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Abbott vows to keep intervening for Greste

Written By doni donian on Selasa, 24 Juni 2014 | 14.00

Tony Abbott (pic) says he is bewildered by an Egyptian court's decision to jail Peter Greste. Source: AAP

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has vowed to keep lobbying Egypt's government to free jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste.

THE federal government on Tuesday summoned a senior Egyptian diplomat to express outrage over the seven-year sentence handed to the Al Jazeera reporter in Cairo.

It was the latest diplomatic overture from the government to Egyptian authorities about the case, including from Mr Abbott who twice contacted the country's leadership to lobby for Mr Greste."The Australian government will continue to make intercessions at every level with the Egyptian government and elsewhere to try and ensure that Peter Greste and his colleagues are swiftly released," the prime minister told parliament on Tuesday.He said the government understood and supported the Egyptian government's crackdown on extremist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, but couldn't comprehend why those reporting on the group were jailed.Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Greste's harsh treatment as a journalist stirred "something elemental in the spirit of all free people".But he supported the prime minister's call for cool heads to prevail."These are the times when passions run high but the best interests of Peter and his two colleagues will not be served by inflammatory rhetoric," Mr Shorten told parliament.The government sought to summon Egypt's ambassador to the meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but discovered Hassan El-Laithy is in Cairo.Egyptian Charge d'Affaires Sherif Bedeir Hussein was called instead, and he refused to speak to journalists after leaving the half-hour meeting in Canberra.Attorney-General George Brandis said the government would make a formal request to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seeking his intervention.

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Qld bikies can fill out 'resignation' form

QUEENSLAND bikies and their associates can fill out a form to declare they are no longer part of an outlaw group.

THE Queensland Police Service website has a questionnaire asking people to describe the steps they have taken to "disassociate".

The form asks participants to circle yes or no boxes to indicate if they have returned or destroyed their club colours, if they have a club tattoo, and whether it's been removed.They are also asked to declare if they are an office holder, general member or associate of a bikie chapter.New laws are coming into effect from July 1 banning bikies from working as used car sellers, security guards, locksmiths, tow truck drivers, bookmakers, pawn brokers, tattoo artists and bar workers.More than a dozen lines on the form are set aside so people can describe their future intentions with an outlaw group and the steps their organisation has taken to disassociate from them.A declaration section asks participants to give an undertaking to provide documents to the police within 10 business days.Earlier this month, Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie announced the government would delay a controversial plan to ban people with bikie links from working in the building industry.This means plumbers and electricians with suspected bikie links won't be banned from having a trades licence until July 2015, after a federal royal commission into unions.But new licensing requirements will apply to other industries under the Tattoo Parlours Act 2013.Bikies can call a police hotline for help on filling out the form, which is subject to the Information Privacy Act.The Queensland police website promises that applications to disown bike membership would be assessed "in a timely manner".But participants are advised that delaying a response to a letter could jeopardise their ability to hold an industry licence.The form has to be witnessed by another signature.

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We are generous to refugees: borders boss

THE military commander of Australia's people-smuggling crackdown, Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, says he believes Australia is seen as reasonable and generous in its treatment of refugees.

LT-GEN Campbell, the commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, says Australia has accepted more than 800,000 refugees since World War II and continues to resettle displaced people.

"We are seen, I think, quite reasonably, as being a generous country in this regard and a consistently generous country," he said in a speech in Sydney on Tuesday.Lt-Gen Campbell said Australia was among the top three nations resettling refugees, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.His defence of Australia's record follows muted criticism from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, who earlier in June described Australia's treatment of boat arrivals as "very strange".Mr Guterres commended Australia's successful resettlement program but said "the problem is when we discuss boats and there, of course, we enter into a very, very, very dramatic thing," Fairfax Media reported.Lt-Gen Campbell, in an address to the Royal United Services Institute of NSW, said Operation Sovereign Borders had saved lives.He reiterated Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's recent announcement that there had been no boat arrivals in Australia in six months."There have been no deaths at sea in that time - a period which otherwise potentially have seen up to 180 people who might otherwise drown if we were running from statistics of 2012-2013," he said.Lt-Gen Campbell said people smugglers were organised criminals who were alert to any change in Australia's border protection policy."Any relaxation of our arrangements potentially opens up opportunity," he said.He also said 203 arrests had been made under Operation Sovereign Borders since it started nine months ago.Lt-Gen Campbell has been reported as being the lead candidate to be Australia's next chief of army.Asked on Tuesday if it was appropriate for the military to have a role in policing refugee boat arrivals, he said that was not a matter for him."I think the question of appropriateness is something both for the government of the day, the parliament and the people, it's not for me to comment," he said.

