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  • Shadow minister David Feeney lashes Tanya Plibersek and the Left over Palestine, same sex marriage

    David Feeney and Joel Fitzgibbon. Photo: Andrew Meares David Feeney and Joel Fitzgibbon. Photo: Andrew Meares
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    David Feeney and Joel Fitzgibbon. Photo: Andrew Meares

    David Feeney and Joel Fitzgibbon. Photo: Andrew Meares

    Push to force Labor MPs to back gay marriageShorten clears way for Labor shift on Palestine

    Labor frontbencher David Feeney has rebuked deputy leader Tanya Plibersek over her push to compel Labor MPs to vote for same-sex marriage, while also lashing ALP colleagues who are “fixated” on the Israel and Palestine issue.

    The socially conservative West Australian Labor senator Joe Bullock has also vowed to fight Ms Plibersek’s push to bind MPs to support same-sex marriage, rather than allowing a conscience vote as is currently the case.

    He would not rule out crossing the floor of the Parliament if a vote was called on the issue, which could lead to his expulsion from the ALP.

    “At the moment Labor members have a conscience vote and I’ll vote with mine. I will fight this at conference so there is not an issue, let’s see if there is a problem after conference,” he said.

    Senate crossbencher David Leyonhjelm wants the Parliament to reconsider same-sex marriage after it previously rejected a proposal in 2012, but is waiting to see if the Liberal Party will change its position to give its MPs a free vote.

    After a week overseas attending Anzac Day commemorations, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is facing growing divisions in the Labor Party, with Mr Feeney’s criticism of his frontbench colleague in particular likely to escalate the damaging internal fights.

    Mr Shorten and Ms Plibersek refused to answer questions about Palestine on Wednesday, with the deputy leader declaring “I don’t think today is the day for these other questions” following the execution of the Bali nine duo.

    But Mr Feeney, who is Labor’s justice spokesman, was critical of Ms Plibersek’s push for a binding position on same-sex marriage.

    “It is impossible for Labor to be arguing on the one hand that the Liberals should introduce a conscience vote and on the other hand remove its own,” he said.

    Mr Feeney subsequently told Sky News that, while he supported same-sex marriage, he did not support the ALP coercing people to vote in favour of it and that a conscience vote was the right approach for both major political parties.

    The comments from Mr Feeney and Senator Bullock come after union power broker Joe de Bruyn and Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon criticised Ms Plibersek’s proposal which, nevertheless, has broad support in the Left .

    And Mr Feeney questioned the push for a national conference resolution, which will be led by NSW frontbencher Tony Burke after discussions with Mr Shorten, for a future Labor government to recognise Palestine as a state in the absence of progress towards a two-state solution.

    Mr Feeney said that “with so much going on in the Middle East, with more Arabs killed very year in Syria than have been killed in the history of Arab-Israeli conflict, the fixation on Israel is just that” and that his view was “unilateral recognition of Palestine doesn’t accomplish anything for the Palestinian people until that state is a reality on the ground”.

    The combined forces of the NSW Right and the national Left faction give that resolution a good chance to succeed.

    Some in the party are roiling with anger that the two issues have been raised ahead of the Abbott government’s make or break second budget.

    One Right MP said anger in the party with Ms Plibersek was “unbelievable” and her actions were a “white hot f— you” to Mr Shorten, while Left MPs who support same sex marriage said she had made a tactical mistake that raised questions about her political judgement.

    Mr Feeney is a member of the Victorian Right as is Mr Shorten and the Opposition Leader, who is opposed to any change to the national platform, is to have hardened his opposition to a compromise resolution on the issue now, too.

    Another Labor MP predicted the Victorian Right would seek a resolution that would condemn the actions of both Israel and Palestine but which would stop short of unilateral recognition of Palestine – a position unlikely to be acceptable to some in the NSW Right and national Left.

    NSW Labor Right senator NSW Deb O’Neill came out in support of Mr Burke on Wednesday and backed the push for federal Labor to adopt a resolution to unilaterally recognise Palestine, in line with what was adopted at NSW conference.

    “This change in wording doesn’t preclude Australia working with Israel to work towards a two-state solution, it merely strengthens Labor’s position as a proponent of peace in the region,” she said.

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  • Unfriended: Making a killing for less

    Unfriended is a teen horror film set entirely within the world of virtual chat rooms.MODERN Hollywood is all about the numbers, but even in an industry obsessed with box office and back-end (a cut of the spoils), Jason Blum is one out of the box.
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    At 45, the main man at Blumhouse Productions heads a pipeline of profitability built on a simple premise: make it fast, make it cheap, and make a pile of money – if it works, that is (and not all of them do).

    ‘‘We have a budget cap of about $US4million ($5million) per film, maybe a little more, and we came up with that number by looking at the movies that don’t work,’’ Blum said.

