Ziebell relishing AFL captaincy at Roos

Jack Ziebell took over as North Melbourne captain at a fraught time, given the massive amount of experience that left the AFL club at the end of last season.

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But Ziebell says the only part of being skipper that bothers him so far is their 0-2 start to the season.

And the Kangaroos face another major test when they host the GWS Giants on Saturday in Hobart.

North are a transformed team after the departures of Brent Harvey, Michael Firrito, Drew Petrie, Nick Dal Santo and Daniel Wells.

But Ziebell said on Friday the new-look Kangaroos have the right attitude.

“The group we have … is very easy to lead,” he said.

“They’re very eager to learn, the effort they show on the weekend is second to none.”

Ziebell said it also helped that his predecessor Andrew Swallow had stayed in the leadership group.

And there is still plenty of experience at Arden St, such as Jarrad Waite, Shaun Higgins, Jamie Macmillan and Robbie Tarrant.

“They have some sway in our group and we’re really leaning on those guys to make sure they’re upholding what we expect from our footy club,” Ziebell said.

Ziebell will play his 150th game this Saturday, while Giants co-captain Phil Davis reaches the 100 milestone.

They came through the 2008 draft, with Ziebell going to North at pick No.9 and Davis joining Adelaide one selection later.

Davis later went to GWS and has reached his milestone after a succession of injuries.

Ziebell feels his career has gone quickly.

“I remember starting at the footy club probably nine years ago and listening to a couple of the older guys say ‘mate, make sure you enjoy it, because it goes bloody quick’,” he said.

“You sit there and laugh at them.

“But you blink and you’re nine years in and 150 games now.”

Ziebell feels he is now reaching his prime as an AFL player.

“It’s been a bit of a journey to get to this point, but I’m fully-confident in my body and everything like that, the way I’m playing, and hopefully I’m going to improve a whole lot more as well,” he said.

“So I think my best footy is definitely ahead of me.”

Ziebell also has backed himself and the rest of the North midfield to match the Giants.

“We’re more than capable of matching it with any midfield in the competition, which is exciting,” he said.

The forecast is for rain in Hobart – which drew an “oh, shit” from Ziebell under his breath as he thought it was going to be sunny.

“We love Tassie, Tassie’s awesome – we’ve had a pretty strong record down there,” he quickly added.

“If the weather comes in fairly average, I think that will suit us.”

This is now unofficially the Josh Kelly Cup, given the revelation that North are dangling a monster nine-year offer in front of the Giants midfielder.

“I might say it’s nice and sunny down here in Melbourne and all that sort of stuff,” Ziebell said.

Adidas to mass produce 3D-printed shoe

Adidas has launched a new sneaker with a 3D-printed sole that it plans to mass produce next year, part of a broader push by the German sportswear firm to react faster to changing fashions and create more customised products.

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Adidas already lets people customise the colour and pattern of shoes ordered online but new 3D printing methods will make small production runs, limited edition shoes and even soles designed to fit an individual’s weight and gait economical.

Rivals Nike, Under Armour and New Balance have also been experimenting with 3D printing but have so far only used the technique to make prototypes, soles tailored for sponsored athletes and a handful of high-priced novelty shoes.

That’s because traditional 3D printers are slower, more expensive and often create an inferior product than the injection moulds for plastic that are currently used to produce hundreds of millions of shoes each year, mostly in Asia.

However, Adidas says its new partnership with Silicon Valley start-up Carbon allows it to overcome many of those difficulties to produce a sole that can rival one made by an injection mould, and at a speed and price that allow for mass production.

“This is a milestone not only for us as a company but also for the industry,” said Gerd Manz, Adidas head of technology innovation, announcing the launch of its new “Futurecraft 4D” shoe.

“We’ve cracked some of the boundaries.”

Carbon, financed by venture firms such as Sequoia Capital as well as funds set up by General Electric and Alphabet’s Google, has pioneered a technique that prints with light-sensitive polymer resin that is then baked for strength.

Standard 3D printers build up products with layers of plastic powder, a method used by Hewlett Packard which is working with Nike and says its newest machines work 10 times faster and at half the cost than earlier models.

Adidas hopes to sell 5,000 pairs of its “Futurecraft 4D” this year, and 100,000 next year as Carbon cuts the time it takes to print a sole from the current hour and a half to as low as 20 minutes per sole.

The shoes will sell at an unspecified premium price but Adidas plans to lower the cost as the technology develops.

