Nauru riot charges withdrawn

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Prosecutors on Nauru have withdrawn all charges against 10 asylum seekers relating to a riot last year in the Australian-funded detention camp that resulted in $25,000 damage.

The case against the 10 men collapsed after the cross examination of witnesses, although the reasons were not stated in court.

The charges are separate from a riot July 19 riot at the main Topside camp where most of the buildings were destroyed by fire, causing an estimated $60 million damage.

Two of the 119 men charged in the second riot had been refused bail and held in Nauru’s prison because they also faced charges relating to first riot.

Nauru’s justice system is struggling to cope, with Australian lawyers assisting with the defence cases and calls for Australia to rebuild the tiny local court.

Melbourne solicitor Sam Norton from law firm Stary Lawyers conducted cross examination of the witnesses.

There was inadequate evidence to identify the accused men.

The Rudd government has committed $17 million to rebuilding the prison, where men held after the second riot were crowded 11 to 14 to a cell.

A Nauru government spokeswoman said more detail on the dropped charges would be provided in a statement later on Monday.

Meanwhile, a third group of asylum seeker families and children landed on the island.

The families were mostly Iranian and made up of nine women, eight men and seven children.

The youngest is a six year old, said a statement from Nauru’s government, with 11 other children and parents moved to Nauru on Saturday.

A group of 34 single adult males was also sent from Nauru to the Curtin detention centre at the weekend.

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Does the Coalition plan to cut 20,000 public service jobs?

Kate Lundy’s claim that the Liberals will cut 20,000 public service jobs is false. Kate Lundy
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Fact Check the politicians

The claim

Tony Abbott has promised to cut the public service in a way that mightn’t hurt. He says he will “trim the Commonwealth public sector payroll by 12,000” through natural attrition.

Australian Capital Territory Labor Senator Kate Lundy thinks there’s more. On Friday she tweeted: “Libs have confirmed they will cut 20,000 jobs.”

The 20,000 figure is bigger than the one Abbott himself used at Sunday’s campaign launch. It is bigger than the one Labor itself is using in its advertising, and it is bigger than the one Abbott has had the Parliamentary Budget Office cost.

In the same tweet Lundy said: “Cutting 8400 jobs from the APS will rip $650 million from the #Canberra economy.”

But let’s examine her first claim, one widely believed, that the Liberals have confirmed they plan to cut 20,000 public service jobs.

Supporting evidence

Often “sighted”, rarely actually seen, the Coalition’s commitment to cut 20,000 jobs from the public service is the Loch Ness Monster of the campaign.

Lundy herself claimed to have seen it in a press release issued with fellow ACT politicians Andrew Leigh and Gai Brodtmann last year. It pointed to an ABC 7.30 interview. The video of the interview shows Joe Hockey telling Chris Uhlmann “We will cut the public service”. Uhlmann interjects: “By 20,000?” Hockey continues (without answering) “We will cut the public service”.

This became confirmation that: “Hockey told the 7.30 program that the Liberal policy is to cut the federal public service in Canberra by 20,000.”

Hockey kicked the idea along this year when he told 2UE: “We have previously said that we can’t afford to have around 20,000 extra public servants in Canberra compared with the last year of the Coalition government”. Abbott said the same thing at a business breakfast in Perth.

Queensland Liberal MP Steven Ciobo may have come the closest of all, telling Sky News in April: “We are going to allow through attrition there to be a reduction of 20,000 public servants in Canberra.”

The 20,000 figure isn’t Coalition policy. Unless the words of a backbencher matter more than those of the leader and shadow treasurer, its only commitment is to lose 12,000 through natural attrition.

But Ciobo, Lundy and colleagues could be forgiven for thinking the figure was 20,000. Abbott and Hockey have repeatedly linked the two numbers.

Here’s what Abbott said at the Brisbane launch:

“We will trim the Commonwealth public sector payroll by 12,000 through natural attrition because we don’t need 20,000 more public servants now than in 2007.”

