ACT ready for bushfire season, despite hampered burn-offs

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DECEMBER 11 2017 

Michael Inman

ACT authorities has declared the territory well prepared for the coming bushfire season, despite having completed just 50 per cent of planned control burns in the past financial year due to poor weather or insufficient fuel loads.

However, ACT Parks and Conservation Service still managed to carry out 95.9 per cent of 2016-17 bushfire operations plan.

The service said the recent wet weather reduced chances of bushfires this summer.

The bushfire plan – which is prepared in consultation with the ACT Rural Fire Service, the ACT Bush Fire Council and the Emergency Services Agency – includes a range of activities designed to suppress and reduce the risk of bushfire in the territory.

The service said the bushfire plan listed 765 activities in the past financial year, with more than 730 completed.

 The activities include cattle grazing, slashing, and the removal and modification of flammable vegetation and bushfire fuel loads.

Twenty-four controlled burns had been planned, but only half could be completed due to adverse conditions.


The 12 successful burns during the financial year covered 516 hectares and focused on grasslands and areas around Canberra’s urban edge.

ACT Parks and Conservation Service said it had completed three burns this financial year, two ecological (Dunlop and Mulanggari) and one fuel reduction (Kowen) for a total of 226.3 ha.

The service’s senior fire management officer Tony Scherl said burns were usually undertaken in and around the ACT in autumn and spring, however, they could happen at any time of year if conditions were suitable.

He said the 50 per cent completion rate in 2016-17 was not a concern as more burns than could be completed were listed in the program to provide flexibility in the tight window.

“Several larger burns were planned for the areas in Namadgi National Park and around Tidbinbilla and Blue Range in 2016-17 but were unable to be completed due to weather conditions,” Mr Scherl said.

“There are many variables which determined if burns can take place.

“Conditions last Autumn were initially too dry and then rapidly turned too wet following rain in March in the forest areas to Canberra’s west with limited opportunities to commence these larger burns.”

Other methods of fuel reduction dwarfed the size of the burns program.

Mr Scherl said that during the past financial year, there had been 6041 hectares of strategic grazing, 4733 hectares of slashing in urban areas, 542 hectares of physical removal of fire fuels, and 437 kilometres of fire trail maintenance.

“Although these activities are often not as visible as planned burning, they are important measures to reduce bushfire risk in key areas around the ACT.”

Other new initiatives completed in 2016-17 included three new fire fighting vehicles, four remote portable weather stations to help with fire forecasting, a machine to measure wind to support the burning program, the green light to upgrade fire-fighting water infrastructure at Tharwa, and a program to measure moisture in various types of vegetation.

Overall, Mr Scherl said Canberra was “well prepared” for the coming fire season.

ACT Parks and Conservation director Daniel Iglesias said the recent heavy rainfall – more than 60mm in Canberra since the start of summer – had delayed planned burns, although the period from February to January usually presented the best conditions.

Mr Iglesias said rainfall had different impacts on the program, depending on the type of land.

In grassland, which were typically in and around urban areas, it reduced the risk of fire due to new green growth.

“On the flipside, when all the grass starts to dry out, there is more fuel due to the good growing conditions,” Mr Iglesias said.

“It can delay work preparations on autumn burns due to wet, boggy and, thus, inaccessible terrain.”

He said in mountain areas, such as Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla and the Cotter, the wet conditions kept mountain streams running and the ground layer moist.

“Which is good for lowering the chances of bushfires starting in these areas over summer,” he said.

“Prolonged wet conditions can mean bush fuels don’t dry sufficiently to enable prescribed burns in autumn, but it is too soon to tell if this will be a problem this year.

“We regularly re-evaluate our plans based on the weather and on-the-ground conditions.”

The Bushfire Operations Plan can be viewed online at the ACT Environment website.

‘Worst nightmare come true’: Man jailed for ‘terrifying’ Canberra sex worker attack

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DECEMBER 12 2017 – 4:44PM

Megan Gorrey

The attack was a worst nightmare come true for two Canberra sex workers; a “gross violation” of their workplace, their bodies and their safety, prosecutors said.

Threatened at knifepoint, dragged into a bedroom, robbed and repeatedly raped in a horrifying ordeal when one man booked an appointment before he showed up at the Reid unit with two others in search of “free sex and money” one night in March 2016.

Among the three attackers was Rashid Mohamed Abuuh, 24, who an ACT Supreme Court jury in September found guilty of sexual assault, rape, attempted rape and aggravated robbery in the company of two brothers.

Ahmed Al Abbasi, 32, also named as Khaled, and his younger brother Mohammad Alabbasi, 22, were each jailed for more than five years for two separate attacks on three sex workers at apartments in Reid and Braddon.

