Scientists demand urgent action on reef mine plans

The World Heritage Committee will meet to consider whether the Great Barrier Reef should be put on a list of sites considered ‘in danger’ due to the threat of industrial development and other issues.Australia’s leading marine scientists have demanded governments take better care of the Great Barrier Reef just weeks from a key United Nations meeting considering the impacts of proposed coal and gas development at the world heritage site.
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In a joint statement, the scientists urge governments to contain several proposed new ports along the reef’s coast associated with coal mining and gas projects to existing industrial areas.

They also want the federal and Queensland governments to encourage greater sharing of existing infrastructure to reduce industrial footprint, and better management of shipping through the reef.

The statement includes signatures from more than 150 scientists from 33 Australian institutions, along with a number of prominent international researchers.

”As scientists, we are concerned about the additional pressures that will be exerted by expansion of coastal ports and industrial development accompanied by a projected near-doubling in shipping, major coastal reclamation works, large-scale seabed dredging and dredge spoil disposal – all either immediately adjacent to, or within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area,” the statement says.

The UN’s World Heritage Committee will meet in Cambodia later this month to consider whether the Great Barrier Reef should be put on a list of sites considered ”in danger” due to the threat of industrial development and other issues.

The statement was first circulated to attract signatures in April. The WWF – which has been funded by the Thomas Foundation to run a massive ”Fight for the Reef” campaign – paid for a consultancy to coordinate the declaration.

Scientists who signed the declaration include laureates of the United Nations’ 500 Global Roll of Honour.

International signatories are based at institutions including the Natural History Museum in London, and the University of California, Berkeley.

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Too scared to drive her beloved VW Polo

Senay Suleyman (right) with her sister, Seniz, and the problem Polo. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo Neil Prosser’s damaged Volkswagen Jetta. Photo: Joe Armao
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Senay Suleyman was ”the happiest person” when she first got behind the wheel of her Volkswagen Polo, an 18th birthday present. She had just earned her P-plates and the freedom of driving her sparkling new car awaited.

That was last October. Now, her mother, Suzi, has banned Senay from driving the car – so worried is she about its safety record. And Suzi feels she can’t sell it: ”It’s not an option to sell the vehicle because it will simply be like selling a death trap to another motorist. I wouldn’t put any person in that predicament when I don’t let my own daughter drive it.”

Senay’s car suddenly cut out four times while she was driving, a problem that may have contributed to the death of Melissa Ryan, who was killed on the Monash Freeway in 2011 when her Golf dramatically lost speed and was run over by a truck.Government orders probe on VW ‘faults’Death prompts VW owners to speak out

For Senay, it meant being stranded in the early hours of the morning; her car losing power in heavy traffic as she took her sister to school and, once – most frighteningly – as she pulled onto a major road and had to swerve to avoid an oncoming car.

As a young driver, Senay became anxious about the car and the anxiety tipped into depression. ”It’s kind of like a mixed feeling between sad, upset, disappointed, angry and scared,” she said. ”All I want is just the replacement of my car. I am not saying I want my money back. I love my car … I would have thought customers are more valuable than actual money to them.”

The car was sent four times to Essendon Volkswagen and, before the latest incident, the service centre had written to the Suleymans agreeing to discuss replacing the vehicle if the engine malfunction continued. But now, Volkswagen says it can find no fault with the car.

Volkswagen Jetta owner Neil Prosser said the sudden loss of power was responsible for a recent accident when he drove into an intersection and lost acceleration. A car clipped the back of his vehicle. ”The car just stalled and died. I couldn’t get through in time. It was quite frightening,” he said.

As of Tuesday, Fairfax Media had received 144 accounts from Volkswagen drivers who have experienced sudden deceleration while driving their cars.

Volkswagen has not answered Fairfax Media’s calls or emails.

The federal Department of Infrastructure and Transport has launched an investigation into the matter. And the coroner will hand down her finding into Melissa Ryan’s death next month.

People concerned about their Volkswagens can email the Department of Infrastructure and Transport on [email protected] or contact Melissa Fyfe at [email protected]南京夜网.au.

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Not as special now, but Jose was missed

It was the love affair that never ended. He left. They mourned, falling briefly into the arms of others.  Now he is back. It’s Jose Mourinho and Chelsea fans, it’s Mills and Boon, and it’s a special relationship that could spell trouble for others.
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Many will be cynical about Mourinho’s return. Never go back, they say. Try saying that to Jupp Heynckes, who rescued Bayern Munich’s season on his return as an interim and then led them to a historic treble during his third spell in charge. It can work. The Godfather Part II was the best of the series.

