Qantas in crosshairs over chemical spill

Queensland’s environment department has issued Qantas with an investigation notice over a toxic chemical spill from one of the airline’s hangars at Brisbane Airport.

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About 22,000 litres of firefighting foam containing the chemical PFOA was leaked from the hangar, with about a quarter of the foam believed to have made it into local waterways.

The department’s executive director, Andrew Connor, said the notice put the onus on Qantas to monitor and report the effects of the spill.

“That will ultimately hold Qantas accountable, as the polluter, with undertaking ongoing investigation and monitoring,” Mr Connor said on Friday.

“Part of the notice will require Qantas to be doing monitoring of marine animals, like fish and crustaceans and even smaller animals within that food chain, so that over time of exactly how that chemical is behaving.”

The environment department on Friday revealed the preliminary test results for the waterways around the spill site, in particular Boggy Creek, which shows levels of the chemical have dropped to safe levels for recreational purposes.

However, warnings remain in place to avoid eating marine animals caught in the area.

More testing is being done to give a clearer picture of chemical levels, with the department pushing to release the results as soon as this weekend.

Queensland’s Liberal National Party Opposition has criticised the government for not having more concrete results at this stage.

The LNP had previously taken aim after the leak was only made public on Good Friday, three days after Qantas had alerted the state environment department.

“The state government’s communication and management of this issue has been a stuff-up from start to finish,” LNP environment spokesman Dr Christian Rowan said.

“Had they done their job properly and acted immediately, water tests could be back by now.”

Environment Minister Steven Miles disagrees, saying they had to wait before launching their response.

“I spent a couple of days last week incredibly frustrated that the federal government refused to tell the public about the spill,” Mr Miles said.

“On Thursday night when I received advice from the chief health officer, that was the first occasion that the state had definitive advice that we could provide to people.”

Mr Miles has called on the federal government to join Queensland in banning the foam, and called on Qantas to replace it with an alternative.

The leak has dealt another blow to the local prawn industry, which is already struggling with an outbreak of white spot disease.

The fisheries department has granted exemptions to beam trawlers to work further out in Moreton Bay, while other types of fishers such as crabbers and net fishers can simply move to other areas.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce late on Friday issued a letter to commercial seafood operators saying the airline took its environmental responsibilities “very seriously” and was treating the incident as high priority.

He said Qantas had brought in a specialist company to assist with the clean-up and was working with authorities to determine the impact of the spill.

Call to improve Nauru, Manus health care

A parliamentary inquiry into immigration detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island has been scathing of the health care offered to asylum seekers and refugees.

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A Labor and Greens-dominated Senate inquiry has been examining allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect, as well as conditions at the centres.

It released its report on Friday afternoon, which called for an urgent independent review of medical transfer procedures.

The committee was extremely concerned patients transferred for medical treatment to the mainland were being sent back too quickly.

It also urged the government to look at ways to improve medical treatment options and mental health services for asylum seekers and refugees on both islands.

It recommended an external audit into all incident reports during the life of the detention centre contract of Transfield (now known as Broadspectrum Australia).

The report said incidents downgraded in severity needed to be analysed.

Government senators on the committee dismissed the inquiry as “a politically motivated public-relations stunt” and disputed the merit of the recommendations.

“The report is highly speculative and relies consistently on anecdotal evidence, second- and third-hand reports, and on unsupported allegations that are presented as fact,” deputy chair Ian Macdonald and David Fawcett said in their dissenting report.

Labor immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said Manus Island and Nauru were set up as regional transit processing facilities but have become places of indefinite detention because of the inaction of the Turnbull government.

Greens senator Nick McKim hit back, saying the inquiry had heard shocking evidence of appalling and unacceptable conditions at the detention centres.

He said there had been a systemic failure of the Australian government to adequately respond to the allegations.

He called for a royal commission and the immediate closure of both centres.

‘No choice’: Government cuts off funding for Islamic School of Canberra

The Islamic School of Canberra has been stripped of its federal government funding after it failed to meet the education department’s demands that it improve its governance and financial management.

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The independent school was receiving around $1 million in public money every year.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham’s office released a statement saying the department had “no choice” but to cut off funding from July 1. 

The department put the school on notice in December 2015, warning that the school was failing to meet standards and community expectations. 

The school lost its funding in April last year, but had it reinstated in September after it promised to make improvements. 

“Schools receive significant taxpayer funding. Australians rightly expect that every taxpayer dollar committed to school education is genuinely expended on school education and for the benefit of students,” Mr Birmingham said in his media release. 

“My Department’s concerns centre on the Islamic School of Canberra’s independence, financial management and governance arrangements.”

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SBS News contacted the school for comment, but was advised both the principal, David Johns, and the chairwoman, Azra Khan, could not speak “at the moment” as they were busy preparing the school’s public response. 

