Em baixa, “Hoje em Dia” perde espaço na Record

Por conta dos baixos índices de audiência, o “Hoje em Dia” tem perdido espaço na programação da Record. O programa, que no passado, tinha quase 4 horas de duração, hoje tem 1h45. Atualmente, o atração registra uma média de 4 pontos, e tem constantemente é ultrapassada pelos desenhos do SBT.

Com a redução programa, a exibição do “Fala Brasil” – que garante a vice-liderança isolada – tem se estendido. O telejornal tem mais de uma hora e meia de duração. Para conseguir ficar tanto tempo no ar, o jornal ‘vive’ de reprisar reportagens do dia anterior.

O Planeta TV

Air New Zealand aircraft makes emergency landing at Melbourne Airport

A passenger's picture taken aboard flight ANZ726, which suffered an engine failure this morning on take-off. Photo / Supplied

An Air NZ A320 has made an emergency landing at Melbourne Airport after experiencing engine trouble shortly after takeoff.

A pilot on board Flight NZ726, which had 145 passengers and six crew on board, made a mayday call soon after taking off for Auckland just before 8pm last night.

Emergency services, including eight fire engines and police, rushed to the airport but the flight landed without incident.

Kiwi comedian Jeremy Elwood was on board and tweeted soon after it landed.

“In all my years of flying, I just had my first turnaround due to engine failure. Hello again, Melbourne!”

When asked on Twitter what the engine failure sounded like and whether the passengers could hear it, Elwood said: “Nope, all very calm.

Plane just turned around. Fire engines waiting for us when we landed but no fire.”

Mr Elwood told Radio New Zealand this morning passengers were told a problem with the right engine had forced the emergency landing.

“They didn’t make any announcements during the flight itself.

“The captain came on immediately after we landed and explained that there had been a problem with one of the engines and he apologised for not talking to us sooner, but they’d been busy which is quite understandable,” he said.

The problem was reportedly with the right-hand engine, Mr Elwood told Radio New Zealand.

“The power to the in-flight entertainment system sort of went out abruptly which was apparently connected in some way,” he said.

The flight path of ANZ726. Photo / Flightradar24.com
The flight path of ANZ726. Photo / Flightradar24.com

Air NZ spokesman Andrew Aitken said passengers affected by the emergency landing would be accommodated on other services today.

A yet to be identified engine fault caused the engine to stop working, he said.

There was no suggestion any of the other 20 Airbus A320 aircraft in Air New Zealand’s fleet were at risk of fault.

The emergency landing came a day after Air New Zealand was rated the world’s second safest airline to fly with by leading air travel website Airlineratings.com.

Qantas was the safest of the 448 airlines rated, having never had a fatality in the jet era.

 

The New Zealand Herald

North Korea rejects South Korea’s offer of holding family reunions

By Kim Kwang-tae

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) — North Korea on Thursday rejected South Korea’s proposal to hold reunions of families separated after the Korean War, but hinted that reunions may take place in “a good season.”

The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said the North could not hold reunions around the Lunar New Year, citing recent military drills in South Korea and its separate joint military exercises with the United States scheduled for between late February and late April.

“Can the separated families and relatives have reunions in peace amid gunfire?” the committee handling inter-Korean affairs said in a message to South Korea’s unification ministry.

The North’s rejection came three days after South Korean President Park Geun-hye called for a resumption of the reunions, one of the highly emotional issues for aging people in the two rival Koreas, around Lunar New Year’s Day.

Lunar New Year’s Day, which falls on Jan. 31 this year, is one of the biggest holidays in both Koreas, on which family members and relatives usually gather.

The move also came eight days after the North’s leader Kim Jong-un called for “a favorable climate” to improve inter-Korean ties and pledged to make aggressive efforts for better relations in his New Year’s message.

Still, the North’s committee said that South and North Korea “can sit together in a good season,” if there is “no other thing happening on the South’s side and if the South’s side has intent to discuss the proposals of our side.”

