Monthly archive for ‘ June, 2019 ’

Economic management takes centre stage

11th June 2019 | Closed

The economy has taken centre stage on the second day of the election campaign with both sides of politics claiming the high ground in terms of economic management.



A decision by the Reserve Bank to drop official interest rates has sparked a flurry of claim and counter claim about what the decision means for the Australian economy.


Amanda Cavill reports.


The Coalition says the further drop in interest rates signals a deteriorating economy and bad news for business and consumers.

The Reserve Bank has cut official rates from 2.75 per cent to 2.5 per cent – its lowest level in 23 years.


Coalition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says the cut shows Labor has lost control of the economy.


“The Reserve Bank would not be cutting interest rates if it were not for the fact that Australian economy is struggling. And Kevin Rudd doesn’t get it. It doesn’t understand that interest rates are being cut at the moment because the economy is struggling, not because it is doing well.”


Joe Hockey says interest rates on average should be lower under a Coalition government – pointing to the Howard government’s record.


Opposition Leader Tony Abbott won’t promise that this would be the case.


But says the economy would always be stronger under a government led by him.

“Well, we are not going to chloroform the economy and a chloroformed economy, you only have to look at some countries overseas to see what happens when you chloroform the economy. Sure interest rates are low. But economic activity is almost non existent. What I say is: the economy will always be stronger under a Coalition government. Taxes will always be lower under a Coalition government.”


Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has seized on the two men’s comments, saying it just shows the Coalition can’t even agree on its own policy.


“Can I say if you have got the alternative Prime Minister and the alternative Treasurer within 24 hours having a fundamental public blue (argument) about interest rates policy and about the budget bottom line. This not only suggests they are in a shambles but questions their fitness for office. These are serious matters.”


Mr Rudd says former Liberal Prime Minister John Howard went to the 2004 election campaign saying interest rates would always be lower under a Coalition government.


Mr Rudd says this was proven to be completely untrue.


But Mr Howard has told Sky TV interest rates must be looked at in context.


“A wise man once said “context is everything” and the context in 2004 was who was better to deliver lower interest rates in a booming economy: the then Coalition government, or the Labor Party opposition? The circumstances now are quite different. I mean if anyone is seriously suggesting that this is a testament to our economic management. I mean look at some of the nations of Europe. They’ve got virtually zero interest rates and their economies are not moving.”


Meanwhile, there has been further debate on the issue of how much the Coalition’s policy promises would cost.


Joe Hockey has confirmed the Coalition will not provide a final projected budget figure before the election.


Kevin Rudd says that’s just not good enough and the electorate needs to know exactly what spending cuts would be made to implement the Coalition’s policies.


“That is not acceptable in a democracy. I had to do it in 2007. Everyone before us has had to do that. It’s Mr Abbott simply trying to run away from where the $70 billion will be cut in basic services in health, education and jobs.”


Mr Hockey says individual Coalition election policies will be fully costed but adding them up to forecast a final budget deficit or surplus would be meaningless.


He says that’s because the starting point would have to be the Treasury’s current projections, and they are not credible.


Cafe serves up world’s best refugee help

11th June 2019 | Closed

It isn’t your typical cafe.



It started by just offering a cup of tea and a chat but now the Parents’ Cafe is offering a whole lot more to refugees in Sydney’s southwest.


What began as a small initiative to try and involve refugee families in their children’s schooling has grown to include a community kitchen and garden, a small catering service and hub for education and information services.


And Fairfield High School’s social inclusion program has also received widespread recognition, with the UNHCR describing it as a model for settlement best practice.


Peggy Giakoumelos reports.


“We’re currently in the teacher’s common room but what we’re having a look at is.. we’re having a look at some of the parents from the parents’ cafe preparing lunch for a couple of events that are going on at school. There’s a group of parents who will be coming in to participate in some learning a little later on. What you’re seeing here is, you’re seeing our parents actually cooking a variety of their foods from their home country that they will be putting together as a meal to serve each of those groups a little bit later on today.”


That’s the Deputy Principal of Fairfield High School, Mark Sargeant.


He’s standing in the kitchen of Fairfield High School’s Parents’ Cafe – a government-funded initiative that tries to involve the parents in the school.


What started out as a weekly cup of tea at the school’s Intensive English Language Centre has expanded into something beyond English classes.


“That’s Indian biriyani, vegetarian and the other is not veg. This one is with meat, chicken, other stuff and we make the chicken it’s called chicken tikka and other stuff is tandoori chicken also that we put in the oven and we make felafel, tabouli, some salad for the Parents’ Cafe. I love cooking at that’s why I do this. We’re cooking every Thursday. We cook for the parents.”