    Many of his movies do work – like The Purge ($US89million, two sequels), Insidious ($US93million, two sequels) or Sinister ($US78million, a sequel on the way).

    But if a film doesn’t make it into cinemas, there’s always DVD and video-on-demand and subscription services, and Blum reckons taking $US4 million – half from North America, the other half from the rest of the world – is a safe bet.

    Keeping budgets at that break-even point ‘‘allows us to do weird, original stuff – because weird, original stuff is not always commercial,’’ he said.

    ‘‘Some of them work, some of them don’t, but as long as we keep the budgets down, we can keep experimenting and trying new things.’’

    The latest of those new things is Unfriended – a brilliantly inventive spin on the low-budget horror formula of six people in a room being killed off one by one. The central premise here is cyber-bullying, and the six are in an online chatroom – a virtual room – with the entire film constructed from imagery captured on secondary screens (laptops, phones, Facebook pages and so on).

    As is the Blumhouse way, it was made cheap, is going wide and, if it works, will undoubtedly have a sequel or three.

    Jason Blum has been producing movies since 1995, but it was in 2007 that this mantra emerged, when a low-budget horror film called Paranormal Activity landed in his lap. Made by Oren Peli for $US15,000, the ‘‘found-footage’’ frightener had been rejected by every studio in town when Blum, who had a production deal with Paramount, made a case for it.

    Earlier this year he told W magazine that ‘‘Paramount rejected it 100 times’’ before agreeing to put it in cinemas. It grossed $US193million worldwide and has spawned four sequels (so far).

    On his IMDb profile page, Blum has a producer credit on 78 titles; boxofficemojo lists 22 titles for a combined box office of more than $US1.8billion, which suggests the true total is even higher; The Hollywood Reporter has claimed his 10-year output deal with Universal guarantees him a 12.5per cent cut of the first-dollar gross (the ticket price) on all his titles.

    Whatever way you cut it, those are astonishing numbers.

    But Blum isn’t just making schlock. He also produced the triple-Oscar-winning Whiplash (for which he received a best picture nomination).

    ‘‘I didn’t make Whiplash thinking it would be a big profit centre,’’ he said. It was, rather, a passion project.

    ‘‘I love our scary movies, that’s going to continue to be the primary focus of me and the people who work at the company, but when something amazing comes across the desk we’re in a position now where we can do it not purely for financial reasons. If everyone loves it but we’re not going to make a lot of money on it, so long as we don’t losemoney, we’ll pursue it.’’

    If it all sounds too good to be true, there are some who have claimed that’s because it is. The reason Blumhouse movies are cheap is because everyone gets paid only base rates.

    For the key creatives – writer, director, stars – the trade-off is a profit share that kicks in once the film has passed certain hurdles (the first at $30 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter). But for lowly crew, there’s no delayed payday, just the union minimum they signed on for in the first place.

    Blum doesn’t see any reason to be defensive about this.

    ‘‘It makes no sense for someone to say, ‘Because your movies are very commercial I should participate [in the profits]’. If it’s a $50million studio movie you don’t participate, you get paid scale. So why should you participate in ours?’’

    The real winners in this model, other than Blum, are the stars. Blum says their deals are predicated on their ‘‘quote’’ – the fee they usually work for. So even if John Travolta or Ethan Hawke or Jessica Alba signs on for the minimum (about $US3500 a week), their eventual return could be pretty impressive. Rose Byrne, for example, is said to have earned more than $7million for her role in Insidious.

    ‘‘We’ve made a lot of people some great back end, so people have come back to try again,’’ Blum said.

    ‘‘From an actor’s point of view, it’s four weeks and if the movie works it’s a big payday. And if it doesn’t, you were in a cool movie.’’

    Unfriended opens today.

  • Nepal earthquake: Tasmanian man stranded as families search for answers

    Soldiers from the Nepalese army clear debris from a collapsed house while searching for victims in Kathmandu.Dozens of Australians remain listed as missing in earthquake-ravaged Nepal, as desperate families scour social media for any news of their loved ones.
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    So far, 1250 Australians have been accounted for in Nepal, but a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade refused to say how many remain missing, citing privacy concerns.

    And the lack of information is only increasing families’ fears for their loved ones.

    Tasmanian man Julien Tempone, 24, remains stranded in a remote village with his travelling companion, 24-year-old Canadian Tamara McLeod.

    Ms McLeod managed to call her sister, Michelle Dack, who said the pair were trapped in Briddhim, in Langtang National Park near Kathmandu.

    A frantic Ms Dack told Fairfax Media a handful of tourists were stranded in the village, with buildings levelled and all road access to the village completely obstructed.

