Friday, February 02, 2007

PNG blacks want to be Australians

The Melanesians concerned would certainly fit in better than many Muslims and Sudanese do in Australia. I have known Melanesians since my childhood and find them generally to be fine and cheerful people -- though with a lamentable inability to get on with one-another (with those who are not "wantoks"). I am at any event pleased that they are being treated courteously

A group of 40 Papua New Guineans who landed illegally on a small Australian island in the Torres Strait claiming to be Australian citizens have agreed to return to PNG. The group landed on Saibai Island within sight of the PNG mainland a week ago saying they wanted to help celebrate Australia Day, a Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) spokesman said today. The group of 36 men and four women were illegal entrants who did not claim to be refugees, did not seek protection and all had agreed to return to PNG, he said.

A group of 26 were dropped off on the PNG island of Daru by Australian Customs vessels yesterday, three were returned to nearby PNG villages by Saibai Islanders and the remaining 11 were to be returned to Daru today. The group are part of a Papuan movement in PNG's south who want Australia to recognise that Papuans were not given a choice to remain Australians when PNG became independent in 1975.

The DIAC spokesman said the Australian government was assisting with any subsequent travel arrangements for the members of the group, including payment of airfares and road transport. DIAC officials gave the group information about the operation of Australian citizenship law and an Australian High Court judgement in 2005 that rejected Papuan claims to be Australian citizens, he said. They were invited to submit their particulars to determine if any of them had claims to Australian citizenship.

Saibai regularly hosts Papua New Guineans who cross to Australia's northern-most Torres Strait Islands under traditional crossing agreements without going through formal immigration procedures. The group stayed at the community hall on the island, which has a population of only a few hundred.

In November, PNG police fired warning shots to disperse hundreds of Papuans protesting outside the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby to demand recognition as Australian citizens. Former Papua, covering what is now the southern half of the PNG mainland, became an Australian territory under the Papua Act of 1905 and Papuan-born people acquired Australian citizenship under Australia's 1948 Citizen Act. The Papuan campaign for Australian citizenship in PNG aims to collect 500,000 signatures on a petition to take to the United Nations to urge a referendum on the issue.


Church defends 'Jesus loves Osama' billboard

"A Sydney church has called on people to pray for the world's most wanted terrorist - declaring "Jesus loves Osama".

Church spokeswoman Hy Lam said: "Osama is the head of terrorism. We are saying that Jesus Christ loves everyone in the world, even this man.

The billboard also includes a quote from the Book of Matthew: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."


Archbishop disapproves:

"Jesus does indeed love Osama bin Laden, but a controversial Sydney church sign saying so is misleading, says Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen. The sign "Jesus Loves Osama" outside a number of local churches, including some Anglican, also features a Bible extract saying, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you".

Archbishop Jensen said he had not been involved in any decision to display the signs and had reservations about them. "I'm hesitant about it frankly, it's a bit misleading," he said on Southern Cross radio. "I say to myself, `If I were a relative of one of the victims of Osama's activities, I might take affront at this'."

Archbishop Jensen said he understood what the sign was trying to say, that Christianity taught loving everyone - even the al-Qaeda head. "There is a truth in it (but) what we've got to say is, Jesus doesn't approve of Osama, it makes it sounds like, `Oh, Osama's doing the right thing."



Fighter jets not ready until 2018 (If then)

Australia's new $16 billion jet fighter fleet will not be operational until 2018 - four to six years later than the Federal Government had promised. According to a key RAAF adviser, the stealth F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will be far less capable than initially thought.

Defence Minister Brendan Nelson's aerospace adviser Denis Hughes has also revealed plans to extend the life of the RAAF's fleet of 30 F-111 strike aircraft. Those planes, known affectionately as "pigs", were due to retire by 2010, but could be extended to 2020 at a fraction of the cost of a Howard Government plan to buy 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters for $3 billion. The Super Hornets will fill the gap left by the F-111s and dozens of RAAF Hornet fighters that are due for a re-build.

The Daily Telegraph has obtained a record of a conversation from a meeting in Dr Nelson's Sydney office between Mr Hughes and John Peake, an aircraft analyst who is a critic of the JSF plan. Mr Hughes said that the biggest problem with the F-111 was that someone would have to take the potentially career-ending decision to "sign-off" on a life extension.

Dr Nelson's office confirmed the contents of the meeting notes in which the adviser also revealed that his boss had not even read expert submissions about the project - the most expensive in Australian history. Mr Peake said Mr Hughes confirmed rumours the next generation JSF, "with all its features", won't be ready until 2018. When Mr Peake put it to him that crucial electro-optical features (ability to find targets and evade enemy) only worked in clear skies he replied, "Yes that's true".

The Government has already spent more than $200 million on the JSF and must decide by next year if it will proceed to purchase. Mr Hughes is a former RAAF officer who transferred to the aerospace office in the Defence Materiel Organisation before joining Dr Nelson's office. Mr Peake wants the Government to buy the US-built F-22 Raptor aircraft as a replacement for the F-111 and F/A-18 fighters. The Government has ruled that out on the basis of cost - more than three times the JSF - and the Raptor's perceived lack of "multi-role" capabilities.

A spokesman for Dr Nelson said the Minister listened to advisers, but made his own decisions. "Some people legitimately question the JSF but there is a small group that is fanatically obsessed with the F-22 (alternative aircraft) and are not prepared to consider other options." Mr Hughes said the Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Shepherd, was right about the F-22's problems and the US generals who operated it were "wrong". "The US Generals are pushing barrows to get funding and are playing politics," Mr Hughes said.


An Australian Macca in a pickle

MAC Donald versus MC Donald

Rosebud burger baron Ian Macdonald almost bit off more than he could chew when he went public about his bunfight with fast food giant McDonald's. Yesterday his business, Macdonald's Gourmet Burgers, had the busiest day in its short history as it was flooded with supportive customers. "I am on my way to buy another 150kg of beef now because we have completely sold out," Mr Macdonald said yesterday afternoon, before reopening for the dinner rush. "It has been absolutely crazy. I really have to apologise to everyone for the delays, but it was just so unexpected."

Yesterday, the Herald Sun reported that US burger chain McDonald's was threatening Federal Court action over the use of the company name. McDonald's Australia spokeswoman Sarah Gibbons said "McDonald's" and "Macca's" were registered trademarks of McDonald's Corporation. "McDonald's, like any company with intellectual property, wants to protect its investment in its image and brand," Ms Gibbons said.

Mr Macdonald said after investing up to $300,000 in his burger joint, he could not afford to change the business name or go to court. "The only thing I can do is sit here and keep trading. I am stuck in a corner and I have no other options." Mr Macdonald said he had no wish to hurt the local McDonald's restaurant, which is less than 2km from his business. "I'm not competition for them. They have their own customers, and I have mine. It's a very different product."

Mr Macdonald said his business name was also his surname and it had been his dream. "It is all my work. I thought of it, I brought it to life, and I am passionate about it. "I like to say, with the 'A' (in Macdonald's) you get gourmet," he said.


An evaluation of the "alternative" burger here

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