Last Man on Manus Island

REPORTER: Olivia Rousset

I’m flying to remote Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

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Along with Nauru, it’s one of the two processing centres set up for asylum seekers under the Howard Government’s Pacific Solution.

Deliberately placed far from human rights workers, lawyers and the media, for a long time it was almost impossible for an outsider to visit here.

PNG GUIDE: This is the gate, be aware of that gun pointing at you on the right. Good morning. SBS.

PNG OFFICER: OK, we’ll have to direct you down to the commander officer and we go down there and you will see him and talk to him. I will come with you.

Since September 2001, asylum seekers have been brought to the Lombrum Naval Base, where they’re guarded by the PNG military at Australia’s request. But now there is only one person left here, a 25-year-old Palestinian refugee from Kuwait – Aladdin Sisalem.

REPORTER: Hello, Aladdin. Olivia, nice to meet you.

Aladdin has been here for 15 months, he’s been alone for the past seven. I am his second visitor in that time.

ALADDIN SISALEM: All that I can do now is remember things. Remember that some people were with me here and just to forget that I am living here alone.

Aladdin’s solitary confinement has cost the Australian taxpayer about $5 million dollars so far. The detention centre can house around 1,000 asylum seekers. It has gym, a mess area, a children’s playground, and even a makeshift mosque. But most of Aladdin’s day is spent in his room, plotting his escape on the computer.

ALADDIN SISALEM: The Internet is the only window I can look out from this detention centre. So I spend all my day inside the room. Finding research for information, trying to find help outside, that’s all that I can do here.

When Aladdin first arrived, there were about 150 people here.

ALADDIN SISALEM: They are in Auckland now. This is in Auckland as well, New Zealand.

Of all the asylum seekers brought to Manus, Aladdin was the only one to have actually made it to Australia. But he was also the only one left behind when his friends departed.

ALADDIN SISALEM: This is when the first group of New Zealand was going.

REPORTER: How did you feel when they left? Did you think that you would go soon?

ALADDIN SISALEM: I just felt happy for them. I just wished that some day I would leave like them.

The guards are discouraged from talking to the sole inmate here so his only company is a stray cat – Honey.

ALADDIN SISALEM: Hi, Honey. Give me your hand.

Aladdin’s prolonged incarceration has had a heavy impact on his state of mind. He used to take five different pills daily, until the psychiatrist and the doctor left along with the rest of the asylum seekers.

ALADDIN SISALEM: I told them don’t stop this medicine because they tried to stop it.

Now a guard gives him just one anti-anxiety tablet each afternoon. Even so, he’s still plagued by thoughts of suicide.

ALADDIN SISALEM: I don’t see the government planning for any end for my situation. Only just to maybe they want me to end it myself. And I can’t. I don’t have the courage to do that. And I won’t do it. And I need my rights to live. And I want to live. I don’t want to be forgotten here until I make my own decision. I don’t want that. I can’t do it.

ERIC VADARLIS, ALADDIN’S LAWYER: There is no doubt in my mind that Aladdin is really stuck between a hard place and a rock. He’s not in a place of his own choosing, he came here because he believes that Australia was a free country, you know, signatory to the convention on refugees, obligated to give refuse to those people seeking asylum and unfortunately he was wrong because we’re a hard-arsed country here.

Eric Vadarlis is a prominent Melbourne solicitor who’s taken on Aladdin’s cause. He says that in 27 years of practising law, he’s never seen a case like this.

ERIC VADARLIS: He is a classic refugee. He’s a classic person for whom the convention was created back in 1947. Classic. And yet, he comes here, he’s stateless, he’s a Palestinian, he’s got no travel documents, he really can’t be anywhere. I mean, he can’t go to Mars, and yet they put him on Manus Island.

How Aladdin ended up on Manus Island is an extraordinary story. He was born in Kuwait but as the son of a Palestinian refugee he didn’t have automatic right to residency. Unable to work legally and harassed by the police, he left three years ago after getting a tourist visa to Indonesia. When he arrived in Jakarta he applied for asylum with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, or UNHCR. But after a year of living on the streets and no progress with his application, he set off for Papua New Guinea.

ALADDIN SISALEM: I come with the ship from Java, Indonesia…

Aladdin got a ship to Indonesian West Papua and travelled through dense jungle to the border with PNG.

ALADDIN SISALEM: This is the closest point between Indonesia and PNG and I arrive at about here.

After trekking for two weeks through the rainforest with no food, he arrived in Kiunga, Papua New Guinea. When he requested asylum he was told to walk back through the jungle to West Papua. Aladdin refused to go. He was jailed for illegal entry and says he was beaten in prison.

ALADDIN SISALEM: I spent seven months in Port Moresby trying with the immigration department…

When he was told that PNG doesn’t take asylum seekers from terrorist countries, he finally decided to try his luck in Australia.

ALADDIN SISALEM: So I flew from Port Moresby to Daru Island, this one here, Daru Island, PNG, Daru island. You see the border, it is close. And this is Saibai Island, Australia’s Saibai Island. It’s not far from the PNG border.