Asmaa Yousiff is a refugee from Iraq and she’s been involved in the Parents’ Cafe for four years.


So keen were the parents to expand their group beyond their weekly cuppa, that the idea for the Cafe was born.


While it’s open to anyone, the Cafe primarily caters to refugee parents – many of whom are recent arrivals from Iraq and who have settled in Fairfield, a suburb in western Sydney.


In 2011 there were almost 3,500 refugee students in government schools in the local area, compared to 208 for the rest of Sydney.


The school’s principal, Robert Mulas (moo-lass), identified a need to help connect refugee parents in the local community with their childrens’ schooling – hence the birth of the Cafe in 2009.


“The original aim was to look at the needs of the parents from our intensive English Centre children, so these were parents and families. Obviously the children who had come from some other background probably from a camp, probably from overseas, probably correctly entered Australia, because we don’t really enter into that debate our discussion and we thought that they needed extra support. Their children were being supported in the classroom with teachers in the Intensive English Centre but the parents needed extra support. So we employed a community liaison officer and we started a process of looking at a number of things which involved breakfast clubs for the kids, meetings for the parents and we said maybe we can do this better. And this concept of meetings came up and we needed to give it a name. There was a suggestion of calling it the Parents’ Cafe – and not a cafe to teach them to make coffee but a cafe where they sat around in comfortable situations and discussed issues of concern.”


The Parents’ Cafe was formalised with the employment of a community liaison officer who works five days a week and the concept has expanded into southwestern Sydney to six other schools.


The Parents’ Cafe was also profiled in a visit by Principal Robert Mulas in 2012 to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ 60th anniversary meeting.


The head of UNHCR, Antonio Guterres, has praised the Parents’ Cafe, calling it a good model for settlement demonstrating international best practice.


Haitham Jaju is the Community Liaison Officer at Fairfield High School and the Parents’ Cafe coordinator.


The former Iraqi diplomat came to Australia as a refugee with his family after war broke out in Iraq.


He’s put his diplomatic skills to good use in his new job – working to create networks between the school, the community and the government.


Haitham Jaju also helps organise weekly talks for those attending on a range of legal, tax, health and housing related issues.


“For this term we are focusing on legal issues, family, current events like the election very soon. This session is one of our topics for this term, to give an idea especially for the new arrivals who are eligible now. They get citizenship, they’re eligible to vote in the election. To have an idea of the process, what’s going on, what’s the differences between elections here and elections overseas. So when we have such people here they will clarify, they will ask questions on how to participate in this election.”


This session is about voting in Australia.


Wafaa Yousiff, a refugee from Iraq, has been in Australia for two years and is a regular visitor to the cafe.


She says coming here is one of the highlights of her week.


“Here it’s a wonderful group. Everyone here is like family. In Iraq I took everything and came here. And here I find it a big family. Everyone here just gives me love. That’s it. They don’t give me anything, just love. And I come here and I learn everything, especially learning English because you need it, you use if for everything, for shopping, for hospitals.”


The school also has a large community garden growing staples such as tomatoes, cabbages and eggplants alongside more exotic fare such as turmeric.


The garden allows parents and students to gain qualifications in horticulture as well as supplying food for the cafe.


The Parents’ Cafe has also set up a small-scale catering business.


Principal Robert Mulas hopes the programs initiated at the school will continue to be taken up elsewhere.


“The best case study I can give you is a mother in Australia for three days and on the third day she came to the Parents’ Cafe, seeking assistance, information and help. A lot of our parents are single parents with maybe four, five, six children that they may have had to come through camps, a convoluted way to get to Australia. We do as much as we can. The Parents’ Cafe has grown from what we could loosely call a social group to an information sharing group. Organisations want to come and talk to our parents. I think it shows massive success of what’s started out as a support group that’s now grown into a group that helps itself and works throughout the community and works with many other organisations. And I think that’s the success of it and the success we can highlight to other schools in particular but other organisations that would like to involve the community.”

Vic rape victim held in ‘cubby house’

11th June 2019 | Closed

A man allegedly used a disguise, a fake driver’s licence and chloroform, to track and abduct a woman he kept in a soundproofed room on a rural Victorian property.


Michael Allen Pilgrim, aka Mark Darcy, kept the woman chained up for five days in a soundproof “cubby house” he purpose-built on a Drouin property where he repeatedly raped her, the Victorian County Court heard.

Prosecutor Brett Sonnet told the court Pilgrim, a former aeronautical engineer, was highly educated and was meticulous in planning the July 2012 abduction.

