Jakarta hits back at Abbott aid ‘threats’

Indonesia says it won’t respond to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s “threats” which appeared to link Australian aid to the fate of the Bali Nine ringleaders facing execution.

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Mr Abbott has made his strongest comments yet on the cases of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, reminding Indonesia it received $1 billion in Australian aid after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

“We will be letting Indonesia know in absolutely unambiguous terms that we feel grievously let down,” he said.

“Let’s not forget that a few years ago, when Indonesia was struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Australia sent a billion dollars worth of assistance, we sent a significant contingent of our armed forces to help in Indonesia with humanitarian relief, and Australians lost their lives in that campaign to help Indonesia.

“I would say to the Indonesian people and the government, we in Australia are always there to help you and we hope that you might reciprocate in this way at this time.”

Nine Australians died when their helicopter crashed while providing humanitarian aid after the Nias earthquake in Sumatra in 2005.

The comparison was not well received in Jakarta.

Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told reporters he hadn’t studied Mr Abbott’s comments, but understood he had made a link to “the issue now in Indonesia”.

“But what I know is this, threats are not part of diplomatic language … and from what I know, no one responds well to threats,” he said.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the prime minister was not threatening to withdraw aid.

She recognised Australia’s aid contribution was a drop in the bucket of Indonesia’s total budget and stressed it was a separate issue to the current tension over the death penalty.

“The fact is our aid budget is subject to completely separate considerations,” she told Fairfax radio on Wednesday.

“There is going to have to be a cut to the aid budget across the board.

“But I’m not linking the two.”

Mr Abbott’s comments came as the Bali Nine drug smugglers got at least a few days’ grace from the firing squad.

Indonesian Attorney-General HM Prasetyo on Tuesday delayed plans for the Australians to be transferred this week to the execution site, Nusakambangan island.

Five prisoners are already on the island awaiting the firing squad and he admitted work needed to be done to prepare it for so many executions at once.

Lawyer Julian McMahon welcomed the much-needed breathing room.

It was good news for the men and their families, and for the lawyers preparing a case for the administrative court next week.

Mr McMahon says it should also take some pressure off the governments involved.

Their discussions were a matter of life or death, he said, and should go on with an “attitude of friendship, co-operation and listening”.

“By having a little bit of time, extra time, I’m sure everyone involved can take advantage of that to do these things with the appropriate wisdom that we citizens of both countries want all of our leaders to have,” Mr McMahon said after visiting the men.

“So I’m feeling very relieved and grateful that here is these extra days.”

The challenge in Jakarta administrative court next week concerns President Joko Widodo’s blanket refusal of clemency for all drug offenders on death row, without looking at their cases on merit.

Lawyers argue the cases of Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, are different because they have achieved an extraordinary level of rehabilitation in the decade since their heroin smuggling attempt.

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Renewed call for race-hate law changes

Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson wants controversial changes to racial discrimination laws back on the table.

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The Abbott government dumped changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, which makes it illegal to offend, insult or humiliate a person on the grounds of race.

Mr Wilson, dubbed the Freedom Commissioner, used an address to the National Press Club to insist 18C uses a “very low bar” to restrict free speech, and must go.

“It is utterly inconsistent with human rights that some legal privileges are afforded to some and not others,” he said on Wednesday.

“Many ask why their identity group doesn’t enjoy the same legal privilege.”

Mr Wilson believes that if the same standard was applied to all groups: “We’d be in a straitjacket society unable to discuss controversial topics”.

“If the law is reorientated towards addressing public harassment, it would enjoy far more public confidence across the community than it does today.”

The call comes after the deadly January attacks on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo reignited free speech debate in Australia.

At the time, Mr Wilson warned some Charlie Hebdo content could not be printed in Australia under section 18C.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ruled out revisiting plans to change the laws.

But a group of Liberal senators and crossbenchers joined forces last year to introduce a private senator’s bill that would remove the words “offend and insult” from the section.

Liberal senators Cory Bernardi and Dean Smith co-sponsored the bill with Family First’s Bob Day and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm.

At least two other government senators are expected to back the bill.

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Mata’utia set for Knights’ centre role

Newcastle coach Rick Stone looks set to play boom youngster Sione Mata’utia at centre this season, with Joey Leilua struggling to hold his position in the NRL side.

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Mata’utia became Australia’s youngest ever Test player during last season’s Four Nations.

He played on the wing for the Kangaroos, but has been named in the centres alongside Dane Gagai for the Knights’ final trial against Canberra at Seiffert Oval on Saturday.

James McManus (ankle) and Akuila Uate (knee) return from injuries to the wing for their first hit outs of the year.

Captain Kurt Gidley will slot into fullback, also for his first game of 2015, with Adam Clydsdale to play hooker.