The committee did not elaborate on a specific time frame for family reunions.

South Korea said the North’s demands may refer to Pyongyang’s repeated calls for talks aimed at resuming a tour program to Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain resort on North Korea’s east coast.

South Korea suspended the tours to the mountain resort following the shooting dead of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean guard in 2008. North Korea has since repeatedly called for the resumption of the tour program, which served as one of a few legitimate revenue sources for the cash-strapped country.

Another North Korean demand may be its longstanding demand that South Korea and the U.S. stop their annual joint military exercises, which Pyongyang claims are a rehearsal for a nuclear war against the North.

The U.S fought on South Korea’s side in the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. It keeps about 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against the North.

The unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, expressed regret to North Korea for linking military drills to a humanitarian issue. It also said family reunions and talks on the North’s mountain resort are two separate issues.

Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said South Korea will go ahead with its joint military maneuvers with the U.S., noting they are defensive in nature.

Last year, the sides agreed to hold family reunions at Mount Kumgang, a scenic mountain resort on North Korea’s east coast, but Pyongyang abruptly called them off at the last minute.

The divided Koreas have held more than a dozen rounds of reunions since their landmark summit in 2000, bringing together more than 21,700 family members who had not seen each other since the 1950-53 Korean War.

There is no direct means of contact between ordinary civilians of the two countries that remain divided by a heavily fortified border.

The committee said the North is glad that South Korea has proposed family reunions and said its message “expressed the stance of our side to make efforts for the improvement of the North-South relations in the future, too.”

The unification ministry called on the North to show its sincerity toward the improvement of inter-Korean relations through “its actions, not words.”

South Korea’s rival political parties denounced the North’s response in unison.

“We express deep regret,” Yoo Il-ho, spokesman of the ruling Saenuri Party, said in a press briefing. “It is disappointing that North Korea rejected family reunions, which are a purely humanitarian event separate from politics and ideology, by linking them with the annual joint military drills.”

Yoo also reminded the North that there is no time to lose as the separated families are growing old in age, and he called on Seoul to wait patiently for a positive response from Pyongyang.

Chyung Ho-joon, floor spokesman of the main opposition Democratic Party, called on both Seoul and Pyongyang to make the reunions happen out of consideration for the separated families.

“There can be no difference in position between the government and the ruling and opposition parties when it comes to the reunions,” he said. “There should also be more active efforts to expand civilian exchanges, including the resumption of tours to Mount Kumgang.”

entropy@yna.co.kr

hague@yna.co.kr

(END)

Yonhap News Agency

Korea strengthens incentives to lure multinational firms

Attracting foreign direct investment emerges as a policy priority

President Park Geun-hye meets CEOs of foreign-invested firms at Cheong Wa Dae on Thursday. (Yonhap News)

Korea will offer strong incentives to potential foreign investors in a bid to attract more foreign direct investment.

The move came as part of government efforts to dig up new sources of revenue amid stagnant economic conditions.

“In an effort to create more value from FDI, the priority for our policies will be to offer stronger incentives for multinational companies seeking to relocate their head offices or research and development centers to Korea,’’ Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Yoon Sang-jick said Thursday.

“For this, the ministry will issue a certification to such foreign firms that will make them eligible for an array of incentives, including a permanent income tax reduction for employees.’’

The comments came during a luncheon meeting between President Park Geun-hye and dozens of leaders from the foreign business community at Cheong Wa Dae.

The closed meeting was designed for President Park to encourage the foreign business community to increase investments to Korea by presenting them with recent improvements in the foreign business environment.

The four heads of the U.S., EU, German and Japanese business chambers in Korea and 21 CEOs of multinational firms here, including GE Korea, General Motors Korea and Siemens Korea, joined the luncheon, the ministry said.

In her opening remarks, President Park reportedly assured them of the government’s strong will to improve the foreign business environment and attract more foreign direct investments.