Mourinho and Chelsea Mark II will need work, though. It will need money and patience. When Mourinho first blew into England like a hurricane in Armani, Chelsea had incredible financial muscle, almost unique in English football.

Now there is Manchester City, who will be a revitalised force under Manuel Pellegrini and the pipeline of oil money.

Manchester United have Wilfried Zaha and David Moyes will be given more funds to remould the team. Arsenal should have a fit Jack Wilshere and may at last get round to buying top quality. Spurs and Liverpool have good, hungry young managers.

Mourinho  won’t catch people out like in 2004. Managers will want to prove themselves against him, from  former proteges like Andre Villas Boas, Brendan Rodgers and Steve Clarke to old foes like Moyes, Pellegrini and Arsene Wenger.

His return is a gold-dusted joy for those who run the Premier League. Any sporting soap-opera that boasts a cast including such characters as Mourinho and Ian Holloway is worth watching, and listening to. Better football is played in the Bundesliga and La Liga but no league can rival England’s elite division for drama.

Mourinho returns a slightly chastened figure, less cocksure than the Portuguese peacock who first strutted into the Bridge, fresh from his Champions League trophy success at Porto and charming everyone.

The memory of his  antics and  on-field disappointments last season at Real Madrid mean his reputation as the go-to guarantor of silverware has been harmed.

English football will be less tolerant of his mind games and jousts with officials. He has history with Premier League referees. He has had issues with Roman Abramovich. He needs to balance the Chelsea hierarchy’s desire for more nimble, Latin-style movement against his love of pace and power.

He has to measure the extent of John Terry’s decline, setting a bruised body against the defender’s undoubted leadership and positional strengths. He has to decide where David Luiz fits into his tactical framework. Fernando Torres’ days are  numbered but will Mourinho gamble on Romelu Lukaku? Andre Schurrle is expected to join from Bayer Leverkusen. Where does he fit?

So many questions. Mourinho has a record of finding answers. He will  have an instant impact, galvanising a club that won a trophy under  Rafael Benitez but seemed at odds with itself. His  ‘‘I am one of you’’ message to fans via Chelsea TV was  clever,  tapping into all that terrace angst towards Benitez.  Mourinho deserves to be welcomed back.   He will make Chelsea a genuine threat in the title race, arguably favourites. He will  find  English football  less forgiving this time. But it is good to see him back.

Telegraph, London

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Labor MP goes rogue on Gillard, down to the letter

Paul Keating in the 1980s became fond of a theory called the J-curve, sold to him by the Treasury, suggesting an initial fall in the fortunes of the dollar would create a lovely and satisfying upswing in the current account deficit. A graph of this would resemble the letter J.
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It refused to transpire in the time predicted and the resulting graph resembled a wonky hyphen.

The late senator John Button, frustrated by this unfortunate failure of theory, was moved to remark that ”I don’t know who invented the bloody J-curve but I tell you it wasn’t an Australian who learnt about the Australian economy.”

Political memories are short. The optimists in Julia Gillard’s Labor government have clung desperately for years to the wild hope the J-curve could transmogrify to political popularity.

Labor’s political fortunes, it was postulated, might have taken a dip as the Great Unpleasantness following the eradication of Kevin Rudd worked its way into history. But as the voters grasped its major policies, the popularity graph would perform an upswing worthy of an aerobatic ski slope and they would fly high and free from the heights of the magical J.

Labor’s Senator Doug Cameron, a man whose Scottish brogue has difficulty morphing into the forked tongue required of the successful politicians, was moved yesterday to undertake a facsimile of the late Senator Button’s reality check.

The Labor leadership’s promise of a political J-curve, he observed dryly, had failed to eventuate.

The morning’s polls suggested Senator Cameron was on the button. Labor was floundering .

The only J-curve of the day was tossed by J. Fitzgibbon, a Labor fellow who has gone rogue on Ms Gillard’s party.

Joel Fitzgibbon, a Rudd man, was asked about the polls by the Seven Network’s Sunrise host, David Koch. J. Fitzgibbon could barely contain his wicked glee.

”Hang on, Kochie, I just brought a manual with me,” he chuckled, brandishing a sheaf of papers. ”I’ll see what it says. It says I should say ‘polls come and go, but the only poll that matters is on election day’.”

He fairly bounced in his chair, beaming like a recalcitrant schoolboy. His notes contained what are known as ”talking points”. They are issued by the grand strategists of Julia Gillard’s communications office, detailing how Labor MPs should respond to tricky questions.

