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Posts Tagged ‘Australia’

Australia says little hope of more survivors from boat wreck

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 at 8:57 am

SYDNEY, Dec 17, 2010 (AFP) – Australia said Friday there was little hope of finding more survivors from a people-smuggling boat which smashed into Christmas Island two days ago and that the full death toll may never be known.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said divers had recovered two more bodies, bringing the official death toll to 30, as air and sea searches continued for survivors after their wooden fishing boat sank early Wednesday.

“We do need to face the grim reality that it is becoming increasingly unlikely, an increasingly remote possibility, that survivors will be found at this stage,” she told reporters in Sydney.

“It remains unclear exactly how many people were on the vessel and we may never know that number with precision,” she said, adding that three Indonesian crew were among the 42 survivors.

The wooden fishing boat crowded with up to 100 Iraqi, Kurdish and Iranian asylum seekers and their families was dashed against jagged rocks in dangerous seas at the remote Indian Ocean outpost early on Wednesday, throwing all on board into the churning water.

Of those pulled alive from the sea, five were evacuated to Perth for medical treatment while the rest were being treated on Christmas Island, which lies 2,600 kilometres (1,612 miles) from the mainland.

Australia has a policy of mandatory detention of boat people and uses Christmas Island as its main processing facility to determine whether they are legitimate refugees.

While boats are often picked up as they attempt to make their way to the island, Gillard said authorities had not been aware that this particular boat was approaching.

“The people smuggling vessel was not sighted until it was sighted from Christmas Island itself by residents,” she said, adding that Australia’s sea patrols covered a massive area.

“If we look at the amount of ocean that lies to our north, the area that we seek to keep under watch, the area in which we are most likely to see asylum seeker vessels, that area is more than 1.4 million square nautical miles.

“Consequently I think people would understand, with such a big area, that it is possible for a boat to get to Christmas Island and not be detected.”

The tragedy has sparked renewed debate on Asia’s people smuggling trade, which has brought more than 5,000 asylum seekers from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka to Australia this year, mostly on unseaworthy vessels from Indonesia.

Gillard said that Australian authorities were working closely with the people smuggling task force from the Indonesian National Police, but did not specify where she believed the boat had come from.

Indonesian police said there was no criminal element to the boat wreck, while Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said Jakarta had no comment on the latest loss of life involving asylum seekers in the waters between Java and the Australian mainland.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to get tough with the smugglers during a visit to Australia earlier this year, and Gillard raised the issue when she visited Jakarta last month.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the government would stick to its strategy of attempting to create a regional processing centre, possibly in East Timor, aiming to break the people-smuggling rings operating in Asia.

Australia has said Wednesday’s accident will be the subject of a criminal investigation and a coroner’s probe.

Source: SGGP

Australia resumes hunt for refugee boat victims, toll rises

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:41 am

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday warned further bodies would be recovered after a boat carrying asylum seekers hit rocks and was shattered by huge waves, killing at least 28 people.

The wooden craft, believed to be crowded with up to 100 Iraqi and Iranian asylum seekers and their children, hit rocks at Christmas Island Wednesday and was shattered by huge waves as traumatised residents looked on helplessly.

Residents and police (R) try to rescue refugees from an asylum boat (C) being smashed by violent seas against the jagged coastline of Australia’s Christmas Island on December 15, 2010. AFP

“We do not know with any certainty how many people there were on the boat, Gillard told reporters.

“We have got to prepare ourselves for the likelihood that more bodies will be found and there will be further loss of life than we know now.”

Customs officials told AFP the search for survivors and the dead resumed at first light on the west coast. They could not confirm how long the rescue operation would last.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the death toll from the disaster had risen to 28 — from 27 late Wednesday — while 44 people had been saved with the help of navy personnel and Christmas Island residents.

“The latest report that I have is that we have 44 people rescued and 28 deceased,” he said.

But he warned that survivors had reported that 70-100 people were on board the rickety boat, which witnesses said was thought to be carrying few life jackets. The Flying Doctors have said up to 50 were believed dead.

“I don’t like to speculate on any particular outcome, but obviously the rescuers will be doing their best… to salvage and rescue persons still in the water or to get any bodies they’re able to get out of the water,” Bowen said.

But he also hinted that the chances of finding survivors in “particularly treacherous” seas churned up by an approaching monsoonal storm were dwindling, adding that the exact number of dead would “probably never” be known.

He declined to comment on how the boat managed to get so close to the remote island — closely watched as the main people-smuggling route from Indonesia — without being intercepted by border police.

“I?m not in the position to comment on that one way or another,” Bowen said. “There?ll be an appropriate time for investigation and for further information to be released on that.”