    The pair and two tourists from Holland had some rice and water, but were begging for a helicopter to rescue them, Ms Dack said.

    “On our side it’s been so, so frustrating. We’re not getting any response at all; it’s been a run around.”

    Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop told the ABC on Tuesday night that of the 1250 Australians who had been accounted for, only 549 had registered their travel with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

    She said she believed that “most” Australians in the area had been found.

    But the challenge will now be bringing them home.

    The International Committee of the Red Cross has set up a website where family members can register names of missing relatives, and those listed as missing can let their families know they are safe.

    Dozens of Australians remain listed on that page.

    A Facebook group, called Langtang Missing/Found People, shows how social media is helping to fill the information vacuum surrounding the disaster.

    A woman who was evacuated by helicopter from Langtang, a remote area of Nepal near the Tibetan border, had asked those also isolated in the village to write down their names in a notebook before she left.

    Photographs of those names, separated into nationalities, were then posted on Facebook. It was often the first time family and friends knew that their missing loved ones were alive.

    “THAT’S MY GIRLS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!,” responded a family member of Australian woman Athena Zelandonii, who had been reported missing.

    Australian artist Sarah Jane Pell, who doing an art project on Mount Everest, took to Facebook on Tuesday to reassure her followers that she was safe and that she was planning on flying out of the country, after a similar message posted on Twitter on Saturday.

    With Megan Levy, Craig Butt

  • Half of Australia’s suburbs at risk of a measles outbreak

    Last year saw the highest number of measles cases in Australia in more than a decade. Photo: Sergey KhamidulinNearly half Australia’s suburbs do not have enough people immunised against measles to protect them against outbreaks of the potentially deadly disease, a conference has heard.
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    Measles has been officially eliminated within Australia, but NSW health says international travel means the condition is being imported into the state at least once a month, putting children who are not fully immunised at risk.

    It considers the threat so serious it is rolling out a state-wide booster program to children in their senior years of high school.

    Australia’s relatively high overall rate of immunisation for measles masks the dangers at a local level, where analysis from the National Centre of Immunisation Research and Surveillance for Vaccine Preventable Diseases has found immunisation rates are well below the minimum requirement that 95 per cent of 6 year-old children should have at least one measles vaccination.

    In some Australian postcodes such as Mullumbimby rates are as low as 57 per cent, sparking questions about whether schools need to begin more strictly enforcing school-entry vaccination requirements.

    In NSW after Mullumbimby, Brunswick Heads is at 67 per cent, and Bellingen, Bangalow, Byron Bay are about 76, 80 and 82 per cent respectively. Sydney City is at 72 per cent, although difficulties collecting data in that area may mean this is an underestimate.

    In Victoria, the Yarra Valley is at 77 per cent, while Melbourne City is 55 per cent and Southbank is 67 per cent, although difficulties collecting data in the last two areas may mean this is an underestimate.

    The Victorian health department could not say how many neighbourhoods across the state were not meeting minimum measles vaccination requirements.

    But a spokesman was keen to point out Victoria’s childhood immunisation coverage was “among the highest in the country” – 93 per cent for children aged 5.

    “No Jab, No Play” legislation is set to be introduced in Victoria next year. It would see children who are not fully immunised banned from enrolling in childcare, unless they have an approved exemption for a medical reason or their parents have a conscientious objection.

    The director of the National Centre of Immunisation Research and Surveillance, Peter McIntyre, said measles was dangerous not just for unvaccinated​ children, but adults as well.

    “You do get a substantial number of people who get quite ill from it,” he said. “With measles a proportion will end up in hospital, and you don’t get many ‘mild’ cases where you are just feeling a little bit off.”

    His presentation to an NHMRC​ Centre of Research Excellence in Immunisation advocacy workshop revealed analysis of nearly 1500 post codes in the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register had found 44 per cent had immunisation rates below 95 per cent, the national target agreed to by the country’s health ministers.

    “We have got a long way to go,” he said. “Because we have got these pockets of people who aren’t immunised, we get these bushfires”.

    “They are related to travel, things like there was a singing or dancing group visiting from the Philippines, or people travelling to Thailand, which also has measles, and about three years ago there was quite a lot of measles in France”.

    Last year saw the highest number of measles cases in more than a decade in Australia, while NSW in particular has been struggling with a number of outbreaks, with the biggest in 2012.

    Professor McIntyre said recent scares over measles outbreaks in the US were about far lower rates of the disease than occurred in Australia, in part because the US had extremely strict rules around checking that people were vaccinated before each level of school and university.

    “You can’t get into any of these places unless you have got your bit of paper saying you have got your two doses of measles vaccine,” he said. “Here the schools legislation doesn’t necessarily get enforced.”