Justice Michael Elkaim echoed their sentencing judge’s description of the offending as “disgraceful” as he handed Abuuh three years and eight months’ imprisonment for his role in the Reid attack court on Tuesday.

 He said the fact the rape offences had been committed against sex workers did not lessen their severity.


“The victims were entitled to carry on their profession in safety and free from fear of molestation, rape and robbery by men masquerading as customers.”

Prosecutor Sara Gul said the offences were “extremely serious” and would have been “terrifying” for the vulnerable women, who were alone at the time and barely spoke English.


Source  :  The Canberra Times


The 20 hardest to fill jobs in Australia

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DECEMBER 12 2017 – 11:45AM

Chris Pash

Most jobs advertised in Australia are filled within a month.

Analysis by Indeed, the global jobs site, shows that Australia, along with the UK, has a world leading rate of 70 per cent of jobs being filled within one month.

In the US, only 56 per cent of jobs are gone in the first 30 days. In Germany, it’s 51 per cent.

In Australia, the jobs situation has been improving. Total employment now stands at 12.2971 million, the highest level on record. It has also increased in each of the past 13 months, the longest stretch of consecutive gains since July 1994.

GPs were not only number five on the hard to fill list but demand currently outstrips supply by more than 12 times, ...

The Reserve Bank of Australia last week made noises that falling unemployment is starting to create skilled worker shortages.

“Stronger conditions in the labour market should see some lift in wage growth over time,” it said.

These shortages are already visible in some key areas.

However, the employer still has the advantage in the jobs market, says Chris McDonald, managing director, Australia and New Zealand for Indeed.

But for some jobs, such as environmental health officer, the market is skewed in favour of the job seeker, with more than 48 per cent of jobs remaining unfilled after 60 days.

The majority of hard to fill roles belong to the healthcare sector from the likes of radiologists and dentists, to physios, home care nurses, care workers and medical receptionists.

GPs were not only number five on the hard to fill list but demand currently outstrips supply by more than 12 times, despite the job paying an average salary of $256,680.

Here are the 20 hardest roles to fill in Australia:

McDonald says Australia’s latest GDP figures show healthcare as one of the boom sectors for the Australian economy.

“It’s not surprising when you consider the increasing demand for health services by our ageing Baby Boomers which will require an ever-growing workforce to take care of them,” he says.

Food services has been another booming area of the economy and that, coupled with the recent crackdown on 457 visas, has resulted in chef roles being hard to fill.

Another on the hard to find list is recruitment consultant.

“At a time when countries are competing for top talent globally to drive innovation and economic growth, highly skilled recruiters who can deliver the right talent at the right time are in high demand,” says McDonald.

“Our data shows that employer demand for recruitment consultants, especially senior ones, outstrips job seeker supply by up to 11 times, the biggest skills gap in the Australian recruitment industry. As a result, 26.5 per cent of these roles remain unfilled after 60 days.”

South Australia and ACT topped the list with 73 per cent of roles being filled within 30 days, closely followed by Queensland at 72 per cent, and WA, Victoria and Tasmania at 71 per cent.

NSW (69 per cent) and Northern Territory (68 per cent) had the lowest rates of jobs filled within 30 days indicating that they are most favourable markets in Australia for job seekers.

This story first appeared in Business Insider. Read it here or follow BusinessInsider Australia on Facebook.

Coalition risks its majority in rush to skewer Bill Shorten over Sam Dastyari

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Mark Kenny


Call it smart, or perhaps crazy-brave. Noteworthy at least, that a government with a majority of just one chose right now to prosecute the most muscular case against a foreign power since the Cold War, while also contesting a byelection in a seat notable for that country’s nationals.

So eager is the Turnbull government to increase Bill Shorten’s pain over Sam Dastyari’s China connections, that it has dialled to 11 its anti-Beijing espionage/influence warnings, potentially alienating swathes of voters in Bennelong this Saturday.

And right on cue, Labor’s Kristina Keneally pounced, branding Malcolm Turnbull’s utterances “China-phobic rhetoric” that is causing alarm locally and thus harming John Alexander, the Liberal candidate.

As business interests – including universities – shift uncomfortably in their seats over the anti-China sentiments emanating from Canberra, the Liberal Party seems to have concluded that its 10 per cent margin in the Sydney seat is enough to withstand a small exodus of Chinese-speaking voters who feel insulted on the grounds of race.

For embattled Liberals, Shorten’s Dastyari problem is almost too good to be true – like manna from heaven.

Between the diminutive senator’s exquisitely drawn-out demise, and the marriage equality win last week, the Turnbull government is feeling better about itself than it has all year.

