. Photo: Jay CronanThe Canberra Vikings will turn to Wallabies power to bolster their National Rugby Championship campaign when they inject prop Allan Alaalatoa for their clash against NSW Country.
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Alaalatoa will go from the Bledisloe Cup cauldron to Viking Park to play his first game of the NRC season as part of a Vikings reshuffle.

The tighthead prop made his Test debut when the Wallabies were thrashed by New Zealand two weeks ago and also played in the Bledisloe Cup defeat last weekend.

But the Vikings are confident the 22-year-old can put international disappointment behind him to tear the Eagles apart on Sunday.

Hooker Josh Mann-Rea will also play against the Eagles while Sam Carter has been included at lock.

Carter’s selection forces Rory Arnold to move to the bench while Henry Speight will start on the wing after scoring two tries in the season opener last weekend.

The ACT Brumbies and Vikings are still waiting on results of scans on James Dargaville’s shoulder to determine how long the versatile back will be out of action.

It is hoped Dargaville will miss as few as three games and be a part of the Vikings’ bid for an inaugural NRC title.

Meanwhile, the Brumbies are continuing their search for a new chief executive and applications for the position close on September 5.

The Brumbies have formed a four-person selection panel and will work with a recruitment company to finalise a shortlist for interviews in October.


Sunday: Canberra Vikings v NSW Country Eagles at Viking Park, 3pm.

Vikings team: 15. Robbie Coleman, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Andrew Smith, 12. Jordan Jackson-Hope, 11. Lausii Taliauli, 10. Nick Jooste, 9. Joe Powell, 8. Jordan Smiler, 7. Jarrad Butler, 6. Tom Staniforth, 5. Sam Carter, 4. Blake Enever, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Josh Mann-Rea, 1. Sione Taula. Reserves: 16. Robbie Abel, 17. Faalelei Sione, 18. Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Rory Arnold, 20. OJ Noa, 21. Dean Oakman-Hunt, 22. Brent Hamlin, 23. Isaac Thompson.

Paul Snowden believes My Country can step up again in the spring

by admin on 07/04/2019

Bigger things ahead: My Country (right) runs second to Tessera at Randwick in January. Photo: bradleyphotos上海m.auMy Country will always have the honour of being the first winner on the new Eagle Farm circuit and that trip away to Brisbane has her ready to take the next step in the spring.
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Peter and Paul Snowden have mapped out a spring return in Saturday’s Furious Stakes at Randwick, where she is joined by stablemate Quick Feet, but it isn’t locked in.

“My Country is a quality filly and the plan was to get her ready for this race after the trip away,”  Paul Snowden said.

“She is going good and ready to go, but we want to be a bit careful with her because she has a  big spring in front of her. We will have a discussion if the rain comes and might have to wait with her.

“She has shown us how good she is by getting to that black-type level last time off just one run. She has grown up a lot and is more relaxed in herself now. I think we are going to see a different filly again this time.”

While the rain might work against My Country, it could benefit Quick Feet, which has had the benefit of two runs since her spell.

She found the line well late when third to Omei Sword in the Silver Shadow Stakes a fortnight ago and is ready to step up in trip.

“She would love it to be the old Furious at 1400 metres after that last run,” Snowden said. “She is looking to step up and she looks very strong. She sort of hit a flat spot there in the straight in the Silver Shadow for a while then really attacked the line well. She is going to be coming hard at the end again because that is her style.”

Kerrin McEvoy takes the ride again on Quick Feet and he believes she will be suited by more testing conditions.

“I rode her trackwork and Peter and Paul have done a good job to keep her on the fresh side,” McEvoy said. “She is a nice filly that is fit and handles Randwick, which is important. I can’t wait for the trips to step up with her because she feels like she will love it.”

McEvoy has also picked up the ride on Le Romain – which was runner-up when resuming in the Show County Quality – in the Tramway Stakes with Christian Reith suspended. “I actually beat him first-up on Tycoon Tara, but I know Christian and Kris [Lees, trainer] were very happy with that run,” McEvoy said.

“He has performed well second-up in the past and was second to Press Statement in the Hobartville [Stakes] over the Randwick 1400m. He would have improved with the run, I think he is a very good ride in a race of many chances.

Minshen Zhu: is this Australia’s most connected Chinese political donor?

by admin on 07/04/2019

Dr Zhu with prime minister Julia Gillard in February 2013. Photo: TEI Dr Zhu at a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference meeting in Beijing, March 2014. Photo: TEI
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Dr Zhu with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in November 2015. Photo: TEI

He’s risen to national attention as the Chinese businessman who forked out for Senator Sam Dastyari’s travel bill.

