PM wants to see sustainable shipbuilding

Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to see Australian naval shipbuilding sustainable for the long-term with continuous construction of new warships.


That was music to the ears of Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews who said shipbuilders at the BAE Systems yard in Williamstown would be very pleased.

That’s because the company will run out of navy work with completion of the landing ship project later in 2015.

Mr Andrews and South Australian premier Jay Weatherill, both confronting the end of car manufacturing in their states, went to the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra on Friday urging the commonwealth to hand fresh work to their defence companies.

A COAG communique after the meeting specifically mentions the defence industry and the contribution a continuous naval build strategy could make to the economy and jobs.

Mr Abbott said the government would make announcements on the topic in the next few weeks.

“But obviously what we want to do is to put naval ship building in this country on a sustainable long-term basis,” he told the post-COAG media conference.

Mr Abbott said the problem with naval shipbuilding was it had been a stop-start process.

Without ongoing work “it’s stop-start, it’s live-die” and that was no good.

“So in conjunction with sensible decisions about the size of our surface fleet, we want to see a steady continuous build of naval warships in Australia,” he said.

Australian-made equipment still needed to be world-class at a reasonable price, Mr Abbott said.

“Within those parameters of course we want to maximise Australian production,” he said.

The prime minister’s comments came a day after release of a major study which found local shipbuilding was expensive by world standards.

But it could be cost-effective through a process of continuous construction of warships, turning out a new vessel every 18-24 months.

Australia will need some 50 new warships and submarines over the next two decades.

A continuous build strategy would most likely apply to 8-10 next-generation frigates which will replace ageing Anzac class vessels from around 2026.

Mr Andrews said with a long-term order book, the Australian defence industry could deliver the best outcome possible.

“What the PM has just said and what is in the communique today is really a big step forward ,” he said.

Rights group supports Aussie in Thailand

The New York-based rights group, Human Rights Watch, is calling for the Thai government to drop charges of criminal defamation against Australian journalist, Alan Morison.


The editor of online news website Phuketwan and his Thai reporter, Chutima Sidasathian, are facing long prison sentences if convicted.

Morison and Chutima face up to two years imprisonment on criminal defamation charges with a further maximum sentence of five years and fines of 100,000 Baht ($A4000) under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act.

The charges relate to a July 2013 Phuketwan report, which re-published excerpts from a Reuters newsagency report alleging Thai security force involvement in the smuggling of Muslim Rohingya from Myanmar (Burma).

Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, called for the case to be dropped, in a comment marking a year since the charges were laid.

“The Thai authorities should direct the navy to unconditionally drop its baseless charges against the two journalists,” Adams said.

“This effort to silence media criticism has backfired against the navy, which should act swiftly to cut its losses.”

The report was part of a Reuters investigative series on the plight of the Rohingya, a stateless and oppressed minority in Myanmar.

The Reuters journalists were later awarded a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism.

Human Rights Watch pressed for the abolition of criminal defamation laws, saying the penalties were disproportionate punishments for reputational harm and infringe on free expression.

“The Phuketwan journalists are among the few who are still regularly reporting on the pervasive human trafficking of Rohingya in Thailand,” Adams said in a statement.

“Thailand’s efforts to show progress in tackling human trafficking are seriously damaged by this shoot-the-messenger action against journalists exposing abuses.”.

High level behind-the-scenes talks have been underway between Australian representatives and senior Thai government foreign affairs officials.

But sources say progress has slowed, with both sides giving little ground and the Thai navy pressing the journalists to acknowledge culpability.

The journalists are scheduled to go to trial on July 14.

Barnett returns to the west disappointed

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett insists he’s not flying back to Perth grumpy, just disappointed that his state counterparts ganged up on him over the GST.


Mr Barnett came to Canberra for the Council of Australian Government’s meeting arguing his state deserved more GST revenue and is unimpressed the issue wasn’t treated more seriously around the table.

“I’m not grumpy, certainly disappointed, but happy to be going back to Perth,” he told reporters said as he left Parliament House on Friday.