In 2013, a U.N. survey ranked Korea as 31st of 207 nations in FDI inflow, which is far below its GDP ranking at 15th.

Another main point of the improved FDI attraction policy presented by Minister Yoon was the revised foreign investment promotion act, which allows the establishment of a joint venture firm between a third-tier company of a local conglomerate and a foreign partner firm.

“We expect that the revised act could lure additional investments from foreign companies, which have considered a joint partnership with chaebol with a big buying power at home and abroad,” said an official from the investment policy team under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

To improve the living environment for foreign residents, the nation’s satellite TV stations will expand English subtitle services, while the Korea Immigration Service will offer foreign business people better services.

Following the minister’s presentation was a session for the invited businesspeople to discuss their additional investment plans and challenges and difficulties that they have faced while doing business here, Cheong Wa Dae said.

Thilo Halter, president of the European Chamber of Commerce in Korea, advocated for a predictable business and regulatory environment during the meeting, the EUCCK said in a press release.

The foreign business community has insisted that the government should launch a bold deregulation drive to lure more foreign investments and has complained of the continued increase in labor costs here.

By Seo Jee-yeon (jyseo@heraldcorp.com)

Invest in Defection, Not in North Korea

North and South Korean flags

 

Between 1959 and 1984, the years of the so-called “homecoming of North Korean compatriots” movement, more than 90,000 Koreans then residing in Japan moved to North Korea. Most travelled of their own free will, but all were beguiled by a fallacious portrayal of North Korea, and the majority boarded the ferry across the East Sea in the belief that they would arrive on the other side in an “ideal society.” Repression and surveillance thereafter meant that there was little they could do once they realized the nature of the regime they had stepped into.

 

A not insignificant number of these former Japanese residents have since gone on to escape from North Korea, creating what I see as an opportunity for the international community to look clearly at the inhumanity of the North Korean regime.
Indeed, I recently heard news that, a few months ago, a North Korean defector acquaintance of mine received an earnest, ardent request from ten North Koreans, all former residents of Japan now living in the city of Kimchaek in North Hamkyung Province. The group wanted my friend’s support in order to defect either to Japan or South Korea. In the city of Hyesan in Yangkang Province, my former home, many of the people who had once been resident in Japan also defected, some to Japan and others to the Republic of Korea. I know of others still in Hyesan who desperately wish to defect.  

 

The ferry that carried this repatriate cargo, the “Mankyungbong” would soon become a byword for the movement itself, which began with a group of 975 Koreans departing the port city of Niigata on December 14th, 1959. North Korea was convinced, it seems, that the pro-Pyongyang relatives of repatriated compatriots would provide a stable inflow of cash and assets.

 

Upon their arrival the repatriates learned immediately that they had been duped by the North Korean propaganda and agitation, but if they showed their discontent or resisted in any way they were imprisoned without trial in political prison camps including Yodok. Many others were internally exiled to the mountains, where they were obliged to live out their entire lives in considerable hardship.

 

On repatriate, Jang Song Hwan attended Pyongyang Medical College and was at one point a promising gynaecologist. However, his mother, who had been active in the Pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (hereafter Chongryon), was falsely accused of being a double agent and taken as a political prisoner. Overnight, Jang was hauled off into the mountains, where he suffered subhuman discrimination and contempt, while his mother was subjected to eighteen years of solitary confinement and torture. She was later found innocent and released, but it was too late; she had already been paralyzed from the waist down. The North Korean authorities neither apologized for this nor compensated the family for the untold hardships that they had undergone. 

 

Ordinary North Korean residents felt secretly rather envious of their repatriated compatriots. For the most part, they yearned for the financial resources and commodities that could seemingly be supplied by relatives in Japan. The truth was, however, that a sizeable percentage of the repatriates either had no links to Japan or received no support from those links as did exist. This group was thus even more severely discriminated against and lived a more difficult life than most ordinary North Koreans.

