Month: May 2019

Huge Perth rally against shark policy

Thousands of West Australians have rallied at Perth’s Cottesloe Beach, calling for an end to the state government’s contentious shark killing policy.


The protest came hours after an under-size two-metre shark, believed to be a tiger shark, was pulled from a baited drum line off Leighton beach by Fisheries officers.

The animal – the second to be killed under the program – was dumped further offshore.

The policy, introduced after a fatal attack off Gracetown in November, intends to target tiger, bull and great white sharks longer than three metres that come within a kilometre of the shore.

Earlier on Saturday, a 19-year-old woman was issued a move-on noticed after she attached herself with a thumb lock to a Fisheries vessel at Fremantle boat harbour. She is expected to be later summonsed for trespassing.

The first rally at Cottesloe – the home suburb of WA Premier Colin Barnett – on January 4 drew an estimated 4500 protesters while the event on Saturday attracted some 6000 people, with speakers including Greens leader Christine Milne and state Labor leader Mark McGowan.

It was one of many rallies against the cull held around Australia and in New Zealand on Saturday.

“Rights, rights, rights for great whites,” the crowd chanted.

One placard read: “Sharks are more important than human recreation”.

The Liberal-led government believes a string of fatal attacks in WA waters in recent years has dented tourism, particularly the diving industry and says beachgoers must be protected.

But Virgin Airlines boss Sir Richard Branson, who is fighting China’s shark fin trade, told the local Fairfax radio station on Friday that the catch-and-kill policy would backfire, driving away tourism.

Mr Barnett, who is currently in Africa for a mining conference, has come under immense pressure to call off the cull, including having the windows of his Cottesloe office smashed by a protester.

The baited drumlines are scheduled to remain in metropolitan and South West waters until April 30.

Labor warns govt planning Medicare attack

Labor has marked the 30th anniversary of Medicare by ramping up warnings that the Abbott government is planning to introduce a fee to visit GP clinics.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott, launching Bill Glasson’s by-election campaign in Kevin Rudd’s old Brisbane seat of Griffith, has dismissed the claims as nothing more than a scare campaign.

“Nothing is being considered, nothing has been proposed, nothing is planned,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.

But state and federal Labor MPs insist the prime minister has not categorically ruled out introducing a GP co-payment, which would require patients pay a mandatory $6 fee per consultation.

Shadow health minister Catherine King said the Liberal Party had opposed the introduction of MediCare and were already proving in government they couldn’t be trusted to protect the health system.

“Unfortunately each time the Liberals gets back in government it’s been up to Labor to defend the legacy of Medicare,” she told reporters in Brisbane on Saturday.

Labor’s candidate for Griffith Terri Butler also warned that her Liberal opponent Dr Glasson, a former Australian Medical Association president, had supported introducing a GP co-payment.

But the prime minister said Dr Glasson played a key role helping the former Howard government make reforms to Medicare, and his opponents were trying to smear him.

“Nationally or locally, all they’ve (Labor) got is a scare campaign,” Mr Abbott said.

He said the only person who had cut Medicare in recent years was acting opposition Tanya Plibersek, who as health minister in the former government pulled $1.6 billion in funding for public hospitals.

Australian Greens senator Richard Di Natale said a GP fee would undermine equal and universal access to health care, the very foundation of the Medicare scheme.

Tour operators fume over Great Barrier Reef dump plan

Association of Marine Park Tour Operators president Colin McKenzie, the peak industry lobby group covering tourism in the World Heritage-listed reef region, accused the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority of pandering to politicians.



“Leadership of the Authority needs to be replaced. If they won’t do their job of preserving the environment out there then they should have people there that will,” he told Fairfax radio.


“These guys are just pandering to the politicians. The GBRMPA should do what it is actually being paid to do — which is provide for the protection and conservation of the reef.”


The GBRMPA, tasked with managing and protecting the reef area, on Friday approved a decision by the government in December to allow a major coal port expansion for India’s Adani Group on the reef coast, under strict environmental conditions.


It will see Adani dredge three million cubic metres of material from the seabed to allow freighters to dock at the port in Abbot Point, lifting the facility’s capacity by 70 percent to make it one of the world’s largest coal ports.


The waste will be dumped in the marine park, in an area GBRMPA said does not contain reefs or seagrass beds.


“Well, let me tell you, 220 scientists wrote to the GBRMPA saying ‘do not grant this’ because it will be bad for the reef,” said McKenzie.


“They (the Authority) are not looking at scientific fact, they are not looking at protection of the reef — they are just doing what their political masters want.”


In granting the approval, GBRMPA, whose board is currently under investigation for its links to the mining industry, said that allowing the project to proceed would help contain development to existing ports.


