Monthly Archives: June 2018

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ADF ‘pressured’ to mistreat Afghans held at Tarin Kowt

Military police at Australia’s detention centre in Afghanistan were pressured to make prisoners more ”pliable” by gagging them, depriving them of sleep and denying them exercise, Fairfax Media has been told.

Sources with first-hand knowledge of the detention centre at Tarin Kowt said senior officers from Australia’s special forces as well as the ”force exploitation team” – defence intelligence – pressed the detention management team to ”condition” suspected insurgents ahead of interrogation.

The account given by various sources is among claims that contrast with Defence Minister Stephen Smith’s assurances this week that Australia approached its responsibility for treating detainees ”with dignity and respect with the utmost seriousness”.

Other claims included:

■A young male detainee, deaf and mute and possibly intellectually disabled, was held in the centre because of pressure from the Special Operations Task Group despite concerns he was not fit to be detained.

■A senior Afghan intelligence officer, a Colonel Hanif, complained vigorously that detainees were being transferred from Australian to Afghan custody on scant evidence that they were actually insurgents.

■The ADF denied a teenage boy access to his dying father, a suspected insurgent who had been shot during a battle with Australians. The boy was allegedly turned over to US interrogators, although the ADF denies this.

The claims relate to 2010 and 2011, after Australia took over responsibility for managing detainees in Oruzgan province from the withdrawn Dutch troops.

Mr Smith gave a detailed statement to Parliament on Thursday in which he said that Australia took all claims of detainee mistreatment seriously. He said 1898 suspects had been detained between August 2010 and May 15 this year. Over the same period, there had been 198 allegations of mistreatment by the ADF. Of these, 193 had been deemed unfounded and five were under review.

But Fairfax Media has been told that in the first year Australia was running the detention system, tensions flared between the military police who managed the detainees and the forces who captured and interrogated them.

One source said: ”We had two very conflicting sets of guidelines: one was to treat them humanely but the other was the pressure from the SOTG and intelligence guys who wanted us to condition them in such a way as to make them more pliable … so their state of mind was conducive to interrogation. They wanted us to gag and hood the detainees to stop them from talking to each other.”

He said the detention centre’s commanding officer had fought that, saying: ”If we gag and hood these guys, someone will die.”

Fairfax Media has put the claims to the Defence Department and is awaiting responses.

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State’s average wage increasing

TASMANIANS are catching up to mainlanders on average wages.

Tasmanian workers’ average weekly earnings in all jobs increased by $103 to $1291 between August 2011 and August 2012, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

While that remained the lowest average in the nation, Tasmanians made up ground on workers in New South Wales (plus $61), Victoria (plus $82), Queensland (plus $42), South Australia (plus $82), the ACT (plus $49) and the national average, which increased by $78 to $1490.

Workers in mining boom capital Western Australia were the highest paid on average at $1789 per week, on average, followed by those in public servant central, the ACT, at $1643 per week.

Meanwhile, only about 26 per cent of Tasmanian workers are union members.

Union membership in the state decreased from about 85,000 workers in 1990 to about 52,000 in 2012, according to the ABS.

In the same period, the number of workers in their main jobs who were not union members grew from about 75,600 to about 145,900.

Union membership is even weaker nationally, at just

18 per cent.

That number had been steady for three years, the ABS said.

In Tasmania, union membership has bounced back from 48,200 in 2010.

Most of the decline took place between 1998 and 2001.

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Coastal students receive healthy education

COASTAL students were given a “healthy” dose of career information at the Mersey Regional Hospital yesterday.

Donning scrubs and surgical masks, 80 grade 9 students from schools across the North-West took part in medical theatre scenarios and critical care situations, among other activities.

Under the guidance of 33 educated presenters, students were exposed to a variety of interactive sessions across a range of health careers including podiatry, oral health, psychology, emergency care nursing and radiography.

The University of Tasmania Rural Clinical School considered the workshop a “taster” of what a career in health might be like.

“We want to offer students the opportunity to get a feel for the wide and varied range of health careers, beyond the traditional fields of nursing and medicine,” Lizzi Shires, acting co-director of the North-West Rural Clinical School said.

“They get information plus interactive experience of a broad range of health careers, giving them the chance to consider which career might be right for them,” Dr Shires said.

