Sunday, September 21, 2014


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is pleased with the Scottish referendum.  He declares himself a monarchist, as I and a majority of Australians are, so is opposed to constitutional change

AFL supports same-sex marriage

The claim that football players are queer was once a common joke, but it seems that nature has imitated art, as Oscar Wilde would say.  There seem to be a lot of queer American footballers too

The AFL has expressed support for same-sex couples being allowed to marry in a development advocates hope will help build momentum for marriage equality.

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan revealed the league's stance on the polarising issue in response to a letter from Geelong woman Sharyn Faulkner, who has a gay son.

"If the AFL publicly declares that they are in support of marriage equality you will give that young player who is struggling with their sexuality the courage to realise just who they are," Ms Faulkner wrote.

In response, Mr McLachlan wrote that football was no place for homophobia, and gave his personal commitment to "continue to speak out in this area whenever I can."

"The AFL will keep saying no matter how many times it takes, that our game does not tolerate discrimination in any form, be that sexual identity, gender, race (or) religious views ... we also support the position of marriage equality for all people.

"This matter is a serious issue for many young gay people, in terms of how they are treated in the wider community, and football leaders such as myself will continue to say that we do not tolerate it, and will continue to push for a change in behaviour from all sections of society."

Ms Faulkner applauded the AFL boss for his response, and said she hoped AFL club presidents would follow his lead.

"The AFL's policy of having no tolerance to discrimination in any form was heartening and for them to actually say that they support 'the position of marriage equality for all people' will make it so much easier for people to say 'if the AFL and my football club can say no to discrimination and yes to equality, so can I'," Ms Faulkner said.

The national director of Australian Marriage Equality, Rodney Croome said that the AFL's support for marriage equality would be welcomed by many AFL players and fans, and would "in all likelihood draw new fans to the game."

"AFL is central to Australian identity and the AFL's support for marriage equality reaffirms that values like inclusion and fairness are central too," Mr Croome said.

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm is preparing a private member's bill to legalise same-sex marriage.

While Labor MPs have a free vote on the issue, the Liberal Party is yet to confirm its position on same-sex marriage in the new Parliament.

While Mr Abbott's firm personal view is that marriage should be between a man and a woman, he has said the question of whether there is a free vote on the issue within the Liberal Party would be a matter for the post-election party room.


Terror raids: The rising fear in Sydney's suburbs

It was a terrorist plot marked by its brutality and simplicity, and the ease with which it could be rolled out at a moment's notice: kidnap innocent bystanders, whisk them back to a secret location and execute them by means of decapitation.

After the murderous spectacle of passenger jets ploughing into buildings on September 11, 2001, and the nightclub bombings in Bali that left hundreds dead, this week's alleged plot was decidedly low tech.

But it had all the ingredients that make for a successful terrorist act - to terrify, to prey on the deepest human instincts to create widespread fear.

As Prime Minister Tony Abbott observed on Friday, "all you need is  … a knife, an iPhone and a victim".

Allegedly coordinated to take place in Sydney and Brisbane, the executions would be spectacular, shocking, random and barbaric.

The instruction allegedly came from Mohammad Ali Baryalei, the most senior Australian with Islamic State, the terrorist group also known as IS or ISIL, on Tuesday.

He told his devotee in Sydney, Omarjan Azari, that it was time "show we can kill a kafir [non-believer]", according to a counter-terrorism source.

Arguably the most important directive was to come later during several phone calls that stretched into the evening on Tuesday. Police will allege he ordered that Azari film the terrorist act and send it to Al Hayat Media for distribution around the world via social and mainstream media.

The highly sophisticated media outlet of IS, Al Hayat is infamous for its never-ending stream of propaganda videos, filmed in high definition and expertly edited with music, action scenes from the battlefield and even scenes from video games like Call of Duty.

Al Hayat produced the videos of three American and British men who have all died at the hand of a fanatic's knife in the past month, appalling and transfixing the world and going a long way to spurring western military intervention.

Deeply disturbing for Australians is that it appears beheadings, reserved until now for the benighted battlefields of Syria and Iraq, were to be unleashed on the streets of its major cities. 

With the terrorist threat level lifted to high, Australian pilots and soldiers en route to the Middle East to await the final go-ahead to "degrade and destroy" Islamic State, how severe is the threat of terrorist attacks in Australia? What can be done to defeat it?