And they have hinted at more. Abbott told the Bolt Report in March he would trim the public service by “at least” 12,000. Hockey told Adelaide radio 12,000 was “a starting point”.

Does it stack up?

Lundy’s spokeswoman says the “lived experience” of Canberra residents is that when the Coalition says it will cut by a certain amount, it cuts by more. That’s happened when John Howard was elected in 1996.

“There is always a reference to the 20,000 figure,” Emma Smith told PolitiFact. “Why would they be referencing it if they weren’t considering it.”

But it isn’t a commitment.

Lundy is on stronger ground when she says “cutting 8400 jobs from the Australian public service will rip $650 million from the Canberra economy”. The 8400 total is the Community and Public Sector Union’s estimate of the Canberra region’s share of 12,000 lost jobs. The $650 million figure is simply the number of jobs lost multiplied by the average Canberra public service salary of $76,821.

The ACT economy was worth $31.5 billion in 2011-12. Removing $650 million would remove 2 per cent. That might be enough to push the ACT into recession as it is said happened after Howard was elected in 1996 (although the annual figures show merely a halving of growth, not recession).

Finding

No one knows by how much a Coalition government would eventually cut the public service. But we do know the nature of its commitments.

A PolitiFact rating of “false” applies where a statement is not accurate.

PolitiFact finds Lundy’s claim the Liberals have “confirmed they will cut 20,000 jobs” false.

Details at www.politifact苏州美甲学校.au

Fairfax is partnering with the Pulitzer-prize winning service PolitiFact during the election campaign. Its Australian arm politifact苏州美甲学校.au uses the same rigorous methodology as its US parent to rate the accuracy of claims by elected officials and other influential people in the Australian political debate.

Twitter: @1petermartin @PolitiFactOz

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Littlies take a famous face in their stride

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at a child care centre in Sydney. Photo: Andrew MearesFederal Election 2013 coverageHave your say on YourViewElection Live with Stephanie Peatling
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”He’s coming, he’s coming! Mr Rudd is coming!” shouted a childcare worker, as the Prime Minister negotiated his way through the safety gates at the Mascot long-day care centre in Sydney.

Fresh from a morning of no less than seven radio interviews, Kampaign Kevin landed in the electorate of Kingsford Smith to talk paid parental leave.

Having launched an ad at the weekend featuring an elderly pensioner crying no fair on the Coalition’s ”unaffordable” paid parental scheme, Rudd switched his focus to the opposite end of the age spectrum on Monday.

Little kids may not appreciate the ins and outs of the Coalition vs Labor schemes, but some of them at least knew they had a special visitor.

”I just saw you on the TV!” cried Louis, 3, from the top of a squishy jumping shape.

Different play stations dotted the fake grass and shade-cloth surrounds of the Mascot centre, each providing the Prime Minister with the chance to schmooze the preschoolers while they were handily occupied doing an educational task.

First he visited the puzzles, where a small girl proudly informed the Prime Minister she had new pants. Next, he said hello to a group on the squishy shapes, which Rudd optimistically described as a ”jumping castle” (he is into positivity, after all).

After this, the PM stopped by the reading station, where he rejected Alfie’s Birthday Surprise as a reading out loud option because it had too many words.

Finally he made it to the blocks area, where a clearly delighted Rudd realised that he had an easy segue into talking about infrastructure (two campaign messages for the price of one!).

”We know building too,” Rudd informed the wriggling, mat-bound group. ”We’ve just got to build things up.”

But while Rudd wanted to get his lines in about building for the future, the young folk were not as impressed.

As the PM tried to help with their construction, Victoria, 3, told him: ”That doesn’t fit.”

Block building ticked off, Rudd moved to a row of seats with a sandpit side view to meet the Zhou and Wang families, and discuss how Labor’s PPL scheme was already working (i.e. there’s no need for the Coalition’s more generous alternative).

Here, the PM also had the chance to once again demonstrate his impressive Mandarin skills, and discuss grandbub, Josephine.

”She’s the apple of my eye,” he said. ”I think kids are just such a joy.”

If only they could vote, right?

