Sunday, May 05, 2013

Abbott rules out homosexual unions

Tony Abbott has doused expectations of any change on same-sex unions in the next Parliament, predicting that a significant majority of Coalition MPs will share his strong opposition to gay marriage.

Mr Abbott has dismissed speculation that he would facilitate a conscience vote in the Coalition party room after the September election, telling Fairfax Media he did not anticipate "much enthusiasm" to revisit the issue.

"I don't think anyone should expect that this is necessarily going to come up in the next parliament," Mr Abbott said in an exclusive interview.

"It will ultimately be a matter for the post-election party room if it comes up, but I am strongly opposed to any change and I imagine that a strong majority in the Coalition party room will remain opposed to any change."

In the interview, Mr Abbott also:

 * Signalled the Coalition would unveil "significant, but not scary" changes to workplace laws when it suited tactically, saying no one should assume further changes would follow in the second term of an Abbott government.

 * Recommitted himself to implementing his promised paid parental leave scheme in full in the first term should he win the election.

 * Promised a hard line on asylum seekers found to be refugees but deemed security threats by ASIO, declaring: "People should not come illegally to this country. That's the bottom line, mate."

Mr Abbott said the issue of same-sex marriage had been subject to a vote in this Parliament that was "fairly decisive".

Although the Coalition had not allowed a free vote, he believed a dozen - "at most" - Coalition MPs would have voted in favour of change. "So it still would have been pretty decisively beaten, regardless of the fact that we didn't have a free vote," he said.

"Now, an incoming Coalition government is going to have a lot on its plate, so I can't see much enthusiasm for having another go at this from the Coalition. That's not to say that others might have a go at it."

Mr Abbott conceded that his sister, Christine, who is gay, is a passionate supporter of change and that his wife and three daughters were "probably less traditional than I am on this one".

But he said they did not see the issue as a No.1 priority, and likened expectations of change to the republican debate in the 1990s. "Everyone thought a republic was inevitable as well, and no one thinks it's inevitable any time soon now."

On asylum seekers, Mr Abbott said he would be dismayed if, by the end of the first term of a Coalition government, "we hadn't substantially stopped the flow".

Pressed on which of the Coalition's three policy tools - offshore processing, temporary protection visas and turning back boats when safe - would have the most impact, Mr Abbott said: "I think all of them are important, but there's a fourth which is critical as well, and that's having much better relationships with Indonesia."

Mr Abbott would not commit to continue with reviews of adverse ASIO assessments by former judge Margaret Stone, saying: "Without wanting to say that an adverse ASIO assessment is identical to the finding of a court, almost anyone who has had an adverse finding made against that person is going to regard it as unfair and will have a story.

"Now, whether the story is credible or whether the story does in fact render unjustified the adverse assessment, well that's a matter for judgment. So, look, let's see what this process produces."

He rejected alternatives to detention for those whose adverse assessments were upheld.

"Anybody who turns up illegally in Australia cannot expect to subjected to anything other than rigorous processes," he said.

"And, if the processes produce an adverse finding, well, they've got to expect potentially a long period of detention - indefinite detention - unless another country is prepared to take them or unless they are prepared to go back to the country where they came from."


Woe!  Australia has not "reported" to that great heap of corruption that is the United Nations

Just Greenies at work trying to impose their anti-human values on everyone else.  To them, no proof is needed that human activity is harming the reef.  That is just axiomatic to them -- they just  want to stop everything.  There's no such thing as a happy Greenie

THE Great Barrier Reef is set to be named as a World Heritage Site in danger by UNESCO next month.

A long-awaited assessment of the reef by UNESCO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), released on Friday evening, says decisive action must be taken to avoid a listing in June.

The report claims the federal and Queensland governments have failed to improve water quality or halt coastal developments that could impact the reef.

Only one annual water quality report card has been published, in 2011, which covered 2009.  A second report card was due in early 2012, but it's yet to be delivered.

The report also says there's been no clear commitment by the either federal or Queensland governments to limit port developments near the reef.  Instead about 43 proposals are under assessment.

"The above-mentioned issues represent a potential danger to the outstanding universal value of the property," the report said.

"The World Heritage Centre and IUCN ... recommend that the committee consider the Great Barrier Reef for inscription on the list of World Heritage in Danger ... in absence of a firm and demonstrable commitment on these priority issues."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Federal Government was committed to keeping the reef a great heritage area for the world.

"In the last couple of weeks I announced a $200 million reef rescue commitment," she told reporters in Melbourne.  "We are very committed and we'll continue to pursue those kind of commitments in the future."

But Greens Senator Larissa Waters called on Liberal and Labor to support a Senate bill which would adopt the World Heritage Committee's recommendations as law.

"The Newman and Gillard governments have continued to fast-track mega industrial ports alongside the reef," she said.  "Protecting the Great Barrier Reef must be beyond politics and all parties should support my bill."

World Wildlife Fund spokesman Richard Leck said UNESCO had put Australia in the sin bin.  "We will likely see a reef showdown this June," he told AAP.

The only other world heritage sites in danger that aren't in a developing country or an active war zone are the UK's Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City and Florida's Everglades.


Pedophilia hysteria:  Police investigate frolicking child

It wasn't the original plan for Emma and her grandfather Leo to head to Balmoral Beach, but the six-year-old "water baby" had set her heart on it.

