Tuesday, March 15, 2016

African gang violence comes to Melbourne streets

Violent Sudanese-based 'Apex Gang' blamed for vicious riot which left the streets of Melbourne completely trashed

A violent gang is being blamed for bringing a vicious brawl to the streets of central Melbourne as it emerged members of the group have been scrutinised by police for several months.

Police had arrested 33 members of the Apex gang in the past four months for burglary, assault and car theft before a violent brawl took place with a rival gang on Saturday night in Melbourne's Federation Square, the ABC reports.

The primarily Sudanese-based Apex gang and suspected members of the Islander 21 gang were filmed causing chaos on Saturday night as more than 100 of them fought amongst each other in front of terrified families who were attending the Moomba community event.

The Apex gang had threatened on social media to return and run amok again on Sunday night but police managed to disperse the group.

Four people were arrested over the incident on Saturday, which forced the closure of Swanston Street and brought trams to a standstill.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graeme Ashton condemned the Apex gang's actions and said a special taskforce had been set up in November to monitor the group. 

'The levels of violence exhibited by this group was an increase and escalation on violence... that concerns us greatly and we condemn it,' Chief Commissioner Ashton said.

'The sort of behaviour (on Saturday night) will not be tolerated and we'll be cracking down hard on this particular group we believe was responsible.'

Commissioner Ashton said police believed members of the Apex gang were behind a spate of robberies and car thefts in Melbourne's south where the group hails from.

He said the group had also come into the city for White Night and New Year's Eve celebrations 'looking to cause trouble'.

Dramatic footage from Saturday night showed scores of people running down the streets, with many jumping over parked cars as loud screams were heard echoing through the city after the fight broke out.

The Apex gang had reportedly organised the punch-up via video messaging app Snapchat.

Scores of people were seen rushing down the streets of Melbourne, with some running over parked vehicles

Dramatic scenes show the melee of youths throwing punches at each other, with police officers out in force to disperse the gang with capsicum spray.

Chairs were hurled as weapons when the gangs stormed the Brunetti's cafe in City Square before bringing trams and traffic to a standstill along Swanston Street.

Police are investigating a 'series of affrays' which occurred in the city and surrounding areas after officers responded to numerous incidents throughout the evening.

'Investigators have also received information regarding four robberies, and an assault resulting in a male being conveyed to hospital,' police said in a statement on Sunday morning.

'There have been several arrests for various offences.'

Police were reportedly aware of the gangs' plans to meet in the city after a photo of weapons, including baseball bats, knuckle dusters and machetes was sent via the social media app.

Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said police would make sure there were no further incidents.

'My clear message to those who are in any way thinking of engaging in stupid and violent behaviour is - stay away from the city,' he said.

But Mr Crisp also said reports that two separate street gangs were involved in Saturday's events were wrong.

Rather, it was just one large group involved in the violence, and the deputy commissioner pulled no punches when describing the chaos seen on Saturday.  'I'll even call it a riot - from my perspective it was riotous behaviour by this particular group,' he said.

A man armed with a Taser was involved in Saturday night's riot which centred on Federation Square and surrounding areas.

Two young men were arrested for being drunk, another was arrested for assaulting an officer, and a fourth was arrested after allegedly being found with the Taser.

An innocent bystander - a young man - was taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries.


Charter change, ABC-SBS merger is on the Coalition radar

The Turnbull government has set the stage for the first major review of the ABC’s charter in 33 years, under incoming managing director Michelle Guthrie, and refused to rule out a merger between the ABC and SBS.

In an interview with The ­Australian, Communications ­Minister Mitch Fifield called for the public broadcasters to “work more closely together”.

Senator Fifield said while he had no immediate plans to launch a review of the charter as he manages the tricky task of steering the media reform bill into law, he questioned whether the ABC’s legislative framework is outdated, and revealed he would raise the ­matter with Ms Guthrie.

“It’s been a long time since the ABC charter has been examined. I don’t have any current plans to review it but I’ll be interested to talk in greater detail with Michelle Guthrie once she gets her feet under the desk, to have a discussion about whether the charter reflects the world that we’re in and is fit for purpose,” Senator Fifield said.

Any move to rethink the ABC’s charter would be consistent with a global trend seen most recently at the BBC. With the proliferation of online media, public sector broadcasters around the world are struggling to define their public purpose.

The British government publishes its white paper on the future of the BBC in May, which will ­determine the scope and purpose of the corporation for the coming decade.

The ABC’s charter was last ­reviewed in 1981, although a short clause “to provide digital media services” was added to section 6 of the Australian Broadcasting ­Corporation Act in 2013.

While the ABC’s charter stipulated that it must “reflect the ­cultural diversity of the Australian community”, and “contribute to a sense of national identity”, many think its output and new online operations do anything but.

