Monday, January 11, 2016
Row over new mosque in Sydney
Australia's right-wing anti-Muslim groups have surfed in on the debate about a new mosque planned for South Hurstville, encouraging people who live outside the area to oppose the $3 million development.
Organisations in Queensland and Victoria have been posting on social media against the development dubbed the "mega mosque" proposed for King Georges Road, south of Sydney.
And public supporters of the mosque have reported receiving "text messages of hate campaigns" from people opposed to the development.
Reclaim Australia, Stop the Mosque in Bendigo, Aussie Angels Against Sharia and other group sites have been pushing an online petition opposing the plans.
On another site named Stop the Mosque, which has more than 9000 followers, there are comments such as "A Mosque is a place that serves as a meeting place for people who are obligated to bring down Australian Democracy, A planning place for those committed to replace the Australian Constitution with Sharia Law, acting on instruction to implement Jihard [sic] to achieve this goal as soon as possible".
On the online petition,Say No to 849 King Georges Road, South Hurstville Mosque, is this comment "the mosque will change our lives and our children's lives. We worked hard to live in this area and now people want to destroy this,"
Kogarah City Council has received more than 900 submissions and spokeswoman said the number is still growing. It is not yet known how many support the mosque.
The public exhibition period for comment on the plans has been extended to the end of February, but lawyers for the applicant have already taken it to the Land and Environment Court because it was not dealt with by council within the required 40 days.
The applicant for the mosque is Nasser Hussein from architectural firm Ghazi Al Ali on behalf of the company MSAR Holdings Pty Ltd, which has authority from the land owners to lodge the application.
The company lists Mohammad Safwan Abdul-Rahman as the sole director and secretary, but he could not be contacted for comment.
Trouble erupted last year when the plans were submitted for the development showing the mosque would have three levels of underground parking and two levels above ground, including two prayer rooms for a total of 78 worshippers and two classrooms to accommodate 45 people.
Worshippers have been gathering at another private home in South Hurstville for Friday prayers, but that property too has had troubled history with the council temporarily closing it in 2012 because of complaints about parking and noise.
At the time Anthony Mundine, the former footballer and world boxing champion who used the prayer room, believed the problem was prejudice, not parking.
He told Fairfax Media his mother lived next door in the big wide street where every house had off-street parking, so was "baffled" by the objections. He believed it was just an excuse to shut down the mosque.
But online community opinion is evenly split with petitions opposing and as well as in favour of the mosque attracting almost 5000 supporters each.
The "Kogarah Council: Yes to the South Hurstville Mosque" petition on Change.org includes comments from Leila Khaled, who says she is a local resident, arguing it is important for the mosque to go ahead so local Muslim residents have the freedom to practice their religion in their own neighbourhood.
"It will reach out to youth and teach them how Islam is a religion of peace. This needs to be done before the current political radicalisation narrative negatively affects them. It will have open days to reach out and welcome the wider community. This is an opportunity to build bridges, ease concerns, and address misconceptions."
Another comment posted by from Tarik Hussein noted the double standards regarding other developments such as a church built in a residential street with no car park with no objections. He also multiple pubs clubs in the area offering topless waitresses and attracted police attention because of fights, intoxication, drugs, and gambling – "Yet this behaviour seems to be more socially acceptable & encouraged than a place of worship for Muslims".
Springvale coal mine approval faces challenge from Greenies
The Baird government's approval of a Blue Mountains coal mine expansion contravenes its own planning policy, say environment groups who have begun legal action to overturn the decision.
The 13-year extension of the Springvale coal mine, located near Lithgow, was backed by the Planning Ministry and secured final approval from the independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) last September.
The underground mine will produce as much as 4.5 million tonnes of coal a year from 20 new longwall panels, and continue to discharge untreated waste water into the upper Coxs River.
The river flows through the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and is the second-largest source of water for Sydney's main water reservoir at Warragamba Dam.
Environment groups led by 4nature are challenging the approval in the Land and Environment Court, arguing the move is not compliant with the 2011 State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) covering Sydney's drinking water catchment. The policy permits approvals only for projects that have a neutral or beneficial effect on the area.
Andrew Cox, 4nature's president, said the groups had found no evidence the government had taken the SEPP into account when approving the project.
The mine will release 19 megalitres a day of waste water – containing salts, metals and other materials – with the flows making up as much as two-thirds of the water in the river at the discharge point. "How can you possibly rationally conclude that the mine isn't lowering water quality?" Mr Cox said.
Gary Whytcross, director south for the NSW Environment Protection Authority, told Fairfax Media in July that "there's no doubt there will be impacts" for the Coxs River from the mine discharges, with the high salinity the main concern.
The first legal challenge of the particular SEPP may affect future mine approvals, Mr Cox said. "It could set an important precedent for development in the catchment, he said. "Other coal mines in the catchment will have to demonstrate that they have a neutral or beneficial impact."
The Environmental Defenders Office of NSW filed the case on December 18, and the court will next consider the matter on February 12, 2016. Operations at Springvale would not be affected until a final court ruling, 4nature said.
"It is important that the community is able to ensure that decisions are legally robust, and we respect the EDO's right to take this action following the decision by the independent [PAC]," Rob Stokes, Planning Minister, said.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Planning and Environment said, the approval had followed an extensive consultation process including state agencies, independent experts and a "rigorous assessment of all environmental, economic and social impacts".
