Monthly archive for ‘ February, 2019 ’

Dame Kiri happy to be Downton diva

11th February 2019 | Closed

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa says she is so happy to land the role of famed opera singer Dame Nellie Melba in Downton Abbey she has named her new pet dog after the hit show.


The star said she “couldn’t say yes fast enough” when she was offered the guest spot in the new series.

She plays the real-life Australian singer who was one of the biggest singing stars of the early 20th century.

Dame Kiri said she studied a diary of Dame Nellie’s performances over 30 years to get into the role and chose suitable songs for the part which sees her perform at a party at the fictional country house.

The New Zealand singer said she was “not sure” she really acted in her scenes with the cast, which includes some spoken lines as well.

“I was trying to stay true to the character because as (show writer) Julian Fellowes said ‘she’s the only true character’ that actually lived,” she said.

Producer Gareth Neame said her performance had gone down a storm, adding: “It was the sight of all these tough electricians and grips and all the people you see on a film set with tears in their eyes and wiping a tear away as they heard you. It was quite a special day.”

Dame Kiri admitted she was nervous before she arrived on set.

“It was a long day but I made it longer by staying up most of the night,” she said.

“The most incredible thing is I took my two dogs along and Lady Carnarvon didn’t want those anywhere near the place but the thing is during the time I was expecting doggy number three and she’s called Abbey as in Downton.

“She’s my little Downton prize”.

The new series, which starts on UK television later this year, is set in 1922 and sees the characters dealing with the aftermath of the death of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens).

Carberry set for England T20 debut

11th February 2019 | Closed

Michael Carberry is in line for a Twenty20 international debut against Australia after being included in England’s 13-man squad announced on Monday for two matches at the end of this month.


Carberry, who won his lone Test cap against Bangladesh in 2010 but has yet to appear for England in any form of limited-overs international, impressed the selectors with an unbeaten century for Hampshire in their domestic Twenty20 quarter-final win over Lancashire.

The 32-year-old left-handed opener was the only uncapped Twenty20 player in a squad missing rested star batsman Kevin Pietersen but set to be led by regular England T20 captain Stuart Broad.

England’s squad contains just two players who’ve featured in the current Ashes Test series against Australia, in Broad and fast bowler Steven Finn.

If selected in the opening match, on August 29, Carberry will make his England Twenty20 debut on his Hampshire home ground.

“With only eight international T20 matches until the ICC World T20 next April, this series is an important chance for players to show they are capable of performing well at this level,” said England national selector Geoff Miller after announcing the squad.

“The two matches will also allow Ashley Giles (England’s limited overs coach) and Stuart Broad an opportunity to look at a number of different options.

“This squad combines players with plenty of international experience with players who have impressed at domestic level and who deserve an opportunity to test themselves in an international environment against what will no doubt be a strong Australian side.”

England squad:

Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire, capt), Ravi Bopara (Essex), Danny Briggs (Hampshire), Jos Buttler (Somerset, wkt), Michael Carberry (Hampshire), Jade Dernbach (Surrey), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Michael Lumb (Nottinghamshire), Eoin Morgan (Middlesex), Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire), James Tredwell (Kent), Luke Wright (Sussex)


Aug 29: 1st T20, Southampton

Aug 31: 2nd T20, Chester-le-Street

Digital-only TV the new reality

11th February 2019 | Closed

The federal government’s roll-out of digital-only television has surged, with Adelaide becoming the first capital city to go all-digital.



Analogue signals have been switched off this week for over half-a-million Adelaide homes.


Tasmania and Perth are set to follow later in April, with the process to be completed in capital cities by the end of this year.


So what does the digital television era hold for Australia and how will it change lives?


Darren Mara has the details.


The switch to digital is being hailed as a breakthrough moment for television viewing in Australia.


Analogue TV signals are being switched off around the country: region by region, city by city, home by home.


Those wishing to continue watching their favourite daily soaps will need to either get rid of their old analogue TV and buy a new digital one, or buy a digital set-top box.


A box can cost from around $50 for a basic model, right up to $1,000.


The national digital drive is being led by the Federal Government’s Digital Switchover Taskforce.


Taskforce executive director Nerida O’Loughlin explains the significance of the move to all-digital.


