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Senior churchman challenged in abuse probe

Written By prayud samsah on Selasa, 24 Juni 2014 | 14.05

Brian Lucas has been asked to explain why he didn't take notes when interviewing abusive priests. Source: AAP

BRIAN Lucas, the senior churchman who former NSW premier Barry O'Farrell wants sacked, has been asked at a royal commission to explain his practice of not taking notes while interviewing abusive priests.

FR Lucas, the general-secretary of the church's national body the Conference of Bishops, was making his second royal commission appearance in two weeks on Tuesday.

Justice Peter McClellan questioned Fr Lucas's practice at a Sydney hearing in which the commission is looking at how the Catholic Church, under its own canon law, deals with priests and others against whom allegations have been made.As a member of the church's special issues committee in 1993, Fr Lucas interviewed John Gerard Nestor, a priest in the NSW Wollongong diocese, who was defrocked by the Vatican in 2008.The senior cleric said on Tuesday that he did not take notes because it helped the men he interviewed tell the truth.He also said he did not take notes after interviews but usually passed on the "outcome" of the conversation to the priest's superior over the phone.Fr Lucas said the conversations were "very difficult, very robust", and taking notes would destroy the dynamic."I understand that but what about a note immediately after the conversation?" Justice McClellan asked.Fr Lucas repeated what he said at the Cuneen inquiry in NSW and at an inquiry into the Marist brothers in Canberra last week: that he had promised confidentiality and taking a note after the conversation would have breached that.Justice McClellan asked how it helped to persuade someone to admit they have done wrong if you tell them that you are not going to take a note.Fr Lucas: "Because the consequence of them admitting that they have done wrong would be to move them to the next step."The next step could be dismissal from the ministry, he said.Justice McClellan asked him if he understood the "logical problem" with that approach, because if they told the truth there would be inevitable consequences.He asked if his role was just to talk to a priest and pass on his denial or confession to his superior.Fr Lucas said that, at that stage, he was just being asked by a bishop to do carry out a certain task.In a speech to parliament last week Mr O'Farrell called for Fr Lucas to be stood down for failing to report child sexual abuse to police.The former premier also criticised the church's response to Commissioner Margaret Cunneen's damning report in late May into the alleged cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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Former Vic premier taped criticising MPs

FORMER Victorian premier Ted Baillieu has criticised his MP colleagues in a leaked recording of a conversation with a journalist.

IN the audio recording of Mr Baillieu and a journalist from The Age, reportedly circulated via email to sitting Victorian MPs, he refers to independent MP Geoff Shaw, upper house Liberal MP Bernie Finn and his "crazy mates" and federal government minister Kevin Andrews.

"Shaw has been sponsored into his position by a bunch of people from the very first day led by Bernie Finn and some of his crazy mates in the parliamentary team, and a very senior member of the organisation who is very close to Kevin Andrews," Mr Baillieu is heard saying on the recording.Premier Denis Napthine would not be drawn on the tapes, dismissing them as a sideshow."These are matters for Ted Baillieu," he told reporters.Mr Baillieu's office was not commenting.The Liberal Party, however, issued a statement saying it was aware of the email."The email was sent from someone alleging to be an Elizabeth McRobert. There is no one with that name who is a party member in Victoria," he statement said."It is unclear who is responsible for the distribution of the material but we note that Fairfax Media is seeking legal advice over the matter and stolen recording devices."The Age editor in chief Andrew Holden believed the reporter's tape recorder was stolen after the May state budget and the audio was copied."We don't know who took possession of the recorder, failed to return it to us, and then cut out the Baillieu interview," he said."Clearly we are deeply concerned, it was a confidential discussion and would never have been published by The Age."

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WWII plane wreck find off WA gives closure

A WRECK hunter and historian who claim to have discovered the debris of a crashed World War II plane off the West Australian coast say the find has provided closure to the family of one of the deceased airmen.