Syria chemical attack: UN Security Council voting delayed

Western countries have blamed President Bashar al-Assad’s armed forces for Tuesday’s attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in a rebel-held area of northern Syria hit by government air strikes.

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Syria’s government has denied responsibility.

The United States, Britain and France proposed a draft resolution on Tuesday to condemn the attack and press Syria to cooperate with international investigators. Russia said the text was unacceptable and proposed a rival draft. 

The elected 10 members of the 15-member council proposed a third draft resolution, based on the text by Western powers, on Thursday evening in a bid to reach consensus. 

“U.N. Security Council will no longer vote on the (resolution) on Syria this evening. Consultations among Council members are ongoing,” British diplomat Stephen Hickey posted on Twitter. 

In February, Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, cast its seventh veto to protect Assad’s government from council action, blocking a bid by Western powers to impose sanctions over accusations of chemical weapons attacks. China has vetoed six resolutions on Syria. 

A Security Council resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass.

“Efforts continue to reach unity on a strong (Security Council) resolution w/ strong condemnation, immediate independent investigation & accountability,” Swedish diplomat Carl Skau posted on Twitter. 

An ‘appropriate response’

The US Thursday threatened Syria with military action as President Donald Trump warned ‘something should happen’ following a suspected chemical attack that left at least 86 dead and provoked global outrage.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson vowed an “appropriate response” to the attack in Khan Sheikhun in rebel-held Idlib province, whose victims included 27 children.

Trump has signaled a startling about-turn towards President Bashar al-Assad, who many in the international community hold responsible for Tuesday’s horrific events.

“What Assad did is terrible. What happened in Syria is truly one of the egregious crimes,” the US leader said Thursday. “I guess he’s running things, so I guess something should happen.”

Trump’s comments came as Tillerson — who like him was in Florida to welcome China’s Xi Jinping — called explicitly for “a political process that would lead to Assad leaving” and said his future role in the country was “uncertain.”

Watch: Rex Tillerson on the US’ response

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It remained unclear whether Assad’s main ally Russia would resort to its veto power to block the draft resolution presented to the UN, which was slightly revised following negotiations over the past two days.

Britain, France and the United States are backing the draft which demands a full investigation of the incident, which Turkey believes exposed victims to the nerve agent sarin.

The US Ambassador Nikki Haley has warned that Washington could take unilateral action if the world body fails to respond to the serious allegations of chemical weapons use.

A US official said the Pentagon is presenting the White House with a range of possible military options, including cruise missile or air strikes on Assad’s air fields in a bid to ground his air force — but that no decisions had been taken. 

Any such military action brings enormous risks, as strikes could be subject to skirting Russian air defenses. Moscow also has advisors on the ground in Syria.

Russia at UN warns US over possible military action in Syria

Russia warned the United States on Thursday that there could be “negative consequences” if Washington takes military action against Syria.

“All responsibility if military action occurs will be on the shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful tragic enterprise,” Russian Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov told reporters following a closed-door Security Council meeting on Syria.

‘Scandal’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday it was a scandal that the United Nations Security Council did not pass a resolution condemning a suspected chemical attack in Syria this week which killed at least 70 people.

“It was a barbaric attack that must be cleared up. The use of chemical weapons is a war crime,” Merkel told a news conference in eastern Germany, adding there were some indications it was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

“It is a scandal that no U.N. Security Council resolution materialized and those who opposed it must consider what responsibility they bear,” she said. She declined to interpret U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments that the attack went “beyond a red line”.

Watch: Angela Merkel lambasts the UN for not passing a resolution condemning the attack

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‘Terrible responsibility’

The UN children’s agency UNICEF says at least 546 people were wounded in the suspected chemical attack.

More than 30 people were transferred across the border into Turkey for treatment, and Ankara said a preliminary probe found a link between these injuries and sarin.

If confirmed to be a chemical attack, this would be among the worst such incidents in Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011.

The draft UN resolution backs a probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and demands Syria provide information on its operations.

The OPCW said Thursday it has opened an “ongoing investigation” and has “initiated contact with the Syrian authorities.”

Russia has previously used its veto seven times to shield Syria at the UN.

France warned Moscow it would face a “terrible responsibility in front of history” if it did so once more.

Syria officially relinquished its chemical arsenal and signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 to avert military action after it was accused of an attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds.

But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use since.