UTAS Rural Clinical School administrative assistant Anne-Maree Temple said that in the past UTAS had struggled to fill its annual rural clinical placement intake, but in the past two years the number of applications had outgrown the number of positions available.

“We now bring about five or six medical students up from Hobart each year, which is excellent, but what we need to focus on now is retaining those students and getting them to settle in the community and stay on to work as general practitioners,” she said.

INSTRUCTION: Clinical nurses Elissa Shaw and Linda Wynwood instruct Emma Hicks, of St Brendan-Shaw College, on how to operate laparoscopic surgery instruments and Hannah Bantick, of Reece High School, about air ventilation. Picture: Jason Hollister.

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Keeping closer eye on imports

A MORE co- ordinated approach to monitoring imports is at the fore of Tasmania’s new biosecurity strategy, which was released yesterday.

“We must remain vigilant against threats to our biosecurity and quarantine borders,” the Primary Industries and Water Minister Bryan Green said.

“For biosecurity measures to be successful it requires a co-ordinated approach involving government, industry and the wider community. That is why the updated strategy further emphasises the importance of co- operative approaches.”

The five-year strategy builds on the success of the previous one, released in 2007.

It focuses on closer arrangements with industry and includes a biosecurity research, development and extension section that links to activities of DPIPWE, the University of Tasmania and the private sector.

“This strategy makes some sensible improvements on the previous one, which is now five years old,” a spokesperson for the minister said.

“It also takes into account the changing risk environment we are seeing.”

A number of new threats to Tasmania have been identified since the previous strategy, including avian paramyxovirus, a virus carried by pigeons and pigeon eggs, and myrtle rust, of which there was a recent outbreak in NSW.

Rick Eisenkoeck, manager of state barrier operations for quarantine, said the new strategy also takes into account intelligence being provided by shipping companies to target possible weaknesses in import practises.

“It’s a much more co- ordinated approach to monitoring biosecurity,” he said.

Over the past two years a tightening of biosecurity controls has seen shipping container testing increase from an ad-hoc basis to 15 per cent of all containers.

SNIFFING OUT PROBLEMS: Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green, quarantine officer Natalie Webb and detector dog Hunter inspect a newly arrived container of goods. Picture: Grant Wells.

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Think outside square

ONE of the Coast’s tourism and hospitality industry stalwarts says a controversial cable car proposal for Mount Roland is the kind of attraction the region needs more of.

Greg Astell is Federal Group’s general manager at the Cradle Mountain Chateau, and before that he ran Strahan Village for more than seven years.

Mr Astell said if the proposed cable car “did not disturb the environment” it was a great idea for Mount Roland.

The Kentish Council has been considering a cable car as part of a review of Mount Roland.

“That’s the sort of the out-of- the-square thinking we need to introduce,” Mr Astell said.

“There are cable cars all over the world that give people a great experience.”

Brand Tasmania reports that Tasmania has Australia’s most tourism-dependent economy, according to the national tourism business count and employment atlas released in April.

The atlas estimated direct tourism employment in the state at 15,000.

Mr Astell has urged more tourism operators to help to promote the island.

“Our problem is Tasmanians don’t believe in Tasmania enough,” Mr Astell said.

“We don’t talk up Tasmania enough ourselves.

“Operators small and large need to work with Cradle Coast Tourism and Tourism Tasmania to promote the state and be unified.

“We have the Leven Canyon … and it’s a wonderful place for the new Asian market which we are targeting.”

Mr Astell said Tasmania had an abundance of what tourists wanted to experience.

He said this was particularly the case for the Chinese and Asian market.

Mr Astell said there was a perception that Tasmania was a cold place, but when people got here they were often surprised at how mild it was.

“The beautiful thing about Tasmania are the four seasons,” he said.

Greg Astell, Federal Group general manager at the Cradle Mountain Chateau, says a controversial cable car proposal for Mount Roland is the kind of attraction the region needs more of.

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Brooks lashes out over $150-a-head Melbourne dinner Tarkine fund-raiser

AN ENVIRONMENTAL group fighting new Tarkine mines will hold a $150 a head fund-raising dinner – in Melbourne.

“Once again, we have a bunch of latte-sipping hipsters from Melbourne trying to tell Tasmanians what developments can and cannot happen in Tasmania,” shadow mining minister Adam Brooks said yesterday.