Chairman Russell Reichelt added that the strict environmental conditions imposed on the project by the government would help protect the reef.


Conservationists are not convinced, claiming the dredging will smother corals and seagrasses and expose them to poisons and elevated levels of nutrients.


The Australian Broadcasting Corporation canvassed several tour operators and said they were all looking at legal action, with McKenzie vowing the fight was not over.


“We will take it to (Environment Minister Greg) Hunt, we will appeal this to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, we will take it to court if we have to,” he said.


“I think the GBRMPA is in breach of their own act and that will be how we are trying to challenge this.”


The reef is already facing pressures from climate change, land-based pollution and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and is facing a World Heritage downgrade from UNESCO this year.


UNESCO is concerned about rampant coastal development proposed in the region, particularly port, gas and coal operations, with the body expected to discuss the issue at a meeting in June.

Indonesian militants fighting in Syria

Indonesians who have joined fellow extremists fighting in Syria could help reinvigorate a once-powerful militant group responsible for major bombings in the world’s most populous Muslim country, a report says.


“The conflict in Syria has captured the imagination of Indonesian extremists in a way no foreign war has before,” said a report by Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict published this week.

It is a change of pattern for Indonesian militants who previously have gone to Afghanistan in the late 1980s and 1990s mainly for training, or to the Palestinian territories to give moral and financial support to fellow Muslims, the report said.

“The enthusiasm for Syria is directly linked to predictions in Islamic eschatology that the final battle at the end of time will take place in Sham, the region sometimes called Greater Syria, or the Levant, encompassing Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel,” the report added.

This notion has attracted Indonesians from different radical streams to go or try to go to Syria, including the Jemaah Islamiah, or JI, a group responsible for the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali which killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.

After the 2002 attack, a government crackdown that either killed or jailed JI’s leaders has crippled the group and attacks carried by it or its splinter groups have been smaller.

Some of the JI leaders have now taken to non-violent activities such as preaching, inviting criticism from other militant groups.

However, the report warned that the Syrian conflict had persuaded many extremists that their local jihad should be set aside for now to devote energy to the more important one abroad, like many JI leaders have argued.

Despite JI’s decline “if the Syrian conflict helps both JI’s fund-raising ability as well as its own recruitment, and if domestic political situation should take a turn for the worse, that calculus could change. No one should rule JI out of future actions,” the report said.

The report quoted the Indonesian foreign ministry as estimating there were 50 Indonesians among the 8000 foreign fighters from 74 countries involved in the Syrian conflict.

JI’s humanitarian wing, Hilal Ahmar Society Indonesia, sent 10 delegations to Syria carrying cash and medical assistance to the Islamist resistance in an effort to open channels for more direct participation in the fighting, the report said.

Five of seven men identified as having gone to fight are graduates of Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school on Java, a school notorious for spawning Indonesian militants and whose founder, cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, is in prison after being convicted of terrorism.

Scotland win World Cup qualifying final

Captain Preston Mommsen led from the front as Scotland beat the United Arab Emirates by 41 runs in the final of World Cup qualifying tournament in Lincoln.


Mommsen’s 139 was pivotal as his team posted 5-285 at Bert Sutcliffe Oval, a score UAE never truly threatened before reaching 9-244.

With both teams having already qualified for the tournament in February and March next year, the final determined which group the teams would be placed in.

Victory sent Scotland into pool A, where they will face tournament co-hosts New Zealand and Australia.

They will open their campaign against New Zealand in Dunedin on February 17 before games against England (Christchurch), Afghanistan (Dunedin), Bangladesh (Nelson) and Sri Lanka (Hobart) before completing the pool phase against Australia in Hobart on March 14.

Scotland failed to win a pool game in their previous World Cup appearances, in 1999 and 2007.

UAE, who contested the 1996 tournament, will face Zimbabwe (Nelson), Ireland (Brisbane), India (Perth), Pakistan (Napier), South Africa (Wellington) and the West Indies (Napier).

They qualified first for Saturday’s final courtesy of a superior net run rate to Scotland, with both teams having dropped just one of seven games.

However, they were rocked onto the back foot by Mommsen, whose 149-ball knock lifted him to 520 runs for the tournament.

Only UAE captain Khurram Khan (581 runs) had scored more and it was his dismissal for 34 which sparked a slide.

Swapnil Patil stood firm as the run rate required escalated, scoring an unbeaten 99 but he failed to reach three figures after scoring a single off the final ball.

Left-arm paceman Rob Taylor and right-arm seamer Safyaan Sharif both bowled tightly for Scotland and took three wickets each.