Mr Barnett said it was poor form for the other states to jointly sign a letter that argued for the status quo and was “basically picking on Western Australia”.

WA wasn’t looking for a handout, just a bit of equity, Mr Barnett said.

WA wants more money than the 30 cents in the dollar – down from 38 cents – being offered under the Grant Commission’s GST revenue carve up formula for 2015/16.

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman had little sympathy for WA’s plight saying the political argy bargy had been unhelpful.

It was not appropriate for any state or territory to “jump off at the low point of the swing” because the roundabout would inevitably come back, as Mr Hodgman suspects will be the case for WA.

“Thankfully commonsense has prevailed and now we get on with it,” he told reporters.

Mr Barnett was buoyed by the prospect of having a floor price of 50 cents in the dollar down the track, once WA’s share increases in the next few years.

“I’d accept that. It’s not a perfect outcome,” he said.

He ruled out WA legalising poker machines outside the Perth casino as a way to make up for a revenue shortfall because his state took a moral and ethical stance on the matter.

Meanwhile, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk hopes to fast track an NDIS trial site in her state as soon as possible.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said a second NDIS trial site in a remote indigenous community might be set up within six months.

Clarke sees Pietersen returning for Ashes

Sacked in the wake of England’s 5-0 whitewash in Australia in 2013/14, 34-year-old Pietersen may be set for an unlikely recall if he racks up the runs for Surrey in English county cricket.


He scored 170 on his return for the side on Sunday, albeit in a non-first class match against Oxford MCCU.

“I do think he could be at the Ashes,” Clarke told reporters in Melbourne on Friday after announcing a two-year deal to play Twenty20 cricket in Australia’s domestic ‘Big Bash’ competition.

“His form, he’s showed that, he’s certainly scoring enough runs.

“He’s made it very clear he wants to play and now it will come down to the England selectors.”

England’s selectors have repeatedly dismissed the idea of Pietersen ever re-joining the team, but the South Africa-born right-hander told the BBC he had been offered a “lifeline”.

Pietersen has been described as a divisive figure in the dressing room and trashed a number of his former team mates in his autobiography last year, but would be hard to overlook for the Ashes in July and August if he piles up the runs for Surrey.

He had a modest series by his lofty standards in the last Ashes but still managed to top England’s runs list.

He sealed England’s memorable 2005 Ashes win with a glittering 158 at the Oval on the final day of the series and also belted 227 in the Adelaide test during his team’s 3-1 win away to Australia in 2010/11.

Clarke, who retired from one-day cricket after Australia’s fifth World Cup triumph last month, will have first-hand experience of the dressing room vibe with Pietersen as the batsman’s captain at T20 side Melbourne Stars.

Pietersen proved a smash hit in his first tournament with the Stars, clubbing 293 runs at an average of 41.86.

“It’s going to be nice to be on the same side,” Clarke said.

“To have that luxury as captain to have a player like that in your team is extremely exciting and I know he’ll play a big part is us having success.

“At the moment, from the Australians’ perspective, I’m happy if he’s not playing (tests) because he’s a wonderful player.”

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Patrick Johnston)

GST elephant in COAG room, says Barnet

A furious Colin Barnett was the odd man out after a meeting of the nation’s leaders failed to give the West Australian premier what he wanted on the GST.


As Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other state and territory leaders talked about the co-operative nature of discussions in Canberra on Friday, Mr Barnett was bluntly dismissive.

“I must have been at a different meeting,” he told reporters after the Council of Australian Governments gathering, adding the GST was the elephant in the room.

Mr Barnett had gone into the meeting hoping to win support for a change in the way GST revenue is distributed amongst the states and territories.

WA faces losing $300 million in 2015/2016 if the federal governments accepts the recommendations of the independent grants commission.

In the end, the premier came away with a promise of further talks with Mr Abbott about how best to address the immediate impact on WA.

But the prospect of a one-off transitional payment from the commonwealth budget looks remote.

“There will be no free gifts for any state or territory,” Mr Abbott said.

