Taskforce told new climate targets ‘must not hamper economic growth’

Environment Minister Greg Hunt. Photo: Louise KennerleyThe man charged with steering a government taskforce reviewing Australia’s climate targets says the Abbott government has made it clear that its recommendations should not hurt the economy or jobs growth.
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And the Climate Change Authority has signalled it will release its own review of Australia’s emissions reduction targets in mid-April to pre-empt any findings by the government-appointed review panel.

David Gruen, a senior economist in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, chairs the steering commitee for a 12-person taskforce that is due to recommend post-2020 emissions reduction targets for Australia in mid-2015.

Speaking at a climate change conference at the Australian National University on Friday, Dr Gruen said: “The government has made it clear that our post-2020 target must be consistent with continued strong economic growth, jobs growth and development in Australia.”

He added that “nothing of value would be achieved” in the global fight against climate change “if emissions intensive economic activity in Australia ceases, only to be replaced by more emissions intensive activity overseas which produces essentially the same goods or service”.

Dr Gruen gave some new detail on how the taskforce would conduct its review, saying it was being guided by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and senior ministers Julie Bishop, Andrew Robb, Greg Hunt and Ian Macfarlane.

He said the taskforce would shortly open the subject of setting new targets ahead of a global climate summit in December for public consultation and was seeking advice from “business, industry and academia”.

“The taskforce is seeking information on policies across a broad range of sectors of the economy which could achieve abatement in a cost-effective manner,” Dr Gruen said.

“The taskforce is looking at a broad range of policies with a fresh perspective and is not ruling anything out at this stage.”

Peter Woolcott, Australia’s ambassador for the environment who will lead Australia’s negotiations with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, said the government was looking for “clear, credible and quantifiable contributions by all countries”.

Mr Woolcott said while Australia would be guided by the US, China and major trading partners in Asia, the government expected any new global agreement to demand a greater contribution from developing countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“It must reflect the fact that developing countries are getting wealthier and have greater capacity to take action,” he said.

Climate Change Authority chief executive Anthea Harris said the authority would fast track its own review of targets – which was launched as part of government deal with the crossbench to pass direct action legislation last year – to try to force the government to consider its recommendations.

But Ms Harris did not say whether there had been any steps by the taskforce to seek out the independent authority’s advice.

“In terms of have we been asked for advice, we’ve been asked to do the review,” she said.

“The government will be required to respond to our recommendations. Mind you, that will be well after the event because the legislative requirement is to report six months after the final report, which isn’t until June next year.

“So I don’t think I can really add much more than that.”

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Workers in visa row forced to sleep in office, union claims

Filipino workers living in a South Melbourne office. Photo: SuppliedA group of foreign workers were forced to sleep on a Melbourne office floor for almost a month after their employer put a freeze on wages, renewing concerns of widespread rorting of the 457 visa scheme.
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Eleven Filipino workers employed on temporary visas turned Schneider Elevators Australasia’s head office into their makeshift living quarters because they could not afford lodging when their pay suddenly stopped six weeks ago.

Workplace photographs taken by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union show blow-up mattresses and couch cushions strewn across the floor of the South Melbourne office and employees sleeping among bags of their belongings.

The union’s assistant state secretary, Craig Kelly, said the elevator company had failed to pay correct wages and overtime rates to its 17 workers – including 11 Filipinos, five Australians and a British national – and owed them more than $170,000.

Mr Kelly accused the company of secretly deducting visa charges and building industry fees from the foreign workers’ pay, leaving them with weekly take-home wages of between $150 and $500.

“This is an appalling case of exploitation,” Mr Kelly said. “Originally they were promised board and lodging by the company, but when they got here that didn’t eventuate. So they stayed at backpackers hostels, then when their wages stopped they were basically homeless.”

One of the foreign workers who was employed as a lift installer said staff were paid between $25 and $40 a week while living in the office. He said they moved to a hotel last week after the union intervened.

“This situation without the union, we are still in slavery treatment of our employer,” he said. “Hopefully we can find another job here. We came here for our family, to give them a better future. But right now we don’t have any money in our pocket.”