Watch: Idlib surgeon gathers evidence of the ‘chemical’ attack

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Russia, Syria hit back as pressure builds over ‘chemical attack’

Britain, France and the United States have pressed for a vote on a UN Security Council resolution to investigate dozens of civilian deaths in a northwestern Syria town, which Turkey said it suspected were the result of exposure to nerve agent sarin.

At least 86 people were killed early Tuesday in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun, and dozens more treated for convulsions, breathing problems and foaming at the mouth.

World powers have pointed the finger at the government of Bashar al-Assad, but Foreign Minister Walid Muallem repeated the regime’s denial Thursday.

“The Syrian army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons — not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds,” he said.

WATCH: Father describes horror of Idlib attack

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Russia also stood by its longtime ally, with President Vladimir Putin warning against a rush to judgement.

Putin underlined “the unacceptability of making unfounded accusations against anyone before a thorough and impartial international investigation is carried out”.

More than 30 people were transferred across the border into Turkey for treatment following the incident, and Ankara said a preliminary probe found “a link between these injuries and the use of chemical weapons”.

“According to the results of the initial analysis, the findings suggest the injured were exposed to a chemical substance (sarin),” its health ministry said.

After an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Western diplomats are expected to push for a vote as early as Thursday on a resolution demanding an investigation into the incident.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the resolution, presented by Britain, France and the United States, remained a priority.

But “it’s difficult because up to now every time we have presented a resolution, there has been a veto by Russia and sometimes by China,” he added.

Geert Cappelaere, Middle East director at the UN children’s agency UNICEF, said at least 27 children were killed and 546 wounded in the suspected attack.

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If confirmed as an attack, it would be among the worst incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011.

It has also prompted an about-face from US President Donald Trump, who in 2013 urged then-president Barack Obama not to intervene against Assad after a major suspected chemical attack.

Senior US officials had also recently suggested it was no longer a priority that Assad be removed from power.

Trump described the alleged attack as an “affront to humanity” and warned it had changed his view of Assad.

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” he said, alluding to Obama’s failure to enforce his own 2013 “red line” on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

As she held up pictures of lifeless children at the UN on Wednesday, US ambassador Nikki Haley warned of unilateral action if the UN failed “in its duty to act collectively”.

The draft UN resolution backs a probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and demands Syria provide information on its operations.

The OPCW said Thursday it has opened an “ongoing investigation” into the suspected chemical attack, and has “initiated contact with the Syrian authorities” as part of the probe.

WATCH: Father mourns twins killed in Idlib attack

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Earlier, Muallem said such an investigation “must guarantee that it is not politicised, that it has broad geographic representation and that it is launched from Damascus, not Turkey”.

Britain, France and the United States asked the Security Council to hold a vote later Thursday on the resolution, diplomats said.

But it remained unclear whether Russia would support the measure, which was slightly revised after negotiations in the past two days.

Russia has previously used its veto seven times to shield Syria.

France warned Russia it would face a “terrible responsibility in front of history” if it vetoed it.

Turkey said Russia’s support of the Syrian regime was “utterly wrong”, in Ankara’s most bitter recent attack on Moscow after a dramatic warming of ties in recent months.

Syria officially relinquished its chemical arsenal and signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 to avert military action after it was accused of an attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds.

But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use since.

Analysts said it was unclear whether the Trump administration would follow through with its threats of action.

“We have no precedent to use to assess whether the Trump administration’s words yesterday were bluster or a representation of genuine threat,” said Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute.

“Trump… was exposed to the horrific footage that we all saw and quite clearly that had a transformative effect on him.

“Now we need to wait to see whether that transforms into real policy shifts or not.”

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Australians detained on Christmas Island ‘by mistake’

The government has admitted two Australian citizens were sent to the detention facility on Christmas Island within recent months by mistake.

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According to a statement from the Department of Immigration and Border protection, the pair had their visas cancelled under section 501 of the Migration Act.

Under the Act, non-citizens visas will be automatically cancelled if they have received a prison sentence of at least 12 months within Australia, or have been found guilty of a crime involving the sexual abuse of a child.

The department adds that “after it was identified that each individual held dual Australian citizenship, arrangements were immediately made for their release from immigration detention”.

The Guardian Australia is reporting the men, born in New Zealand, hold dual Australian citizenship.

Principal solicitor of the National Justice Project, Professor George Newhouse, said it’s “a shocking state of affairs”.

