Category - Oceania

Including Australia and New Zealand

Storm of the century batters Sydney and the Hunter, leaving three dead and homes destroyed

Sydney Morning-Herald, By Nick Ralston, Peter Hannam, Lucy Cormack & Ella Rubeli, April 21

The biggest storm to hit Sydney and the Hunter region this century swept along the coast, leaving at least three people dead, dozens of others needing rescue and entire homes washed away in floodwaters.

Heavy rain and cyclonic winds saw power cut to hundreds of thousands of homes, as well as three hospitals, and the closure of 100 schools.

It also caused chaos on the roads and public transport, with felled trees, blown over power lines and slippery conditions making it a nightmare commute in the morning and afternoon peaks.

The destructive winds, which topped 130km/h, dumped blankets of sand from Sydney’s beaches onto nearby streets and carparks. The storm also forced the closure of the Sydney Harbour port, leaving passengers on board the Carnival Spirit cruise ship stranded in swells of up to nine metres outside Sydney Heads.
RT: 3 killed, 200,000 homes without power as ‘worst in decade’ storm rages in Australia
RT: Aftermath video.

Mandatory data retention passes Australian parliament

The government and Labor have jointly ensured that the telecommunications data of all Australians will be retained for two years for warrantless access by law-enforcement agencies.

ZDNet, By Josh Taylor, March 26

The Australian government has relied on the votes of the Labor opposition to pass legislation on Thursday that will force telecommunications companies to retain customer data for two years for warrantless access by law enforcement.

The legislation — which will see call records, assigned IP addresses, location information, billing information, and other customer data stored for two years — passed the Senate on Thursday with the support of Labor senators.

The government and Labor shot down over a dozen amendments from the Greens, and several amendments from crossbench senators including those from David Leyonhjelm, Dio Wang, and Nick Xenophon.

The amendments would have forced the data to be held in Australia, would have required warrants for all accessing of the data, and would have limited the storage to three months — bringing Australia closer into line with international standards.

World’s largest asteroid impact zone believed uncovered by ANU researchers in central Australia

Australian scientists have uncovered what is believed to be the largest asteroid impact zone ever found on Earth, in central Australia.

ABC (AU), By Clarissa Thorpe, March 24

A team lead by Dr Andrew Glikson from the Australian National University (ANU) said two ancient craters found in central Australia were believed to have been caused by one meteorite that broke in two.

“They appear to be two large structures, with each of them approximately 200 kilometres,” Dr Glikson said.

“So together, jointly they would form a 400 kilometre structure which is the biggest we know of anywhere in the world.

“The consequences are that it could have caused a large mass extinction event at the time, but we still don’t know the age of this asteroid impact and we are still working on it.”

‘People had no idea’: Pam devastates Vanuatu

The Australian, By Pia Akerman & Rachel Baxendale, March 16

Aid has begun arriving on the cyclone battered Vanuatu archipelago but early reports of damage from category five Cyclone Pam are bad, as aid workers say their efforts are being hampered by the scale of the disaster.

A pilot who flew over Erromango island and landed on Tanna, told the Red Cross that residents were worried about access to clean drinking water, that all communications were out, and that their communities looked “flattened”.

“What he told me is that he could land – that was the first positive,” said Aurelia Balpe, Head of the Pacific office for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. “But as they flew in and out they saw lots of trees uprooted and, what was most striking, all corrugated iron structures were destroyed as far as they eye could see.

“And all concrete structures that he saw no longer had a roof.”

CNN: ‘Unbelievable destruction’ reported in Tropical Cyclone Pam’s wake
News.com.au: Vanuatu: Cyclone Pam brings ‘catastrophic’ death, destruction
CNN images: Tropical Cyclone Pam hits Vanuatu
The Telegraph: Dozens feared dead after Super Cyclone Pam slams into Vanuatu, in pictures
The Atlantic: A Cyclone Destroys a Nation
ABC.net: Tropical Cyclone Pam: Death toll may rise after worst natural disaster in ‘living memory’


Cyclone Pam hits New Zealand

Stuff.co.nz, March 16

The threat of high winds, heavy rain and big seas remains as Cyclone Pam lies to the northeast of East Cape on Monday morning.

MetService said Pam was expected to lie about 150km east of East Cape by noon, then move away from the New Zealand coastline towards the Chatham Islands.

Gisborne was braced for the storm, which is expected to peak around midday.

“We’ve had a reasonable amount of rain already and the wind looks like it’s trying to pick up,” Gisborne manager emergency management Richard Steele said about 8am.

There were no reports of any damage.


Cyclone Pam slows as it hits New Zealand

3 News, March 16

A downgraded but still immensely powerful Tropical Cyclone Pam has slowed on its way to northeastern New Zealand, and forecasters now say it will hit hard around midday.

The cyclone which devastated Vanuatu has been reduced from the maximum category five to a category three storm.