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Jodhi Meares charged with DUI

Written By doni donian on Senin, 23 Juni 2014 | 14.01

Jodhi Meares is heading to court after allegedly being caught drink driving in Sydney's east. Source: AAP

JAMES Packer's ex-wife Jodhi Meares will face court in August on drink driving charges after crashing into three parked cars in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

THE 43-year-old had to be rescued from her Range Rover, which rolled after the smash in upmarket Bellevue Hill on Saturday night.

The fashion designer, who is engaged to rocker Jon Stevens, was given a roadside breath test before being taken to the local police station.Police say she recorded a 0.181 blood alcohol reading, almost four times the legal limit.She was charged with drink driving and driving while suspended and is due to appear at Waverley Local Court on August 5.It's reported Meares could face the possibility of 18 months in jail and a fine of $3300.After a long engagement, Meares and Stevens were reportedly planning to tie the knot in September.

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Vic firies will be paid for mine fire: MFB

Victorian firefighters have begun legal action to recover wages owed since the Hazelwood mine fire. Source: AAP

FIREFIGHTERS involved in battling Victoria's mine fire will be paid outstanding entitlements for their efforts this week, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) says.

THE United Firefighters Union (UFU) has started Federal Court action against the brigade to recover wages owing since the 45-day fire at the Hazelwood coal mine began on February 9.

The legal action concerns 240 MFB firefighters, who are each owed an average $4000 out of a total overtime bill of more than $6 million.The MFB says all outstanding payments it is aware of will be paid this week."We have provided assurances to staff that everyone will be paid all of their entitlements," acting deputy chief officer David Bruce said in a statement on Monday.The UFU says firefighters worked up to 20-hour days on their days off during the Hazelwood coal mine fire but that the MFB is unable to account for who was there.However, Mr Bruce said it had taken considerable time and effort to recognise and verify attendance records, given the size and nature of the incident.The summer's fire season involved the largest deployment of firefighters outside the MFB's immediate area of responsibility, he said."Understandably, the MFB's focus at that time was to provide assistance to the community through efficient and effective deployment of resources across the state," he said.The UFU's Peter Marshall said the legal action for firefighters' entitlements would continue despite the MFB's assurances they would be paid this week."They've been saying that every week. Show me the money is the response to that," he said."If in the interim period they pay, that's good. but to date we ain't see the money despite many assurances."Firefighters shouldn't have to wait that long and the MFB should meet their legal requirements."

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Abbott carbon tax repeal in home straight

Prime Minister Tony Abbott will personally reintroduce a bill to axe the carbon tax. Source: AAP

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott will personally reintroduce a bill on Monday to axe the carbon tax as his government lags Labor in the polls.

THIS week's sitting is the last before the Senate changeover, after which eight mostly conservative-leaning crossbenchers will hold the balance of power.

The government wants to ram the carbon and mining tax repeal bills through the lower house by the end of this week, setting them up for debate when the new Senate sits from July 7.However, the government has a shortage of political capital, the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll shows.Labor leads the coalition 53-47 in two party-terms and 47 per cent of voters rate Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister - seven points ahead of Mr Abbott.The budget remains a serious problem for the government, with 61 per cent regarding it as unfair.A separate poll by the Climate Institute shows a softening in opposition to the carbon tax, down from 52 per cent in 2012 to 30 per cent.Mr Abbott has invited the crossbenchers for talks on passing the government's key policies."I say to the crossbench senators, if you want to save the families of Australia $550 a year there's a very easy way - scrap the carbon tax," Mr Abbott said."That's what this parliament was elected to do."The prime minister said the coalition was taking climate change "very seriously" by proposing to invest $2.5 billion in "sensible, practical measures".Asked about the polls, Mr Abbott admitted the government was going through some "challenging times".Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer will announce his position on the carbon tax repeal bills on Wednesday.With the three PUP senators, the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party's Ricky Muir, Family First's Bob Day and the Liberal Democrats' David Leyonhjelm, the government should have enough support to repeal the tax.Budget changes to seniors payments and welfare spending won't have as easy a passage, with Families Minister Kevin Andrews admitting they won't pass in time to start on July 1."We will obviously give people a new indication of when the changes will come in once we have some sense of what the Senate might do," he said.An interim report overhauling the payments system by Mission Australia chief Patrick McLure will be released in the next fortnight.

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Newman says ALP wrong on TAFE fee rises

Written By doni donian on Minggu, 22 Juni 2014 | 14.00

QUEENSLAND'S premier has accused the opposition of playing Nostradamus over TAFE fee increases.

LITERACY and numeracy fees for disability pensioners have risen from $140 to $800 while tuition fees for a diploma in marketing have increased from $2400 to $6000, Labor says.