Instead the prime minister hinted that some infrastructure funds might be available for WA.

The COAG meeting resolved to put the GST distribution arrangements under the microscope of the white paper on reform of the federation.

“Making changes on the fly to GST distribution arrangements which have been around for quite a long time now is not my idea of optimal government,” Mr Abbott said.

Mr Barnett, who called for abolition of the grants commission, will have to be satisfied with proposing ways to reform the independent process of distributing GST revenue.

The premier said all he was asking for was that WA’s situation got no worse, noting West Australians only received back 38 cents in every GST dollar they pay.

That will fall below 30 cents next year.

“You can understand why I’m angry, you can understand why West Australians are angry,” Mr Barnett said.

Mr Abbott flagged putting a floor under GST distribution, so that every state knew the minimum percentage of the pool they would receive. Mr Barnett said a floor of 50 cents in the dollar was discussed.

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said the future of the federation would have been undermined if COAG had agreed to make allowances for WA at the expense of other states.

In welcoming further discussions about reforms to the federation, he said that needed to be done outside the annual argy-bargy of the GST distribution.

“The political bun fight serves no great purpose,” Mr Hodgman said.

Earlier, federal Labor leader Bill Shorten renewed his call for WA to be given one-off financial assistance.

“Do something in this budget, not wait till there’s a train wreck,” he told reporters in Perth.

Woman unaware of grandchild’s NSW murder

Zhaoyun Wang came to Australia hoping his future would be with the woman he loved, but instead he’ll spend at least 15 years in jail after being sentenced over her brutal murder.


The Chinese lawyer, 33, was in a blind rage when he savagely hacked Shan Wu with a meat cleaver in a harrowing attack that ended with the blade embedded in her throat, Justice Richard Button told the NSW Supreme Court.

The February 2013 assault was so violent and devastating that Ms Wu’s grandmother hadn’t been told what happened.

“Granny asks everyday why her beloved granddaughter has stopped calling her,” her father said in a victim impact statement last month.

“We have tried all the excuses, as granny became puzzled, confused and eventually upset.

“We had no choice but to pretend to be ignorant of the true reason and try to humour her, blaming the girl who is lying in earth at Macquarie Park cemetery in Sydney for being inconsiderate.”

Wang met Ms Wu in Beijing in late 2011 and they lived together before she moved to Newcastle in May 2012 to work as an auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

On February 24 2013, Ms Wu met Wang at Sydney Airport and they made their way back to her home.

They had sex, went sightseeing and cooked dinner together.

But at about 8pm, Ms Wu said she wanted to go out with another man, who Wang knew she had slept with.

He stayed at her home with a headache and when she returned after going for a walk with the man, they began fighting.

“She criticised him for being too soft and not strong enough,” according to court documents.

Wang knew his relationship was in trouble when he emigrated but Ms Wu told him that night that “maybe (her) heart has changed”.

They both went to sleep but woke up later and began arguing again about 3am.

“She told (Wang) referring to the man…’how good it was when she would be with him’ and that `when I am with you it is no good,” court documents say.

While the pair were arguing, Wang began pacing and fetched a meat cleaver from the kitchen.

He then snapped, hacking her with the cleaver and leaving more than 60 wounds.

Wang showered, called triple-0 and admitted killing Ms Wu.

“I was so angry she betrayed me. She slept with another man and I killed her with a knife,” he told the operator.

“(The knife) is actually in her neck – it’s (a) very horrible thing to see.”

Wang will stay behind bars until at least February 2028.

COAG meeting leaves WA disappointed over GST

(Transcript from World News Radio)


Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he wanted domestic violence, national security and the drug ice to be the focus of today’s first Council of Australian Governments meeting for 2015.



But GST was the talk of the town this week in the lead up to the meeting of Premiers and Chief ministers in Canberra.


And as Rachael Hocking reports, it was the GST that produced a heated response from the West Australian Premier.


The wrap-up of the first Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting for 2015 confirmed a split among the states and territories.


The majority of Premiers and territory chief ministers agreed it had been a ‘good’ meeting.