    So far the US CDC has identified 125 cases of measlesinfamously linked to an outbreak at Disneyland theme parks in California, where the population is nearly 70 per cent larger than Australia. In 2014 Australia recorded 340 cases of measles.

    Professor McIntyre said the government’s recently announced plans to develop a school vaccination register could improve this, although it needed to be easy to use as schools already had a lot of responsibilities and may not be equipped to check and enforce the rules.

    Vicky​ Sheppeard​, the director of the communicable diseases branch of NSW Health, said the ministry was so concerned about the low rates in some suburbs that it has developed a targeted program in high schools, which was rolled out at 145 schools in areas with low coverage in term four last year.

    That program had been so successful it would now be rolled out across the state this year and next.

    She said parents had been so keen to get their kids vaccinated they had managed to reach 11,000 children. All up 20,000 had been given parental permission, but checks revealed the remainder were already up-to-date and so did not need the vaccine.

    “Really it’s often that parents are busy, and life circumstances have for one reason or another got in the way, whether it’s moving, the number of children they have had, or illness, it’s really just been a missed opportunity,” she said.

    The department is also developing targeted programs, including a pilot program in Western Sydney that offered vaccines through Pacific Islander churches.

    “There are simple ways to reach people, you just need to develop programs that meet their needs,” she said.

  • Bali 9 executions: Bound for Bali, Australians persist with travel plans

    Wednesday evening’s Jetstar flight from Sydney to Bali was most probably a quiet one. Among its passengers were Australians saddened by the execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, but determined to proceed with their holiday and business plans.
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    “You do the crime, you do the time,” said Jason Boceski, heading to Denpasar with his girlfriend. “But should you shoot ’em? No, personally.”

    The 30-year-old electrician had been planning the holiday for four months and never reconsidered travelling to Indonesia.

    “[I’m] not going to let two people’s decision of carrying drugs … affect my [plan] of going over there.”

    Louis Pratt, 42, was bound for Bali to work on a sculpture project with local artists. He said it would be wrong to punish the people of Bali for an unjust policy they had no control over.

    “The Balinese are very sweet people. They’re probably more relaxed about drugs and things than Java and [other parts of] Indonesia,” he said.

    “Unfortunately my timing is terrible but I booked these tickets months ago.”

    Timothy Bird lives in Bali with his wife and son, but commutes to Australia fortnightly to work in mining. He was concerned that the deteriorating relationship between the two countries will make life difficult for his son.

    “I’m worried about how all this nonsense is going to affect my son’s future, whether he can maybe not live in Indonesia anymore,” the 41-year-old said.

    He rejected the characterisation of Indonesian law as “barbaric” and says people who do the right thing have nothing to fear.

    “You never hear about people on death row in Singapore and Thailand,” he said. “Why is it just Bali?”

    And far from cancelling their travel plans, journalism student Caitlin Morahan and her boyfriend Doug Cole changed their holiday destination to Bali in order to investigate the sentiment on the ground.

    “There’s definitely going to be some backlash, definitely going to be anger,” said Ms Morahan, 23.

    “Bali’s obviously a huge tourist spot for a lot of Australians. What’s it going to mean now for tourism in Bali?”

    Airlines will be watching closely for answers to that question, but if early indications are anything to go by, it might be business as usual. Webjet said demand for flights to Bali was up 42 per cent over the past four weeks compared to the same period last year.

    But at least one Sydney travel agent was refusing to sell tickets to Bali. Maria Tadros-Anissa from Tadros Travel in Dulwich Hill told KIIS FM on Wednesday she had torn down the store’s window displays advertising Indonesia.

    “We’ve removed all the Bali posters and we’re actually boycotting, we’re not selling any trips to Indonesia or Bali,” she said.

    “Definitely no more Bali with Tadros Travel. They can run and take a hike.”

  • Bali 9 executions: Myuran Sukumaran was a good man

    Myuran Sukumaran at a painting class given by visiting friend and Australian artist Ben Quilty atKerobokan jail in February, 2013. Photo: Jason Childs Myuran Sukumaran at a painting class given by visiting friend and Australian artist Ben Quilty atKerobokan jail in February, 2013. Photo: Jason Childs
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    Myuran Sukumaran at a painting class given by visiting friend and Australian artist Ben Quilty atKerobokan jail in February, 2013. Photo: Jason Childs

    Australian artist Ben Quilty teaches Sukumaran to paint in Kerobokan Prison. Photo: Jason Childs

    Sukumaran’s painting teacher Tina Bailey holds a painting of the Indonesian flag dripping with blood, created on the day before his execution. Photo: James Brickwood

    Indonesia responds to Australia withdrawing ambassadorAnalysis: Cold comfort in diplomatic deep freezePolice officers face jail for death penalty tip-offs: Palmer proposal

    On February 19, the callous cruelty of the Indonesian justice system was on full display, taunting Myuran Sukumaran again with false hopes.