Bonded by their fanatical support for holy war and Islamic State's self-proclaimed caliphate, the group of more than a dozen men that police alleged formed a terrorist cell first came together last year year to funnel fighters and funds to jihadist groups in Syria.

Mohammad Ali Baryalei was the contact in the Middle East, shuttling between Turkey and Syria and rising through the ranks of Islamic State.

A 33-year-old  from a privileged Afghan family who came to Australia as a refugee, Baryalei worked as a Kings Cross bouncer and bit-part actor before being swayed to fundamentalist Islam and becoming a minor celebrity in radical circles for his "Street Dawah", videotaped kerbside conversions of Australians to Islam.

In Australia, police allege that Hamdi al-Qudsi was the main operator, recruiting young men, some of them teenagers, to travel to Syria.

The network supplied some 30 Australians  to Syria and Iraq, around half the number of Australians who are believed to have travelled to fight in the region.

As far back as May, the intent of a group of men in Sydney and Brisbane to commit some kind of terrorist act became an active concern.

Under close surveillance, counter-terrorism authorities heard of discussions about packing a car with explosives, plans that never seriously developed and were quickly abandoned in favour of  something much easier to organise.

As Azari - an apprentice motor mechanic from Guildford - faced court, charged with planning a terrorist attack, he was described Crown prosecutor Michael Allnut as possessing  an "unusual level of fanaticism".

The plot was hatched with rapid speed and done in the "full knowledge of police surveillance", Allnut said.  "There was almost an irrational determination to commit that plan ... to randomly select a person to rather gruesomely execute."

An attack, police judged, was "very imminent". More than 800 police were scrambled to launch pre-dawn raids across Sydney and Brisbane, searching 25 homes in two states, detaining and questioning 15 men and charging two, including Azari, for terrorism offences.

A sword was seized in Marsfield in Sydney's north-west; machetes, balaclavas, a gun and ammunition in Brisbane. .

What exactly motivated the quick-fire call for terror remains unclear, although the conversation came just days after Australia announced its commitment to send 600 military personnel and military aircraft to the Middle East to prepare to wage war on Islamic State.

Asked whether there was a connection, NSW Police commissioner Andrew Scipione said: "Let me answer your question by saying this - in our risk assessments, in putting together our response plan, we have certainly factored that in." 

Certainly, the alleged plot in Australia is only the second in a western country known to have links to Islamic State. A former IS fighter and jailer murdered four people at a Jewish Museum in Brussels in May after opening fire with an automatic weapon.

The killing of off-duty British soldier Lee Rigby in a Woolwich street by two knife-wielding Al Qaeda sympathisers approximates.

But that was a brutal knife attack, rather than a beheading. What was allegedly planned for Sydney and Brisbane was far more sinister.

Terrorism analysts say a beheading, especially when coupled with the drama of hostage taking, can be more powerful in terms of its psychological impacts than a mass casualty attack.

"Terrorism is a form of propaganda by the deed. And the more chilling the deed, the more impactful the propaganda," Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow of the Royal United Services Institute, wrote this week.

"The graphic nature of beheading, the focus on the individual and the act of bodily desecration involved all render this far more chilling than the explosion of a bomb, even where the latter's death toll is greater."

If, as Brian Jenkins, a doyen of counter terrorism studies observed, terrorists want a lot of people watching, not necessarily a lot of people dead,  a beheading is perhaps the ultimate form of sowing maximum fear with minimal resources.

Jessica Stern, a veteran terrorist analyst who lectures at Harvard University, told Fairfax Media that, while relatively few are directly affected by a beheading, the psychological impact is huge.

It serves multiple purposes - to instill fear, make a political point, attract recruits and provoke an over-reaction from an adversary.

"They are really trying to get us to over-react. It really does seem that they are trying to get us to invade [Iraq and Syria]."

On that front, Islamic State would appear to be succeeding and there are concerns that the West's armed intervention will see the terrorist group switch focus from its preoccupation with the "near enemy" to the one further afield.

The near enemy is  the "apostate" Shia Muslims and other religious minorities IS has sought to purge as it advances across Iraq. The far enemy is the West.