The ”polls come and go, but the only poll that matters” is a standby as old as Methuselah. However MPs aren’t supposed to say they have been instructed to use the line, let alone wave around the instruction manual. Fitzgibbon knew he was shoving it, on national TV, up the noses of the puppet masters in Ms Gillard’s office.

With only 10 days of parliamentary sittings remaining before the election, he may as well have said the Gillard government’s hoped-for J-curve had turned into a Q – a circle adorned with an impotent squiggle. A Q, perhaps, for Queensland, where internal party polling supposedly shows the only Labor squiggle that might remain after the election is Kevin Rudd.

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ALP gloom brings cracks in discipline

Despair within Labor is threatening internal discipline, as MPs lecture the leadership and key figures express contempt for the lines they are instructed to use.
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An emerging ”every man for himself” mindset appears to have taken hold in the federal caucus with most now resigned to a wipe-out on September 14.

As Opposition Leader Tony Abbott reminded his charges to maintain their discipline and to take nothing for granted, despondent Labor MPs met in Canberra, weighed down by a pervasive sense of doom as Newspoll put them 16 points behind the Coalition on 42 per cent to 58 per cent.

Another smaller poll also published on Tuesday showed Labor’s vote in the supposedly safe Melbourne seat of Isaacs, held by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, collapsing.

In caucus, Ms Gillard was told to do more to combat Tony Abbott’s famously effective ”stop the boats” slogan and expose it as undeliverable.

Laurie Ferguson, a western Sydney backbencher strongly aligned to the Prime Minister, said (twice) that Labor was ”dead” in the west unless it could better explain its position on asylum seekers, in a direct reflection on Ms Gillard’s approach to the debate so far.

He believes Ms Gillard should do more to explain the complexities of dealing with Indonesia, Malaysia, and the extent of the people-smuggling trade, arguing the issue is also causing alarm among voters in other areas of the country.

Mr Ferguson, who holds the seat of Werriwa by less than 7 per cent, is one of a slew of MPs – some of them future leaders – facing defeat based on current polling.

With the government preparing to toughen the 457 skilled temporary migration visa scheme in a bid to appease unions and appear tougher on foreign labour competition, outgoing former minister Martin Ferguson called for more evidence of alleged employer rorting. Kevin Rudd also sought more information.

Legislation installing stronger tests before granting employers access to foreign labour is being introduced to Parliament on Wednesday.

Another MP, SA backbencher Nick Champion told colleagues the scheme left workers beholden to employers for fear of being left visa-less.

In other outbreaks of frankness:

■ NSW Senator Doug Cameron complained that a promised uptick in the government’s standing with voters under Ms Gillard had not materialised.

■ Former minister and ex-chief whip Joel Fitzgibbon ridiculed the ”talking points” handed to MPs as he laughed on breakfast TV about the government’s fate.

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Schools face burdens irrespective of Gonski deal

Schools would face rigorous reporting burdens about their plans to improve performance even if Victoria refuses to join the Commonwealth’s education reforms.
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The paperwork regime was revealed on Tuesday when the federal government published legal changes to deliver its landmark Gonski reforms.

The federal government wants to pass its education legislation before Parliament rises this month, but has so far only struck deals with NSW and the ACT.

The bill passed the lower house on Wednesday morning, with the opposition’s education spokesman Christopher Pyne accusing the government of trying to “ram” the changes through and “gag” debate.

An incensed Mr Pyne also argued that Parliament was being asked to pass a bill where there was no national agreement – as only 2 out of 8 jurisdictions had signed up to the funding reforms.

“The minister is claiming there is a national agreement to introduce a new funding model. There is a not,” he said.

Under the changes, schools would have to meet goals even if the Victorian and federal governments fail to reach an agreement.

These goals include better teaching and learning, greater power for school principals and for Australia to reach the top five performing countries in reading, maths and science by 2025.

State Education Minister Martin Dixon said he was concerned about federal interference.

”Victoria is concerned about the level of prescription and intervention proposed by the federal government with regards to all Victorian schools,” he said.

Brighton Secondary College principal Julie Podbury said state schools already wrote plans for improvement.

”Every Victorian government school has a plan or are reviewing their current plan and are preparing to write the next one,” she said.

But state schools urgently needed more funding, Ms Podbury said. ”Every government school is struggling financially. We do need more funding.”

The Prime Minister has placed education at the centre of her election-year agenda, saying the Gonski reforms would deliver an extra $14.5 billion in combined federal and state funding across the nation over six years.

States that refuse to sign on to the reforms would have an extension of the existing funding system, but lose targeted national partnership funding when those programs expired. To gain any federal funding these states would have to sign a modified education agreement, including a requirement for schools to publish annual improvement plans.