    The country’s Attorney-General, H.M. Prasetyo, had announced a week earlier that Sukumaran and fellow Bali nine inmate Andrew Chan would be transferred imminently to the prison island, Nusakambangan, where they were ultimately to be shot.

    A week had passed, though, with no further news – an agony of time borne out of the country’s endemic official dysfunction.

    “Are you there?” I inquired of Sukumaran, using an email address we had employed over two or more years to communicate, clandestinely, about art and prison life and the progress of his case.

    “Still here,” came the reply.

    I asked how he was.

    “It’s been really hard. There seems to be a little bit of hope now.

    “Sometimes I wonder if it would be more humane just to do it and get it over with them making us all suffer like this, prolonging our misery.”

    Sukumaran’s misery ended early on Wednesday morning, along with all the hopes and dreams and artistic drive that had kept him sane during his decade in Kerobokan prison.

    I had met Chan and interviewed him inside Kerobokan prison, but Sukumaran I came to know. He was a remarkable character and a good man. Our first encounter was in February 2012 in the ashes of Kerobokan’s administrative centre, after rioters chased out all the guards and tried to burn down the prison. As we squatted on a clear bit of floor, Sukumaran told me how he had stood throughout that night with a crowbar near to hand, guarding the prison’s armory as gang members tried to beat down the doors to get to the guns inside.

    “I was hoping they wouldn’t succeed,” he said, “because then I’d have to fight them.”

    By the time of the riot, the young Australian had already set up the prison art room, a computer centre, T-shirt printing facility and silver shop. The aim was to rehabilitate himself and others, and give his fellow prisoners something to do other than fight and take drugs.

    One of many of Indonesia’s infuriating hypocrisies is that much of the drug trade is controlled by the police and army (which is why low level smugglers are the only ones ever prosecuted). Drugs, and the gangs who sell them, are rampant inside prison. Sukumaran himself stood staunch against both.

    He deployed enormous effort to keep gang members and drug users out of his beloved studio.

    “I’m so sick of all the gang stuff in here,” he emailed me in October 2013 as I researched a story on the largest gang, Laskar Bali. “It never ends, I hope this new warden will be a bit tougher.

    “I’ve had some fights with them, a couple very serious. Their [sic] like my mortal enemies now … Even the guards are unofficial and some official members of those groups.”

    When that story was published the following year, Sukumaran offered a gentle critique, saying it was “a little understated about Kerobokan prison”.

    “I’ve been really frustrated with this prison at the moment with how pro-[gang] they are! … Now there [sic] even in the workshop trying do projects to make them look good and to cover up their drug businesses and to look good in front of the officials.”

    Still, he painted and hoped, and kept the hopes of others alive.

    In February, 2013, over a two-day art workshop with artist Ben Quilty, his character was on full display. He described his work with other prisoners as also “a kind of art”.

    The best hope to save his life, he believed, was for the former president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to grant clemency as his term as president came to an end late last year. It would have been a brave move, but would have carried no political cost because SBY could not run again.

    As the election neared and there was no news, Sukumaran expressed his frustration.

    “Now it’s already July and SBY is soon to leave office and theirs [sic] still no indication if he will make a decision,” he emailed.

    Then in October, he said, the consulate relayed news from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop after a meeting in Bali with her counterpart Marty Natalegawa that SBY “cannot make a decision”.

    Like most, though, Sukumaran viewed the election of Joko Widodo as the next best outcome. Surely the new president, an apparent humanitarian, would recognise that these men did not deserve to die.

    It was not to be. In December, 2014, mouthing the words of hardliners in his camp, Joko announced that there would be no clemency for any drug smuggler. Sukumaran was desperate for more information.

    “Just read your article!!! Is it true? What else do you know?” he emailed urgently.

    Over the month, Joko firmed in his decision, despite admitting he had not read individual case files and did not even know that  Chan and Sukumaran had been trying to export drugs from Indonesia rather than import them.

    Later in December, Sukumaran wrote he was “Very STRESSED out, we all are!”.

    “We were hoping things would get better with Jokowi, that he would abolish the death penalty but things seem to have gone from bad to worse!! After almost 10 years inside you know we should feel like we’re on the down swing of all this, not be facing a firing squad … I don’t even know what to do or think about this stuff anymore.”

    Sukumaran’s first thought, and his first response to questions was always for his beloved mother, Raji. During the circus that accompanied Schapelle Corby’s release in February, 2014, he appealed to me for news about the media scrum outside the prison, because Raji, coincidentally, was visiting that week and he didn’t want her jostled.

    He would have been outraged that she was virtually trampled by the media at the port of Cilacap on the eve of his execution.