“The conversion to digital is probably the biggest move in television really since the introduction of colour television in the ’70s, so it is a really significant change. What we’ll probably find is that over time, the broadcasting industry, like most other places, will improve their technology and introduce new versions of digital. But we’re not looking at any major new technology coming down the pathway for a considerable length of time.”


Once the spectrum currently taken up by analogue signals is freed up, it will be auctioned off by the government for new services such as mobile broadband.


Ms O’Loughlin says the main benefit for viewers in watching the new digital spectrum will be more choice.


She says this will have particular benefits for people living in rural and remote parts of the country.


“Digital provides 17 free-to-air channels, whereas with analogue there are only five television channels available. And in some cases of Australia, particularly more remote areas, they only ever had access to four analogue channels so there’s a real boost in terms of the numbers of channels that can be provided; better quality pictures, better sound and the widescreen format that people have got used to with their DVDs.”


Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the digital rollout should be completed by the end of this year.


Tasmania and Perth are to make the switch to digital later this month, followed by Brisbane in May, Darwin in July and Sydney and Melbourne in December.


But there have been some concerns the rollout is behind schedule.


Joanne Jacobs is a digital adoption expert with digital marketing firm 1000-Heads and adjunct associate professor of creative industries at Queensland University of Technology.


She says there have been delays in the digital rollout.


“At this stage it’s a bit open to when we can actually get all cities and regional centres operational. There was an idea to have it finished by now, in the earlier days when we were discussing it. Now it’s looking like 2015 to 2017 depending on the region.”


The government says over 200,000 homes have taken up its Household Assistance Scheme for people on selected pensions who need help setting up their digital boxes, or who can’t afford the new system.


Ms Jacobs says this has been one of the major challenges for the digital rollout.


“The major issue really is going to be ensuring that those people who are not necessarily technologically adept are adequately serviced by the switchover teams that are coming into houses and helping people to set up those boxes.”


The drive towards digital has had one notable side-effect: tens of thousands of old and disused analogue TVs.


The South Australian government’s recycling body, Zero Waste SA, has been helping promote the recycling of these TVs in the lead-up to the national digital switchover.


Zero Waste engagement program manager Simone Cunningham says 20,000 unwanted televisions were collected in the two months leading to the changeover in regional South Australia alone.


She says the message to all Australians as the country goes digital is to recycle responsibly.


“What we’re really trying to do here is educate people that placing it on a curb or giving it to a charity is not the right thing to do for your old televisions and computers. It costs around about $20 per television or computer to recycle it. We don’t want to pass those costs on to either local government or on to charities who just don’t have the capacity to deal with that.”


Switch dates:

Tasmania April 9

Perth April 16

Brisbane May 28

Darwin July 30

Sydney December 3

Melbourne December 10



Smith denies Afghan detainee mistreatment

11th February 2019 | Closed

Defence Minister Stephen Smith has rejected concerns raised by a Sydney-based advocacy group over allegations that Australian forces in Afghanistan mistreated Afghan detainees in their custody.



The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has obtained a report, under freedom of information laws, detailing claims by Afghan detainees that they were subjected to humiliating public searches of groin and buttocks areas, as well as poor food and cold cells.


However, Mr Smith claims comparable seaches occur in police lock-ups around Australia and the federal opposition claims some militants could be fabricating their complaints.


Michael Kenny reports.


The allegations have been put forward by Afghan detainees captured by the Australian Defence Force and held at a United States military prison near Bagram air base between 2010 and last year.


Along with the allegations of invasive body searches, the detainees also claim that the warmest blankets were kept back as a reward for the best-behaved prisoners on freezing winter nights.


There were also complaints about water quality, lack of progress in having cases reviewed, medical problems and long waiting lists for dental work.


The Public Interest Advocacy Centre says the documents have been heavily censored by the Defence Department in a report released on its website.


The centre’s Chief Executive Officer Edward Santow believes the department should be more transparent, particularly given Australia’s stated commitment to international human rights conventions.


“Australia, under international law, must ensure that detainees are treated humanely and Australia has this obligation even after transferring detainees to one of its allies- like the U-S or Afghanistan and some of the documents raise very concerning things like invasive body searches conducted in public and that sort of thing and they clearly raise serious concerns and need to be investigated further.”


In statement to parliament, Defence Minister Stephen Smith has strongly defended the actions of Australian forces in Afghanistan.