Leilua has been named on a nine-man bench but appears to have fallen behind Mata’utia and Gagai in the pecking order.

Leilua was a key figure in the Knights’ charge to the preliminary final in 2013, but struggled to consistently replicate that form last year.

Stone indicated he could make a move to the back-row.

“Sione has probably earned the right at the moment,” he said.

“Joey and Gags are obviously terrific players and all three of those blokes are going to play some major time on Saturday.

“There’s no doubt Joey can be an impact player. Whether he’s going to play in the back row, I’m not quite sure.

“The purpose that he carries and the intent and how damaging his carries are, he’s going to be a valuable player whenever he gets on the field.”

Local junior Tyler Randell, who made his NRL debut late last year, could provide valuable utility off the bench for the Knights throughout 2015, especially for Clydsdale.

“I think we need to get our bench organised and Tyler Randell gets his chance there,” Stone said.

“His form in the pre-season has been really good and he’s trained pretty well.”

Knights: Kurt Gidley (capt), James McManus, Dane Gagai, Sione Mata’utia, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Mullen, Tyrone Roberts, Kade Snowden, Adam Clydsdale, Korbin Sims, Beau Scott, Robbie Rochow, Jeremy Smith.

Interchange: Tyler Randell, Chris Houston, David Fa’alogo, Jack Stockwell, Joey Leilua, Chanel Mata’utia, Jake Mamo, Joseph Tapine, Clint Newton.

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Bombers sorry for SANFL recruiting blunder

Essendon have apologised for the roughshod manner in which they went about trying to recruit top-up players from the SANFL.

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After agreeing to speak to the clubs concerned in the first instance, the Bombers went ahead and contacted potential recruits for their makeshift NAB Challenge side directly.

On Tuesday, the club went as far as to announce that former Crow Jared Petrenko and delisted Demon Mitch Clisby had verbally agreed to temporary contracts, much to the dismay of their respective local clubs Woodville-West Torrens and North Adelaide.

SANFL boss Jake Parkinson convened an emergency meeting of club chief executives and football managers on Wednesday to canvass their concerns.

While he said many questions remained about the recruiting process, he reported that the Bombers had at least seen the error of their ways.

“Essendon have rung and expressed their apologies for the way that they went about that,” Parkinson told Adelaide radio station FiveAA.

“(They) will continue to work with the SANFL clubs to understand exactly what needs to be considered as we go through this process.”

All 25 players who were on Essendon’s list in 2012 are standing out of the NAB Challenge while up to 18 of them await the outcome of the AFL’s anti-doping tribunal.

As a result, the Bombers are scouring the country for up to 20 players so they can field a team in the pre-season competition and even the home-and-away season should suspensions be handed out.

Parkinson said the SANFL had been proactive in setting up a framework for Essendon to approach potential recruits.

“We made sure that they were clear on the communication channels and that they needed to show due respect to the (SANFL) clubs who have these players contracted to them,” he said.

“We’re disappointed after having reached agreement with them that that process wasn’t followed.”

The SANFL continues to have concerns over issues like insurance, medical and the indefinite length of time that temporary players will stay with the Bombers, but Parkinson said clubs would not stand in the way.

“Whilst being frustrated at a lack of clarity, what was foremost (at today’s meeting) was `what is best for the player’,” he said.

“SANFL clubs really know these players and they can talk them through their options.

“If the best option for the player is to have another go at AFL football, and the club is able to work through that in the right manner, then the clubs are not going to stand in the way – they just want to be informed.”

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We have only ourselves to blame, say Bayern after draw

“Now it is clear.

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We have to win in Munich. Nothing else will do,” said Dutch winger Arjen Robben. “We had a good first half and we had our chances. You need to use them when you have them.”

“It is a shame because it would have been easier. We did it all ourselves,” said Robben.

The German champions were effective in shutting out Shakhtar, playing their first game in two months, and closed the corridors which their opponents repeatedly tried to use for counter-attacks.

Bayern, chasing their sixth European Cup, are still the odds-on favourites to advance against the Ukrainians, forced to play in the western city of Lviv with their home town a hotspot in the military conflict with Russia.

The Bavarians, however, again failed to replicate their form from earlier this season or even Saturday’s 8-0 demolition of Hamburg SV in the league and will take on Shakhtar without holding midfielder Xabi Alonso, sent off with a second booking.

His start along with fellow holding midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger had been a contentious issue even before the game with some asking whether the pair needed to be on the pitch or whether the team was more effective with just one of them.

Coach Pep Guardiola’s decision to field both proved correct until 25 minutes before the end when the midfielder was dismissed.

Guardiola, looking to win the Champions League in his second season at Bayern, conceded his team was not lethal enough and would need to work harder in the return leg in Munich next month.