A recent federal government review recommended plans to relax entry requirements for foreign workers, including allowing specialised workers to stay in Australia for up to a year, instead of six months, under a short-term visa.

Under the proposed change, overseas workers would not need to apply for a 457 work visa, which requires them to take English language tests and forces employers to prove they have first looked to hire locally.

The Australian union movement has attacked the proposals, saying it would let employers sidestep strict sponsorship obligations and lead to more workers being exploited.

The Abbott government has flagged harsher penalties for people found to be abusing the 457 skilled visa program and said it would make it illegal for sponsors to seek a payment for taking on a foreign worker.

The Immigration Department will also cross-check tax office records to ensure workers are being paid properly and will “name and shame” people who exploit overseas workers.

Assistant Immigration Minister Michaelia Cash said the review last year found there was not widespread rorting of 457 visa programme.

Schneider Elevators Australasia managing director Terrence Donnelly declined to respond to repeated requests for comment. A woman who answered the company’s head office phone on Friday said: “I don’t know anything about [people] living here. You need to talk to Terrence.”

According to the company’s website, Schneider currently has contracts in Victoria and NSW  to install elevators in apartment blocks, a hotel, library and police station. It says employee and customer safety is “first and foremost”. “Our efficiency in maximising resources will provide you with opportunities for cost competitive solutions.”

A spokesman for Senator Cash said the matter was being investigated and that the government took alleged breaches of 457 visa sponsorship very seriously.

“The Department is currently liaising with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) regarding this case,” he said.

“If a sponsor is found to have failed an obligation, the Department institutes appropriate action, which may take the form of imposing administrative sanctions, issuing infringement notices, executing enforceable undertakings or applying to the federal court for a civil penalty order.”

“As investigations are ongoing, it is not appropriate to comment further on this particular matter.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Hunter Afghanistan veterans join march for Operation Slipper

Recent veterans Laura Callcott, David Hombsch and Ryan Ginty. Picture: Max Mason-HubersFOR Ryan Ginty, Laura Callcott and David Hombsch, serving the nation in Afghanistan and the Middle East during the 13years of Operation Slipper made the hard slog of military training worthwhile.
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Operation Slipper, as the Australian contribution to the war in Afghanistan was known, ended on December31, 2014, when the Operation Highroad training and advisory mission began.

To recognise the 34,500 defence, civilian and federal police personnel who took part in the operation, a series of welcome-home parades are being held on Saturday in nine cities around Australia.

Group Captain Hombsch, Leading Aircraftwoman Callcott and Flight Lieutenant Ginty are part of a large contingent from the Hunter who are taking part in the Sydney march, which is expected to attract more than 6000 participants.

It starts at 10am on the corner of George Street and King Street, and will be followed by a commemorative service at the Anzac memorial in Hyde Park at noon.

Vice-Admiral Ray Griggs, a Slipper veteran and Vice-Chief of the Defence Force, said the events were to give the Australian public a chance to thank all who had taken part in Operation Slipper since October 2001.

Flt Lt Ginty, 29, said he did one tour of duty to the United Arab Emirates in 2011 and a second to Afghanistan in 2014, based at Kandahar.

It’s good to see that what you are doing is having an actual effect,’’ Flt Lt Ginty said.

LAC Callcott, 25, said she was ‘‘born and bred in Warners Bay’’, joined the RAAF in 2009 and was deployed to the UAE in early 2011.

LAC Callcott said some shifts were ‘‘so intense you didn’t have time to think about it’’.

Serving overseas was something she regarded as a personal achievement and she was looking forward to marching in Sydney.

Group Captain Hombsch, 45, served in the Middle East in 2003 and was back in the area as an adviser in 2008.

David Rudisha, Masai warrior, tamed the world and saved the lion

David Rudisha Rudisha is emblematic of the modern Masai. Photo: Matthew Thomas David Rudisha Rudisha is emblematic of the modern Masai. Photo: Matthew Thomas
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David Rudisha Rudisha is emblematic of the modern Masai. Photo: Matthew Thomas

David Rudisha Rudisha is emblematic of the modern Masai. Photo: Matthew Thomas

In 2010 David Rudisha went to Berlin and broke the world record. A week later in the small Italian hilltop city of Rieti the tall angular 21-year-old from central Africa broke his own world 800 metres record.