“We have a situation where Australian citizens can be wrongfully detained on the whim, on the decision of a bureaucrat or a government minister,” he said.

Professor Newhouse said he believes the reasons these cases occur is because the system is “unaccountable”, where “you don’t need to be taken before a judge or a court” for visa decisions.

“Mistakes happen when you cut corners and you take away due process,” he said.

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Australian citizen Cornelia Rau was held by authorities for 10 months from 2004-2005, later receiving more than $2 million in compensation.

Prior to this, in 2001, Vivian Solon was wrongfully deported to the Philippines, with Australian authorities believing she was an illegal immigrant. Despite the government realising its error in 2003, it did not come to light until 2005.

A 2005 inquiry conducted by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer found the department breached its own guidelines regarding dealing with detainees, and slammed its treatment of Ms Rau as “demonstrably inadequate”.

More than 200 cases of alleged wrongful deportation were referred to the then-Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone for review.

But Professor Newhouse said things have changed since the investigation.

“The government’s policies have just got harder, and they’ve eroded the protections recommended by Mick Palmer,” he said, accusing the Australian Border Force of having a so-called “cowboy culture”.

According to the Australian Financial Review, current Border Force head, Roman Quaedvlieg, is on extended leave after an external investigation over his personal behaviour.

The government recently proposed reforms to citizenship, including changing the English language test and introducing a “values” test.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, who already has the power to veto decisions on visas by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, also wants his powers extended further.

Professor Newhouse said the minister wants to be “judge, jury and executioner”.

He warned that the situation could get worse.

“We live in a country where Australian citizens can be taken prisoner by their own government, when they’ve committed no offence, and done nothing wrong,” he said.

– with wires

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AFL players who face mental health battles

RECENT EXAMPLES OF AFL PLAYERS FIGHTING MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES:

PRESENT PLAYERS

TOM BOYD, 21: Eight months after starring in the Western Bulldogs’ grand final win, the big-money forward was on Wednesday granted a leave of absence to treat clinical depression.

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He revealed he has been managing the illness for an extended time.

TRAVIS CLOKE, 30: Boyd’s teammate announced in June he is taking time away from the sport to deal with mental health issues, with coach Luke Beveridge saying Cloke hadn’t been enjoying the game. He is likely to return in the reserves this weekend.

ALEX FASOLO, 25: The Collingwood forward took a short break to manage depression, missing their round 11 match this year.

LANCE FRANKLIN, 30: The Sydney star forward withdrew from the 2015 finals due to a serious mental health issue. He returned to the field the following year, kicking 81 goals.

PAST PLAYERS

MITCH CLARK, 29: The key Demons forward stepped away from the AFL in April 2014 after a string of injuries, also revealing he had depression. He returned to play for Geelong for two seasons but was delisted in 2016.

BARRY HALL, 40: The ex-Sydney premiership captain Barry Hall revealed in April he had faced mental challenges in the months after retirement.

COURTENAY DEMPSEY, 29: The ex-Essendon defender revealed in May he felt “like a piece of meat” when he was delisted by the Bombers, with his depression adding to the devastation over 12 teammates’ doping bans.

SIMON HOGAN, 28: The ex-Geelong player revealed his struggle with depression in 2014 to educate younger players about mental illness.

CHAD FLETCHER, 37: Ex-West Coast Eagles midfielder Chad Fletcher revealed “dark clouds” hovered over him during his All-Australian year in 2004.

WAYNE SCHWASS, 48: The North Melbourne and Sydney great, who endured mental health problems in retirement, now advocates for mental health awareness.

NATHAN THOMPSON, 39: The ex-Kangaroos player spoke publicly in 2004 about his experience of depression. He’s since become an ambassador for mental health agency beyondblue to raise awareness of its prevalence.

Australian readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Nahan expects Barnett to retire this year

West Australian opposition leader Mike Nahan expects former premier Colin Barnett to retire from politics this year but believes he first wants to ensure his legacy is not trashed.

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Dr Nahan has not spoken to Mr Barnett about it, but believes WA’s second longest-serving post-war premier wants to see the September budget handed down.

“I expect him, in his own good time, to leave this year but it’s his choice,” Dr Nahan told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“He was an extremely dominant leader for a long period of time … it was his show.

“I think he’s going to wait around for the budget to see what happens. He does have a legacy that he wants to comment on, I’m sure.”