THE RAAF Beaufighter plunged into the ocean off Cable Beach in Broome on September 18, 1944, killing Sergeants Ronald Kerrigan and Ronald Smith.

In the days after the crash, searchers uncovered nothing.But local historian Dion Marinis and helicopter pilot Jim Miles say they've found the wreckage, using a combination of sidescan sonar, metal detection and diving.Mr Miles, an experienced wreck hunter, said it was spread over a large area."Initially, we found a piece of window frame off the aircraft two years ago and some stringers which hold the fuselage together," Mr Miles told ABC radio on Tuesday."We managed to match that window frame up with an example of the real aircraft. That was the big breakthrough."After obtaining new underwater imagery a month ago, the men were doing a diving survey over the weekend when they found both engines, a significant piece of fuselage, the tail section and a wing.The pair have mapped the site in detail and submitted the information to the WA Maritime Museum and RAAF Missing in Action unit.Mr Marinis said he had been keeping the sister of Sgt Kerrigan abreast of developments throughout the two-year search."She's very happy that the aircraft is now found and knows the final resting place for her brother," he said.He said the woman was "very surprised"."She didn't think we were going to find it. She's been very grateful and supportive."The family has wanted closure for some time."He said the pair had not been able to track down the Smith family.Mr Marinis said the Broome Shire supported proposals for a memorial at Cable Beach and a dawn service in September to mark 70 years since the crash.

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Abbott carbon tax repeal in home straight

Written By prayud samsah on Senin, 23 Juni 2014 | 14.05

Prime Minister Tony Abbott will personally reintroduce a bill to axe the carbon tax. Source: AAP

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott will personally reintroduce a bill on Monday to axe the carbon tax as his government lags Labor in the polls.

THIS week's sitting is the last before the Senate changeover, after which eight mostly conservative-leaning crossbenchers will hold the balance of power.

The government wants to ram the carbon and mining tax repeal bills through the lower house by the end of this week, setting them up for debate when the new Senate sits from July 7.However, the government has a shortage of political capital, the latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll shows.Labor leads the coalition 53-47 in two party-terms and 47 per cent of voters rate Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister - seven points ahead of Mr Abbott.The budget remains a serious problem for the government, with 61 per cent regarding it as unfair.A separate poll by the Climate Institute shows a softening in opposition to the carbon tax, down from 52 per cent in 2012 to 30 per cent.Mr Abbott has invited the crossbenchers for talks on passing the government's key policies."I say to the crossbench senators, if you want to save the families of Australia $550 a year there's a very easy way - scrap the carbon tax," Mr Abbott said."That's what this parliament was elected to do."The prime minister said the coalition was taking climate change "very seriously" by proposing to invest $2.5 billion in "sensible, practical measures".Asked about the polls, Mr Abbott admitted the government was going through some "challenging times".Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer will announce his position on the carbon tax repeal bills on Wednesday.With the three PUP senators, the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party's Ricky Muir, Family First's Bob Day and the Liberal Democrats' David Leyonhjelm, the government should have enough support to repeal the tax.Budget changes to seniors payments and welfare spending won't have as easy a passage, with Families Minister Kevin Andrews admitting they won't pass in time to start on July 1."We will obviously give people a new indication of when the changes will come in once we have some sense of what the Senate might do," he said.An interim report overhauling the payments system by Mission Australia chief Patrick McLure will be released in the next fortnight.

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Jodhi Meares charged with DUI

Jodhi Meares is heading to court after allegedly being caught drink driving in Sydney's east. Source: AAP

JAMES Packer's ex-wife Jodhi Meares will face court in August on drink driving charges after crashing into three parked cars in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

THE 43-year-old had to be rescued from her Range Rover, which rolled after the smash in upmarket Bellevue Hill on Saturday night.