A fisherman took Aladdin to Australia’s Saiwai Island in the Torres Strait. At this critical moment he says he approached local immigration officers and asked for asylum. He was then flown to Thursday Island where officials in Canberra interviewed him by telephone. Aladdin thought his 2-year journey was finally over.

ALADDIN SISALEM: And in the morning they come, the immigration officers, the same ones they come and took me to the airport. I said “What’s happening? Where we going?” They said “We’re going to Manus Island.” I said “Why?” They said “It’s Australian centre, immigration centre. We’ll put you there and process your case.”

Aladdin waited here in the detention centre for nearly two months to hear about the processing of his case. But no-one approached him about it.

ALADDIN SISALEM: I see them come and talk to the other asylum seekers, told them about their situation but nobody tell me about my case. So I feel confused. And they told me – the immigration officer said to me – the same one who interviewed me for my asylum claim – he said to me “We don’t have an asylum application for you.” Now I start to understand the situation. I start to find it’s getting serious.

As a signatory to the UN refugee convention, Australia is obliged to grant asylum to anyone who lands in the migration zone, if they ask for it, and are found to be a refugee. Since arriving on Manus, Aladdin has been granted refugee status by the UNHCR. So what about Australia’s obligation to him, given that he sought asylum in Australian territory? The Government says he didn’t ask for the right form.

ALADDIN SISALEM: I didn’t want Australia to ask for tourist visa. I mean, I didn’t risk my life to enter some remote Australian remote island because I want – I am economy migrant or something like this. I needed help. I went there and first thing I asked, I asked for asylum. I was interviewed. I mean, if Australian immigration does not consider me as an asylum seeker why they ask me about the harms I suffered in Kuwait and the persecution? Why they ask me about that, if they don’t want to process my application for asylum?

REPORTER: Minister, can you tell me what someone’s required to do once they land within the Australian migration zone to ensure that a visa application for asylum is under way?

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE, MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION: Well, look, if someone wants some advice on how to make an asylum claim they should get it from the Immigration Department.

REPORTER: But if someone – if a refugee, say, lands within the migration zone of Australia, what do they need to do?

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE: As I say, if someone wants some advice on the legal requirements for making a claim, they can get that from the Immigration Department.

REPORTER: But if there’s someone who has –

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE: You’ve asked me that twice and I’ve given the same answer twice. I know why you’ve asked me that twice and I’m going to give you the same answer every time.

ERIC VARDARLIS: There’s no special way for a person to claim asylum. I mean logic helps because this guy landed on Saibai Island, in northern most part of Australia on his own and he’s a Palestinian and he sought asylum. I mean he says “I sought asylum” they said “No, you didn’t because you didn’t fill out the form.”

When Aladdin did submit a written claim for asylum he received this letter from the Department of Immigration.

DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION, LETTER: Dear Mr Sisalem, Australia does not have an obligation to extend protection to a person who is outside Australia. You are currently in Papua New Guinea and have applied for asylum there. Papua New Guinea is a signatory to the UN convention relating to the status of refugees.

ERIC VADARLIS: When this hit my desk the first time around I looked at it and I thought somebody must have ticked the wrong box for this man to be in the position he’s in today. I thought it was a simple misunderstanding that it would be sorted out fairly quickly.

Eric Vadarlis will be representing Aladdin in a Federal Court case next month, attempting to prove Aladdin is Australia’s responsibility.

ERIC VADARLIS: I think we need to go back a step and work out how Aladdin got there. Aladdin didn’t get there because he bought a ticket to Manus Island. He was taken there by the Australian Government, specifically taken and dumped there. Now whose problem is he? So, you know, is the Australian Government into the slave trade? Do they pick people up and just take them off to Manus Island and drop them there and say they are someone else’s problem?

In fact this is precisely what the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs claims.

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE: Well, you’ve asked me this a couple of times, I’ve indicated to you Mr Sisalem is not the responsibility of the Australian Government.

REPORTER: It just doesn’t seem very clear that the PNG Government says that as far as they’re concerned the detention centre is Australian property, it’s virtually Australia. You’ve got a guy who entered the migration zone here and was flown by Australian authorities to Manus Island detention centre where he’s being looked after by people who are paid by the Australian Government, how can he not be Australia’s responsibility?

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE: Well, as I’ve indicated to you he’s not the Australian Government’s responsibility. I understand that’s agreed. I’m not privy…

With Aladdin’s court case pending, Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone refuses to discuss his case in detail. While Aladdin sits alone, the locals enjoy a Sunday soccer match just outside the fence of the detention centre. As no-one can visit him, they know nothing about him.

GIRL (Translation): We’ve heard that he’s married to a Papua New Guinean woman so he comes out, he walks around…

In fact, Aladdin hasn’t left the centre since early February when he was taken out for a couple of hours escorted by guards. He no longer wants to go outside, he’s afraid that Australia is pressuring PNG to give him asylum and based on prior experiences, he’s terrified he’ll be killed.