It predicts that fees will go up even more as previously subsidised courses incur full fees and a new Queensland Training Assets Management Authority makes TAFE campuses pay full commercial rent.But the Liberal National government insists there is no link between course costs and infrastructure arrangements.Premier Campbell Newman said hefty TAFE fee increases would be unlikely when asked about Labor's predictions."It's interesting to see they're playing Nostradamus," he told reporters on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday."I don't believe that's the case."TAFE is being re-focused so it meets the needs of employers so we create jobs."Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the government had a secret agenda, after Labor uncovered leaked TAFE documents which say "costs could increase again for the start" of the first semester in 2015.They are answers to student questions and comments such as, "Are costs likely to increase next year?" and "I feel ripped off"."We've now heard of secret plans where TAFE fees are going to be skyrocketing in this state," Ms Palaszczuk told reporters.Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek insists fees aren't actually rising, with a spokeswoman explaining in a background statement to AAP that subsidies were being reduced to some courses that didn't align with skills shortage areas.

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Carbon tax revisited in final Senate week

IT may by the current Senate's final hurrah, as its sits for one last week before the new senators take their place.

BUT even before it begins what amounts to a farewell lap, attention is focused squarely on the Senate that will replace it.

The Abbott government will on Monday reintroduce its carbon tax repeal laws into the parliament, in readiness for the new, more conservative upper house that take effect on July 7.The legislation has already been knocked back once by Labor and Greens in the Senate, but the host of conservative crossbenchers are expected to pass the legislation."This week the government will bring the carbon tax repeal bills back to Parliament to get rid of this dodgy tax once and for all," Environment Minister Greg Hunt says.While signature policies such as the carbon tax are expected to be waved through by the likes of the Palmer United Party, others such as the GP co-payment face continued resistance.Assistant infrastructure minister Jamie Briggs is confident the new senators can be talked into supporting the co-payment and reform of universities fees - two changes opposed by the PUP."I'm not at all sure that the positions some of the new senators have outlined will necessarily be their position in a month's time," Mr Briggs told Sky News on Sunday."When they're in Canberra and they've had the discussions with the relevant ministers ... I'm very confident people will understand this is the right direction."Environmentalists also had their minds turned to July 7, with the Climate Institute bringing two life-size dinosaur replicas to Parliament House in a last-ditch attempt to save the carbon tax."There are dinosaurs in politics and business who want to hold back progress," chief executive John Connor told reporters."This is an appeal to all parliamentarians, particularly the new senators, not to be rushed into a vote literally when they haven't even got their feet under their desks in parliament."

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Political blame game over childcare costs

Childcare costs have rocketed 150 per cent in the past decade, a report shows. Source: AAP

WORKING mothers are losing 60 cents of each dollar they earn to rising childcare costs but Australia's politicians haven't found a way to ease the situation for now.

INSTEAD they're blaming each other for the worsening crisis in childcare affordability.

Childcare costs have skyrocketed 150 per cent in the past decade, with only electricity and tobacco prices rising at a faster rate, a new report claims.Parents returning to full-time work after having a child can now expect to lose up to 60 per cent of their gross income to childcare fees, loss of benefits and higher income tax rates.Mums from low income families who return to full-time work may take home as little as $4.55 an hour, the research from financial services firm AMP and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling found.Assistant education minister Sussan Ley regularly meets women juggling childcare with returning to work."There is crisis and struggle and desperation when you talk to mums who just don't know what to do with the work-family balance," she told reporters in Melbourne."It's not fair for families to have to live within a system that is as unsustainable as the one that Labor has left us with."The Productivity Commission is due to deliver its initial report on childcare to the government next month and the final version in October.Ms Ley expects the government will have some solutions for parents in early 2015.But the opposition says the government can do one thing to help right now: abandon plans to freeze childcare payments."They cannot justify standing up and attacking low and middle income families time and time again and this report shows that Australia can't afford it," opposition childcare spokeswoman Kate Ellis said.Labor was worried many women wouldn't return to the workforce after having children because of the difficulty of finding and paying for childcare.The AMP-NATSEM report said 630,000 Australian families pay for "long day" childcare, which can cost up to $170 a day per child.The national average childcare fee has risen 150 per cent since 2004. Childcare generally costs more in cities compared to regional areas and more in wealthier suburbs than less affluent areas.Fees have risen faster than petrol, education and healthcare costs.While the number of children in childcare has risen steadily over the past decade, about 60 per cent of children from working families are still cared for by grandparents, relatives or friends.

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Policeman charged with domestic violence

Written By doni donian on Sabtu, 21 Juni 2014 | 14.00

A NSW police officer has been stood down after being charged with a domestic violence offence. Source: AAP

A NSW police officer has been stood down after being charged with a domestic violence offence.

THE male sergeant, attached to a corporate services command, was involved in an incident while off duty on Friday night, police say.

He's been charged with stalking or intimidating intending to cause fear or physical harm.He's due to appear in Burwood Local Court on June 27.No one was injured during the incident.

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