He was speaking of a Save the Tarkine event at the City of Melbourne Bowls Club scheduled for June 6.

Asked if it was a case of Melbourne people trying to decide Tasmania’s economic future, Save the Tarkine campaign co- ordinator Scott Jordan said it was simply fund-raising.

“We had a kind offer from somebody (Lawyers for Forests) to organise a fund- raising dinner and we were happy to grab it.”

“We’ve got support all over the country.”

He said the group did run events in Tasmania.

The event will feature Save the Tarkine patron and former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown and will involve a three- course meal with wine.

Funds raised will help bankroll court action against planned Tarkine mines.

Mr Brooks said Tasmania should not be used as the social conscience of the rest of the country.

“The fact is, the Labor- Green experiment has shut down the forestry industry and now the extreme Greens are going after mining.”

Meanwhile, Dr Brown lashed the state Environment Protection Authority after it ticked off on Venture Minerals’ planned Riley Creek iron ore mine, near Tullah.

“The Tasmanian public had a right to think that the forests protected under the peace deal would be environmentally safe.

“This shatters that illusion,” he said.

“It is now up to the federal Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, to put a halt to this invasion of the Tarkine forest peace zone.

“Minister Burke excused his refusal to grant heritage protection to the Tarkine by claiming that the Tasmanian Forests Agreement would protect the Tarkine.

“Well, what is that protection worth if it allows open cut and strip mining?”

Adam Brooks.

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Rebels win achieved without top stars

The Melbourne Rebels were beginning to see the fruits of more than two seasons of labour with Friday night’s win over the Stormers marking a coming of age for the team, coach Damien Hill said.

The Rebels notched their third win of the season – and the first against a South African team – when they beat the Stormers 30-21 at AAMI Park.

They also achieved it without some of their biggest names with Wallaby stars James O’Connor (sternum injury) and Kurtley Beale (suspended) not playing, and winger Cooper Vuna (calf) also sidelined. They also started the game with a green halves combinations of Nic Stirzaker and Bryce Hegarty, who were both starting for the first time, with regular half-back Nick Phipps rested for the first half.

Hill has blooded a number of younger players during his tenure at the Rebels, with Kimami Sitauti, who suffered a broken leg earlier this year, being the latest in a list that has included the likes of Angus Roberts, Tom English, Hegarty and Jordy Reid.

Hill may not have the chance to fully enjoy the results of the upcoming generation as he has been told that he must re-apply for his job if he wants to keep it when his contract ends at the end of this season with the club embarking on a global search for a coach beyond this year.

However, an exuberant Hill on Friday night, praised the progress of his younger players.

“I’m exceptionally pleased with the way the young guys are coming through,” he said. “It takes a while to acclimatise to this level and that’s what they’re doing. They’re making every post a winner at the moment and that should bode well for the future.”

Hill said he was impressed with the spirit of the team to overcome the disappointment of four consecutive losses of seven points or less and keep their composure to retake the lead against the Stormers with less than 10 minutes remaining.

“They’ve got to view this in context of the last five weeks. They’ve played exceptionally well over the last month and just barely lost and that extra 10 minutes of composure led to a win .. that little two to three per cent improvement has led to this result,” he said.

“It just puts things into perspective in regards the value of the team and the strength of the performance when there’s 15 players united and on the same page.”

“You need to have that in this competition, players need to drop out, come in and it needs to be as seamless as you can and that’s what happened tonight and it’s outstanding for young Bryce to stand up and do what he did in his (starting) debut, Stirzy had a solid performance as well, Kimami Sitauti in his first appearance off the bench added value.”

“The staff and the players have been seeing for a long time the improvements that have been there but like most things it doesn’t come easy. It takes a lot of hard work and the work they’ve put in over the last five weeks in part in terms of their performances on the field is evidence of that.”

“If it was an easy competition or an easy game to play you’d get a lot different results than we’re getting at the moment but it’s tough, it’s exceptionally tough, week in and week out and it was a courageous effort by the guys.”

The Stormers turned down several chances to take penalty shots, choosing instead to kick for touch and use a lineout to set up their driving maul. But the Rebels defended grimly for much of the game, with Higginbotham saying the Stormers paid for taking his team lightly.

“They obviously thought they could beat us easily if they wanted to do that,” he said. “They’re obviously thinking they can score tries and not take the three points, so credit to us for holding them out in defence.”