Counterterrorism  authorities are worried this week's plot is not the only terrorist act being conceived by Islamic State supporters in Australia. "Chatter" picked up by intelligence agencies has prompted heightened security around parliament house and other government installations.

Stern says any rise in the terrorist threat here, perhaps inevitable due military campaign against IS, should not necessarily preclude an armed response.

IS has grown at an astonishing rate, and is different from other terrorist groups in that it controls large swathes of land and two large cities - Mosul in Iraq and Raqaa in Syria, she notes.

Without taking action that involved deadly force, it would likely become more potent anyway.  "They have been more successful than al Qaeda," says Stern.

John Horgan, a psychologist from the University of Massachusetts who has studied terrorism for 20 years says IS "truly is something different". Its gains in Iraq and Syria are demonstrable signs of its success to Islamists.  "It holds very, very broad appeal," he told New York Magazine this week.

"In the eyes of potential recruits, this is fantasy made reality. It's everything a would-be jihadist could have hoped for."

Australia's counter-terrorism agencies are claiming a major success, as is the government. Court proceedings will determine the strength of their intelligence.

The number of police deployed on Thursday was the biggest on record, although the plot was hardly the most serious encountered in Australia over the past decade, which included more advanced plots to set off bombs at public events and launch a massacre at Holsworthy Army barracks.

Nonetheless, the allegation of a discarded plan to set off a car bomb highlights the difficulties obtaining raw materials after more than a decade of strong anti-terrorism measures, including closer regulation of fertilisers and other bomb making materials and improved on-the-ground intelligence.

Disrupting terrorist cells, surveillance and other intelligence gathering intelligence, as well as shutting down sources of finance, will remain integral parts of the effort to defeat IS.

Military action, too, can be effective in routing IS from its safe haven, although only if it is undertaken with a broad  and deep coalition that includes Muslim countries. Allied to that coalition has to be a political solution to the long-standing disputes and religious hostility in the region that feeds Islamic State.

To slow the flow of recruits to IS from the West, Dr Horgan suggests a narrative needs to be articulated based on disaffected former members of IS.

"People become disillusioned if they feel that the [terrorist] group has gone too far, if they don't seem to have a strategy beyond indiscriminate killing," he says.

"It's only a matter of time  before those accounts leak out [of Islamic State]… We would do very well to be on the lookout."

The prime minister on Friday was urging Australians to press on with their lives.

"The best response to all of this is to go about one's business normally, because terrorism is about scaring people out of their ordinary daily way of life.

"Second point I make is that the Government will do whatever we humanly can to keep our community safe.

"[The] third point – very important point – is that the actions yesterday were not about any particular religious group or any particular community. They were about crime, they were about potential terrorism, and they're about keeping our whole community safe."

The Qur'an, like the Bible, depicts beheadings from Biblical times. Members of Islamic State undoubtedly play on the references as they adopt the practice as a terrorist tactic and recruitment tool.

However, Islam's holy book also forbids the mistreatment of prisoners, orders followers of Allah not to initiate hostilities and always be inclined towards peace.

Islamic State perverts and traduces the faith, and there was no better illustration than the men alleged to have planned the execution of innocents in Sydney and Brisbane.

According to the police, El Baryalei spoke to Azari about wrapping the bloodied body of their victims in Islam's flag.

The shedding of any blood on the ancient black banner proclaiming the pre-eminence of Allah and the Prophet Muhammed -  co-opted by IS and other jihadists groups - is strictly forbidden and widely considered a desecration by Muslims.

So, too, is murdering civilians.


Croatian thug to be grilled at Royal Commission over his role in

A “CROATIAN mafia” who acted like “animals” pressured contractors on the Pentridge Prison redevelopment to sign up to CFMEU union conditions, the Royal Commission has heard.

Some of the contractors quit the project because of the pressure from people linked to the union to impose commercial building site rates, the commission into union corruption heard.

And a contractor that stayed increased its prices by $750,000 more than previously agreed domestic building rates.

Pentridge Village developer Leigh Chiavaroli said he was forced to sign up to a union enterprise bargaining agreement, significantly increasing his costs.

“We had no option at the time,” he said.

Appearing for the second time at the commission, he detailed conversations with a subcontractor who was being pressured to cave into union demands.