Ms Gillard has set a June 30 deadline to finalise agreements with other states, but the legislation does not lock in this date. Instead, the bill would allow further deals to be struck before the 2014 school year or even later.

The education reforms could also trigger an influx of appeals as schools take advantage of new powers to challenge their entitlements.

Planned legal changes revealed by the federal government on Tuesday create a more extensive process for education authorities to appeal decisions, including funding.

The government has received only 19 applications over the past four years to adjust schools’ socio-economic status rating, but officials expect an increase in appeals under the new system.

The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said more schools were likely to use the Administrative Appeals Tribunal process to challenge their funding.

”The data is so rubbery. We’re going to do a quality assurance on the data with the government to try and fix where it’s obviously incorrect,” he said.

With Judith Ireland, Amy McNeilage

Follow the National Times on Twitter

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Sydney Airport congestion problems set to continue

A long way to go: Congestion problems around Sydney Airport will likely continue despite plans to ease problems. Photo: Brendan EspositoSydney Airport boss Kerrie Mather has been true to her word.
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For months, she has been telling all and sundry to expect an “evolution rather than a revolution”.

She was, of course, referring to her grand plans to develop the country’s least-loved airport over the next 20 years.

The need to spell out those plans is a legal requirement. Every five years, the airport has to release its development plans for the next two decades.

The latest incarnation of those released on Wednesday include for the first time a plan to try to tackle what is quickly becoming the bane of any traveller’s experience of Kingsford-Smith – a car trip there to catch a flight.

Mather’s plan is a step in the right direction: a new ring road around the two domestic terminals – T2 and T3 – within the next five years, and a new thoroughfare to the international terminal.

The privately owned airport is also pushing for better use of trains and buses. And at long last, it plans a public bus facility at T2 and T3.

A central part of Mather’s plan to free up the roads is to break the divide between what are now the domestic and international terminals.

By making the three passenger terminals suitable for domestic and international flights, Mather reckons it will reduce unnecessary trips to the other side of the airport via Airport Drive to catch a connecting flight.

But the question is whether it will all go far enough to reduce road congestion?

If history is any guide, the answer is probably not.Importantly, the airport also requires buy in from the airlines to get its plans off the ground any time soon.

Firstly, Qantas has to agree to sell back the leases on T3 and its jet base well before they expire in 2019 to free up land for terminal expansions.

Then there’s the question of which terminals the airlines will use.

Virgin Australia has made it well known that it has no intention of shifting its entire operations to what is now the international terminal. It believes such a move would put it at a huge disadvantage to its arch rival.

In all of this, it is important to remember the underlying politics. The plans are aimed at convincing us that Sydney Airport is capable of handling surging demand for air travel for decades to come, and to delay as long as possible the push for another airport which would break the incumbent’s monopoly.

On the former, the verdict was in last year when a joint federal-state study declared that the existing airport would be full by 2027.

Of course, Sydney is not alone.

Congestion at airports is a growing problem around the world, particularly in Europe. At an airline conference in Cape Town this week, executives took aim at their pet target: London’s Heathrow Airport.

Even Dubai Airport – the home of Qantas alliance partner Emirates – is quickly hitting its limits.

But that knowledge will be cold comfort to Sydneysiders hoping for a revolution.

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Qantas, Emirates seek to close frequent flyers loophole

Qantas and Emirates are working behind the scenes to close a loophole in their alliance which allows frequent flyers to avoid paying as much as $610 in fuel surcharges on international flights.
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Executives from the two airlines have been in ongoing talks about resolving the large discrepancy in their fuel surcharges, and a decision is expected within the next few months.

Fairfax Media revealed recently that resolving the discrepancy between the airlines’ surcharges has been high on the agenda of upcoming talks between their respective management teams.

Travellers wanting to fly economy from Australia to London return have been able to escape paying $610 in fuel surcharges by redeeming their frequent-flyer points on an Emirates flight rather than Qantas. They can also pay $290 less for a return economy with Emirates to an Asian destination.

Emirates president Tim Clark said he did not like discrepancies between the products and charges of partner airlines.

“We must deal with it as we need to deal with it,” he said on Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting of airlineexecutives in Cape Town.

“I don’t like discrepancies. [Resolving the difference in fuel surcharges]  will take a bit of time and we are still working on it.”

Qantas International chief executive Simon Hickey said the airline was working with Emirates on “an ongoing basis about what we should do in relation to alignment”.

“We don’t need to align at every level but we are talking about what we should and shouldn’t align,” he said.

