Pro-choice pollie set to miss abortion vote

Source: The Examiner
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Debate on decriminalising abortion in Tasmania is likely to take place in the absence of one pro-choice MLC today.

Hobart independent MLC Rob Valentine requested a leave of absence from Parliament this week due to a family illness.

Mr Valentine has requested a pair for the vote.

However, The Examiner understands that so far no MLCs who oppose the Bill have offered to pair with him.

A pair would not partake in the final vote, so Mr Valentine’s absense would not affect the final balance of numbers.

The Reproductive Health Bill passed the lower house 13 to 11 in April and appeared headed toward a seven-all draw in the Legislative Council, including Mr Valentine.

Leader of Government Business Craig Farrell introduced the legislation to the upper house this morning and then suspended debate to await further briefings.

Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne, who sponsored the legislation, said earlier this week that she hoped the briefings would absolve MLCs concerns with the legislation.

The legislation proposes decriminalising abortion and leaving consent as the only requirement for abortion up to 16-weeks gestation.

After 16-weeks two doctors would be required to find that continuing the pregnancy posed a greater risk to the woman’s physical and psychological health than termination would, having account to her social or economic circumstances.

Mr Farrell urged MLCs not to misinterpret the social and economic clause when considering the legislation.

“Social and economic factors are absolutely relevant and capable of significantly impacting on a woman’s mental and physical health,” he said.

“These words are often misinterpreted in this issue to suggest women terminate a pregnancy on a trivial or superficial matters.”

The debate is likely to the house this afternoon.

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Government refuses to say if it receives PRISM data

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has declined to say whether Australian intelligence agencies receive information from the PRISM program. Photo: SuppliedFederal police spying on phone, internet
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The Gillard government has sought to head off concerns about any Australian links to a controversial US data gathering program, insisting all information shared between countries was subject to strict oversight.

But the government is standing by its refusal to disclose whether Australia is actually receiving or swapping intelligence with the US in connection with the widespread phone and internet surveillance programs revealed in the past week.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus declined on Tuesday night to say whether Australian intelligence agencies were receiving information from the PRISM program, through which the US is reportedly using “back doors” to access data from big technology firms such as Google, Facebook and Apple.

But he added: “Our intelligence activities and intelligence relationship with close allies, including the United States, protect our country from threats such as terrorism, foreign espionage and cyber intrusions.”

Mr Dreyfus went on to say that intelligence and security agencies were required by law to get authorisation from either the Defence or Foreign Affairs Minister before they produced intelligence on an Australian.

If matters related to threats to security, approval from the Attorney-General was also needed, he said.

Moreoever, all such activities were independently examined by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to make sure the authorisations were conducted within the law.

“Any information obtained by our agencies from the US is subject to these protections,” he said.

The Guardian and Washington Post reported late last week that US signals spies, the National Security Agency, had been secretly collecting emails, documents, photos and other material from the internet through the PRISM program.

On Wednesday morning, one of Canberra’s top cyber security bosses used almost identical language as Mr Dreyfus in an effort to hose down concerns about any overreaching surveillance.

Major General Stephen Day, deputy director for Cyber and Information Security at the Australian Signals Directorate, told a cybersecurity conference in Canberra that “all intelligence activities carried out by ASD are conducted in strict accordance with Australian law”.

Like Mr Dreyfus, he said he could not comment on intelligence matters – according to longstanding practice.

“But what I can say is that we have a very strong legal framework to protect Australians. Under the intelligence services act, (the ASD) is required by law to obtain specific authorisation from the Minister for Defence or the Minister of Foreign Affairs to produce intelligence on Australians,” he said.

“Any information obtained by us from the United States is subject to exactly the same protections,” he said.

Asked whether the ASD had ever outsourced intelligence analysis to a third party organisation, General Day reiterated that he could not comment on intelligence arrangements.

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The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Tamou to miss Origin II after drink-drive charge

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 28: James Tamou of the Blues trains during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin training session at North Sydney Oval on May 28, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) Photo: Ryan PierseNSW prop James Tamou will be sidelined for game two of the State of Origin series as a result of a two-match suspension after being charged with driving nearly four times over the legal alcohol limit and without a licence.
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The ban, after discussions between the Cowboys and the NRL’s integrity unit, was announced by officials on Wednesday.

Tamou was also fined $20,000. With the player forgoing $30,000 bonus for playing in Origin II, he has effectively been fined $50,000.

NRL chief executive Dave Smith said the penalties reflected the seriousness of the offences.

“This is a high level, high risk, high penalty situation,” Smith said. “Drink driving puts lives at risk. Our players are well educated regarding alcohol management and there is no excuse for such behaviour.

“Our Integrity Unit has reviewed the situation, we have consulted with the Cowboys and we have sent a clear message of what is expected of our players.”