At the same time in his Masai tribe in the Rift Valley of Kenya the boys of Rudisha’s generation were going through their rite of passage. The Masai boys went out to hunt and kill a lion and so become warriors. Were he not in Europe Rudisha would have been hunting with them.

To hunt the lion the Masai nominate one of their hunters as a sacrifice to lure out the lion. The hunter rings a bell loudly and constantly until an irritated lion attacks. The hunting party then moves in and kills the lion. If the bell-ringer survives he is venerated as a brave and lucky warrior.

“In 2010 it was almost the same time that I was breaking the world record that my age group were going through the rite of passage to become the morran [warrior],” Rudisha said.

“When I came back they said ‘I think you did something special, even more than killing a lion’. They made me a leader. I didn’t have to kill a lion. They say breaking two world records was more significant and was just like killing the lion. I think that is really cool because we are also trying nowadays to educate them to discourage the killing of wild animals because now in Kenya we have more statues of lions than lions themselves.”

In modern Kenya there is a grinding disconnect among the Masai between earnestly defending their culture and traditions and knowing that by doing so they are robbing their heritage. By killing so many lions and wild animals the Masai are killing an essential element of who they are.

“I am proud to be a Masai. We are one of the unique tribes who live alongside wild animals including the big five [the lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard]. We are proud of the wild animals because this is part of our heritage and environment. Without the wild animal I think the Masai are different,” he said.

“We want to maintain and be ecosystem friendly. The Masai are known to be very courageous and that is why we live with the wild animals but sometimes people get attacked and this has been a big issue between the Masai and the wild animals. If they come and kill then we go and hunt for them. Now we educate them and say we don’t just go attack them unless they attack us.”

Rudisha is patron of the new “Masai Olympics” which was conceived as a means of challenging warriors and adapting Masai skills without killing wild animals.

“We do unique sports. We throw the spears and Masais are well known for jumping and dancing, so we also have high jump whereby you jump as high as you can to hit the rope with your head,” he said. “It’s a kind of unique high jump. We are trying to encourage them not to continue killing the wild animals.”

Rudisha is emblematic of the modern Masai. He grew up nomadically in the traditional way but now lives in an urban area to train and be able to travel the world as an elite athlete. He is modern yet traditional – when he married six years ago he paid his wife’s family in cows.

“Cows are the most valuable things to Masai, the number of cows you have signify how rich you are … we do all we can to protect them. We fight with other communities because of cows. Before you get married you have to give cows for the family of the bride. I paid 12 cows for my wife,” he said.

“I don’t keep a lot of cows now, just a few at home. Nowadays I live around town in the city and some places now are starting to change because of the modernisation.”

This pride of his heritage informs who Rudisha is as an athlete. The Masai reputation for courage made him change the way he ran in 2009 after failing to make the final of the world championships in Berlin.

“That was when I decided to change my tactics and run from the front which it took me a lot of courage to do,” he said. “I am a Masai and we are very courageous and brave people. Even if you watch most of my races I always run courageously, even sometimes when I am not at my top I always like to lead from the front and do my best. Many people like that.

“I have been pushing and training hard to be fit because running from the front you have to be in good form as well as you have to be smart because you’re calculating and doing out there without following somebody’s pace.”

There was no more courageous run than Rudisha at the London Olympics. Rudisha jockeyed to the front in the first 100, accelerated at the 200, and floated away from the pack by the 300. He was like the Masai bell-ringer the lions could not catch.

He ran the first lap in 49.28 and kept accelerating, confident that no one could touch him. He looked like a man racing himself as much as the field. He had not lost all year, he felt assured of winning, it was another record he was chasing.

While he likes to lead, ordinarily Rudisha uses his pacemaker, Sammy Tangui, to take him around the first lap. Tangui travels the world with him training and pacing him over the first lap. Tangui is not a Masai but he is a tall man with a long stride like Rudisha’s. He was a 400m runner who competed at the African championships and world youth games and now takes Rudisha around the track for the first lap in a predetermined time.