Since the approval includes "strict limits" on the salinity of discharges "the department concluded the mine extension would have a beneficial effect on Sydney's drinking water catchment, compared to the mine's previous operations", the spokeswoman said.
Opponents, though, say they will argue the comparison should be made with the absence of discharges, not the previous workings of the mine.
The waste water had previously been sent to the Wallerawang power station before it closed down. Mr Muir has proposed the waste water be transported for treatment and use at the mine's main customer, the nearby Mt Piper power plant – a course only noted by the PAC as an option.
"It isn't diluted and there is no reduction in the impact on the environment," Mr Muir said, adding that upland swamps had also been affected along with the river.
The local Lithgow Council has supported the mine's continuation, arguing that hundreds of full-time jobs and royalties approaching $200 million were at stake. The mine is Mt Piper's only coal source, with the plant providing 15 per cent of the state's electricity.
Electrician bikie gang members to lose jobs
The Electrical Trades Union plans to take the state government to the High Court over amendments to its bikie legislation, which will see some members lose their electrical licences come July.
State Secretary Peter Simpson said members with links to criminal motorcycle gangs had begun to raise concerns with him about their ability to keep doing their job once the amendments to the Electrical Safety Act, passed as part of Criminal Organisations Disruption legislation, comes into effect.
Anyone who has declared their membership to a proscribed club, through words or action, sought to have been a member, or attended one or more meetings or gatherings of people who are members or associates, is in danger of losing their electrical licence or not having it renewed.
“I have spoken to some ETU members, who are members of the Rebels, members of the Black Uhlans and the Hells Angels and have been for many years," he said.
"And in most cases the people I have spoken to, their families are members as well so they won't be able to renew their electrical licences.
“So we have electricians with no criminal record having their honest livelihoods taken off them. “What that is in turn doing is driving them into crime. Imagine being an electrician in a regional area, like a lot of our guys are, working in construction or in the mines. They lose their electrical licence, they lose that job, what are they supposed to do? Where do they go get work? It is a disgrace.
“We are not trying to stick up for criminals. If people are breaching the law, if they are dealing drugs, using intimidation tactics, or harassing them or bullying, good on them, they should go to jail.
"But the existing laws provided for that. There is no need for this outrageous legislation, especially these amendments about taking people's livelihoods off them. It is just disgraceful.”
Of the union's 15,000 members, Mr Simpson estimated the amendments would impact 200, but expected the ripple effect across the building industry to mean more unions would join the High Court challenge.
Acting Attorney-General David Crisafulli said the change to the legislation was about community safety. “The criminal gangs had sadly infiltrated a range of businesses and used them as either fronts or vehicles to commit other crimes,” he said. "Until our changes, criminal motorcycle gang members could work in our homes, change our locks and guard our homes and business.
“Cleaning up these industries is a win for everyone because businesses will be trusted and customers will know they are being served by a law abiding professional.
“All criminal gang members need to do to keep or gain a permit or licence is quit their club and lead a law abiding life. We want them to get real, honest jobs.”
But an electrician who spoke to Fairfax Media on the condition he would remain anonymous, said his legal advice disputed that. “I went to see a solicitor who said it wouldn't make a scrap of difference if I resigned from my club,” the man, who has no criminal record, said.
“The first thing I tried to do was leave my club, because I will always look after my family first, but my solicitor said it wouldn't make an iota of difference because they have written into the law that if you leave, you are still an associate.
“Once you have been tarred with the brush, you are tarred forever.”
The man said he had joined the club because his friends were members and it had become a surrogate family.
Queensland's Keystone cops
What a bunch of amateur idiots! Kids terrified as cops storm Gold Coast home by mistake
A Gold Coast mother-of-two says her children were too traumatised to sleep last night after half-a-dozen police burst into their home and detained their innocent father by mistake.
Kristy Stewart told myGC a squad of officers stormed her Coombabah home along The Esplanade at around 9.30pm on Friday after allegedly mistaking her address for another in the street.
Mrs Stewart, 35, says her two children, aged 10 and eight, were shaking in terror as they watched police order her out of the house and rush inside to detain their innocent father.
“My husband was out on the back patio with the kids and I was in the kitchen when I looked outside and seen an officer approach the front patio,” Mrs Stewart recalled.
“I opened the front door and five or six police officers and two police dogs started coming from the front. “They yelled ‘step out from the door and put your hands to the front’.
“I stepped to the side and they yelled at me to stay put. “I kept repeating that they had made a mistake, that we have done nothing wrong (but) they wouldn’t listen.”
Mrs Steward told myGC the officers then raced inside her home and detained her 32-year-old husband in front of her 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.
“My husband walked up the hallway as he could hear the commotion and was grabbed by both hands by an officer and (the police) said, ‘we know who you are’.”
But as it would turn out, the police actually had no idea whose home they were in.
“My husband kept saying that he hadn’t done anything and my daughter was pleading with them that we were not doing anything wrong. “Finally they asked for our address which obviously didn’t correlate with the address they were suppose to attend.”
Mrs Stewart told myGC the officers “bowed their heads”, some with “embarrassing smirks on their face”, as they walked back out of the house and regrouped on the front lawn. “The police where discussing how to get to the other address which is when I helped them out by giving them directions,” she said.
“It is extremely embarrassing for the Queensland Police Service, considering they are equipped with GPS.”
“It certainly shook us up. My kids and husband were so scared. It was scary as hell.”
Mrs Stewart said one officer yelled from the window of his patrol car before speeding off, “some excitement for you tonight!”