But, RadioLIVE’s weatherman Richard Green says it is still likely to be packing winds up to 160km/h, which are capable of major damage.

He says winds pushed ahead of Pam have been recorded at Cape Reinga in the past few hours, gusting up to 130km/h.

“It’s seen some big gusts in the last few hours, and even though we should see it easing for parts of the Northland, it looks a little more [rough] further south – particularly in Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and the eastern Bay of Plenty.”

The Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Group Emergency Coordination Centre was activated at 5am this morning to support the response to Cyclone Pam.

Australia’s prime minister has announced a huge national security crackdown

Reuters, By Matt Siegel, February 22

Sydney– Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday announced a national security crackdown that could deny welfare payments to people seen as potential threats, strip the passports of those with dual nationality and curb travel overseas.

Abbott, bruised politically and facing pressure for dramatic action after surviving a leadership challenge this month, unveiled the measures in the wake of a hostage siege in a Sydney cafe that left three dead in December.

He said some personal freedoms would have to be curtailed to fight what he called a rapidly growing threat from radical groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“For too long, we have given those who might be a threat to our country the benefit of the doubt,” Abbott said.

Defiant Australian PM brings forward leadership challenge

AFP, By Glenda Kwek, February 7

Sydney – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday he will bring forward a party bid to oust him by 24 hours, as the country potentially faced a change in leadership for the fourth time in five years.

Abbott has been fighting for his job after poor poll ratings and a series of policy backflips spurred his own conservative Liberal Party MPs to openly attack him, calling for a leadership “spill” on Tuesday.

The motion aims to declare the positions of leader and deputy leader of the party — currently occupied by Abbott and Deputy Prime Minister Julie Bishop — vacant so the party room, or members of both houses of parliament, can vote for new candidates.

But a defiant Abbott declared on Sunday he wanted the vote over and done with as soon as possible.

“The last thing Australia needs right now is instability and uncertainty,” he told reporters.

SMH LiveBlog: Politics Live: Prime Minister Tony Abbott fights to save his job – auto-start video (and outrageous Ozzie accent) warning!

LEAKED: Secret Negotiations to Let Big Brother Go Global

The ugly ramifications of the Trade in Services Act (TiSA)

Wolf Street, By Don Quijones, December 25

Much has been written, at least in the alternative media, about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), two multilateral trade treaties being negotiated between the representatives of dozens of national governments and armies of corporate lawyers and lobbyists (on which you can read more here, here and here). However, much less is known about the decidedly more secretive Trade in Services Act (TiSA), which involves more countries than either of the other two.

At least until now, that is. Thanks to a leaked document jointly published by the Associated Whistleblowing Press and Filtrala, the potential ramifications of the treaty being hashed out behind hermetically sealed doors in Geneva are finally seeping out into the public arena.
Read More

Obama hopes to enlist GOP in push for trade pact, despite Democratic resistance

Washington Post, By David Nakamura, December 26

President Obama is preparing a major push on a vast free trade zone that seeks to enlist Republicans as partners and test his premise that Washington can still find common ground on major initiatives.

It also will test his willingness to buck his own party in pursuit of a legacy-burnishing achievement. Already, fellow Democrats are accusing him of abandoning past promises on trade and potentially undermining his domestic priority of reducing income inequality.

The dynamic, as the White House plots strategy for the new year when the GOP has full control of Congress, has scrambled traditional political alliances. In recent weeks, Obama has rallied the business community behind his trade agenda, while leading Capitol Hill progressives, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have raised objections and labor and environmental groups have mounted a public relations campaign against it.

The administration is moving aggressively in hopes of wrapping up negotiations by the middle of next year on a 12-nation free-trade pact in the Asia Pacific before the politics become even more daunting ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for the administration,” said Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), a pro-trade Democrat viewed by the administration as a key ally. “They need to get out and educate members and address the concerns they might have. I’ve been advising colleagues who are skeptical and not supportive of trade to at least engage in conversations and feedback.”

Australia PM Abbott wants indigenous referendum in 2017

Australian PM Tony Abbott has vowed to “sweat blood” to secure constitutional recognition for indigenous people, saying he wants a referendum in 2017.

BBC, December 13

But Mr Abbott said he would not rush with the date until he was confident the referendum would succeed.

To be passed, the change must be backed by a majority of people in a majority of Australia’s six states.

The constitution currently does not recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the nation’s first people.

[…]

“The country we created has an Aboriginal heritage, a British foundation and a multicultural character and it’s high time that this reality was reflected in our constitution.”

[…]

In 2010, the government formed an expert panel to examine constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I feel good. Do you feel good?

CSIRO to lose ‘one-fifth of staff’

THE national science agency will have lost over one-fifth of its workforce by June, staff claim, following two years of cost-cutting by both political parties.

The Australian, November 26

A new analysis has found that CSIRO will lose almost 800 jobs this financial year, roughly doubling the cuts announced this week by the ABC.