But the story of Minshen Zhu is far bigger than just the NSW Labor powerbroker.

Dr Zhu is a man with links to the communist government in China, helping trigger renewed debate about political donations and the rising importance of Chinese money in Australia.

He has emerged as a prolific and well-connected donor to the major parties, with his company contributing more than $230,000 to Labor and the Liberals since 2010, according to Australian Electoral Commission records.

This includes more than $186,000 to the national arm of Labor between 2010 and 2015, and $44,000 to the NSW Liberal Party between 2013 and 2015.

As owner of private education provider Top Education Institute, Dr Zhu has met an impressive array of Australia’s most powerful politicians.

Photos show these high-flying, cross-party acquaintances include Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Scott Morrison, Kim Carr, Bob Carr, Brendan Nelson and Julie Bishop in various roles across government and opposition.

In the Senate on Thursday, Attorney-General George Brandis acknowledged the businessman was well-known in political circles.

“Indeed, many of us have met Mr Minshen Zhu and had dealings with the Top Education Institute but it appears only Senator Sam Dastyari has accepted money from him in settlement of a personal debt,” Senator Brandis said.

Fairfax Media this week revealed Senator Dastyari had asked Top Education Institute to settle a $1670 expenses bill after exceeding his parliamentary entitlements.

While pointing to Dr Zhu’s closeness with the Chinese Communist Party, the Attorney-General insisted political donations were not an issue, just the payment of a private debt as was the case with Senator Dastyari.

Top Education Institute, the company Dr Zhu established in 2001 and PricewaterhouseCoopers invested in earlier this year, specialises in law, business and accounting qualifications costing between $8500 and $80,000.

In November, he met Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for a dinner related to the institute’s newly established law school.

In April, he discussed the merits of law degrees with Senator Brandis.

In September 2014, he attended an event with then immigration minister Scott Morrison hosted by the Federal Forum, a fundraising body established by the Liberal Party to replace the ICAC-investigated Millennium Forum.

From 2012 to 2013, he was appointed by the Gillard Labor government as a member of the Chinese Ministerial Consultative Committee advisory body.

Wielding influence in China, Dr Zhu has been a delegate representing ‘Overseas Chinese’ at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

The CPPCC is often dismissed as a body with no real power in the autocratic state but is nevertheless a prominent government forum bringing together representatives from business, political organisations and civil society from across China.

In Australia, Dr Zhu is a senior adviser at the University of Sydney’s Confucius Institute, one of many such university facilities worldwide established and sponsored by the Chinese government’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, known as Hanban.

Roughly eight of these universities have shuttered their Confucius Institutes amid concerns they were too closely directed by Beijing or restricted academic freedom.

Both sides of politics have shown reluctance to tighten Australia’s political donations system but the latest revelations have set off renewed scrutiny.

Conservative senator Cory Bernardi has called for an investigation and reform and Labor frontbencher Stephen Conroy has urged the prohibition of foreign donations.

Top Education Institute said they are “currently investigating the matter [of Senator Dastyari’s travel bill] and have sought external legal counsel to provide opinion”.

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Zurich, Switzerland things to do: The 15 hidden highlights

by admin on 07/04/2019

Zurich: More than meets the eye. Photo: iStockSPONSORED CONTENT
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Zurich has a staid reputation, but if you explore the city like a local you’ll discover plenty of ways to enjoy this surprisingly trendy town.

Zurich might have an efficient airport and sedate, almost straight-laced appearance, but don’t be deceived. Switzerland’s premier city isn’t just a place to transit through but enjoy at your leisure. It has history, personality and far more than just the tourist sights that line the Limmat River and fancy Bahnhofstrasse, with its über-luxury boutiques and private banks. Certainly the locals know how to have fun, and you only have to look beneath the surface of this financial centre to discover great bars, cafés, avant-garde art, hip neighbourhoods and unexpected pleasures. What’s more, its scenic alpine surrounds are also well worth exploring. Here are some top ways to kick back and enjoy Zurich like a local.