Students are due to return from school holidays next week.

“Our attention now turns to working with the students and their families, the teachers and the whole school community about how we best support them through this difficult time,” Mr Birmingham said. 

The school is still registered by the ACT Government and can continue to teach, but it is unclear whether the school could be financially viable without Commonwealth support. 

The school has 30 days to seek a review of the decision, Mr Birmingham’s office said. 

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Turnbull shares grandfather’s war letter

Malcolm Turnbull has shared his grandfather’s story while paying tribute to a generation of Australians who enlisted in World War I, only for many to never return.

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The prime minister was visibly moved while reading from a letter his grandfather Fred, a 22-year-old schoolteacher from the Macleay River who served on the Western Front, sent to his parents during the conflict.

The letter, reprinted in Kempsey’s Macleay Chronicle in May 1917, carried solemn news of the deaths of several soldiers from the region.

It told of Fred Turnbull’s fortune in meeting various people he knew, an expectation of further battles, and his determination to continue fighting until peace was secured.

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Mr Turnbull reflected on the letter at a reception for Spirit of Anzac Centenary Experience – a travelling exhibition on Australia’s involvement in the First World War – in Sydney on Friday.

“You can just imagine a whole class, a whole classroom, whole community, young men, all of the same age within a few years, all of their friends, there, in France, in the trenches,” he told those gathered, his voice wavering.

Days out from Anzac Day, the prime minister also spoke of the poignancy of exhibits in offering an insight into the loss, fear, hope and courage of war.

“An evolving tapestry of human triumph and tragedy,” he said.

Mr Turnbull said that among the most moving items was a pair of socks the sister of an Anzac soldier started knitting only to stop after hearing he died at Gallipoli, which she kept unfinished until her death at 92.

He was also touched by the Bell of Darwin, which rang through the night to signal the end of hostilities in 1918, and the shell case from the last shot fired at Gallipoli.

Out of context, each were mere objects but accompanied by stories and presented thoughtfully each were powerful symbols of the human face of war.

“They are stories of the lives of our servicemen and women. They are the stories of communities,” Mr Turnbull said.

The prime minister thanked those involved in the exhibition, which was visited by about 350,000 Australians over its 200,000km journey across the country since September 2015, for bringing the stories of Anzacs to life.

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Razed Melbourne RSL to rise from the ashes

A Melbourne RSL says it will rise from the ashes after its historic clubhouse was gutted by a fire sparked by an electrical fault just days before Anzac Day services.

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An early morning yoga class had a lucky escape as fire engulfed the Ivanhoe RSL on Friday morning, with much of the 1913 building and its historic features lost.

MFB firefighters took 52 minutes to get the fire under control, wearing breathing gear to conduct “an aggressive attack” on the flames.

Fire investigators have determined the blaze was started by an electrical fault in a ceiling fan in the club’s change rooms.

The club’s president, Fred Cullen, who turns 96 in June, was on the streets of the CBD selling Anzac Day badges when he heard the devastating news.

“I was invited to go (and see the damage) this morning, but I thought no, I’d be more of a nuisance,” Mr Cullen said in Melbourne on Friday.

“I thought I’d be better help by raising the funds that I raised; I got about $1500 this morning.”

Mr Cullen said the news was devastating, but the RSL and its members will continue to “rally around”.

“The RSL sub-branch still exists and we will continue doing our work and doing it well.”

Veterans Affairs Minister John Eren said the state was proud of Mr Cullen, who was wounded in Papua New Guinea in WWII, and the work he did at the RSL for 43 years.

“The least we can do as a government is make sure that we can get that RSL up and running as soon as possible,” Mr Eren said.

Secretary Jacqueline Maud, who has a small cottage on the property, said she was alerted to the fire by members of the yoga club.

“There was flames coming out of the roof,” Ms Maud said on Friday.

“It’s been virtually destroyed, but there’s certain parts they can’t go in yet because of the structure damage.”

It was feared that decades of Anzac memorabilia might have been lost, but Ms Maud said firefighters were able to save “a lot” of it.

Her husband was taken to the Austin Hospital with smoke inhalation but “he’s OK”.

The yoga teacher said they heard a sound, then 10 minutes later smelled smoke.

“(We feel) very lucky and very sad. It has been home to our studio for at least the last six or seven years. And the community here will be gutted,’ she told the Nine Network.

The MFB reminds people all electrical appliances should be regularly maintained, switched off when not in use, and replaced when faulty.

Snubbed Khawaja not pinning hopes on Ashes recall

The stylish number three suffered a further blow on Thursday when he was left out of Australia’s one-day squad for next month’s Champions Trophy in England and Wales.

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Being excluded from the nation’s formidable one-day team is nothing to be ashamed about given the batting riches at selectors’ disposal.