And although the ABC rejects the view of itself as an imperialist conqueror in the digital landscape, there are concerns it has used its $1.1 billion annual funding to ­aggressively expand at the expense of choice by crowding out commercial operators, including news­papers.

Senator Fifield refused to be drawn into the debate, but said he would be “very happy to have a chat to Michelle Guthrie” about the ABC’s charter after she joins on March 28.

“Everyone has a view about the ABC. I won’t make any declaratory statements,” he said.

The ABC’s outgoing managing director Mark Scott last month called for a “grown-up conversation” about merging the nation’s two public broadcasters, arguing it could save $40 million a year.

Senator Fifield stressed “it’s not something that I’m looking at”. However, he did raise the prospect of a closer alignment to attain greater efficiencies and cost savings. “That’s not to say the SBS and ABC couldn’t work more closely together,” he said.

Despite criticisms SBS has moved away from multilingual programming on its main channel in recent years as it steps up efforts to grab more advertising revenue, Senator Fifield said he believed the broadcaster still had a future in public broadcasting.

“I think one of the reasons why we have such a tolerant society is because of the work that SBS has done over the years. SBS has a distinct identity and a distinct role.”

The ABC is bidding for fresh funding in this year’s budget to ­expand regional new services, hoping a new triennial funding package agreement will pave the way to hire more journalists across online, radio and TV.

But Senator Fifield dampened expectations of a giveaway budget in May by warning the ABC not to ramp up budget expectations, and overstate its plight by asking for additional funding to meet its ­ongoing functions and responsibilities.

“I’m always a little wary when an organisation is asking for additional money for things that should be its core business,” he said. “The ABC should be servicing rural and regional areas.”

Asked whether Ms Guthrie’s top priority was to spend the ABC’s annual budget more wisely, Senator Fifield said the public broadcaster should adopt a more pragmatic, make-do approach.

“It’s important for the managing director to recognise that the ABC’s budget, which will be revealed in the budget, is an envelope that needs to be worked within,’’ he said.

“If the ABC identifies something that it would like to do then the ABC will need to work out what are things that it does that are maybe less important so that it can do things that it thinks are more important. It’s important for the ABC, as an organisation, to work within its budget and to prioritise within its budget.”


Scientists warn that coral bleaching is getting worse in the Great Barrier Reef

Bleaching waxes and wanes.  It is not well understood but it is followed sooner or later by regrowth

Scientists have warned that mass coral bleaching has started killing off parts of the Great Barrier Reef.

Lyle Vail, who runs the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station north of Cairns, said bleaching had increased dramatically in the past two weeks, especially among shallow water corals.

"A couple of weeks ago you'd look around in the Lizard Island lagoon and see at least 50 per cent of corals were stressed to some level, but none had died," he said.  "Now you look around and see all the corals are highly stressed and a couple of colonies have died."

Earlier this month, Mr Vail said the bleaching was the worst to hit the island in more than 15 years.

He said it would take time for the coral to recover when cooler air and sea temperatures eventually arrived.

"Corals aren't going to miraculously recover. It takes them time, if they're going to survive, to get over such a stressful event," he said. "It will take many weeks for the coral to get as close as it can to previous condition.

"The problem with having these high levels of stress is it will affect their growth and reproductive output in the future."

Mr Vail said other researchers monitoring corals in the area had reported bleaching up to 30 kilometres away from the island.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) had increased "in-water" monitoring over the past two weeks, to check on the extent of the bleaching.

It warned there was a high risk of mass coral bleaching on the reef this month due to the hot, dry conditions associated with the El Nino weather system and high sea surface temperatures.

Mr Vail said there were signs the worst weather was over.  "We're starting to see the sea temperatures go down gradually after a week of cloud cover and cooler air temperatures," he said.


Fiji-born thug, outlaw motorcycle gang member Joshua Nabuto  Vosuqa deported

A BIKIE who beat up a group of soldiers and ended an Olympic decathlon hopeful’s career in a separate violent bashing is one of 15 sent ­packing from Queensland in a federal crackdown on outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said 78 people with bikie links have had their visas ­cancelled and six more have had their visa refused since December 2014 — 15 of them from Queensland.

Twenty-seven are already out of Australia, 31 are currently on remand or in prison and 23 are in detention awaiting removal.

The Courier-Mail understand Fiji-born Joshua Nabuto Vosuqa, who has lived in Australia since he was three months old, is one of those targeted.

The Bandido was jailed for 18 months in 2013 after an unprovoked  assault on a group of soldiers outside Casablanca nightclub in Paddington, inner Brisbane, in 2012.

He had earlier served time for grievous bodily harm over a vicious 2004 beating of a ­decathlon athlete.

Leslie David Gadd, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to a number of charges over a violent attack in which Jason ­Enrique Gravestein was shot in the leg at Little Mountain, on the Sunshine Coast, in 2011, has also had his visa cancelled.

Mr Dutton said the Government was determined to boot out non-citizens who were committing crimes in Australia.


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