 

However, those repatriates with relatives actively serving in the upper reaches of Chongryon or with family that helped out financially did very well, and sometimes even had private cars. Ordinary North Koreans generally considered them rich because they had access to hard currency (Japanese Yen) and could eat and live relatively comfortably. They were a byword for wealth.

 

Without that link to money, however, they had nothing. For instance, the manager of Hyesan Byeongeon Beer Factory, for which this author previously worked, was born in Japan but moved to North Korea when he was 15. He had an extraordinarily hard time right up until his uncle, Mun Byoung On, a former vice president of the Chongryon Chamber of Commerce, gave huge amounts of money to the North Korean authorities on a number of occasions and his mother, who lived in Japan, began bringing bundles of Yen to North Korea annually. The man instantly became a successful and wealthy factory manager.

 

It didn’t last, however. Though the son of the factory manager later took on his father’s business, which was the only business in the province run in a private manner, when the older man died of a stroke and the funding from Chongryon dried up, he was swiftly banished to a rural area from which he didn’t return. The business was expropriated, and a new factory manager appointed.

 

Mun had earned the commendation of both Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il for his generous financial support for the regime, and thus met both on a number of occasions. However, positive treatment for repatriates always ceased as soon as the funding from Japan ceased, and the official policy of friendship turned icy cold.

Extraordinarily, even in the 1980s Chongryon businessmen still had a lingering attachment to North Korea, and some ignored the past to set up joint venture companies costing significant amounts of money. However, there was not a success story among them, and none of the investments were recovered.That was just 30 years ago.

 

North Korea is keen to suck out a profit, but as soon as the profit dries up it ruthlessly casts operations and people aside. This is the lesson we have learned, and so many resources have been squandered in this manner. Frankly, if we were truly worried for the safety and well-being of our families in North Korea, we would help them to live in South Korea or Japan rather than pouring good money after bad into North Korea. That is the way to bring them happiness and peace.

 

Daily North Korea

Spy Tells of Her “Working Relationships”

File:Flag-map of North Korea.svg

 

Won Jeong Hwa, the recently released first female North Korean spy to be arrested and tried in South Korea, has been interviewed by South Korea’s “Channel-A,” a conservative cable TV provider owned by the conservative Dong-A group.

Now 40 years old, Won was arrested for espionage in 2008 and released in July this year after serving five years in prison. Originating from North Hamkyung Province, she worked in China earning foreign currency and participating in intelligence operations until dispatched to South Korea in 2001.

Speaking about her espionage actions, Won revealed that she deliberately initiated a relationship with a South Korean man in China in order to become pregnant, believing that her passage to the South would be easier as a result. Thereafter, while in South Korea, she came under suspicion after forming relationships with a number of military officers, and was eventually arrested in 2008 following a three-year investigation.

The former spy denied press reports at the time that she had been in a sexual relationship with the officers, claiming instead that they were working relationships. One of the officers was arrested for failing to report her to the authorities.

Upon the original news of her arrest, Rodong Sinmun, the publication of North Korea’s ruling Chosun Workers’ Party, published an editorial denouncing her as a “traitor of the country and people” and “human garbage covetous of money and riches; an irrecoverable fraudster.” The North also accused the South Korean government of fabricating the case, saying that “such lies linking the Chosun National Security Agency with her is an insult to our country’s dignity and government.”

Won has lived under police protection in South Korea since her release from prison. The child she gave birth to in South Korea is reportedly in state care.

Elsewhere, although she worked on the behalf of the North Korean state for many years, Won expressed surprise at the actions of left wing Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Seok Ki, who is currently on trial at Suwon District Court charged with conspiracy to commit a rebellion, the first such case in more than 30 years.

“I have no idea how a National Assemblyman could deceive the South Korean people and conspire behind their backs.” she commented.