    As the process leading to his death dragged on, and a particular photograph of Sukumaran and Chan was published almost daily, he passed on in December his mother’s request to use something else, saying, “she said that the pic makes us look like mean criminals, when actually we’re very nice criminals!”.

    And on January 7, when he was officially informed that Joko had rejected his clemency bid, Sukumaran’s first thought was for his mum: “I’m shocked and don’t know what to say. My mum’s on the floor, tears, crying and can’t talk.”

    Then anger set in.

    “All the big drug dealers are free and clear to do what they want cause they pay people off big time! That is the only thing me and Andrew can’t do, is to pay big money,” he wrote.

    “We were attempting to take drugs out of Indonesia not importing [them]. We failed. We f…d up. We were wrong, we know that. We’re paying for that. Our families are paying for our mistake.

    “We’ve changed. We’ve done so much in the last six to seven years, more than most prisoners in prisons all over the world … What use will executing us be? It won’t stop the drugs here. It will just be a cover so the big people [can] continue doing what they are doing. We’ve changed. We don’t deserve to be executed.

    “Our families shouldn’t have to suffer like this.”

    On 12.35am local time on Wednesday, Myuran Sukumaran got what he did not deserve. His family will suffer from that moment for the rest of their lives.

    At least, though, the ridiculous Indonesian “justice” system is no longer prolonging his misery.

  • WWI in the Herald: April 21, 1915

    WWI in the Herald: Archive
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    Some of the relics from the Emden, including one of the big guns, have arrived in Sydney.

    The Toronto branch of the Red Cross Society is still doing good work. As a result of five weeks’ work two large parcels have been sent in, including nearly eighty suits of pyjamas.

    Dr. Holmes’ first aid lectures have been attended by about thirty-five ladies and an examination for the St. John’s Ambulance Society certificate will be held shortly.

    The Rifle Club drills every Thursday night, and new members are coming in.

    A site for a range has been partly cleared, and is in readiness for the Government inspector to pass it. In the meantime very good practice is being done in a private miniature range.

    Amsterdam, Monday.

    A communique from Berlin claims that the Germans repulsed a British attack near the Ypres-Comines railway.

    The Germans state they have captured M. Garros, the famous French aviator.

    London, Monday.

    The “Dally Express” states that on the Belgian frontier there is great activity among the entire German naval and military air services.

    Large quantities of incendiary bombs for Zeppelins have been concentrated at three bases. Additional hangars have been built in the Zeppelin depots, which have been disguised with much ingenuity to deceive the Allies’ aircraft.

    The roof of the new shed at Brussels has been increased fourfold, and equipped with chimneys. It now resembles a factory.

    The sheds at Ghent have been hidden by masses of tree branches, while the shed at Antwerp has been banked with grass a mounds, and it resembles a green hill.

    It is certain that many airships have been garaged in Belgium, which have not yet been seen in the North Sea.

    The German purpose is to suddenly launch a great fleet from Germany and Belgium for a spectacular raid on England. This is to encourage the German people and the troops.

    Petrograd, Monday.

    The following communique has been issued:-

    The enemy suffered great losses in his further attack on the heights of Telepoich.

    One battalion surrendered en bloc.

    Fresh attacks in the direction of the River Stry have been repulsed,

    The “Novoe Vremya” states that General von Hindenburg has fallen into disfavour with the general staff but has retained command on the Kaiser’s urging that he be given another chance.

    Details of the battle between the villages of Telepoich and Zuella, in the Carpathians, show that the Russians began to advance on the night of April 14. They carried the positions on the heights at the point of the bayonet.

    Fighting was resumed with renewed intensity next day. The Austrians made repeated charges all day long, in a vain attempt to retake the lost trenches.

    Then the Austrians rested and returned to the attack in the evening. Terrific hand-to-hand fighting occurred along the whole line. The Austrians were everywhere repulsed or checked.

    At daybreak on the 16th the Russians slightly advanced. The Austrians refused to accept defeat, and made charge after charge all day, in an effort to recapture Telepoich.

    The Russian observers had no doubt that the enemy was primed with drink. They failed, despite superiority of numbers, to retake Telepoich.

    They next concentrated their attacks on Zuella. The Russians mewed down the attackers, and then stormed Hill 922.

    Odessa, Tuesday.

    An aeroplane reports that the Turks are concentrated in great strength on the coast northwards of Gallipoli and north-east, where the Turks have brought a great quantity of heavy artillery.

    It is estimated that there are 700 mines between Marmora Island and the mainland.

    Amsterdam, Tuesday.

    The Turkish account of the sinking of the British submarine E15 states that she left Tenedos at midnight, and dived after entering the straits to avoid the searchlights.

    She went aground at half-past six o’clock in the morning, her conning tower showing.