But West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said he was ‘disappointed’ in his colleagues for not addressing the Goods and Services Tax (GST).


He argued that Western Australians feel poorly treated.


Mr Barnett has demanded his state’s share of the GST does not drop to 30 cents in every dollar in the next financial year, instead demanding 38 cents.


“The elephant in the room is GST and that’s what this COAG has been significantly about. You’ve probably heard me before, so I’ll spare you the story, but I want to make a number of brief observations.The first is it is not the Premiers, it is the Commonwealth which distributes the GST on the advice of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Premiers have no role. We can bicker and argue, but it’s to no effect.”


Prime Minister Abbott says he ‘sympathises’ with WA’s position, but reiterated that while the GST is distributed under Commonwealth law, it can not be changed without the consent of all states.


A letter from every state and territory treasurer, except WA, sent prior to the COAG meeting asked that the GST distribution isn’t changed.


Mr Abbott says it has been resolved to refer the GST distribution issue to a federation policy process, with further discussions to be held in mid-July involving all the states and territories.


The Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Adam Giles highlighted his thoughts on the issue with no subtlety, saying he wasn’t looking forward to hearing states complaining about funding.


But Mr Giles was happy with the outcome of discussions on another issue – the illicit drug ice, or methamphetine.


“I’m particularly excited to see a new strike force between the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth Government looking at ice in the Northern Territory and what we can do in a cross-border role to stop ice coming into the Northern Territory and the challenges of that potentially getting out to remote communities.”


Another issue leaders were in agreement over was the need for a national approach on domestic violence.


There’s to be a new scheme to allow Domestic Violence Orders to be issued across states.


There will also be a new campaign against the online oppression of women and children, with hopes it can be implemented within 12 months.


Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says the focus of the campaign will focus on how men view women.


“It’s about a much deeper and broader issue and that is we view women, particularly the way men view women. I’ve long thought, and I think we can all agree, that outcomes for women are all too often the product of attitudes towards women.”


On counter-terrorism, the Prime Minister praised ASIO and the country’s police forces, declaring they have never been more effective.


But he repeated the focus needs to be on those who are susceptible to what he calls death cult ideology.


“It’s also important to try to ensure that the mindset which is susceptible to the death cult ideology is tackled as well, and we have to drain the swamp, if you like, of extremism as well as ensure that the nasties hiding in the swamp are dealt with whenever they’re attempting to emerge.”


All leaders also noted the contribution a strong Australian ship-building industry could make to strengthening industrial capacity, employment and specialist skills.




Malthouse not throwing in the towel

Carlton’s president has declared the Blues to be in the middle of an AFL rebuild but Mick Malthouse won’t be throwing in the kids just yet.


Mark LoGiudice laid clear where he saw his football club sitting this week, confirming what everyone has sensed – Carlton is rebuilding.

But it’s not what Malthouse is telling his playing group, whether he agrees or not.

The master coach and self-declared ultimate optimist couldn’t bring himself to even say the `r word’ on the eve of Saturday’s crunch match with Essendon.

To Malthouse, it’s all part of the tricky business of marrying the short-term and the long-term.

“The president has a message to the fans and I have a message to the players,” he said.

“Whatever words are used around is for the club, for the supporters.

“I can’t allow myself to be drawn into a methodology that suggests that we are going to be less than competitive.

“We will pick a side every week to run down the race to be as competitive as we can.”

Make no mistake, there is a battle going on at Princes Park, but Malthouse says it’s a normal clash within any AFL club.

The two most important people in the Blues’ football department, list manager Stephen Silvagni and Malthouse, have different priorities.

Malthouse is out to win matches and Silvagni is building a dynasty.

And any decisions on trading senior players for a next generation, or the right coach for the future, will wait.

Malthouse claimed full support to chase wins and not player development, leading him to select the likes of 28-year-old Dennis Armfield ahead of dropped teenager Clem Smith.

“(We will not) throw out Judd, Carrazzo, Simpson, Walker, anyone who may or may not be here in two or three seasons,” he said.