 

Daily North Korea

Denis Rodman Apologizes for Kenneth Bae Outburst

 

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman has apologized for yesterday’s outburst in which he refused to defend Kenneth Bae, an American citizen currently in detention in North Korea.

Associated Press received an email from Rodman explaining, “I want to apologize. I take full responsibility for my actions. It had been a very stressful day. Some of my teammates were leaving because of pressure from their families and business associates. My dreams of basketball diplomacy was quickly falling apart [sic]. I had been drinking. It’s not an excuse but by the time the interview happened I was upset. I was overwhelmed. It’s not an excuse, it’s just the truth.”

Rodman made his initial comments at a press conference in Pyongyang alongside a group of former NBA stars. The group travelled to the North Korean capital to take part in a basketball match with a North Korean team in commemoration of the January 8th birthday of Kim Jong Eun.

Rodman lashed out at CNN anchor Chris Cuomo when the issue of Kenneth Bae was brought up. Cuomo tried to get Rodman to speak on behalf of Bae, but Rodman responded aggressively, declaring, “Do you understand what he did in this country?” before adding, “No, no, no, you tell me, you tell me. Why is he held captive here in this country, why?”

Rodman went on to declare that he was in North Korea to make progress through cultural exchange, and toward the end of the interview implied that his work would allow the “door to open” in future.

However, in a separate interview, Anderson Cooper interviewed Kenneth Bae’s sister, Terri Chung, who revealed that the Bae family had been “shocked” and “outraged” by Rodman’s outburst. “He was in a position to do some good and to help advocate for Kenneth,” Chung said. “He refused to do so. But then instead he has chosen to hurl these outrageous accusations against Kenneth.”

Rodman is the highest profile American to meet Kim Jong Eun thus far in the latter’s short reign. Prior to yesterday’s match, he offered up a stilted rendition of “Happy Birthday” for the North Korean leader, followed by a small bow. Kim was in the crowd with wife Ri Sol Ju and a number of other members of the North Korean ruling elite.

Inside sources in North Korea revealed to Daily NK yesterday that a select group of Chinese businessmen and Workers’ Party cadres was also present, having been invited to visit the capital to celebrate Kim’s birthday.

 

Daily North Korea

North Plays Holding Strategy on Family Reunions


North Korea

South Korea

 

North Korea today rejected South Korea’s proposal for a round of separated family reunions over the upcoming Chinese New Year holiday, but left open the possibility of face-to-face dialogue in the future.

A message conveyed to the Ministry of Unification in Seoul by North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland asserted, “On the South side, war exercises go on without end and large scale combined [U.S.-ROK] military drills will soon take place. Could scattered families and relatives reunite with peaceful hearts amidst the shells and bullets?”

“Scattered families and relatives’ reunions were originally raised by us last year and reached the stage of being put into action, but then they could not be realized due to the arrogance and hostility of the South side authorities,” it went on to allege, suggesting that South Korean media, experts and the authorities have been acting “counter to our sincere efforts.”

North Korea often cites such reasons in order to reject proposals that are not seen as in Pyongyang’s strategic interest. Military exercises, in particular those involving U.S. and South Korean troops (“Key Resolve,” “Foal Eagle” and “Ulchi Freedom Guardian”), are cited particularly frequently.

However, North Korea didn’t slam the door shut, either. “If the South side’s proposal for reunions of scattered relatives and families over the New Year stemmed from a sincere desire to reduce the pain of division and improve North-South relations, then [we would see it as] good,” the notification declared. “If nothing else takes place on the South side and there is the intent to discuss our proposal together then we will be able to [talk] at a good time.” In other words, reunions can take place only if other offensive actions do not.

Experts have interpreted North Korea’s response as a rejection of South Korea’s proposal but with room to maneuver left behind. This has been done to avoid responsibility for deteriorating bilateral relations, particularly after Kim Jong Eun made mention of improving relations in his New Year’s Address. There is the assumption in some quarters that the North is hedging, and may opt to issue a counter-proposal, one more suited to its own interests, once the task of cementing internal security and stability following the purge of Jang Song Taek has been completed.