“We played for a long time with 10 men and that was difficult,” said the Spaniard, who knows the European title is Bayern’s big prize this season with the league title well in their sights already.

“We had three or four chances in the first half. We did control the game but then we only carved out few more. Now we have to win the return leg and we will do that.”

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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More Hep A cases could appear over 7 weeks

Berry eaters face up to seven more weeks of uncertainty to see if they’ll contract Hepatitis A.

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Australia’s chief medical officer Chris Baggoley estimates one in 100 people who ate the contaminated, imported frozen berries will contract the disease.

But the extent to which they’re affected could vary from showing no symptoms to being ill for several weeks.

The average incubation period for Hepatitis A is four weeks but it could take as long as seven weeks to show up.

“If someone has consumed the berries and they are well, seven weeks after that consumption they’ll certainly be fine,” Professor Baggoley told reporters in Canberra.

By Wednesday afternoon, 13 people in Queensland, NSW, Victoria and Western Australia had the virus after eating the Nanna’s and Creative Gourmet brands of imported frozen mixed berries.

Parent company Patties Foods has recalled four products.

WA health authorities expect to see more hepatitis A infections after the state’s first case was confirmed on Wednesday.

Children at nine SA primary schools and child care centres may have been served frozen berries from the recalled batches.

And students at a Victorian high school also ate the berries after making smoothies during a cooking class.

None has tested positive for the virus.

Three Wests Tigers NRL players are reportedly having tests after eating the fruit.

WA communicable disease control director Paul Armstrong said there was no need for people who ate the berries and remained well to be tested.

Professor Baggoley said a definitive link between all the cases should be confirmed via special blood tests later this week.

He noted Hepatitis A was a relatively common disease, with about 20 cases reported each month although not usually all linked as with this outbreak.

The federal government is considering toughening import screening procedures following the scare.

But Prime Minister Tony Abbott said companies also had to lift their game.

“The bottom line is that companies shouldn’t be poisoning their customers,” Mr Abbott said.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand chief executive Steve McCutcheon said all food sold in Australia, whether imported or produced here, had to meet the same standards.

“At a domestic level there is not an awful lot of testing done,” he said in Canberra.

“There is some testing done at the border.”

Patties Foods is examining its supply chain to work out exactly where the problem was, Mr McCutcheon said.

It was too early to know whether Australian inspectors should be sent to China.

The government will review any areas such as biosecurity, quarantine or import-export policy that need examining.

Farmers want an overhaul of labelling to help consumers identify Australian grown and packaged food.

But Mr Abbott said more red tape and regulation of the private sector could lead to soaring food costs and there was a balancing act between safe products and a fair price.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce urged consumers to buy Australian produce.

“I want to make sure I do everything in my power to say to people: your safest food is your domestic food. That is why you pay a premium for Australian product. It is clean, green and healthy,” he said.

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Tigers trio tested in hepatitis scare

Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor is confident none of his players have hepatitis A, despite fears a trio of senior NRL players could have consumed contaminated berries.

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The Tigers confirmed on Tuesday that three senior players had approached club management on Monday with concerns that berries they ate may have been contaminated.

Captain Robbie Farah and veteran winger Pat Richards were later named in news reports as two players who underwent precautionary blood tests for the virus.

Four frozen berry products were recalled this week due to fears they are linked to the viral disease, with 14 people – five in Queensland, five in New South Wales, three in Victoria, and one in Western Australia – contracting hepatitis A.

Taylor declined to name the trio of players but said they had shown no symptoms and the club had no confirmed cases of infection.

The players were tested on Tuesday morning and will be monitored closely over the next six weeks.

They will continue to train with the rest of the Tigers squad and will play in the club’s final trial match against Cronulla on Saturday.

“It’s really simple. A couple of guys have eaten some of the berries that have been recalled, and that’s the end of the story,” Taylor said.

“We’re not overly concerned about it. We’re just being really cautious. It’s a smart move to make sure we are ticking all the boxes and all the guys are OK.

“We don’t feel that is going to come to that point (of infection) but we are doing due diligence on it.

“They have been tested, we will get the results soon and then life will go on.”

The players feared they may have consumed the contaminated products through fruit smoothies as part of a paleo diet brought to the club by Taylor since he took over from Mick Potter late last year.

Tigers doctor Peter Lorenzos addressed the Tigers playing group in regard to the matter on Monday and Taylor said they might not be the only NRL club affected.

“Chances are there are other players at other clubs that have eaten the berries, you guys just don’t know about it,” Taylor said.

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School kids caught up in hepatitis A berry scare

School children may have consumed frozen berries linked to hepatitis A cases which have now spread to Western Australia.

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Thirteen people in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and WA have now tested positive to hepatitis A after eating the Nanna’s brand of imported frozen mixed berries, the health department says.