“That was clearly evident in the transcript in the DVDs where he clearly says that he was pressured and that he called it the Croatian mafia and that he was being pressured to the point where they were turning on him like animals and I quote that,” he said.

Mr Chiavaroli said that the rates the union was demanding were above commercial rates.

And he repeated the subcontractors concerns, captured on a DVD, that he must follow union instructions: “According to his quote, “they’re like animals, they’ll kill me.” I think if you watch the DVD I think you’ll see that Mr Molino saying that that’s the reason why.”

John Agius, for the CFMEU, said that Mr Chiavaroli’s company West Homes was unable to pay the higher rate and that was why subcontractors left the site.

But Mr Chiavaroli denied that claim.

CFMEU state secretary John Setka’s “compare”, or right-hand man Anton Sucic will be grilled later today about his role as a union enforcer on the troubled Pentridge Prison site that was crippled by union go slows.

Mr Sucic has been described as Setka’s “compare”, or best man and the hard headed union leader’s go to fixer.

He was hired as a safety representative on the CFMEU’s insistence after the death of worker Thomas Kelly on the site in 2009.

The Royal Commission heard in July that Mr Sucic rarely worked a full week on the site, despite being employed as a safety representative and paid regular hours.

Mr Agius, has raised concerns that the he will not be able to properly cross examine some of the witnesses today because he had not been provided with the Coroner’s report into Mr Kelly’s death and financial details about West Homes, the company building Pentridge Village.

“We are not in a position to do so because the material that’s been produced yesterday, simply, it doesn’t even scratch the surface as to the financial position of West Homes and Pentridge Village,” he said.

But Commissioner Dyson Heydon rejected his submissions.


Onshore gas find tipped as Western Australia's biggest in decades

Local oil and gas player AWE has claimed what may be Western Australia's largest onshore gas discovery since the 1960s, sending its shares up as much as 16 per cent.

Gas from the field, 50:50 owned by AWE and Origin Energy, is targeted for users in WA.

The news comes after the Senecio-3 well drilled by AWE and partner Origin Energy found gas deeper down in its Senecio gas field in the Perth Basin.

Together, the Senecio and deeper Waitsia fields could hold 360 billion cubic feet of gas, and potentially as much as 1.17 trillion cubic feet of gas, AWE said on Thursday.

AWE said that could make it the biggest onshore find in the state since the Dongara field.

The resources, which were foreshadowed by AWE when initial results from the Senecio-3 well came in early this month, lie close to existing gas processing plants and pipelines.

That meant the resources could be brought into production relatively quickly, AWE managing director Bruce Clement said.

The gas is classified as "tight", meaning it would require artificial stimulation to flow to the surface.

Even so, BBY analyst Scott Ashton noted the "big" size of the field and Mr Clement's positive comments about potential commercial prospects.

Mr Clement also said there was "substantial upside" to potential resources in the reservoir from unconventional gas in some levels of shale and coal at the site.

"We are now focusing on flow testing of Senecio-3 to establish commercial viability and the potential early, low-cost development of the Senecio and Waitsia fields," he said.


THE former head of an Aboriginal corporation will stand trial for fraud after she allegedly started falsifing receipts more than four years ago

Putting Aborigines in charge of government-provided  funds always seems to lead to corruption.  I know of no contrary instances

VERONICA Anne Cubillo faces 11 fraud counts arising from her time as chief executive of the North Australian Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Services Aboriginal Corporation (NAAFVLS).

The offences were allegedly committed from August 2010 to May 2011.

Over a two-day committal hearing, the Darwin Magistrates Court heard Ms Cubillo invited NAAFVLS finance department manager Emilyn Amante to accompany her to attend a human rights conference in the Philippines, which turned out to be a Cubillo family reunion.

Ten thousand dollars in funding allocated to Imparja TV for substance abuse programs was allegedly diverted to pay for the trip, and was authorised by then chairman Samuel Bush-Blanasi, who now chairs the Northern Land Council.

Ms Cubillo also sought reimbursement from NAAFVLS for a $2500 registration fee to attend the event.

But Ms Amante said in a statement she did not believe a fee was required to be paid for that type of event, she saw no one else pay to register, and Ms Cubillo could not have paid it without Ms Amante noticing.