The fashion designer, who is engaged to rocker Jon Stevens, was given a roadside breath test before being taken to the local police station.Police say she recorded a 0.181 blood alcohol reading, almost four times the legal limit.She was charged with drink driving and driving while suspended and is due to appear at Waverley Local Court on August 5.It's reported Meares could face the possibility of 18 months in jail and a fine of $3300.After a long engagement, Meares and Stevens were reportedly planning to tie the knot in September.

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Vic firies will be paid for mine fire: MFB

Victorian firefighters have begun legal action to recover wages owed since the Hazelwood mine fire. Source: AAP

FIREFIGHTERS involved in battling Victoria's mine fire will be paid outstanding entitlements for their efforts this week, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) says.

THE United Firefighters Union (UFU) has started Federal Court action against the brigade to recover wages owing since the 45-day fire at the Hazelwood coal mine began on February 9.

The legal action concerns 240 MFB firefighters, who are each owed an average $4000 out of a total overtime bill of more than $6 million.The MFB says all outstanding payments it is aware of will be paid this week."We have provided assurances to staff that everyone will be paid all of their entitlements," acting deputy chief officer David Bruce said in a statement on Monday.The UFU says firefighters worked up to 20-hour days on their days off during the Hazelwood coal mine fire but that the MFB is unable to account for who was there.However, Mr Bruce said it had taken considerable time and effort to recognise and verify attendance records, given the size and nature of the incident.The summer's fire season involved the largest deployment of firefighters outside the MFB's immediate area of responsibility, he said."Understandably, the MFB's focus at that time was to provide assistance to the community through efficient and effective deployment of resources across the state," he said.The UFU's Peter Marshall said the legal action for firefighters' entitlements would continue despite the MFB's assurances they would be paid this week."They've been saying that every week. Show me the money is the response to that," he said."If in the interim period they pay, that's good. but to date we ain't see the money despite many assurances."Firefighters shouldn't have to wait that long and the MFB should meet their legal requirements."

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Political blame game over childcare costs

Written By prayud samsah on Minggu, 22 Juni 2014 | 14.05

Childcare costs have rocketed 150 per cent in the past decade, a report shows. Source: AAP

WORKING mothers are losing 60 cents of each dollar they earn to rising childcare costs but Australia's politicians haven't found a way to ease the situation for now.

INSTEAD they're blaming each other for the worsening crisis in childcare affordability.

Childcare costs have skyrocketed 150 per cent in the past decade, with only electricity and tobacco prices rising at a faster rate, a new report claims.Parents returning to full-time work after having a child can now expect to lose up to 60 per cent of their gross income to childcare fees, loss of benefits and higher income tax rates.Mums from low income families who return to full-time work may take home as little as $4.55 an hour, the research from financial services firm AMP and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling found.Assistant education minister Sussan Ley regularly meets women juggling childcare with returning to work."There is crisis and struggle and desperation when you talk to mums who just don't know what to do with the work-family balance," she told reporters in Melbourne."It's not fair for families to have to live within a system that is as unsustainable as the one that Labor has left us with."The Productivity Commission is due to deliver its initial report on childcare to the government next month and the final version in October.Ms Ley expects the government will have some solutions for parents in early 2015.But the opposition says the government can do one thing to help right now: abandon plans to freeze childcare payments."They cannot justify standing up and attacking low and middle income families time and time again and this report shows that Australia can't afford it," opposition childcare spokeswoman Kate Ellis said.Labor was worried many women wouldn't return to the workforce after having children because of the difficulty of finding and paying for childcare.The AMP-NATSEM report said 630,000 Australian families pay for "long day" childcare, which can cost up to $170 a day per child.The national average childcare fee has risen 150 per cent since 2004. Childcare generally costs more in cities compared to regional areas and more in wealthier suburbs than less affluent areas.Fees have risen faster than petrol, education and healthcare costs.While the number of children in childcare has risen steadily over the past decade, about 60 per cent of children from working families are still cared for by grandparents, relatives or friends.