The airlines would not detail what a likely outcome would be.

The most likely resolution would be for Qantas to lower its surcharges to better match Emirates . But that would mean Qantas would take a hit to its revenue. Conversely, an increase in charges by Emirates is likely to spark a consumer backlash from consumers.

The reporter travelled to Cape Town courtesy of the International Air Transport Association.

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Bolt ready to kickstart Euro season in Rome

Six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt says he is ready to put his injury woes behind him when he lines up at the Rome Golden Gala for his first appearance of the year in Europe on Thursday.
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Bolt’s start to the season has been hampered by hamstring problems and, a month ago, American rival Justin Gatlin posted an impressive time of 9.97 seconds in the 100 metres at the opening Diamond League event of the season in Doha.

Meanwhile, Bolt was clocking a comparatively mediocre time of 10.09 seconds for the event at the Cayman Invitational, way behind his world record time of 9.58.

But, ahead of his European debut at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, the 26-year-old Jamaican said he is now up to competition speed.

“I’m feeling great, (I’ve) been doing a lot of work, working on my speed and endurance for the past couple of weeks,” Bolt told reporters in Rome on Tuesday.

“I’ve done a few starts, so everything is coming together.”

He added: “I’m happy with where I’m at, the coach is happy, I’m in good shape so I’m just looking forward to going out there and competing at my best.”

The Rome Golden Gala is the fifth meet in the 14-leg Diamond League season, at the conclusion of which the athletes (men and women) with the highest number of accumulated points wins The Diamond Race.

Bolt won last year’s Diamond Race for the 100 metres, but having “achieved all my dreams” he is now looking at stretching his impressive list of records at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

At the London Games in 2012, Bolt became the first man in history to successfully defend 100 metres and 200 metres titles and then added a sixth Olympic gold by helping Jamaica defend their 4×100 metres title.

Although evasive when asked how far he could take his world record, saying: “I never put a limit on anything. For me anything is possible”, Bolt already has one eye on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Having flirted with converting to other sports, from soccer to cricket, Bolt hinted that he could end his athletics career after the next Games.

“(I will have) four more years, personally, in the sport, so now it’s all about dominating for those four years,” he added.

“I’m looking forward to the next Olympics, to do something that has never been done before. For the next four years I will try to dominate the sport and show people it’s possible to go year-in year-out being the best.”

AFP

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In the balance

Laying a foundation … Permaculture Exchange co-founder Nick Huggins has 100 isa brown chickens for egg production.A Permaculture Exchange course at the Australian National Botanic Gardens over a weekend in May drew an eclectic group of participants.
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A woman from Tuggeranong had cleared out her garden to prepare for permaculture-based holistic growing. A couple from Fadden was keen on permaculture for the way it fosters a sense of community. And an arts worker wanted to join a community garden.

Nick Huggins led the course. He studied horticulture and landscape design on the Gold Coast where he worked for 12 years before moving to Tarago two years ago, where he bought 41 hectares.

With Colin McLean of Braidwood, he founded Permaculture Exchange last year to run courses on the subject. McLean says permaculture provides a design tool and techniques that lead to happiness and life balance.

The pair runs courses in Goulburn, Braidwood, Cooma, Wagga and Canberra, and offers a permaculture design certificate course over six weekends from June 8 at Lanyon (permacultureexchange.org.au).

On his Tarago farm, between Bungendore and Goulburn, Huggins’s garden is built on the contours, where ”keyline” beds harvest water from the landscape for the gardens below. He showed an image of a dead kangaroo on his property, the flesh of which had been eaten and stripped clean by soldier fly larvae. He fed the soldier fly larvae to his cows.

Huggins keeps 100 isa brown chickens for eggs, has introduced turkeys, and grazes angus and murray grey cattle. A local with a food stall at Lake Bathurst sells the eggs and cares for the chooks while Huggins travels.

At Lanyon, he will supply potatoes, onions, garlic, eggs, milk and apples to the cafe to use in meals for course participants. He will use the vegetable garden and orchard at Lanyon to teach participants who move to a working farm how to start a micro enterprise.

At the Botanic Gardens course, participants ate cakes made by a Wamboin resident who used local milk, eggs and fruits, and there were jars of spicy tomato pickle for sale made from 60 kilograms of green tomatoes grown by Nick Huggins and turned into preserves by Robyn Carroll, of Canberra. They were given a copy of Bill Mollison’s book Introduction to Permaculture, and a quote of Mollison’s made everyone laugh: ”That’s not a slug problem but a duck deficiency.”

Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.

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