"We hadn't packed her swimming costume but she was in one of her determined moods so I certainly wouldn't have dared say no," said 70-year-old Leo, who was helping Emma's busy parents last Tuesday.

When the pair arrived at lunchtime, Emma stripped off her clothes, including her T-shirt, despite Leo's suggestion she keep it on. She then happily splashed in the shallows for about half an hour while Leo kept a watchful eye a short distance away.

"She didn't stop beaming from the time she got in to the time she got out," he said.

But he was left shaken by what happened next.  "I helped Emma get dressed and then the police arrived," he said. "They wanted my name, they took my identification. They also talked to Emma and asked her name and date of birth. They informed me a complaint had been lodged."

NSW Police confirmed an anonymous call was received from a member of the public expressing concern about an elderly man "sitting with a naked child at the beach".

While it took a matter of minutes for the officers to establish that a misunderstanding had occurred, the issue did not end there.

In the days since, a bewildered Leo has questioned his own role in the incident. "Should I have insisted she keep her top on?" he asked, adding: "Would they still have complained anyway?"

His questions don't stop there: "Would this have happened if I had been a female? Would it have occurred had I been a younger man?

"I would like to meet the person who made the call. I'd like to ask why they couldn't have at least approached me, so we could have avoided all this."

But the person most affected has been Emma herself.  "When she got in the bath that night, she said: 'I did something wrong, I'm in trouble'," her mother Jessica said. "This was a child in her element. Who could have complained about that? If she was in distress, sure, people should maybe call the cops then. She was totally carefree.

"It's not long before she'll lose that and become more body conscious."

Chief executive of the Australian Childhood Foundation and registered psychologist Joe Tucci said raising community awareness about child abuse had inadvertently triggered "widespread anxiety" instead of "confidence".

"In the past, adults would turn a blind eye. These days, more people respond … but not necessarily in a helpful way. In this case, the execution is not what I would have recommended.

"Given it was so public, the person could have at least approached the grandfather for a few words. Yes, it might have ended up being a little embarrassing to both parties but at least it would have avoided that young girl's involvement and negative experience with police."

But Hetty Johnston, founder of child protection advocate Bravehearts, disagreed. "That member of the public did what, we hope, everyone now does in such situations.

"They held concerns so in the best interests of that child, they called police. It was not a malicious or vindictive move. It turned out to be a false alarm and that's great."

Detective Acting Superintendent Linda Howlett, the acting Sex Crimes Squad commander, agreed.

"It's better to be safe than sorry," she said. "If a member of the public does see something that causes them concern, we encourage them to contact police and we will follow that up."

But several days on, Jessica still cannot help but feel the situation was overblown. "It started several years ago with families not being able to take photos of their own children at swimming pools and now it seems to have progressed to scenarios like this," she said.

"As a society, I believe we have grown too paranoid. I feel so sorry for all the grandfathers who face this sort of scrutiny and persecution, simply for spending time with their grandkids."


Outrage at long wait for ambulances in NSW

Almost 300 patients in need of immediate medical assistance waited more than 45 minutes for an ambulance to arrive last year, including 50 potentially life threatening cases when the patient waited more than an hour.

Sydney ambulance logs for 2011-12, released under a Freedom of Information request, show "workload" was the second-most common reason for the response times in the 50 longest "priority one" cases, in which an ambulance should have arrived within minutes. There were 279 cases when ambulances took longer than 45 minutes.

Among these cases were people who had fallen unconscious and had difficulty breathing, people with heart problems and chest pains, and trauma cases.

In one case, it took an hour for an ambulance to arrive at a Castle Hill doctor's surgery despite an ambulance station being located in the same suburb. Paramedics recorded "workload" as the reason.

An ambulance sent from Campbelltown was stuck in traffic for 83 minutes on a motorway as it attempted to reach Minto. Distance was the most common reason for delays of more than an hour.

Wayne Flint, the secretary for the Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, said trolley blockages in hospitals, and using ambulances to transfer patients between outlying and metropolitan hospitals, was tying up crews.

"They have to get vehicles to attend from much further distances," he said. "Two weeks ago Manly had to send a car from Lane Cove," Mr Flint said.

Opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald said the situation was clearly unacceptable.

"We have people in distress waiting too long for ambulances because they are stuck in hospitals. The real problem is bed blockage in emergency departments, which takes a third of ambulances off the road."

Paramedics are obliged to stay with patients in emergency until a bed is found, and a third of ambulances took more than 30 minutes to offload patients last year, he said.

Health Minister Jillian Skinner said reforms being made to the ambulance service included "improving rosters for paramedics to further improve response times and separating non-emergency patient transport from urgent medical retrieval".

A NSW Ambulance spokeswoman said half of the 50 worst response times were because of the long distance to reach people in the Hawkesbury area. Wisemans Ferry and Webbs Creek had some of the biggest waits.

Bunny Roberts, the manager of the Del Rio resort at Webbs Creek, has made 000 emergency calls for guests with snake bites, a brain haemorrhage, breathing difficulties and a four-year-old girl with a fish hook in her leg. Sometimes a helicopter came, but often it was an hour's wait for an ambulance. "An hour's wait if you are in a diabolic situation is a long time," Ms Roberts said.

Guests were usually "horrified".


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