Dr Nahan said he trusted the former premier, who he had known for 30 years, and said Mr Barnett had recently helped him put together the WA Liberals GST submission to the Productivity Commission.

Mr Barnett has so far remained tight-lipped about his future.

If he does exit politics, it will spark a by-election in his safe seat in coastal Cottesloe.

Dr Nahan also spoke candidly about the Liberal party’s March election loss, saying he knew defeat was coming but did not know the swing would be so big, with Labor winning 41 of the 59 seats.

He said there was nothing more local members could have done and while he did not take the defeat personally, it was hard to lose so many colleagues.

The 67-year-old former treasurer said he was committed to four more years, describing himself as “the leader, not the boss”.

“I’m actually quite good for this post (as opposition leader) because I’m very, very experienced in the transition to government,” he said.

“I was a commentator forever, I was a former bureaucrat, so nothing that comes across our observations for comment is new to me.”

Trump’s options limited on North Korea

WHAT OPTIONS DOES THE US HAVE FOR CRACKING DOWN ON NORTH KOREA?

US President Donald Trump has talked tough over North Korea’s missile tests but his options appear limited.

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Most options fall into four categories.

ECONOMIC SANCTIONS

North Korea is already among the most heavily sanctioned nations, facing numerous strictures to limit its ability to conduct commerce, take part in international finance and trade in weapons and other contraband.

Despite those measures, “most analysts agree that US and multilateral sanctions have not prevented North Korea from advancing its fledgling nuclear weapons capability,” a US Congressional Research Service report says.

Trump is reportedly focusing his North Korea strategy for now on tougher sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, banning its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang.

COVERT ACTION

The US, with help from Israel, temporarily set back Iran’s nuclear program via a computer virus called Stuxnet, which destroyed thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

The US tried, but failed, to deploy a version of Stuxnet to attack North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in 2009 and 2010.

Another approach would be to use cyber attacks to disable North Korean missiles during or shortly after their launch.

The high failure rate of the North’s missile tests has prompted speculation the US is already doing so.

DIPLOMACY

The Trump administration has said it is open to diplomatic negotiations with North Korea but only under the right conditions, with the focus on “denuclearisation”.

There have been no official negotiations for seven years.

While China has responded to previous North Korean tests of suspected ICBM technology by agreeing to tougher UN sanctions, it emphasised on Tuesday its call for a return to talks with North Korea.

Under Beijing’s plan, North Korea would suspend its ballistic missile program in return for a moratorium on large-scale military exercises by the US and South Korea.

MILITARY FORCE

Military options available to Trump range from a sea blockade aimed at enforcing sanctions to cruise missile strikes on nuclear and missile facilities to a broader campaign aimed at overthrowing leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea has threatened to “ruthlessly ravage” the US if Washington attacks.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has warned the consequences of any military action would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale”, while Trump national security adviser HR McMaster has indicated force is a last resort.

EU rules tackle multinationals’ tax dodges

The European Parliament has passed a directive requiring big multinationals to report tax and financial data separately in all countries where they operate in a bid to tackle tax avoidance and profit shifting to countries with lower taxes.

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The new rules are part of a wider overhaul of tax regulation spurred by the so-called Panama Papers and other revelations of widespread tax avoidance by companies and wealthy individuals.

They do, however, still need approval from the EU member states in coming months, and would then have to be enacted into national law in each country within a year.

EU countries lose between 50 and 70 billion euros in revenues every year because of tax avoidance, the vice president of the European Commission, Valdis Dombrovskis, told lawmakers.

The new measure would require firms with activities in the EU and an annual turnover of at least 750 million euros ($A1.15 billion) to disclose data such as profits, revenues, taxes paid and number of employees for each country where they operate.

Currently, multinationals disclose their operations in one consolidated report.

Tax-dodging schemes often hinge on the transfer of taxable profits from the higher-tax states where they are made to countries with lower taxation or none at all.

Tax-saving schemes used by Apple, Amazon, Google, Starbucks and other companies have raised public pressure for EU-wide rules to close these loopholes.

The original legislative proposal made by the European Commission required country-by-country disclosures only for operations in EU states and in tax havens, although there is no common EU list of such jurisdictions.

The European Parliament changed the proposed rules to extend the reporting requirement to all countries where firms operate.

To protect Europe’s competitiveness, the conservative and liberal groups in the EU legislature successfully pushed for companies to be allowed to apply for limited-period exemptions from disclosing information that is commercially sensitive.