“We will pick the side on merit.”

That means Irish recruit Ciaran Byrne has won his senior debut off his own back.

The 20-year-old’s family are flying out for Ireland for Saturday afternoon’s MCG meeting with Essendon, which Malthouse said was a fantastic feel-good story.

“He had the world at his feet in Irish football (and) chose to come over here, spend 12 months learning the game,” he said.

“He’s been through a few traumas.

“He’s one of those kids who’s so dedicated to getting it right and that’s what you love about him.”

Record crowds tipped for Anzac Day in ACT

A 92-year-old Townsville grandmother whose father fought at Gallipoli will be among the tens of thousands of Australians travelling to the nation’s capital for the Anzac Day centenary.


She will make the 2000km road trip with her family to join the 50,000 people expected at the Australian War Memorial’s dawn service, and the 30,000 more attending the national service later in the morning.

The record crowds – which could eclipse 2012 figures – will not just include people who missed out on the ballot to go to Gallipoli.

Those who have not made it to Canberra in previous years are making a special effort to do so to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli landings.

“From four months of age to 94 years of age, they will be here at 4.30 in the morning – and it’s something of which we ought to be immensely proud,” memorial director Brendan Nelson told reporters in Canberra on Friday.

He said the event would be one of the most significant in Australia’s history.



* Images of ex-servicemen projected to the front of the memorial.


* Images of Gallipoli landings projected onto the memorial.


* Readings at 5am from diaries and letters of servicemen from Gallipoli.

* Silence from 5.15am until 5.30am.

* Dawn service to begin at 5.30am.

* Indigenous navy serviceman to play the didgeridoo from the memorial parapet.

* General David Morrison to deliver the commemorative address.


* Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove to deliver a commemorative address.

* Laying of wreaths, reading of hymns, sounding of the Last Post, and observance of one minute’s silence.

* More than 88 contingents will be in the veterans march, including relatives and descendants of World War I servicemen.

Dennis calls for ARU rule change

NSW Waratahs captain Dave Dennis believes overseas-based players should be considered for the Wallabies as long as they are contributing to Australian rugby.


Dennis says the ARU needs to revise its policy of overlooking players not involved in Super Rugby as Test stars look to maximise their earning potential by accepting lucrative contracts offshore.

“If you’re contributing to Australian rugby one way or another, they should be able to be selected for the Wallabies,” Dennis said on Friday.

“So whether that’s currently playing Super Rugby or looking to potentially come back and play Super Rugby … within a certain time-frame.

“I want to see the Wallabies have the best possible team that they can put out there, so I think we need to understand that there’s going to have to be a few little changes in that area.”

Despite admitting it wasn’t for him, Dennis said the ARU granting Bernard Foley its first-ever “flexible contract” – allowing the Waratahs and Wallabies five-eighth to have two stints in Japan over the next three years – was a sensible compromise.

“It’s a great opportunity for him. The good thing is he is staying in Australian rugby but he gets to experience something else,” Dennis said.

“That’s perfect for a young guy who’s got the world at his feet really.”

Off contract at the end of the year, Dennis said he hoped to settle his playing future next week but ruled out requesting a flexible contract at 29.

“I’m a bit older than Bernie. My body’s not like that. That’s not something I could look into,” he said.

“I’ve (also) got other commitments with my family and I couldn’t see myself doing that.

“So I’ll either be leaving for another club or I’ll be staying here. There’s no in-between.”

The versatile and popular forward admitted as captain he was conscious of the impact of his decision to stay or leave the Waratahs would have on the Super Rugby champions and also on soon-to-be head coach Daryl Gibson’s plans.

“We’re going to have a high player turnover,” Dennis said.

“That’s just going to happen with how the contracts are structured.

“So I feel as though I want to be a part of that constant and hopefully contribute to other guys staying around.

“That’s what makes it a little bit harder. I’ve always considered the club in the past.

“Now I’m at the stage of my career where I need to be a little bit more selfish. I know that doesn’t sound good, but that’s just how it goes.”