He says that from August 2010 to mid-May 2013, there have been almost 200 allegations of mistreatment against Australian forces in Afghanistan.


Mr Smith says almost all have been assessed as being unfounded, although five remain under review.


He believes the Australian public should therefore be proud of their troops’ record in Afghanistan.


“Australia approaches its responsibility for treating detainees with dignity and respect, with the utmost seriousness and its committed to managing detention matters in accordance with our domestic and international legal obligations. Australia’s detainee management framework for Afghanistan has two priorities- first, removing insurgents from the battlefield where they endanger Australian, Afghan and ISAF* lives and secondly to ensure the humane treatment of detainees consistent with Australia’s domestic and international legal obligations.”


Mr Smith says Australia has also demonstrated that it is prepared to take strong action when allies mistreat detainees in Afghanistan.


He says Australia has halted transfers of detainees to the Afghan-run detention facility in Tarin Kowt following concerns from Australian officials over prisoner abuse there in March.


Mr Smith says he was aware of the reports citing complaints by detainees captured by Australian soldiers and held in the U-S facility at Bagram.


However he believes there is a distinct difference between complaints about conditions and actual mistreatment and he believes all detainees held by Australian troops have been treated humanely in Afghanistan.


“International humanitarian law provides the basis for Australia’s detainee management framework in Afghanistan. The ADF has built a reputation over the years for professionalism. The ADF has prided itself on its high standards and it has a well regarded international reputation for doing so.”


The federal opposition’s spokesman on defence personnel, Stuart Robert, has backed Mr Smith’s remarks, saying he believes the Australian Defence Force is open and accountable for its actions in Afghanistan.


He says it is understandable that 175 of the 193 complaints related to treatment or an incident at the point of capture when militants would be most likely to complain about the conduct of Australian forces when they were resisting capture.


Mr Robert has told parliament, he questions the motives behind some of the militants’ complaints.


“The insurgents that we fight continue to fabricate stories even when conclusive closed circuit TV footage shows that what they are saying is absolutely, culpably and completely untrue. Again you can hardly find a greater dichotomy between the way we prosecute operations and the way our insurgents prosecute theirs.”


However Edward Santow from the Public Interest Advocacy Centre believes both sides of Australian politics have not been transparent enough about the nation’s military operations in Afghanistan.


Until there is more openness, Mr Santow believes the public can not make a firm judgement on whether Australia is meeting its international human rights obligations there.


“We think that the Department of Defence should be commended for making available the documents that they have. But also they should be strongly encouraged to be more transparent about the allegations of mistreatment and the investigations that have taken place. Clearly if nothing untoward has taken place, then there’s really very little in the way of national security and privacy that should stand in the way from being transparent about those investigations.”


NSW jobs on line in super stoush

11th February 2019 | Closed

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird says up to 8000 public sector jobs could be on the chopping block if Labor succeeds in forcing the government to pay superannuation increases on top of pay rises.


The government wants a compulsory 0.25 per cent super increase to be absorbed in pay rises, but Labor is determined to prevent this in the upper house.

Labor was jeopardising the finance of the state, Mr Baird told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.

“I would call on crossbenchers and the Labor Party to be fiscally responsible,” he said.

“In effect what they’re saying is ‘well don’t worry about trying to get back to surplus, throw it away, go further into deficit’.”

The government was just trying to live within its own means, he said.

“The other alternative is up to 8000 jobs come out of the public sector.”

In June the government was accused of re-writing the rule book by saying it would change a public sector wages policy regulation so the superannuation increase became part of public sector pay rises, which are capped at 2.5 per cent.

It came after the Industrial Relations Commission ruled public servants could get the compulsory super increases in addition to pay rises.

On Thursday the opposition said it would introduce a motion to disallow the new regulation when parliament resumes.

“This decision has effectively cut the wages of over 300,000 workers in NSW who are now paying for their own superannuation increases,” opposition industrial relations spokesman Adam Searle said.

The original wages cap regulation clearly stated superannuation was a guaranteed condition and not part of the cap, Mr Searle said.

“This is a mean and tricky manoeuvre allowing the O’Farrell government to put its hand into the pockets of every hardworking nurse, teacher, firefighter, police and public sector worker across the State,” he said.

From July compulsory employer super contributions rose from nine per cent to 9.25 per cent.