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Bus-ted! Apprentices see red as Abbott admires fire engines

Tony Abbott admires a fire engine. Photo: Alex EllinghausenSKETCH
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Tony Abbott has never seen a fire engine he doesn’t love. On Monday, he found a whole shed of them, brand new machines, and he seemed happy as a tradie at a hardware expo as he perused their numerous switches and knobs and computer-generated pressure gauges and stroked the shiny paintwork.

Abbott, a volunteer firefighter – as his daughters had pointed out on Sunday – had bigger things in mind, however. He was out to sell his plan to offer loans of $20,000 to keep apprentices at their craft.

Where there are shiny new machines under construction, there are also apprentices.

At Mills-Tui, a factory north of Brisbane that fits out fire engines and other emergency vehicles for state governments around Australia, plus mining equipment, there are 10 apprentices coachbuilding and auto-electrical apprentices among the workforce of around 120, and Mr Abbott was keen to sell them on his loans scheme.

It’s also an election campaign and the Mills-Tui factory happens to nestle within the electorate of Petrie, which regularly changes hands between Labor and the Liberal National Party. It’s currently held by Labor’s Yvette D’Arth by the slim margin of 2.5 per cent.

Abbott’s Liberals want the electorate back.

Which is why, the morning after Mr Abbott announced $20,000 loans for apprentices scheme, he was to be found admiring and – yes – stroking nice new fire engines in an industrial estate north of Brisbane.

There was, however, a slight glitch.

As the bus carrying the media teams following Mr Abbott around the country pulled in to the factory parking lot, the workers took one look and began muttering.

Mr Abbott’s campaign organisers had hired a fully imported bus. No Australian apprentice coach builders or auto electricians had had a hand in putting it together. The way of things, the workers – who build the occasional bus, too – quietly steamed.

Asked about the matter by Fairfax, Mr Abbott conceded that in a market economy, competition of all sorts existed, including that from overseas. His government would try to level the field for Australian manufacturers by abolishing the carbon tax and adopting an orderly government purchasing policy that gave due consideration to vehicles built in Australia.

Mr Abbott moved on before he could ascertain whether he had persuaded any of the coachbuilders.

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Barangaroo a plague on all their houses

Chips are down: Millers Point residents protest against their treatment by the state government. Photo: Tony Walters Robert Goodsell, 94, won’t leave his home. Photo: Tony Walters
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An impression of the proposed Barangaroo development.

Millers Point in a bygone age.

Walk around Millers Point and one thing that stands out is the number of front doors that have yellow ribbons attached to them. On many is also a small poster saying Save Our Community.

It was here that in 1900 the first person in Sydney was diagnosed with bubonic plague, a byproduct of the rats that filled the nearby wharves and streets. The plague killed 103 people.

The yellow ribbons signify the fear felt by residents of being evicted and who say, once again, the area is on death row.

A clue to their concerns can be found in High Street, with its bird’s-eye view of the massive Barangaroo building site.

Sometimes you can taste the dust in the air. The foundations of these workers’ cottages have been shaken to their heritage-listed bones by pile driving for the new tower blocks and at sunset the cluster of Lend Lease cranes are silhouetted against the sky looking west to Pyrmont.

Now it seems that the knock-on gentrification effect of Barangaroo means this social housing with its elderly and vulnerable residents is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Millers Point, for many years the brunt of political indecision, is like The Rocks, one of Sydney’s historically significant urban villages.

”The area is unique and presents a complex challenge to governments and urban power brokers who control Sydney’s development,” say historians Shirley Fitzgerald and Christopher Keating in a book named after the area. ”In meeting that challenge the widest possible public debate must be allowed and due consideration given to the historic richness of this area.”

The residents have been told they might get some answers to their concerns about being evicted – to where, they don’t know – after the federal election. You can understand that the state government would appreciate that the politics of evicting people from their homes ahead of September 7 isn’t going to be a vote winner.