    The first shell from the Turkish batteries struck the conning tower, killing the captain, and the second wrecked the machinery.

    The crew left the vessel after there had been killed and seven wounded.

    The enemy’s aeroplanes dropped bombs on the vessel to prevent her from falling into Turkish hands, but the Turks rescued the crew.

    Amsterdam, Monday.

    In anticipation of Admiral von Tirpitz’s birthday on April 24th, birthday cards are being sold in Germany bearing his portrait, and the words, “Tirpitz Strafe England!”

    London, Monday.

    It is announced in Japanese official circles in London that Japan is augmenting her navy.

    She is now constructing two first-class battleships.

    (From Embarkation Rolls)

    Private Vincent Campbell, Nelson Plains , 19th Infantry Battalion

    Lieutenant Edward Gill, Merewether, 19th Infantry Battalion

  • Alcohol in Australia: Young people preloading and getting drunk in greater numbers

    Only 38 per cent of Gen Yers were been asked for proof of age in the past year, according to the poll. Photo: Arsineh Houspian Only 38 per cent of Gen Yers were been asked for proof of age in the past year, according to the poll. Photo: Arsineh Houspian
    Shanghai night field

    Only 38 per cent of Gen Yers were been asked for proof of age in the past year, according to the poll. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

    Only 38 per cent of Gen Yers were been asked for proof of age in the past year, according to the poll. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

    The number of young people drinking to get drunk rose to nearly 60 per cent in the past year, while 73 per cent had preloaded on cheaper drinks at home before going out, according to a comprehensive survey of Australian’s drinking habits.

    The latest annual alcohol poll by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) shows 57 per cent of young people had drank with the intention of getting drunk compared with 50 per cent in 2014. FARE published the results of a national survey of 1830 Australians on Thursday.

    Of those young people aged 18 to 34 years who drank, 25 per cent had drunk enough to vomit and nine per cent had passed out.

    The results showed that the current policy of promoting “responsible service” was a “complete failure,” said Caterina Giorgi, FARE’s policy officer. 75 per cent of Australians say the nation has a problem with alcohol;92 per cent said they drank “responsibly” , although nearly half of all drinkers saying they typically drank more than the safe recommended amount of two drinks, and;34 per cent of all people had drunk with the intention of getting drunk.

    And when those who drank to get drunk were asked about their perception of being drunk, 48 per cent said it was when they started to slur their speech or lose balance.

    “While people identify that alcohol is a problem, often they don’t see the problem as being their own drinking. They see it as that person over there, or the young person being involved in a fight, or the person with chronic cirrhosis of the liver, ” said Ms Giorgi.

    Drinking rates had also stayed stable for the past five years.

    Ms Giorgi​ said new approaches were needed that spelled out the recommended guidelines of two standard drinks a day, and no more than four drinks.

    “If 92 per cent think they are responsible drinkers, they are going to turn around and say I am already there.”

    Fewer Australians thought we had a problem with alcohol than last year, down from 78 per cent to 75 per cent, and more people were optimistic about the future.

    Yet 73 per cent reported seeing alcohol advertising in the past year, and of those, 69 per cent considered it to be inappropriate. Most people wanted the government to do more, including increasing the number of police on streets, 85 per cent, banning alcohol advertising on public transport, 65 per cent and on TV before 8.30 pm, when children are watching, 63 per cent.

    FARE’s chief executive Michael Thorn said Australians want to see change, and they will respond positively to governments that take decisive action. “Alcohol has long been seen as an issue that’s too hard to touch – but the poll shows this couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said.

  • Tradie Joe Powell puts down tools to answer Brumbies SOS

    ACT Brumbies scrumhalf Joe Powell has been called into the squad to replace injured Nic White. The first-year apprentice carpenter with InsideOut has had to put down the tools temporarily to play with the Brumbies. Photo: Jeffrey Chan Joe Powell hopes to win a Brumbies contract next year. Photo: Matt Beford
    Shanghai night field

    He’s an unknown carpenter’s apprentice ready to take on some of the biggest names in Australian rugby, but Joe Powell is on a mission to build his rugby reputation before he returns to the tools on Monday.

    The ACT Brumbies rookie, nicknamed Grommet for his resemblance to a young surfer with wavy, blond hair, will be thrust into the biggest Australian Super Rugby derby of the year on Friday night.

    Powell was plucked from ACT rugby’s ranks as an emergency injury replacement for Wallabies scrumhalf Nic White only, but the 21-year-old says he won’t be overawed in his last Super Rugby match before returning to the hammer and nails on the job site at 7am Monday.

    A paying Brumbies member since he was four, Powell has also put himself in the frame for a Brumbies contract next season.