“Tangui is always I would say almost perfect. Most of the races and most of the pacing he gets there minus or plus 30 hundreds of a second,” Rudisha said.

Rudisha was world champion in 2011. In 2013 he missed the worlds through injury. He has broken the world record three times. He is the Olympic gold medallist. He is one of the greatest-ever middle-distance runners. But his name is not really Rudisha.

His name is only Rudisha because his dad’s name was Rudisha. But his dad’s name was not really Rudisha, that was just a nickname.

Rudisha is a Swahili word for return. When David’s father was born in 1945 German soldiers came into their village in Tanganyika, in what had been German East Africa, to take some of the Masai’s bulls.

The German commander kicked in the door of the hut and was startled to see David’s grandmother giving birth. He turned around called out to his men “Rudisha, Rudisha” telling them to return the bulls and leave the village.

And so the young boy, Daniel, was considered the harbinger of good fortune and forever known to the village as Rudisha. He later went on to win silver in the 400m relay for Kenya at the 1968 Olympics as Daniel Rudisha. When he had a son called him David Rudisha.

“Rudisha was just a nickname for my dad. People know my dad more by Rudisha than his official name. I kind of like the name. It’s a good luck name because the bulls got returned,” Rudisha said.

He acknowledges the name now fits. It is a name of luck, of cows, of the Masai and of winning.

Rudisha runs on Saturday night at the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge at Lakeside Stadium, Albert Park. Events begin 3pm. Rudisha runs at 6.50pm.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Bob Carr opens cabinet door at Newcastle Writers Festival

Newcastle writer Philip Ashley-Brown, left, and Bob Carr tread the festival boards. Picture: Ryan OslandIT was political, but not partisan, as Bob Carr took centre stage at the Newcastle Writers Festival on Friday.
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The former NSW Labor premier who became the country’s foreign minister spoke about the rough and tumble of public office and the highlights of a political career spanning four decades.

And the author of Diary of a Foreign Minister had kind words, not only for the late Malcolm Fraser but for another Liberal prime minister, Tony Abbott.

Mr Carr surprised the City Hall crowd with praise for Mr Abbott, saying reports Australia would join the China-led $US100-billion ($130-billion) Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank were positive.

“I was very heartened when I heard the Abbott government took the decision that Australia should join the bank,” he said.

“I thought it was a very bad look for Australia that we were staying out of the bank, only because [US President] Barack Obama had phoned Tony Abbott and said, ‘We don’t want you to join it.’

“That wasn’t a good enough reason. There’s a strong case for us being a part of this bank, shaping the rules, shaping the governments.

“Americans are so anxious about what is an inevitable phenomenon – the rise of China. This sends a very important signal … we’re capable of thinking for ourselves.”

Mr Carr also paid tribute to Mr Fraser, who died on Friday.

“I think we’ve got to give him credit for being a thoughtful political leader whose view evolved,” he said.

“He took a very considered position in his last book in warning Australians about the dangers of our treaty relationship with America.”

Mr Carr also weighed in on recent events at ICAC, after one Hunter resident declared he was fed up with state politics and had thought about casting an informal vote.

“I think the shocks out of the ICAC revelations for both sides of politics have been enormous,” Mr Carr said.

“But you’ve got leaders on both sides resolved to get their parties beyond a very unfortunate period.’’

The three-day Newcastle Writers Festival will continue over the weekend.

SATURDAY

■ Wesley Enoch talks about his life, career and Black Diggers. 10am-11am, City Hall Hunter Room. Tickets $22.

■ Blanche d’Alpuget talks about her colourful writing career. 11.30am-12.30pm, City Hall’s Hunter Room. Tickets $22.

■ Bob Brown, Claire Dunn and Favel Parrett talk about the significance of connecting with wild places. 4.30pm-5.30pm, City Hall Concert Hall. Tickets $22.

SUNDAY

■ Les Murray reads from his new volume of poems. 10am-11am, City Hall Concert Hall. Tickets $22.

■ Erik Jensen and David Leser set out to write about key figures, but found themselves entwined in the story. 1.30pm-2.30pm. Tickets $22.