Children at nine South Australian primary schools and child care centres may have been served frozen berries from the recalled batches.

Department of Education and Child Development chief education officer Jayne Johnston said while SA Health advice suggests the infection risk is low, the facilities are taking a cautious approach.

“Parents will be understandably concerned to receive the letter, but I would like to emphasise that SA Health advises that the risk is considered to be quite low and the product recall was being undertaken as a precaution,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.

Some students at a Victorian high school also consumed the berries after using them to make smoothies during a cooking class.

The Ballarat Secondary College year seven students used the berries in a food technology class last week, before the product was recalled, principal Rick Gervasoni said. None have tested positive for the virus, which can take between 15 to 50 days to develop.

WA communicable disease control director Dr Paul Armstrong said the state had recorded its first case linked to the recalled Nanna’s and Creative Gourmet brands.

“There is no need for people who have eaten these products and remain well to see their doctor for testing or vaccination, as the risk to any individual should be low,” he said.

Three Wests Tigers rugby league players are due to be tested for hepatitis A after eating the berries, News Corp Australia reported.

“As soon as the club were aware of it and the players put their hands up and said `we believe we’ve eaten these berries’ the club doctor issued referrals for the boys to get tested,” Wests Tigers chief executive Grant Mayer said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government is considering toughening up import screening procedures following the food contamination scare. He says companies also have to lift their game.

“The bottom line is that companies shouldn’t be poisoning their customers,” Mr Abbott told ABC radio. Farmers want an overhaul of labelling to help people identify Australian grown and packaged food.

Mr Abbott said more red tape and regulation of the private sector could lead to soaring food costs.

“We want safe products but we want safe products at a fair price. Some price is worth paying, but it’s got to be a careful balancing act.”

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said any areas such as biosecurity, quarantine and import-export policy that needed to be reviewed would be. Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce urged consumers to buy Australian produce.

“I want to make sure I do everything in my power to say to people your safest food is your domestic food. That is why you pay a premium for Australian product. It is clean, green and healthy,” he told the Nine Network.

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Study into hidden history of child neglect

A major research project which will help Australians understand the experiences of thousands of children who were hidden in institutions and forgotten by society has been launched in Sydney.

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A research team led by the University of NSW will undertake a two-year national study in which care leavers will be asked about the impacts of their time in state or non-government children’s homes.

It is estimated that as many as 500,000 Australians were in care between 1930 and 1989 and often experienced neglect, mistreatment and abuse.

Peter McClellan, who chairs the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, launched the research project at UNSW on Wednesday.

He described it as “an important day for the people we have come to know as the Forgotten Australians”.

In a keynote address Justice McClellan said the Long Term Outcomes of Forgotten Australians (LOFA) study would add to an understanding of a largely unknown part of national history.

“For many children who have spent time in institutions, their experiences were characterised by neglect, maltreatment, deprivation and loss of identity, making the transition into adulthood especially challenging,” he said.

Justice McClellan announced a commission public hearing in March would investigate the incidence of child sexual abuse in contemporary out-of-home care and examine care providers from every state and territory.

UNSW’s Professor Elizabeth Fernandez is chief investigator on the LOFA project, which is part of a ten-year longitudinal study of children in care.

The research team will interview up to 1000 care leavers and hope the findings, to be handed down at the end of next year, will improve the lives of 40,000 Australian children currently in out-of-home care.

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US hostage sought everyday Yemeni life

American journalist Luke Somers, who was killed in Yemen during a failed raid to free him from his al-Qaeda kidnappers, said his work was driven by an urge to document the lives of regular people.

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He travelled to the Red Sea nation two years ago with ambitions to teach, but the amateur photographer soon picked up a camera, capturing images in the streets of Sanaa as political turmoil boiled over during 2012 national elections.

The 33-year-old worked as a freelance photographer for the BBC and also spent time at local newspapers, including the Yemen Times, as an editor and translator before he was snatched off the streets of Sanaa over a year ago.

Somers said sharing stories of regular Yemenis informed his work, which often featured everyday people, whether at a political rally, in a hospital or while spending time with handicap activists.

“It means so much for people here to know that their story is being heard (and) seen,” he told the BBC.

His images show that he was not afraid to get close to the action, capturing victims of Yemen’s violent protests.

The effect of taking candid pictures stayed with him, he said, telling the BBC the “smell of death” often remained after he finished shooting.

Somers and a South African hostage were killed on Saturday during a failed attempt by US special forces to free them from Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.

Somers, who was born in Britain but spent most of his life in the United States, told the BBC he had planned to leave Yemen in August 2013, about a month before he was kidnapped.

His bother Jordan described him as a “good person” and said he did not know why he was taken hostage.

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