At least 5,000 asylum seekers from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have made their way to Australia this year, often on leaky boats from Indonesia.

Lawyers and refugee advocates including Amnesty and the UNHCR said the tragedy highlighted the desperate plight of refugees and urged greater cooperation between nations for more humane solutions.

Shocked survivors of the wreck, including 11 children, huddled in a hospital and a reception centre on Christmas Island, where a makeshift morgue was also set up. Local residents were reeling from the horror of what they witnessed.

Two seriously injured women were flown to hospital in Perth, one with abdominal injuries and the other suffering from respiratory problems from inhaling sea water and diesel, medics from the Flying Doctors said.

Many of the injured were treated by medical services on Christmas Island, home to Australia’s main immigration detention centre for boat people.

Traumatised island residents told how they had watched from the cliffs as the tragedy unfolded.

“There were children in the water. There was one very small child in a life jacket floating face down for a very long time… clearly dead,” said local shop owner Simon Prince.

“It’s something I’m not going to forget very quickly,” he told AFP.

Woken near dawn by the screams of victims, locals gathered life jackets and rushed to the sheer limestone cliffs to offer help, but strong winds blew the flotation devices back onshore.

The terrified group drifted for about an hour after losing engine power and only one man managed an “incredible leap” to safety before the surging waves smashed the rickety vessel apart on the rocks, Prince said.

People were crushed against jagged limestone as navy rescuers battled towering swells to reach them in inflatable dinghies, while locals made a human chain and tried to cast ropes and life preservers down.

Flying Doctors transported patients from the island, which lies 2,650 kilometres (1,650 miles) northwest of Perth.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who has cancelled her Christmas holiday to deal with the tragedy, was set to give a briefing alongside her immigration minister later Thursday.

Five Afghan refugees perished last year when their boat exploded off Ashmore Reef, near Christmas Island, injuring 30 others.

Source: SGGP

Vietnamese-born student awarded educational prize in Australia

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:40 am

Twenty-one year old Vietnamese migrant who arrived as an injured has been awarded the title of most excellent student in Australia’s western state of Queensland for 2010, which is a part of Australia’s annual international Training and Education Awards.

Vietnamese Australian K’Chin

K’Chin was born in Vietnam’s Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. He suffered a serious leg injury when he was one month old.

Until he was 13 years old, an Australian charity, Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children proposed to treat him.

Doctors first treated his malnourishment before they began a series of 16 major operations.

Three and a half years, later K’Chin went back to Vietnam, where he lived in an orphanage because his family could not support him. Complications forced him to return to Australia for more treatment.

The care has been successful and the 21-year old can now walk. Illiterate and unable to speak English when he arrived in Australia eight years ago, K’Chin has since conquered two languages.

He said at the awarding ceremony he was honoured and the award was beyond his expectations.

His school friends from St. James College in the city of Brisbane have also elected him to head up the school’s student association next year.

Source: SGGP

Australia offers help to NZ after mine blast

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2010 at 6:13 am

US, Australia expand ties with an eye on China

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2010 at 9:21 am

Australia to crack down on ‘arrogant’ banks

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 at 5:12 am

Australia police serve court order via Facebook

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2010 at 7:04 am

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian police served a court order on an alleged cyber bully using the social networking site Facebook, officials said Wednesday, describing it as a national first.

Victoria police got court approval to use the site after attempts to serve the order in person, over the telephone or via the post failed.

The “prolific” Facebook user was accused of, among other things, using the site to harrass, bully and threaten another person, and police said they transcribed all the court documents and sent them to his Facebook inbox.

A video was also made of the order being read “as if the Respondent was being directly spoken to” and sent electronically to him.

“He stated that he understood the seriousness of the orders, having read … documents served via the social media website and agreed to comply, stating that he would delete his Facebook profile,” a police statement said.

“In this instance we were able to deliver justice through the same medium as the crime committed,” said leading senior constable Stuart Walton, the officer in charge of the investigation.

“Police will always pursue traditional means to enforce the law and to protect the community, but we won’t shy away from innovative methods to achieve positive outcomes either.”

In 2008 an Australian lawyer won the right to serve legal documents via Facebook, the same year a Sydney court allowed lawyers to serve rugby player Sonny Bill Williams with a subpoena via SMS text message.

Australia, with a population of 22.5 million, has almost nine million Facebook users.

Source: SGGP

Australia orders visitors to declare illegal porn

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Australia has ordered visitors to reveal illegal pornography to customs officers in a move which was criticised as “totally confusing” and an invasion of privacy on Tuesday.

Justice Minister Brendan O’Connor on Monday said illegal material must be declared on arrival, watering down recent rules that asked for all pornography to be revealed.