But defence counsel Mark Johnson said on Wednesday the transport was approved by the chairman, "making clear he intended the expenses be covered", and there was no evidence Ms Cubillo did not pay the registration fee.

The court also heard the receipts and reimbursement system at NAAFVLS was "haphazard", and unofficial receipts were often submitted.

Ms Cubillo claimed reimbursement for $1950 for expenses incurred at the Darwin Sailing Club, but that venue's financial officer said it did not issue receipts like the one Ms Cubillo produced, and the receipt did not feature the club's ABN.

Ms Cubillo is also accused of falsifying receipts for the Aviation Fellowship, the Darwin Airport Resort and the Menzies School of Health Research, gaining a financial advantage from NAAFVLS of more than $9000.

Ms Cubillo allegedly removed a clause in her contract that required her to obtain approval before being reimbursed for any work expenses.

Magistrate Elisabeth Armitage said she was satisfied there was sufficient evidence to commit Ms Cubillo to stand trial.

She will be arraigned on October 13.


Court told standover man makes offers you can’t refuse, on pain of death

GEORGE Alex allegedly wields enough power in the Sydney underworld that people have died “as a result of this man’s influence”, a court has heard.

Alex, 43, allegedly has enough sway in the construction industry that businesses wanting to expand sought his ­approval to get backing from unions.

According to one former business partner, Alex “overpowers” his enemies with “union connections” and “tortures” businesses “financially”.

The court heard he was bankrupted by the tax ­office in 2009, but has still run million-dollar tax scams and businesses via a cast of associates — ranging from bikies to his ­sister Athina Alex.

A number of his business ventures have been financed by criminals and one was bankrolled by the Rebels bikie gang for $500,000, it was alleged.

These are just a few of the key claims directed at Alex’s business empire that emerged in the Federal Court of Australia on March 14 when trustee Pitcher Partners attempted to dissect Alex’s affairs in a bankruptcy examination. The Daily Telegraph can only now reveal details of the hearings ­because witnesses were so fearful of Alex they asked for a non-­publication order on their identities and evidence.

Justice Bernard Murphy lifted the suppression order yesterday.

Douglas Westerway, a former director of Alex’s Elite Access Scaffolding company, told the court: “There are dead people in this organisation as a result of this man’s influence, and I do fear for my safety.”

Another of the witnesses was jailed former cage-fighter Jimmy Kendrovski, who this month cited his family’s safety before the royal commission into union corruption he when refused to answer any questions on whether he witnessed Alex or his late business partner Joe Antoun give cash to Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union officials to buy influence.

In the Federal Court, Mr Kendrovski said: “Does George Alex have certain involvement or certain influence over the union? Yes, he sure does.” When asked if he witnessed deals between Alex and the unions in relation to ­labour hire companies, Mr Kendrovski replied: “Yes, I did. He ... overpowers (enemies) with the union connections. (He) sends people broke or wipes them out, takes them right out of the equation …”

Businessman “Big Jim” Byrnes told the court Alex’s “whole modus oper-andi” was to “phoenix” businesses and “steal the tax office’s money for a year”.

“Phoenix” schemes allow companies to avoid tax, outstanding bills and paying employees entitlements by dissolving and reforming under a different name.

Mr Byrnes said Alex was one of Sydney’s “largest phoenixes” and ran a debt-collecting operation. He said Alex ran a standover ­operation at the Barangaroo site.

Alex boosted profits from 6 per cent to 35 per cent by stealing “GST, PAYG and superannuation” in a scheme where one labour-hire company would receive money from contractors, but a second company would pay the employees, Mr Byrnes told the court. This scheme was worth several hundred thousand dollars a week, he said.

Alex was living in hotels to avoid “criminal groups” chasing him for money owed for “unsuccessful business deals” and had been “a guest of the crime commission in (the) Meriton Apartments” in the Sydney CBD, Mr Byrnes told the court.

Scaffolding company director Michael Cohen said he approached Alex when he wanted to grow his business and get unionised. He got more work after getting an enterprise bargaining agreement with the CFMEU. Mr Cohen said Alex was paid up to $5000 a week as a dividend into his wife Nectaria’s bank account. A spokesman said George Alex was not available for comment last night.


1 comment:

Paul said...

NRL too, as I myself once found out.