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Newman says ALP wrong on TAFE fee rises

QUEENSLAND'S premier has accused the opposition of playing Nostradamus over TAFE fee increases.

LITERACY and numeracy fees for disability pensioners have risen from $140 to $800 while tuition fees for a diploma in marketing have increased from $2400 to $6000, Labor says.

It predicts that fees will go up even more as previously subsidised courses incur full fees and a new Queensland Training Assets Management Authority makes TAFE campuses pay full commercial rent.But the Liberal National government insists there is no link between course costs and infrastructure arrangements.Premier Campbell Newman said hefty TAFE fee increases would be unlikely when asked about Labor's predictions."It's interesting to see they're playing Nostradamus," he told reporters on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday."I don't believe that's the case."TAFE is being re-focused so it meets the needs of employers so we create jobs."Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the government had a secret agenda, after Labor uncovered leaked TAFE documents which say "costs could increase again for the start" of the first semester in 2015.They are answers to student questions and comments such as, "Are costs likely to increase next year?" and "I feel ripped off"."We've now heard of secret plans where TAFE fees are going to be skyrocketing in this state," Ms Palaszczuk told reporters.Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek insists fees aren't actually rising, with a spokeswoman explaining in a background statement to AAP that subsidies were being reduced to some courses that didn't align with skills shortage areas.

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Qld premier coy on chief justice pick

QUEENSLAND'S premier has held his first media conference in five days, but was coy when questioned about his government's controversial selection of Tim Carmody as the state's new chief justice.

SINCE Campbell Newman last stood before reporters, Judge Carmody's controversial addition to the Supreme Court has been approved by the state's governor.

Judge Carmody's meteoric rise has divided the judiciary, with critics arguing he's too inexperienced and too close to the government.But Mr Newman has declined to offer any new comment on the appointment of Judge Carmody, even though Court of Appeal justice John Muir has joined senior legal figures in slamming the appointment process."Go back to what I've said when I announced it about a week and a half ago," Mr Newman told reporters on the Sunshine Coast."You've got my comments."Late last week, Governor Penelope Wensley issued writs for the July 19 Stafford by-election, where the ruling Liberal National Party is considered the underdog despite its seven per cent margin.Asked why the media wasn't invited to that event, Mr Newman pointed to his June 5 speech to parliament."The announcement was made in parliament, look at the record," Mr Newman said, adding media weren't usually invited for by-election declarations."I've held many press conferences since I made the announcement in parliament."Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk accused the premier of hiding from voters during the past week, with Mr Newman's last media conference on Tuesday in Mount Isa."The premier has been in hiding now for over a week, afraid to front the music, afraid to talk to people in this state," she told reporters in Brisbane.The premier was on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday holding a community cabinet in Maroochydore, which is also in Clive Palmer's federal seat of Fairfax.A cabinet meeting is being held in the same beachside suburb on Monday.It would come three days after Mr Palmer lodged a defamation writ against Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney in the Supreme Court, after he alleged on the ABC that the mining tycoon had sought special favours for his Waratah Coal interests in the Galilee Basin in 2012.Mr Palmer is also suing Mr Newman for defamation after the premier claimed that he tried to "buy" the Queensland government.

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Thailand disappointed at US blacklist

Written By prayud samsah on Sabtu, 21 Juni 2014 | 14.05

THAILAND says it is disappointed with a decision by the US State Department to blacklist it for its failure to do enough to fight human trafficking.

BUT the southeast Asian country vowed it would continue to fight the scourge.

The United States on Friday released its assessment of how governments around the world have performed in fighting the flesh trade and other forms of exploitative labour.The report lowered Thailand to its lowest ranking, "tier 3". President Barack Obama has 90 days to determine whether to apply sanctions which could hurt Thailand's lucrative seafood and shrimp industries.Sihasak Phuangketkeow, permanent secretary of Thailand's foreign affairs ministry, told reporters on Saturday in Bangkok that Thailand had stepped up its struggle to combat trafficking.

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