The CSIRO Staff Association said the agency would cut 878 employees by the middle of next year as a result of a $115 million funding cut in the May federal budget. CSIRO management had estimated the losses at 500 full-time equivalent positions, with another 320 jobs already slated to go in a restructure announced in March.

Staff association secretary Sam Popovski said this year’s cuts came on top of over 500 positions lost in 2013-14 through efficiency measures imposed by the former Labor government and a recruitment freeze by the Coalition. “CSIRO now faces the unprecedented loss of one in five staff over a two-year period,” he said.

“Australians who believe in the Clever Country will be utterly dismayed by this news.”


ABC.au: Claims nearly 900 jobs to go at CSIRO as Australia aims to boost farm production
News.com.au: Mining. Agriculture. Environment. Technology. All face huge cuts as CSIRO sheds science jobs

SMH Commentary: A visionary PM takes on the eggheads

Bloody CSIRO. What have they ever done for us? Besides inventing Wi-Fi and Aeroguard and gene shears? Well? Nothing, that’s what. Just polymer banknotes, and the microwave landing system at pretty much every airport in the world. Oh, and distance measuring technology for all the aircraft in flight on approach to those airports. All bloody useless really. Just like that damnable atomic absorption spectroscopy all the drug companies use to develop their stupid life-giving medicines.

Who do these clowns think they are, lounging around in their underpants and lab coats, expecting the poor old taxpayer to mop their enormous throbbing brows and carefully drop peeled grapes into their mouths?

The Archdruid Report: Dark Age America: The Suicide of Science

The Forgotten Coup

How America and Britain Crushed the Government of Their “Ally” Australia

Counterpunch, By John Pilger, October 23

Across the political and media elite in Australia, a silence has descended on the memory of the great, reforming prime minister Gough Whitlam, who has died. His achievements are recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. But a critical reason for his extraordinary political demise will, they hope, be buried with him.

Australia briefly became an independent state during the Whitlam years, 1972-75. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”. Whitlam ended his nation’s colonial servility. He abolished Royal patronage, moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement, supported “zones of peace” and opposed nuclear weapons testing.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”. In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of this “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” to be run by the CIA. US diplomatic cables published last year by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.

Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should not be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO – then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. When his ministers publicly condemned the US bombing of Vietnam as “corrupt and barbaric”, a CIA station officer in Saigon said: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

[…]

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House. … a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

Vatican has refused to reveal all, royal commission head declares

Justice Peter McClellan says the Vatican maintains that requests for all information regarding every case are not appropriate

AP, July 4

The Vatican has told the child sex abuse royal commission that it will not hand over all information about members of its clergy who abused children in Australia.

The commission chairman, Justice Peter McClellan, on Saturday will address a 14th anniversary gathering of one of the main victims’ support groups.

McClellan will tell Care Leavers Australia Network (Clan) the Holy See has provided two sets of documents and says it may provide others where copies are not available in Australia.

But it has told the commission “that requests for all information regarding every case – which include requests for documents reflecting internal ‘deliberations’ – are not appropriate.”

Rate of deforestation in Indonesia overtakes Brazil, says study

Indonesia lost 840,000 hectares of forest in 2012 compared to 460,000 hectares in Brazil, despite its forest being a quarter the size of the Amazon rainforest.

The Guardian, By John Vidal, June 29

Indonesia has greatly under-reported how much primary rainforest it is cutting down, according to the government’s former head of forestry data gathering.

UN and official government figures have maintained that the country with the third biggest stretch of tropical forest after the Amazon and Congo was losing 310,00 hectares of all its forest a year between 2000 and 2005, increasing to 690,000 hectares annually from 2006 to 2010.

Exact rates of Indonesian deforestation have varied with different figures quoted by researchers and government, but a new study, which claims to be the most comprehensive yet, suggests that nearly twice as much primary forest is being cut down as in Brazil, the historical global leader.

Belinda Arunarwati Margono, who was in charge of data gathering at Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry for seven years and is now on secondment at South Dakota university, calculates that nearly 1m extra hectares of primary forest may have been felled in the last 12 years than was recorded officially.

[…]

The new figures are significant because Indonesia is the world’s third-largest producer of greenhouse gases behind China and the US, with 85% of its emissions coming from forest destruction and degradation. Primary forests are the largest above-ground carbon stores in the world.

Monday Misogyny

Steph Harman : ““When I heard Julia Gillard’s parliamentary speech addressing misogyny, it struck me that behind the politics there was a lot of personal feeling being communicated,” writes composer Rob Davidson, in the description which accompanies this delicious treat. “I wanted to put a frame around this slice of time, to heighten my perception of what was being said behind the words, in the intonation of the voice, and in the dynamics of what was being said in interjections and reactions.” The resulting piece, performed by award winning The Australian Voices, is called ’Not Now, Not Ever’.”

#JuliaGillard #Australia #Feminism #Misogyny

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