Sitting on the ‘wrong’ side of the railways tracks, this former industrial district around Langstrasse is the latest trendy neighbourhood, its rundown warehouses and factories now transformed into art galleries, hip hotels, nightclubs and eateries. Go shopping for interesting boutique Swiss fashion and homeware brands such as Freitag, Einzigart and Erfolg. See www.zuerich上海m

Zurich Police Station

Few people want to end up in a police station while overseas, but make an exception for the Bahnhofquai’s police HQ, which has an entrance lobby that makes you think you’re tripping on 1960s acid. The eye-popping, cellar-like hall is covered in orange and yellow flowers in a fresco painted by Augusto Giacometti. See www.stadt-zuerich.ch

Café Schober

It’s easy to miss this gorgeous café in the old town, whose warren of rooms hides behind the cake-crammed front patisserie. Decorative themes include a conservatory of painted birds and a Victorian-era salon in lush red. Just the place for afternoon tea and a spot of romance. See www上海nditorei-cafe-schober.ch  www.peclard-zurich.ch

Lake Zurich

With its city centre hugging the Limmat River, it’s easy to overlook the lake, whose long promenades are lined with gorgeous flowerbeds in summer and have view towards the Alps. Take a lake steamer on a scenic excursion to Rapperswil at the lake’s far end for a pleasant afternoon’s outing. See www.zsg.ch

Kunsthaus Zurich

So much for staid Zurich: the city’s art museum is particularly strong on surrealist paintings, especially those of the Dada movement founded in the city itself in 1916. The anti-establishment movement went on to influence pop art and punk rock. Hello, deconstructed pig’s faces and blobs that represent dancing girls. See www.kunsthaus.ch

George Bar & Grill

One of the newest arrivals on the evening scene, this penthouse restaurant with a lounge and expansive terrace hangs over Zurich’s sober rooftops and provides an elegant space for a great night out, especially in high summer, when the bar is packed and the music burbles. See www.george-grill.ch

Kids’ play

They’re mostly overlooked by visitors, but if you have children don’t miss the highly interactive Zoological Museum (giant fossils, dinosaurs, live insects) and Zurich Zoo, which is one of Europe’s best zoos. The greenhouse rainforest is full of chameleons, lemurs and improbably coloured frogs. See zm.uzh.ch and www.zoo.ch


Zurich’s local mountain is by Swiss standards just a hill, but practically in the suburbs. Hike to the summit, or take the railway, for great views and activities such as mountain biking, paragliding and snowshoeing. If winter fog closes in, Uetliberg’s summit is often happily sunny. See www.uetliberg.ch

Jules Verne Bar

Head into Brasserie Lipp, squeeze into a tiny lift and emerge at a bar with a 360-degree view over Zurich, especially gorgeous in the direction of the lake, where it’s framed in church spires. Fantastic as a light-twinkled background to cocktails. See www.jules-verne.ch

Heidi-Weber Museum

Think the Swiss are conformists? Not architect Le Corbusier, pioneer of modernist design, whose work is highlighted here. The museum is housed inside one of Le Corbusier’s most brilliant buildings in glass, steel and coloured enamel plates that sits on the lakefront like something out of Austin Powers. See www.centerlecorbusier上海m

Restaurant Razzia

Never mind the great Swiss food: the décor alone is worth dinner in Zurich’s latest hotspot. The dramatic restaurant is housed in a former 1920s cinema with frescoed ceilings, tasselled chandeliers, velvet banquettes and (for some reason) a life-size stuffed giraffe. Fabulous, darling. See razzia-www.zuerich.ch


Get out and explore Zurich’s surrounds. Einsiedeln is an hour’s train ride away and has a marvellously over-the-top baroque church and huge abbey; the December Christmas market is lovely. The surrounds provide plenty of cow-clanking alpine landscapes for hiking, progressively glorious as you head towards Mythen mountain. See www.einsiedeln-tourismus.ch

On the beach

As soon as the sun comes out, Zurichers strip off and flock to the lakeshore for picnics, Frisbee, tattoo-envy and swimming. There are nearly 20 lidos such as Seebad Enge, child-oriented Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen or women-only Frauenbadi. At night, many reinvent themselves as live-music and cocktail venues. See www.zuerich上海m


If you want to mingle with the cool crowd, nestle into a sofa or perch yourself at the huge bar of this minimalist watering hole. The eye-catching bottles hanging from the ceiling will give inspire your cocktail choice, then you can kick back to the sounds of DJ-spun music. See www.raygrodski.ch  TRIP NOTES

Getting there

Swiss flies to Zurich from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. swiss上海m

Getting around

The ZurichCARD is valid for 24 or 72 hours and is a great way for urban explorers to reduce their costs. It covers unlimited public transport in the city and surrounds, free or reduced admission into most museums, half-price fares on Zurich Tourism city tours and discounts in participating stores. See www.zvv.ch

Staying there

Marktgasse Hotel provides an impressive minimalist, contemporary redesign to an old-town building and has very comfortable beds. Rooms for two from SFR 249 ($350) including taxes. Phone +41 44 266 1010, see www.marktgassehotel.ch

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This article brought to you by Switzerland Tourism.