But the bill does not specify what would be considered sensitive. The anti-corruption group Transparency International called the exemption a “massive loophole” that could undermine the new legislation, and another campaign group, Oxfam, said lawmakers were “bowing to big business”.

German conservative legislator Markus Ferber said the clause was necessary to prevent companies “handing away business secrets to the competition on a silver platter”.

Nauru fears detention exit economic hit

The federal government has promised Nauru it won’t cut and run, amid speculation the immigration detention centre may close and as progress inches towards sending refugees on the island to the US.

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Nauru President Baron Waqa met with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Sydney on Thursday as part of a four-day visit to Australia.

Nauru hosts an Australian government-funded asylum seeker immigration detention centre opened in 2012, which in late January was housing 286 men, 49 women and 45 children.

The poverty-stricken Pacific island’s economy and employment rates have become heavily dependent on the centre.

The United States has agreed to take an unspecified number of processed and security-checked refugees in limbo on the island.

“The Australian government has made commitments to make sure that we do not suffer a quick change in situation with the (detention centre) because that is definitely going to affect us economically,” Mr Waqa told Sky News.

He flagged the detention centre may be repurposed once it’s closed or other countries might be interested in sending asylum seekers for processing on Nauru in the future.

“The way we look after asylum seekers and refugees is best practice in the world,” Mr Waqa said.

He confirmed US Homeland Security officials were on Nauru and in Australia working on arrangements to resettle refugees in America.

Mr Waqa said he had not sought assurances from the Trump administration that the deal will go ahead.

“If the United States were serious about it, they would have pulled the plug a long time ago,” he said.

He could not provide a date on when refugees will leave the island.

Mr Waqa hinted he thought that those left behind might pose a risk to locals on the island.

But he played down allegations refugees and asylum seekers had been raped or physically assaulted on the island, saying the stories are often made up.

“I do not concern myself with police matters,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Turnbull said Nauru’s efforts were greatly appreciated.

“I want to thank you for the great co-operation that Nauru shows in working together with us to combat this scourge of people smuggling,” he told the president.

The two leaders also discussed Nauru’s economic development and environmental challenges.

Mr Waqa and his wife Louisa will visit Brisbane and Canberra after Sydney.

He will also meet with officials from the Asian Development Bank, opposition MPs and Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and Queensland Governor Paul de Jersey.

In Canberra on Friday, he’ll tour the Mount Majura Solar Farm and lay a wreath at the War Memorial.

Germany holds social media companies to account for hate speech

Germany has approved plans that could see Facebook and Twitter fined for failing to remove illegal content.

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The legislation is yet to pass German parliament, but it’s expected that step will be a formality.

Under the proposed legislation, social media companies could be fined up to 50 million euros ($70 million) if they don’t remove obviously criminal content within 24 hours of it being reported.

“With the laws which we present, we protect freedom of expression,” German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said.

“Namely, the freedom of those who are to be silenced by threats, disgrace, hate and incitement, which we cannot accept.”

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Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all ban hate speech, intimidation, and bullying.

But Mr Maas is keen for the outlets to be held accountable for any material which is published on their websites.

“The providers of social platforms are responsible if their platforms are being abused to spread hate crimes and fake news,” Mr Maas said.

“There should be as little room for criminal rabble-rousing on social networks as there is out on the street.”

Mr Maas cited a year-long study by the ministry which says Twitter only deletes one per cent of offending material within 24 hours of it appearing.

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Facebook’s stats are better: they remove 39 per cent of material, but YouTube’s figures stacked up the best – 90 per cent of content flagged by users is deleted.

Some in Australia would like to see Germany’s hard-line stance replicated.

“We need to start taking fake news and hate speech and social media seriously,” CEO of Online Hate Prevention Institute Dr Andre Oboler said.

“That sort of content should be illegal, it should be criminal, and we should stop it,” Dr Oboler said.

Twitter and Facebook are yet to comment on the German parliament’s decision.

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Indigenous designers want bigger part in urban landscape

A group of Indigenous Australian designers has called for an end to what they say is an under-representation of Aboriginal people in design industries.

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The comments have come at a panel discussion for the Koorie Heritage Trust, an organisation representing Indigenous communities in Victoria.

Award-winning interior designer and artist Nicole Monks says Aboriginal people need to be included through the entire design process to ensure culturally appropriate content is created.