Yoo Dong Yeol of the Police Science Institute told Daily NK, “The North does not have any interest in the concept of separated family reunions, and we can see here that they will only take part if it can be made advantageous to themselves. They had hoped to connect the issue of reunions with that of tourism at Mt. Geumgang, but as soon as the South drew the line on that they started thinking of other methods of obtaining benefits.”

Yoo added, “After discussing unprofitable separated family reunions, North Korea can start laying down conditions that the South cannot meet, like demanding apologies for ‘offending their highest dignity.’ This kind of counter-insistence and talking about combined military exercises means they are trying to shift responsibility for worsening relations onto the South.”

“From the North’s perspective, their internal situation is not under control following Jang’s execution, and if they accept the separated family reunions they think they may lose the upper hand in South-North relations,” Song Dae Song of the Sejong Institute explained. “Outwardly, North Korea’s official policy toward South Korea is that they want to create an atmosphere of reconciliation, but behind the scenes they want to force the Park Geun Hye administration into a corner. However, they have not yet been able to carry this through.”

He added, “Going forward, the North will continue to find fault with the ROK-U.S. joint military drills and the trial of Lee Seok Ki and his underground RO [Revolutionary Organization]. They will go to great pains to establish a strategy that can earn them the initiative over the South.”

 

Earlier today, spokesperson Kim Eui Do of the Ministry of Unification said of North Korea’s rejection of reunions: “[The government] expresses its regret that the North has tied a scheduled annual military training exercise to a humanitarian issue. The North side must show sincerity not merely by talking about improving North-South relations but by acting on it. We urge the North to come with sincerity to our side’s proposal to restart separated family reunions.”

 

Daily North Korea

Fertilizer Tasks Looming Large

File:Flag of North Korea.svg
Ordinary citizens in North Korea are off to a busy start to the year, with the authorities ordering the people to procure quantities of fertilizer for the coming agricultural season.
A Daily NK source residing in northerly Yangkang Province confirmed that the regime is promoting 2014 as the year of “putting farming first,” and have been pestering the people right from the outset.
The source recounted, “Out of the blue, a people’s unit meeting was called last night where it was announced that in previous years, presenting a bribe may have bought you a fake certificate exempting you from fertilizer tasks, but that such certificates would not be recognized this time around.”
Citizens are supposed to produce fertilizer from the beginning of the year until March, but problems emerge when people cannot take time out from trade, the main means of survival for many. They are faced with no choice but to present the relevant farm management committee with a bribes of alcohol or even money in a bid to exempt themselves, the source explained.  Presumably in anticipation of such moves, the authorities have decreed that fertilizer now be delivered in person.
“Last year the production quota for each household was a total of 1.5 tons of (human) excrement, animal manure and humus.  This year they have raised the quota to 700kg of excrement and one ton of humus.  Humus can be procured from communal areas, but people are at a loss as to where they are supposed to source that much excrement.”
“Students on vacation are also sourcing fertilizer.  They are loading it onto sleds and taking it to the nearest farm,” the source went on, before adding, “Some workplaces are issuing threats to their workers, saying, ‘If you don’t bring a sack full of fertilizer when you come into work, you’ll be marked as absent without leave.’”
These new developments echo Kim Jong Eun’s New Year’s Address, where he promised a greater focus on the farming sector in order to “achieve economic construction and improve the lives of the people.”
However, “The tasks designated to the people are burdensome, and mobilization for farm work can only be more frequent than last year. They are driving home the importance of producing fertilizer, while in the same breath heralding the bumper harvest year.”
“Last year there were a lot of people who planned to just steal excrement (to meet their quota). This year it’s sure to get even worse,” the source predicted, before explaining that, “Some attendees at the people’s unit meeting were saying they were just going to out to a farming village to buy it.  Others made snide remarks: ‘Don’t you have to eat in order to produce it anyway?’ and ‘So much is demanded of us, even though we don’t get anything at all.’”
Daily North Korea

Turn-back angers Indonesia

January 10, 2014

David Wroe

National security correspondent

Australia’s turning back of at least one asylum-seeker boat to Indonesia has sparked political anger in Jakarta, with senior politicians warning it could further damage the already fraught relationship.