Stormers captain Jean de Villiers described his team performance as “embarrassing”. It was an assessment backed by coach Allister Coetzee who labelled the inability to even earn a bonus point against the Rebels as the worst performance he had seen from the team, with its hopes of making the finals taking a significant blow due to the loss.

“Nothing taken away from Rebels they played well. They deserved their win (but) we were just shocking,” Coetzee said. “As a group this has been the worst performance that I’ve been involved with. There was no lack of effort during the week, at training the guys were in high spirits but they couldn’t take that onto the pitch tonight.”

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Bail for alleged shooter prompts appeal

THE Director of Public Prosecutions has lodged an appeal in the Supreme Court against a magistrate’s decision to grant bail to a Launceston man who allegedly assaulted his partner while armed with a firearm.

Ravenswood’s Kristam Targett, 24, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, recklessly discharging a firearm, possessing a firearm without a licence and possessing ammunition without a licence.

Police have alleged Mr Targett entered his partner’s Binney Street home at Ravenswood and fired several shots on Tuesday.

Nobody was injured.

Yesterday Mr Targett was granted bail in the Launceston Magistrates Court by Magistrate Reg Marron.

The appeal is expected to be heard in the Supreme Court in Launceston on Monday.

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Premier optimistic about jobs

A MORE optimistic outlook for Tarkine mining is a huge positive for future jobs growth, Premier Lara Giddings says.

Ms Giddings on Thursday was pleased by signs of improvement in the North- West and West Coast jobs market and the Environment Protection Authority’s approval of a Tarkine mine plan.

“Over the past year, we have seen an increase in North-West employment helping to offset some of the decline across other parts of Tasmania,” Ms Giddings said.

“It is also pleasing to see a strong pick-up in the participation rate, which is a sign that people are more confident in seeking work.

“While I am encouraged that job prospects are improving in the region, the unemployment rate in the North-West is still too high and we are committed to working hard to bring it down.”

She was speaking after analysis by The Advocate of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed the Mersey-Lyell region’s year- average number of jobs had increased by nearly 400 in the year to the end of April.

State Treasury analysis later supported the finding, and showed jobs declined in the North and South during the same period.

“We have had further positive news, with the EPA approving Venture Minerals’ Riley Mine, which will create 20 jobs in the construction phase and 60 jobs in operation,” the Premier said.

Unlock Tasmania chairwoman Joan Rylah said completion of the EPA’s assessment meant a lengthy approval process was almost complete.

However, she said, the project was vulnerable to attack by green groups, “who have clearly stated an outright objection to new mines in the Arthur- Pieman region”.

“It is only a matter of time before these groups place an injunction to hijack this project, hampering investment and delaying jobs in a region, which has an unemployment rate of over 12 per cent,” she said.

Premier Lara Giddings

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Ballroom dance part of farewell

FRIENDS, family and the wider Coastal community will dance farewell to Burnie’s Rex Gardam today.

Mr Gardam died on Wednesday. He had a career in the trucking industry and a long commitment to the RAAF Association of Ulverstone, as well as many other community organisations.

An afternoon dance will be held after his funeral, which starts at 1pm at Parkside Funerals in East Cam Road.

The North-West Coast identity will be remembered for his quirky sense of humour and, of course, his ballroom dancing.

Close friend and president of the RAAF Association of Ulverstone John Gibbs said the motto of the RAAF, “Reach for the Stars”, would live on with Mr Gardam forever.

“He will be going there and he will dance forever,” Mr Gibbs said.

As a World War II veteran Mr Gardam served in the Northern Territory as an engineer.

He had a profound effect on the local community, receiving an Order of Australia Medal for his dedicated work.

“While some people sit back, you’ve got other people that fill their life with everything,” Mr Gibbs said.

“Rex was one of those people.”

Deputy Burnie mayor Sandra French said Mr Gardam was a kind, warm and compassionate individual.

“He has been a huge contributor to the community with the pony club and the Burnie Show Society,” Alderman French said.

“He was very devoted to his dancing and would have taught a lot of people in the community.”

DEDICATED TO COMMUNITY: Today’s funeral service for Burnie’s Rex Gardam will be followed by an afternoon dance to honour his love of ballroom dancing.

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