“You have to engage with Aboriginal people. It’s just that simple. You have to employ Aboriginal architects, Aboriginal urban planners, Aboriginal landscape designers, interior designers, furniture makers. You have to employ Aboriginal people to make those things.”

Award-winning Indigenous architect Jefa Greenaway says that contribution needs to start at an education level.

Mr Greenaway, a teacher at the Melbourne School of Design, says Aboriginal students are often under-represented in design fields like architecture and urban planning.

He says Indigenous students need to be given flexible entry levels and extra support to break into industries dominated by non-Indigenous people.

“Architecture is a long degree, five or six years. So you’ve got to be determined, and you’ve got to have a passion. But there’s also high bars to get over to entry. So, really, it’s about developing lateral pathways to encourage Indigenous kids in and finding stepping stones to get to that point. But, also, facilitating the sort of scaffolding and support around a student as they go through that period, because there will be those ebbs and flows. And if you’re a student from another state, then you are disconnected from country and connection to your own kinship and family groups, and so that can be alienating. So it’s also understanding some of those dynamics as well.”

Mr Greenaway has been working in the design industry since 1998 and was the first Indigenous architect registered in Victoria.

He says it is still important to teach the Indigenous design principles of sustainability and connection to country in classes with students of non-Indigenous backgrounds.

“Everyone is actually crying out to find a meaningful way to engage with this place. And the best way we can really do that is start to reference and connect to some of the stories, the narratives, the histories, the memories that reside here. And so embedding Indigenous design thinking into design disciplines, to me, kind of makes sense.”

But Indigenous urban planner Timmah Ball warns there should be caution around Indigenous design created by non-Indigenous people.

Ms Ball works as a policy and project officer at the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning.

She says there have been situations where Aboriginal culture has only been used to create hype, rather than to respectfully acknowledge Indigenous communities.

“Occasionally, it can be tokenistic and a little bit hijacked by white agendas. And I think, although it’s very exciting to see everyone getting really interested in this, it can sometimes lose authenticity. So it’s just this complex balance of making sure that you get design that celebrates Aboriginal culture but ensuring that it’s led by Aboriginal people.”

When planning for new development and growth in cities, Ms Ball says it is important to consider Aboriginal people dealing with social issues like homelessness and job insecurity.

She says strong legislative regulations are needed to protect Aboriginal people’s connection to country and to support projects creating more Indigenous jobs.

“I think, when you’re in a city and you see Aboriginal people in places that are so important to them, like Fitzroy, who are struggling with job insecurity and homelessness, well, for me, as an urban planner, I just want to make sure that we can address that issue. There’s the exciting stuff, like creating a really beautiful and culturally rich environment, but also just supporting Aboriginal people who, I guess, aren’t as lucky and don’t have the privilege that I have.”

While Indigenous design is tied to Aboriginal culture, Ms Monks says its values are important for every Australian.

“Blak Design matters for everybody, everybody that lives, works and plays on this country. For you to have a better sense of yourself, you need to understand the place that you inhabit. And Blak Design has the ability to do that.”

 

 

WA budgets cops $1.2 billion hit

The WA Labor government is set for a fight with unions in 2017 after Treasurer Ben Wyatt said he was considering imposing a wage freeze for public servants to deal with a budget hit by a new $1.

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2 billion black hole.

Under-treasurer Michael Barnes revealed the already beleaguered budget would be $1.2 billion worse off than predicted a month ago before Labor’s election win because of falls in its share of the national GST pool by nearly $1 billion and more than $200 million in falling land taxes.

Mr Barnes painted a bleak picture of the state’s finances, with net debt now forecast to peak at a massive and record $42.3 billion by 2019-20, up from $41.1 billion.

Premier Mark McGowan described the state’s finances as “the worst since the Great Depression” and Mr Wyatt warned WA’s public servants – the best paid in Australia – that he would look at their wages because it represented 40 per cent of government spending.

A wage freeze by a Labor government would follow the Liberal National government last year capping public sector annual pay rises at 1.5 per cent.

“I am looking at the cost of salaries and wages … I can’t quarantine the biggest spend of government from consideration,” Mr Wyatt said.

“(A pay rise of) 1.5 per cent is generous, the under-treasurer highlighted that we have in Perth very low inflation so 1.5 per cent is certainly a real wage rise. It is not dramatic, I accept that, but we are at the end of what has been over the last decade very strong wage rises in Western Australia.”