Pilgrim created a range of false identities, ordered chloroform and nitric acid online and researched torture techniques, uses for prescription drugs and how to construct and use a propane crematorium, he said.

Mr Sonnet said Pilgrim, who came to know the woman when she was a sex worker, placed GPS-tracking devices on the victim’s car and her sister’s car, later telling her that if she tried to harm herself he would go after her sister.

Wearing a fake beard and hi-visibility vest he tracked her to a friend’s house, tasered the man who answered the door when he knocked, then struck him on the head with a pistol.

The prosecution alleges he then made the victim get into a car, threw her phone out the window and stabbed the electronic chips in her bank cards.

The court heard Pilgrim told her: “You better not play up because I really feel like carving someone up today.”

He took her to the rural property, padlocked her to the floor and told her he planned to keep her there to use her.

Pilgrim, 34, of no fixed address, has pleaded guilty to a string of charges, including four counts of rape, one count of false imprisonment, abduction and stalking.

Pilgrim also pleaded guilty to possessing explosive devices and child pornography material.

The 25-year-old victim escaped after she complained of severe stomach pains and told Pilgrim she had had a termination.

He allowed her to go to Warragul hospital, where she was diagnosed as having suffered an ectopic pregnancy.

Pilgrim attempted to contact her via a Facebook alias while she was in hospital.

He was apprehended in Sydney before being extradited to Victoria.

The plea hearing continues.

‘Testicle-munching’ fish found off Denmark

11th June 2019 | Closed

A Danish fisherman made an unusual find in his nets recently when he discovered a pacu, a sharp-toothed cousin of the South American piranha with a reported penchant for testicles.


“If they bite, they can bite hard … especially when they bite you where you really don’t want to be bitten,” joked fish expert Peter Resk Moeller of the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

However, he said that the pacu is not a meat-eater and normally does not attack people.

The rare find has spread across international media, who have jumped on the fish’s reputation as a “ball-cutter” for its reported attacks on men.

In a documentary for US channel Animal Planet in 2012, an expert on extreme fishing relayed anecdotally that some fishermen in Papua New Guinea had had their testicles bitten by pacus.

However, Moeller defended the toothy vegetarian’s eating habits.

“The fisherman was very surprised and a bit suspicious because this fish, the pacu, looks so much like a piranha but it is not a carnivore,” he said.

It is not known where the fish came from, but Moeller suggested it probably came from a local aquarium.

“It’s interesting to see that it survived in the Oeresund (Strait that separates Sweden and Denmark). Even if the water is not very salty we didn’t know it could survive the salt,” he said.

Moeller said it was hard to predict whether the pacu would now become common in Danish waters.

“Every time we have a fish of a new species you think you won’t find another one, but you never know.”

The fish is however farmed in North America as food.

“I’ve heard it’s very good, I would like to try it,” Moeller said.

England bounce back in women’s Ashes

11th June 2019 | Closed

England have struck back in the battle for the women’s Ashes, beating Australia convincingly in the second one-day international to square up the series.


A fine knock of 81 by Australian No.3 Jess Cameron couldn’t stop the hosts bouncing back from defeat in the opening ODI with a 51-run win at Hove on Friday.

The points-based, multi-format series is now level at four-points all with four games to play – another 50-over game on Sunday followed by three Twenty20 clashes.

Set a tough target of 257 after England won the toss and chose to bat, Australia were always on the back foot with openers Rachael Haynes and Meg Lanning both dismissed for ducks.

Reliable first-drop batter Cameron offered some hope but she received little support with spin bowler Jess Jonassen (34 not out) the second-highest scorer as Australia were bowled out for 205 in 48.2 overs.

“It (the loss) is a bit hard to take in at the moment,” said Cameron, who passed 1000 career ODI runs during her knock.

“There’s a lot things we need to work on but there’s a lot of positives we can take out of today and there’s a few more games to go yet.

“We’re looking forward to getting out here on Sunday and proving why we’re ranked number one in all formats.”

England had five different wicket takers with Katherine Brunt and Holly Colvin claiming two each.

The hosts made 6-256 from their 50 overs with a strong team effort.

Captain and opener Charlotte Edwards’ top-scored with 53 and was backed up by handy knocks from Lydia Greenway (46), Arran Brindle (42), Sarah Taylor (32) and Heather Knight (31).

Jonassen (2-29) and Sarah Coyte (2-55) were the pick of Australia’s bowlers but the visitors must now regroup ahead of the third one-day match in Hove on Sunday.

The one-day world champions are chasing their first Ashes win on English soil since 2001.

The first match of the series, and only Test, was drawn.