But he said anyone who is not sure whether they have illegal pornography should reveal it just in case. The revamped rule is outlined on arrival cards which are filled in by travellers coming to Australia.

A man looks at pirated pornographic CDs at a market stall.

Australian Sex Party leader Fiona Patten said the measure amounted to an invasion of privacy, and warned that many tourists and even Australians would not know what pornography was illegal.

“They are still totally confusing,” she said of the arrival cards. “What is illegal to import to our country is not necessarily illegal to possess,” she added.

Patten said while Australians were rightly concerned about child pornography, travellers should not have to declare all erotic material to customs officers just to be safe.

“It’s a breach of people’s privacy,” she said.

The government said it changed the wording on passenger arrival cards after becoming aware of confusion among travellers about what pornography to declare.

“People have a right to privacy and while some pornography is legal and does not need to be disclosed, all travellers should be aware that certain types of pornography are illegal and must be declared to customs,” O’Connor said.

Banned material includes child pornography, bestiality, explicit sexual violence, degradation, cruelty and non-consensual sex.

“Even though there have been import bans on illegal pornography for a long time, some travellers still don’t realise that,” O’Connor said in a statement.

Making a false statement to a customs officer carries a fine of up to 11,000 dollars (10,856 US) while bringing in objectionable material, such as child pornography, can incur a fine of up to 275,000 dollars and ten years’ jail.

Source: SGGP

Vietnamese student died from Taser gun in Australia

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 7:47 am

Australian police shot and killed a Vietnamese student who seemed drunk and threaten a girlfriend with a knife on October 5, according to the Vietnamese Consulate General in Australia and the local media.

The student Le Ba Thinh, 25, died after he was shot in the heart by  the police with a Taser gun (electronic stun gun).

Thinh came to Australia for studying English and lived in a house in Helen St, Sefton, in Sydney’s west.

The girlfriend who lives together with Thinh in a shared house called police when the man was reportedly trying to force entry her room just after midnight.

The man lost consciousness shortly after being Tasered, but he died on the way to Liverpool Hospital.

The death of the Vietnamese student who is the second to have been killed with a Taser in Australia aroused discussions on using the stun gun.


Source: SGGP

Australia PM Gillard takes poll lead

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 at 7:22 am

SYDNEY, Aug 14, 2010 (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard regained her lead in the polls just one week out from neck-and-neck elections Saturday, with surveys showing she had support in enough seats to win office.

Gillard, Australia’s first female leader, led Tony Abbott’s conservative Liberal/National coalition 53 percent to 47 percent in the latest Nielsen poll, with a four-point jump in her ruling Labor party’s primary and overall vote.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (R) speaks at a media conference during a visit to a construction site in inner-west Sydney on August 13, 2010. AFP

The flame-haired former lawyer also lifted her preferred prime minister rating three points to 52 percent to one-time trainee priest Abbott’s 38 percent, the survey of 1,356 voters found.

A separate Newspoll in the must-win states of Queensland and New South Wales (NSW), and Gillard’s home state of Victoria, showed the prime minister was on track to scrape into government.

“Possible gains in Victoria would mean Labor could govern in its own right by the narrowest of margins,” said The Australian newspaper, where the Newspoll was published.

Gillard performed strongly in the campaign’s fourth week — the period during which the surveys were conducted — rating well on two popular TV programmes and attracting a flurry of bets on Labor to win the election.

By contrast, Abbott attracted widespread derision with a vow to scrap the government’s National Broadband Network, and floundered over details of his own cheaper but slower Internet scheme when quizzed on national television.

The Nielsen poll found more people disapproved of Abbott’s performance than approved (48 to 45 percent), giving him a net negative for the first time in the campaign, while Gillard’s approval rating rose to 54 percent and her disapproval dropped to 36 percent.

Some 59 percent said they believed Labor would win the election to Abbott’s 27 percent, and Gillard had closed the gap in seats critical to her bid for office, particularly in Sydney, where she made big spending pledges on a new rail link.

Gillard now led in NSW 51-49 and had dramatically gained ground in Queensland to trail Abbott just 49-51, according to Nielsen.

The Newspoll of 3,351 voters in marginally-held seats showed a significant swing to Gillard in Victoria, countering considerable gains by Abbott in Queensland and NSW.

“Labor’s in front and is likely to win, but government is still there for the taking for Tony Abbott,” The Australian said.

Critically, Gillard looked to hold onto the bellwether electorate of Eden-Monaro, just outside the capital Canberra, according to Newspoll.

Every government which has won office since 1972 has taken the seat.

Source: SGGP