Teachers and police officers are among public sector employees due to negotiate new enterprise agreements this year.

Community & Public Sector secretary Toni Walkington said 1.5 per cent was an extremely modest increase and “any wage freeze needs to be completely taken off the table”.

Servicing the interest on the state’s debt was costing more than the annual funding for entire departments such as Corrections and was forecast to peak at $1.2 billion a year by 2019-20 and WA government bonds are considered riskier than those of the other states.

Mr Barnes described the state’s finances as “pretty grim” and delivered a presentation showing record falls in payroll tax revenue for the government, weak economic growth, inflation, high unemployment and underemployment.

One of Mr Wyatt’s first jobs when parliament resumes next month will be to pass a new Loan Bill and borrow more money to pay public servants.

Opposition Leader Mike Nahan accused the government of exaggerating the state’s financial problems and hiding the fact that improved iron ore prices were helping because it was “softening up” people to break its election promise not to introduce new taxes.

“The public of Western Australian should get ready for massive increases in electricity, water, public transport and other taxes, and public servants get ready for real wage cuts under a McGowan government,” he said.

Heated scenes as UN Security Council meets on Syria

Heartbreaking vision has emerged from Syria’s Idlib province, showing a father cradling the bodies of his nine-month-old twins.

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Abdel Hameed al-Youssef describes how he and his young family tried desperately to escape as toxic gases were released during airstrikes in the area.

“I was right beside them. I took them outside with their mother. They were conscious, but 10 minutes later we could smell it and my children couldn’t handle it any more. I left them to the medics and went to find my family.”

Mr al-Youssef’s wife and his children, Aya and Ahmed, were reportedly among 20 members of his family killed.

“I left Ahmed and Aya in good health. Why did this happen? I went to help other people and thought my children were OK. Now they’re gone.”

Rescue workers continue to find more terrified survivors hiding in shelters in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Dozens were killed during the attack that left residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets.

The World Health Organisation’s Dr Peter Salama says if the attacks are confirmed as chemical, it marks “a level of barbarism not seen in recent times”.

“We’re working to help the doctors and nurses with the clinical management of these patients they’re seeing, we’re working to ensure they have adequate personal protective equipment to protect themselves as they treat the patients, and we’re working to ensure they have the drugs and medical equipment to do so. The symptoms they’re exhibiting are indeed consistent with the use of toxic chemicals. The symptoms might start with a runny nose or irritation of the eyes, it then quickly progresses to breathing difficulties, to muscular spasms and ultimately to convulsions and to coma, and of course to death.”

The attacks have received worldwide condemnation and during an emergency debate at the UN Security Council there was little doubt over who was thought responsible.

Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, pointed the finger squarely at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“This doesn’t look like the work of terrorists. This doesn’t look like the work of the opposition. This bears all the hallmarks of the Assad regime and the use of chemical weapons is a war crime.”

One of Syria’s chief allies was also caught in the cross hairs.

The United States ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, held up pictures of children killed in the attack, and criticised Russia for backing President Assad’s government.

“If Russia has the influence in Syria that it claims to have we need to see them use it. We need to see them put an end to these horrific acts. How many more children have to die before Russia cares?”

But the Syrian government and Russia have been equally vehement in their denials.

In a statement broadcast on Syrian state television, government forces “categorically” denied using chemical weapons.

“The Syrian national army is incapable of carrying out these heinous criminal acts and hold the terrorist groups and those who stand behind them responsible for the use of chemical and poisonous substances, with no regard for the lives of innocent civilians, all with the aim of achieving their despicable goals and objectives.”

Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov, told the Security Council the poisonous gas came from a rebel chemical weapons depot hit by Syrian government air strikes.

“The Syrian air force conducted an air strike on the eastern end of Khan Sheikhoun on a large warehouse of ammunition and military equipment. On the territory of that warehouse, there was a facility to produce ammunition with the use of toxic weapons.”

Rebel forces deny the claim.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has strongly condemned the Syrian government in the wake of the attack.

Speaking at the White House during a visit by Jordan’s King Abdullah, Mr Trump labelled the attack “a terrible affront to humanity”

“It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal – people were shocked to hear what gas it was – that crosses many, many lines beyond a red line – many, many lines.”

Mr Trump repeated criticism of his predecessor, Barack Obama, for failing to act after threatening military action against the Syrian government in 2012.

But Mr Trump is yet to say what he will do to try and bring the now six-year conflict to an end.