A statement said the NRL will also work with the Cowboys and Tamou to implement additional education and welfare programs, including responsible driver education.

The Australian Test prop was charged by police after recording an alcohol concentration of 0.197 when he was pulled over at about 3.30am Monday in the suburb of North Ward.

Tamou will appear in Townsville Magistrates Court on July 2 on charges of unlicensed driving and driving under the influence of alcohol, and has indicated he will plead guilty.

That clearly gave officials enough ammunition to come down on the player and after discussions between the parties, it was agreed that the 24-year-old would miss Friday’s clash with St George Illawarra, and then Origin II on June 26.

Cowboys chief executive Peter Jourdain said Tamou’s actions were ‘‘clearly unacceptable to us and the NRL’’.

“James returned a very high reading and was driving unlicensed – two offences that can never be condoned,’’ Jourdain said. “We believe the two-game punishment is appropriate. He is missing a crucial game for his club and the honour of again representing the Blues in what could be an historic Origin clash.’’

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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$1.2b boost to state hospital infrastructure

Mike Baird. Photo: Michel O’SullivanThe NSW budget for new hospital buildings will increase by 10 per cent this year to $1.2 billion.
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NSW Treasurer Mike Baird said that despite facing a revenue challenge, next week’s budget would invest in critical infrastructure. He said many hospital buildings were more than 50 years old.

“The tough decisions we have made means we will commit more than $1.2 billion in health capital works in Tuesday’s Budget for the coming year,” he said.

“After 16 years of neglect by state Labor, we are rebuilding and upgrading our hospitals so our patients and staff have the facilities they expect and deserve.”

Mr Baird said projects being funded included a $139 million redevelopment at Campbelltown Hospital, another at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital at a cost of $120 million and a new building at Royal North Shore Hospital clinical services building.

Opposition health spokesperson Andrew McDonald said there was no new spending commitments in the capital works budget announcement.

“This is just a business-as-usual budget,” he said.

“This does nothing to address the backlog of patients on the waiting lists.”

NSW Health Minister Mrs Jillian Skinner said the government’s infrastructure spend was boosting hospital staff spirits.

“They expect the environments in which they work to match the high quality of care they deliver to their patients,” she said.

Mrs Skinner said the capital works budget would go towards a new clinical services building at Blacktown Hospital for cancer, cardiac, respiratory and aged care services. The building is due to be completed in 2015.

Brian Owler, president of the NSW Australian Medical Association, said he welcomed an increase in infrastructure funding. He said a 20-year plan was needed for investment in hospital buildings to ensure they met the growing demands of an ageing population.

“There has been an under-investment in hospital infrastructure for decades,” he said.

“We need to make sure we invest in infrastructure needs for the future.”

The AMA has said that recurrent funding for health services also needs to increase by 7 per cent to keep pace with demand.

“Anything less than 7 per cent is going to be seen as a cut,” Dr Owler said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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Markets ride getting bumpier

ASX200 volatility index over the past 12 months.Stock market volatility has been on the rise over the past six weeks, but there is no reason to panic, analysts say.
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The ASX200 Volatility Index is hovering around its highest levels in nearly 12 months, at 19.78, but it is well off the levels seen during the global financial crisis, which saw volatility peak at 66.72 points.

Since May 14, this year’s stock market peak, the volatility index has jumped 52.1 per cent.

“Yes, you’ve seen volatility rise, but it’s nowhere near the extent to where you’d consider it at crisis levels,” said Macquarie Private Wealth division director Martin Lakos.

Mr Lakos said the index was a measure of perceived volatility which followed markets, so it was no surprised to see a jump over the last month, with the ASX200 falling 9.5 per cent and the Australian dollar slipping to 33-month lows.

Over the past five years, volatility has spiked a number of times, including during the European debt crisis and the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, but overall it has been trending downwards.

“What is interesting is that through the last year or so, through the US election, through the budgetary process in the US, volatility has been coming off, these things are either being factored into the market or the market is becoming more comfortable with these issues,” said Mr Lakos.

Credit Suisse analyst Damien Boey said the slight increase in volatility was a sign that the market was unsure if central banks could cope with another crisis.

“Volatility came down because central banks were able to, through their quantitative easing policy, drive down to risk premium. But now that Japan is showing signs of ineffective quantitative easing and the Fed is talking about potentially ending it, volatility is starting to return,” said Mr Boey.

Australia’s volatility index is now at similar levels to the US, with the Chicago Volatility Index at 17.1, well off its peak of 80.9 in 2008.

While the US index has been a little more erratic than its Australian counterpart, Mr Boey said he was unsurprised by the indexes’ correlating.

“Both economies are facing downside growth risk, the US economy is experiencing quite extreme fiscal austerity, that is affecting the growth outlook and that’s why the most recent data points have been a bit negative.”

“In Australia, we know the story is about mining capex and how it’s not rolling over,” he said.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

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