For embattled Liberals, Shorten’s Dastyari problem is almost too good to be true – like manna from heaven.

Between the diminutive senator’s exquisitely drawn-out demise, and the marriage equality win last week, the Turnbull government is feeling better about itself than it has all year.

But cost could yet be an issue. Unlikely as it is, a defeat in Bennelong would kill that morale stone dead, not to mention, erase its majority. If nothing else, Bennelong’s trend-defying “no” vote in the marriage survey was a reminder of the electoral weight of its traditionalist Chinese and Korean populations.

Labor insiders are playing down their prospects, noting that 10 per cent is a healthy buffer and that byelections where MPs have been forced out due to an eligibility problem, such as Lindsay (1996) or New England (earlier this month), have usually produced swings to the “sitting” MP.

Close observers of the Chinese population say it is a multi-layered constituency anyway, warning it is less inclined to vote as a bloc than many presume.

Meanwhile, Shorten and colleagues are lumbered with the same trite talking points which emphasise, lamely, that Dastyari has already “paid a high price” for his contacts with wealthy Chinese benefactors and for the nature of those.

But do voters really consider losing an obscure responsibility as deputy Senate whip while keeping a $200k job to be “paying a high price?” Unlikely.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

But do voters really consider losing an obscure responsibility as deputy Senate whip while keeping a $200k job to be “paying a high price?” Unlikely.


Source  :  WA Today

‘What are you saying?’ Malcolm Turnbull in heated clash over indigenous MPs Ken Wyatt and Linda Burney

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 Latika Bourke

Q&A hosted fiery and emotive scenes as Malcolm Turnbull was challenged about his record on indigenous recognition, culminating in a visibly offended Prime Minister urging his critics to support Indigenous MPs from both sides of parliament.

The Prime Minister was appearing as the sole guest on the program and received a grilling about issues from the MPs with dual citizenships, to the same-sex marriage plebiscite, the influence of the right-wing of the party, his views on climate change and, finally, the National Broadband Network.

But perhaps the most emotional exchange was with two Indigenous Australians over the government’s canning of an idea to enshrine an Indigenous voice in federal parliament in the constitution as part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart released earlier this year.

Mr Turnbull said that would effectively create a third chamber of parliament in addition to the House of Representative and the Senate, a view disputed by some Indigenous leaders, including the prominent coalition adviser Noel Person.

The Prime Minister said that he disagreed with Mr Pearson on this issue and said the cabinet, as well as every single MP with whom he has raised the idea, believed that the public would not back the plan.

He was then confronted by Teela Reid, who was part of the Uluru dialogue process.

“Why won’t you respect our proposal to take it to a referendum like you put marriage equality to the people because polls reveal up to 61 per cent of Australians are in support of this proposal?” she asked to applause.


Source  :  WA Today

Peter Dutton: The same-sex marriage postal vote worked but we shouldn’t use it again

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Almost 13 million Australians can’t be wrong. They took a decision to register their vote in the same-sex marriage postal survey. But, while an 80 per cent turnout was exceptionally high and the result clear, we shouldn’t use the postal vote process again.

This is not because the process lacked integrity – there can be no such claim.  Not because the critics picked holes in the non-binding nature of the outcome or their declaration that the whole thing was an abrogation of parliamentary responsibility.  Not even because of overhyped claims about people self-harming or advocates for or against same-sex marriage in a sophisticated country like ours being able to conduct themselves in a civil way as they took part in a public debate.  No, the reason is the nature of this issue and the significance of a proposal to fundamentally change a social foundation stone that dictated the break-glass option of the postal plebiscite.  The postal plebiscite is not a tool for garden variety issues of public policy.

For many of us, we live and breathe politics and enjoy public debates, but for the vast majority of Australians the three-yearly trudge to the polling booth is driven only by its compulsion. The turnout rate indicates Australians were motivated by the significance of this issue.

And while the debate was largely respectful, some of the most vocal on both sides of the debate failed to appreciate the passion and the emotion of the other side. The religious influence (particularly in many ethnic communities), or the emotion of watching a gay child or grandchild in a committed relationship – that is what stands this issue out from almost any other decision a government might make term to term.

Public pressure had built significantly and in 2014 the Abbott government faced a dilemma on the issue of the definition of marriage.  From the time a decision was made (for good reasons) to adopt a plebiscite as the means of dealing with the issue, change was inevitable.  For many the adherence to a traditional view of marriage was based around religious belief.  With several notable exceptions, church leaders in Australia were silent or advocated a “yes” vote, including Jesuit priests in Sydney! Coupled with low church attendance rates the “no” case was never going to be won on the basis of adherence to religious belief.