    Powell was putting up house frames at Torrens in Canberra’s south when Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham called to ask if he could put his tools down in time for a Super Rugby debut.

    “It’s pretty surreal to think that a couple of weeks ago, I went from work on a Tuesday into a game,” Powell said.

    “I’m lucky my boss and everyone at my job are all footy boys, that made it a bit easier telling them I wasn’t coming in the next day.

    “It’s definitely better doing a bit of rugby than putting up frames and fitting out. I never thought I’d be involved a game like this; hopefully I can give it a good go. This is a chance to see if I’m up to it.”

    The Brumbies are still searching for a long-term replacement for White, who is moving to France at the end of the Super Rugby season.

    Powell is getting his chance from the bench while Michael Dowsett steps up in the No. 9 jersey.

    The pair could find themselves as a regular partnership next year if they take their opportunity, with Powell ready to permanently down his tools.

    Powell’s still finding his feet in the professional set-up. He double-checked with Brumbies staff whether they really wanted him to sign a team jersey after a game.

    “It was always a goal of mine to play Super Rugby, but I never thought it would happen,” he said.

    “I didn’t want to just chase footy for all my junior life and have nothing to go to. So I started my apprenticeship in case footy didn’t happen.

    “But I’ve already missed two months of work [to train with the Brumbies] and I haven’t even been there a year. Bernie [Larkham] has taken me through everything I need to do, so I’m confident in that.”

    Larkham has had his eye on the 83-kilogram Canberra junior for a long time, watching Powell go about his work in weekend footy for the Tuggeranong Vikings.

    “We had him come in the pre-season training before Christmas … we’ve been watching him for a while and think he has huge potential,” Larkham said.

    “He’s been great for us, fitted in very nicely and picked it up quickly. He’ll just take things in his stride.”

    So what happens if the pint-sized Marist College graduate comes up against incumbent Wallabies No. 9 Nick Phipps? Or even worse, 140-kilogram giant Will Skelton?

    “I’m comfortable [against Skelton] because I don’t have to deal with him, he’s the forwards’ job,” Powell grinned.

    “I’m fine with that and [Phipps] is a great player. It’s pretty exciting for me.

    “I’d love to show that I can be here next year, so while I’ve got the chance to show what I can do I’ll definitely take it. It’s better than working, that’s for sure.

    “Hopefully I can get the gig.”


    Friday: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.40pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports 2. Tickets available from Ticketek.

  • Goldman Sachs says Australia at risk of losing AAA rating

    Standard and Poor’sAustralia – one of only 12 countries with a AAA credit rating – risks a ratings downgrade for the first time since 1989, US investment bank Goldman Sachs has warned, saying the country could be hit with a “negative outlook” within months.
    Shanghai night field

    Goldman Sachs made the assessment in a research note released on Wednesday afternoon, saying that credit ratings agency Standard and Poors could make the decision due to Australia’s “poor fiscal performance”.

    Even a “negative outlook” – a first step to an actual downgrade – will have consequences, said Goldman Sachs.

    Australia’s public debt burden “remains favourable”, said Goldman Sachs. However, plummeting commodity prices, falling terms of trade, weak economic growth and political impasse had stripped $283 billion out of the budget over forward estimates in the past 30 months, with a further $55 billion deterioration likely in the May budget.

    Standard and Poor’s had recently updated their ratings methodology, said Goldman Sachs, and given this new criteria “it is possible that Australia will be put on a “negative ratings outlook” over the coming months (from “stable”).

    “Such a shift implies, by definition, that a formal ratings downgrade over the subsequent two-year period is a one-in-three chance”.

    Australia maintained a AAA credit rating until 1986 but it declined over the next three years to AA negative. It then slowly clawed its way back to a AAA rating in 2003, and has stayed there since.

    Other countries sharing a AAA rating include Canada, the UK, northern European countries like Germany and Denmark, and Hong Kong and Singapore. Six countries are the next level, AA+, including the United States and Austria.

    A decision by S&P to cut Australia’s sovereign rating would probably also lead to a downgrade of the big banks, Goldman said. The four largest lenders are currently at AA-, three levels below the federal government.

    A downgrade is also likely to weigh on the Australian dollar, which Goldman sees falling to US67¢ over the next 12 months.

    Goldman Sachs also warned that most of the information value is delivered through negative credit warnings – rather than the actual ratings changes themselves. “Even if Australia maintains a AAA rating, a move to a “negative” outlook would be likely to be more important for financial markets than any subsequent shift to AA+”.

    As well, business and consumer confidence would be further damaged, which could weigh on sentiment and borrowing and give the Reserve Bank another headwind to confront.

    Sovereign yields on government bonds would rise 11.7 basis points if there was a negative outlook revision and the Australian dollar would lose a “few percentage points”, said Goldman Sachs.