Residents say the objective seems to be to allow their heritage-listed homes to fall into disrepair. The grass is growing at impressive length in the gutters, rising damp is a feature of many of the houses and for years the repairs have been botched and inappropriate for heritage properties. It seems that it is hoped the tenants, some of whom have lived in the road all their lives, will finally give up the fight.

Run-down properties are then being sold off like the family silver, at about $1 million a pop with a 99-year lease. Someone else pays for the refurbishment and NSW Housing escapes with a much-needed one-off injection of cash.

The NSW Land and Housing Corporation said: ”The Government is currently evaluating a possible extension of the Millers Point renewal program. This will be subject to a more detailed assessment over the next few months. The next steps in the process are not determined by election dates.”

The sales of 29 houses on 99-year leases have earned the government $28 million.

It isn’t a scheme that greatly impressed Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat, who released a report Making the Best Use of Public Housing last month. Having been told by the NSW Land and Housing Corporation it had implemented measures such as selling properties and delaying maintenance expenditure, Achterstraat concludes: ”This will impact the condition and level of stock, and is not financially sustainable long-term.”

The report says neither Housing NSW, Community Service nor the Housing Corporation ”have as yet articulated long-term strategies or plans to address the challenges for the provision of public housing to those most in need. In the absence of such a clear direction … tenant and asset management activities have sometimes been inconsistent and short-term.”

The state opposition spokeswoman on housing Sophie Cotsis says: ”The O’Farrell Government is trying to use the development of nearby Barangaroo as an excuse to sell off the homes of some of the most vulnerable people in Sydney.

”The value of these workers’ cottages is for the whole of the city – not just for the people who live in them but for all of us to appreciate. Our city has been built by working people and this is a reminder of that.

”Barangaroo is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Sydney, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse by the O’Farrell Government to kick pensioners out of their homes.”

Labor’s City of Sydney councillor Linda Scott called for a hold on the City’s $37 million committed to the development of Barangaroo until the Liberal Government agreed to save Sydney’s heritage, but the motion failed. ”Mr O’Farrell can shuffle his ministerial cards as he wishes, but what the community needs is a clear and unequivocal commitment from the Liberal Government to stop the sale of these historic houses.”

But now there is a new voice behind the outcry and one, when it comes to safeguarding Sydney’s heritage, that already has an exemplary track record.

In the 1970s union boss Jack Mundey led the NSW Builders’ Labourers Federation (BLF) in the green bans, their successful campaign to protect The Rocks from excessive and inappropriate development.

Surveying High Street, Mundey says he would consult the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Engineering Union about the issues in Millers Point.

”I think it is another example of the price we are having to pay for Barangaroo and to Mr Packer,” Mundey says. ”It is clear that the intention here is to drive these people from their homes.

”When you look back 45 years, the fight to save the Rocks and Millers Point and Dawes Point is continuing and I think we should all come together and back these residents … I will report to [the union] the concerns of myself and others about the people living in High Street because we are, after all, going to be building Barangaroo so surely it is of great concern for the union to know that these people are so disadvantaged.”

The prospect of being moved on is a difficult one for Robert Flood, 64, who has lived in Millers Point all his life.

”My grandfather was up in Kent Street. He went to the First World War. Was killed,” he says. ”My father lived up at 60A at the other end of the street. He went to the Second World War, Middle East and New Guinea. He came back a nervous wreck for fighting for freedom and now it looks like we are all going to be emptied out of the place. They won’t tell us when or why but it is just like being on death row here.

”You can imagine when it is finished over there [at Barangaroo] what these properties are going to be really worth. Three people have dropped off the perch already with the worry and the stress.”

Ninety-four-year-old Robert Goodsell, who goes by the nickname ”Cowboy Bob”, says he isn’t going anywhere.

”Why would I want to leave?” he asks. ”I am worried what they are going to do but I’m not moving. If they want to try and get me out they’ll want a team of horses to do it.

”I don’t think Packer should be building a casino but that’s his business. His old man was a good bloke, buying those zapper things [defibrillators] for the ambulances. We don’t need all of this gambling and the booze. No. I’m against that but they’ll still build it. Probably.”

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