However, the India snub was a bitter pill to swallow for a player who had averaged 66.75 in the preceding test series against Pakistan after topping the runs list in a losing cause against South Africa.

Rubbing salt into the wounds, Khawaja was left to carry the drinks during the four-test series in India and watch his replacement Shaun Marsh manage only 151 runs at an average of 18.87 from his eight innings.

“The most frustrating thing for me was not to play those three ODIs in New Zealand,” Khawaja told Fox Sports (长沙桑拿,foxsports长沙桑拿按摩论坛,长沙夜网,).

“I got pulled out of that series to prepare for India and then not playing was a bit hard.”

The plain-spoken Khawaja has had a frosty relationship with selectors in the past.

As Australia lurched to an emphatic defeat in Sri Lanka last year, he was axed, somewhat harshly, for the third and final test along with opener Joe Burns.

He made his displeasure with selectors clear.

Still stinging from the omission, Khawaja told local media he and Burns were “scapegoats” for the team’s wider failures, an indiscretion that earned him a quiet “chat” with coach Darren Lehmann.

Former players and media pundits have repeatedly accused Australia’s selectors of being poor communicators and particularly ham-fisted in their handling of dropped players.

But Khawaja said there were no hard feelings from his India disappointment, with Lehmann having gone out of his way to let him down easily.

“To Boof’s credit I had a chat to him about all that stuff and he came up to me and he actually knew where I was at in that things had not worked out,” said the Pakistan-born 30-year-old.

Khawaja is likely to be restored to Australia’s top order for the Ashes, given the lefthander’s fine record on home pitches over the past two seasons.

But he has learnt not to look too far ahead.

“It is the pinnacle of cricket when you represent Australia — playing against the old enemy,” he said.

“But to be frank it is still far away and a lot can happen between now and the Ashes.”

(Writing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Security at Don Dale to be stepped up

Improved security cameras and electronic surveillance, better training and a full security audit have been recommended for the Northern Territory’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

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The Territory government has released a review of security arrangements at the controversial facility, which found a range of infrastructure and operational issues.

The government says it will move on improvements as a “matter of priority”.

Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield says the number of escapes at Don Dale in recent months is unacceptable and highlights the urgent need to address security problems.

“Every Territorian has the right to feel safe and expects their homes and businesses to be secure, especially from young offenders being held in detention,” she said on Friday.

Conditions inside Don Dale and the treatment of youths in the centre, east of Darwin, sparked the ongoing royal commission into juvenile justice in the Northern Territory.

Footage aired on ABC television showed inmates being tear-gassed, spit-hooded and shackled.

The review of the facility also came after a number of recent escapes, including in March and again earlier this month when two inmates fled through a window and were at large for more than two days.

It found that razor wire on the perimeter of the centre was not preventing escapes and described the effectiveness of electronic security equipment, including cameras, as dubious, with routine failures.

As well as infrastructure improvements, the review calls for more training for staff to better classify inmates, regular training exercises with police to improve the response to escapes, and the appointment of a security compliance officer.

Ms Wakefield said the government was not shying away from the work needed to fix Don Dale and the wider youth justice system, and work was already under way to implement the review’s recommendations.

“Improving services and facilities for youth in detention is one of many steps we are taking as part of our historic overhaul of the youth justice system,” she said.

Qld mayor denies donation wrongdoing

One of Queensland’s longest serving mayors says he was unaware property developers bankrolled half his election campaign through a trust until a recent corruption investigation.

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Allan Sutherland was re-elected to the Moreton Bay Regional Council in March 2016 on the back of large contributions from the Moreton Futures Trust.

A Crime and Corruption Commission investigation has heard this week that the trust received donations from several property developers to the tune of $137,000.

Mr Sutherland told the commission on Friday he knew the trust was paying for his campaign’s expenses but it was his wife Gayle who dealt directly with accountant and trustee Kirby Leeke.

“I’d be happy not to be involved in the money in any way, shape or form,” Mr Sutherland said.

He said he did not know property developers had made large contributions to the trust until recently when investigators first approached him.

The commission was told Mr Sutherland was suffering from serious health issues about the time of the election and did not check the trust’s disclosure form, which is publicly available on the state’s Electoral Commission website.

“It was probably the last thing on my mind,” he said.

The mayor’s own disclosure form shows he received more than $118,00 from the trust and does not list the individual developers.

Mr Sutherland said he understood the public’s suspicion of donations, particularly from developers, but stated he thought he was doing the right thing because it seemed “cleaner” if the trust paid his campaign bills.

“I was happy not to know – it’s hard to have a conflict when you don’t know who the donor is,” he said.

“I thought I was doing the right thing, I’ve made every attempt to do the right thing.”

Mr Sutherland also brushed off suggestions he and five other councillors had worked together as a group, despite promoting themselves as independent candidates.