The anger came as video emerged of Australian Navy personnel boarding an asylum-seeker boat, whose passengers claim they were intercepted near Darwin and towed back to Indonesia over a period of six days.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Prime Minister Tony Abbott Photo: Andrew Meares

And the Australian customs ship, the Ocean Protector, preparing to leave Singapore is understood to be carrying 10 large lifeboats that will be used to send asylum-seekers back to Indonesia if their own boats are unseaworthy.

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Mahfudz Siddiq, head of the Indonesian Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, demanded Foreign Minister Julie Bishop sit down with his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, ”as soon as possible” to explain.

”The situation is not helpful. It will get worse for our bilateral relations,” he told Fairfax Media. ”Unless the situation is handled soon, I fear it will deteriorate further after the spying affair and the end of our military co-operation. I worry if the issue of people-smuggling is not resolved … it will inflame [this].”

Susaningtyas Nefo Handayani Kertopati, a member of the Indonesian Parliament’s oversight commission on international affairs, urged Jakarta to make a stern response to Australia, which she accused of having an ”extreme attitude” on people smuggling.

”The government should not be ambivalent or hesitant in addressing Australia’s extreme attitude. It must deal with it seriously,” she said.

Seven News on Thursday night aired mobile-phone footage purportedly filmed by asylum seekers of Australian Navy personnel boarding their boat. The asylum seekers claimed they were intercepted near Darwin on January 1 and towed for six days back to Indonesian waters. Some told Fairfax Media they were mistreated.

The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, rejected these claims, saying in a statement that Defence personnel operated in difficult and unpredictable condition yet ”consistently demonstrate great compassion and courage, often at great risk to their own safety”.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, meanwhile, continued to fend off accusations of excessive secrecy after days of media reports that at least one asylum-seeker boat had been turned back. Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is still refusing to say whether he will continue to front the media in regular briefings, as he did last year.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the government was ”treating the Australian people with a lack of respect”. But Mr Abbott said he would rather be criticised for being ”a bit of a closed book” and stop the boats, than release more information about the Coalition’s policy.

Immigration and Defence personnel will, however, be forced to front a Greens-initiated parliamentary inquiry on January 31 that could reveal more detail about their border protection operations. Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said: ”It’s ridiculous that we’re currently finding out more from the Indonesian Military and media than we are from our own government.”

It is understood that the Abbott government’s silence over the controversial policy of turn-backs is smoothing the way for Jakarta to tolerate the practice.

General Hurley was recently assured by his Indonesian counterpart, General Moeldoko, that the Indonesian military would accept boat turnarounds.

It is understood that shifting the sensitive issue to a military-to-military level is going some way to placating Jakarta, provided that the Australian government says little about the practice.

Officials at Singapore’s Sembawang shipyard confirmed to Fairfax Media that the ACV Ocean Protector was in port there. It is understood the Ocean Protector has been loading 10 large lifeboats, which, as Fairfax Media reported earlier this week, could be used to return asylum-seekers to Indonesia. The Ocean Protector is the type of vessel the Abbott government had previously pledged to send to the Southern Ocean to monitor Japanese whaling before reassigning the vessel to border protection operations instead.

Meanwhile, Australian journalists reporting on asylum seekers detained on Nauru could be charged a fee of $8000 for a three-month visa, raising concerns about media freedoms. Nauru’s cabinet has endorsed the price rise – from $200 to $8000 for the media visas – but it has not yet passed into law.

The Sydney Morning Herald