The plebiscite policy was taken to the 2016 election and still Labor would not support the plebiscite bill through the Senate.  It was particularly galling given Labor had six years under Rudd and Gillard to legislate and didn’t.

In a one-seat majority Parliament every member is empowered and becomes “the one” crucial vote.  The reality was people were prepared to cross the floor to force a vote on same-sex marriage given we could not deliver on our commitment to deliver the plebiscite.

Malcolm Turnbull, cabinet and, ultimately, the party room had the courage to back the next-best option, the postal plebiscite that, because of its non-compulsory nature, did not require legislation.  Other options, including a free vote, would have killed the government at the next election because this was an issue of significant interest to Liberal and National voters across the country as evidenced by 5 million Australians voting “no”, many of them members and supporters of the Coalition.

People who claim we should have proceeded straight to a free vote fail to recognise our election commitment on an issue of this nature could not be broken.

The significant legal issues and funding of the postal vote were properly managed by Mathias Cormann, making the option possible and the rest is history.

People will be critical saying legislation should have been passed months ago. But given the voluntary expression of view by 8 million people and the emphatic “yes” vote that followed in the Parliament, the legitimacy given to this significant social change was infinitely greater than a shabby vote in the Parliament with people crossing the floor. The 5 million who hold a legitimate “no” view would have felt cheated and would not have accepted the process and outcome.

Coalition supporters are patriotic and respect our rule of law. Even those of us who voted “no” in the plebiscite, accept the “yes” outcome because a fair and respectful postal vote delivered a democratic result. The postal vote means same-sex couples have received a legitimacy to their marriage that could not have been delivered through a parliamentary vote alone

Next year, away from the shadow of the marriage debate, there is a legitimate discussion to be had around religious protections.  There will be many people who voted “yes” or “no” to same-sex marriage who will support sensible measures around religious and parental choice.  It, too, should be a respectful debate.

Source  :  WA Today

FFA want the USA, Germany and England to play the Matildas in Australia

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 Anthony Colangelo

Football Federation Australia is keen to lure the world’s top three soccer teams – the United States, England and Germany – to Australian soil to play the Matildas.

The FFA’s strongest push is being directed at the world No.1 ranked side the USA, who the Matildas have only played twice in Australia out of their 14 meetings since 2000.

The Matildas beat the USA for the first time on their way to winning the 2017 Tournament of Nations, taking their overall record against the USA to one win, two draws and 24 losses.

Fairfax Media understands there is a push from Matildas coach Alen Stajcic to make a clash against the USA the first game to be held at the new Parramatta Stadium, which will be complete by mid-2019.

The women’s World Cup will be played in June-July 2019, so depending on the completion of the stadium, the fixture would most likely happen after the World Cup.

FFA’s head of community, development and women’s football Emma Highwood didn’t confirm or deny a desire for the potential Parramatta Stadium game but did reveal the federation’s aim to play the USA on home soil.

“We have been in discussions with the USA so we will continue those discussions and we think that it would be a massive opportunity to get them here,” Highwood said.

“We are aiming to get the USA here because they are the best team in the world. And if we want to win a World Cup we need to get used to beating these teams … to keep building that momentum is not just about a one-off. We need to be regularly beating these teams.”

Highwood also said the FFA wanted as many games as possible in Australia against Germany (world No.2), England (world No. 3) and Canada (world No.4)over the next few years.

Talks are also under way with the Victorian government about securing a regular series against one team or a number of teams in Victoria on the back of the recent games against China.

“We’d like to explore a regular series – if it’s two teams that’s fine – ideally you would want more of a cup style with more countries coming to Australia. But at this stage we are open to exploring that whether that’s Asian or European.

“We have got a lot of great Asian countries that are really strong like China, Japan, the Koreans. I think we are pretty open to exploring whether that’s Asian or not, or even New Zealand.

“From an FFA perspective it’s an opportunity for us to take the lead and actually start to think about developing our own kind of Tournament of Nations or own regular tournaments on home soil.”

The Matildas are confirmed to play in the 12-team Algarve Cup in Portugal in February-March 2018, the Asian Cup in Jordan in April 2018 and another Tournament of Nations in the USA during their summer.

Despite a packed 2018, Highwood said fitting in as many home games as yearly schedules would allow was imperative to continuing the success – commercial and on-field – of the Matildas.

“It’s important for us to keep the momentum going,” Highwood said. “We have the Matildas playing on home soil so we can continue to build the fan base and stay connected to grassroots which is really important.

“We need to have regular home games particularly if we are to build the commercial asset of the Matildas. It is great to have a brand but you need the opportunity for partners to connect and activate and they can only do that when the Matildas play at home.”

Source  :  The Canberra Times