The commission heard Mr Sutherland approached candidates and offered to pay for campaign material featuring them together such as billboards and how-to-vote cards.

He also wrote letters of endorsement for three candidates that were mailed to constituents.

One of the candidates, councillor Peter Flannery, said the total $3677 cost of his promotional material was paid for by the Moreton Futures Trust but did not believe he or the mayor had done anything wrong.

“I think it’s all legal and above board,” Mr Flannery told reporters.

All the joint how-to-vote cards featuring the mayor and a candidate were almost identical in style and layout and shared the slogan “for a bright future”.

Mr Sutherland said he did not think the candidates and himself had run as a group because they shared no common policies, election platform and had no leader.

He also emphasised that payment was made on the condition the candidate would declare the contribution.

Candidates are allowed to run as a group if they formally register with the Electoral Commission.

The CCC hearing, which is investigating funding and disclosure allegations from Queensland’s 2016 council elections, will resume on Wednesday.

Manus Island detainees in class action case

Forty people currently held in the Manus Island detention centre may be brought to Australia to testify in a class action trial being live streamed around the world.

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The class action group’s lawyers want the Australian government to bring the 41 detainees from Manus Island to Melbourne and otherwise may ask for a hearing in Papua New Guinea.

The government has agreed that eight people currently in detention centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Western Australia will give evidence in the Melbourne court.

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The class action led by Iranian-born Majid Karami Kamasaee has 1905 group members, which the plaintiff’s lawyers Slater and Gordon says covers the majority of people detained on Manus Island since 2012.

The detainees’ barrister David Curtain QC on Friday said the detainees who remain on Manus Island should be brought to Melbourne.

Mr Curtain said the fallback position was that the Victorian Supreme Court will be asked to journey to Manus Island.

“We are keen that if the Commonwealth can arrange for detainees in Australia to be brought to the court, we believe they can arrange for detainees on Manus Island to also be brought to the court,” he said.

The court heard it was not known how many of the detainees could potentially be resettled in the US as part of a deal between the Australian and American governments.

Watch: Dutton weights in on Manus Island shooting

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“Presumably a proportion at least of those 41 will be interviewed by representatives of the United States government with a view to possible relocation to the United States,” Justice Michael McDonald said.

Justice McDonald said it is up to the plaintiff if there is to be an application for the court to convene in PNG to hear from the Manus Island detainees.

He noted that holding a hearing on Manus Island would depend on issues such as the available facilities, accommodation for a large cohort of people and the costs involved.

The six-month trial begins on May 15 and the Manus Island detainee witnesses are not expected to give evidence until August.

The trial will be live streamed so all 1905 class action group members can follow the case, in what Slater and Gordon believes is the first time Australian court proceedings will be streamed overseas.

The legal firm has said the case will be the largest and most forensic public examination of the events and conditions at the Manus Island detention centre, which is due to close on October 31.

The class action alleges the detainees suffered serious physical and psychological injuries as a result of the conditions in which they were held on Manus Island.

They are also seeking damages for false imprisonment after the PNG Supreme Court ruled the detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island was unconstitutional.

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PNG police dismiss Dutton’s explanation of Manus Island unrest

A senior PNG police officer has disputed Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s claim that concerns about the welfare of a local boy led PNG soldiers to storm the Manus Island detention centre.

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Mr Dutton \alleged the violent incident – which left one asylum seeker injured on Good Friday – began after three asylum seekers were spotted leading a five-year-old boy into the camp.

The immigration minister suggested Manus Island residents were worried that the boy had been sexually assaulted.

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But local police commander Inspector David Yapu has rejected the claims, telling ABC News Mr Dutton was referring to an unrelated incident which involved no allegation of sexual assault.

“If there was a sexual assault, a formal complaint would be made by the parents for the police to pursue investigations,” Mr Yapu told ABC News.

Mr Yapu clarified that a 10-year-old boy was brought into the centre to receive food in the days prior to the attack, but that there was no suggestion he was harmed.

“He was given some fruits by the residents in the centre and then he was taken out again,” he said.

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“So there was nothing done to him and also there was no official complaint by the parents of that small boy.”

Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Mr Dutton said the incident may have been caused by a local boy being led to the camp.

“I think there was concern about why the boy was being led, or for what purpose he was being led, away back into the regional processing centre.”

Watch: Dutton weighs in on Manus Island shooting

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Mr Dutton’s comments were immediately rejected by Manus island asylum seeker and journalist Behrouz Boochani.

Aust immigration minister lying. He wants to hide truth about 14 April. I ask him to read #Manus police statement. Nothing there about a boy

— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) April 20, 2017I ask politicians, media to stop immi minister spreading false allegations. He doesn’t know anything about Manusian culture. Dangerous lie.

— Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) April 20, 2017

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