ERIC VADARLIS: I think Aladdin is very scared at the moment. He really doesn’t know what’s going on. It’s all a bit beyond him. And frankly I don’t blame him. He’s been imprisoned by the PNG system, so really he wouldn’t have very much faith in the process and I don’t blame him.

Aladdin says the manager of the camp knows he’s in danger.

ALADDIN SISALEM: He told me, he agreed with me that if I left PNG authorities my body would be in the jungle and he said “That’s why I don’t want you out of here.” But he’s still pushing me to get out.

The Papua New Guinean Foreign Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu wants to close the gates when the lease comes up at the end of this year.

SIR RABBIE NAMALIU, PNG FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, our feeling is that the detention centre has probably served its purpose. There’s only one soul left at the centre, and if that is going to be the case, we feel there is no point in continuing with the centre.

For the time being, Australia is happy to keep the camp open with Aladdin as its sole occupant, at a cost of $23,000 a day.

ALADDIN SISALEM: There is not any reason to keep me on my own here, OK. What between them and Australia and the PNG government, this is their own business, their own work. Myself, I need my right for freedom and safety.

ERIC VADARLIS: The way things look he’s going to be there forever, in a sort of Gilligan Island’s scenario. We’re just going to sit out and wait. So there’s a human being involved and he ought to be processed in accordance with the law and promptly.

REPORTER: There’s someone who for seven months has been alone and has only had two visitors in that time and is slowly going mad from that experience. Do you feel sorry for him as a genuine refugee who’s tried for two years to get asylum in Indonesia, then Papua New Guinea and then Australia and has found himself sort of in this detention centre all on his own not knowing what’s going on?

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE: With respect, I might have some different information from that which you have and no, I cannot say that I have any sorry for Mr Sisalem’s position.

REPORTER: You don’t feel sorry for a stateless refugee?

SENATOR AMANDA VANSTONE: You’ve just asked me a question and I’ve answered it.

Aladdin is allowed only two phone calls each month. He’s calling his family in Kuwait where they live as refugees.

ALADDIN SISALEM (Translation): The whole world is talking about it, but it’s no use.

His father hasn’t left the house in 15 years and recently had a stroke brought about by the stress of Aladdin’s perilous journey.

ALADDIN SISALEM (Translation): Look after my father, all right? Look after my father.

REPORTER: Do they worry about you?

ALADDIN SISALEM: They just feel helpless. They feel helpless. They have their own problems to worry about. They have a lot. So actually, I am the one who worries about them.

REPORTER: What do they say to you?

ALADDIN SISALEM: Don’t give up.

Springboks guilty over armband protest

Rugby’s governing body has found the Springboks guilty of bringing the game into disrepute with an armband protest against a ban given to Bakkies Botha.

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Charges were laid after the side wore white armbands bearing the word ‘justice’ during their third Test defeat by the British and Irish Lions last month.

The armbands were worn as a symbol of solidarity with lock Botha, who the South Africans felt had been unfairly banned for dangerously charging into a ruck during the second Test of the series.

The International Rugby Board (IRB)’s independent disciplinary committee fines of STG10,000 ($A19,700) on the South African Rugby Union (SARU), STG1,000 ($A1,970) on Springbok skipper John Smit and STG200 ($A400) on each of the other players.

The committee said the sanctions would have been much more severe but for legal technicalities, and the IRB could yet seek tougher measures by appealing against the ruling of its disciplinary committee.

No apology

SARU acknowledged the guilty verdict but held off a response until it had reviewed the findings.

“We note the outcome of the International Rugby Board’s Disciplinary Committee hearing into the charges brought against the South African Rugby Union, Springbok players and management,” said SARU president Oregan Hoskins.

“We are reviewing the full findings of the committee and will respond once that review is concluded.”

The IRB committee was made up of two judges, Sir John Hansen of New Zealand and Guillermo Tragant of Argentina, and former Australian captain John Eales.

In its ruling, the committee said that the action of the Springboks “brought the game into disrepute, criticised the judicial process and was misconduct”.

The committee also noted the absence of any apology from SARU, the team’s management or the players themselves.

World Cup ban

It emphasised that “the playing arena is no place for protest” and that the wearing of the armbands “showed a serious lack of respect and consideration for their opponents”.

SARU was found to have failed to make any attempt to prevent the protest, approved of it and effectively consented to conduct which was prejudicial to the best interests of the IRB and of the game.

In a statement the IRB added that: “The Independent Committee was unanimous in its view that, had it not been for the legal technicalities… both SARU and the Springbok players and

management would have faced much more serious sanctions”.

It said those sanctions could have faced “a more severe fine in the case of SARU and the suspension of the Springbok players and management from the Rugby World Cup 2011 (such sanction to have been suspended in the absence of further acts of misconduct before then).”

The IRB said it was “extremely disappointed” at the level of sanctions imposed and would consider an appeal in the hope of securing tougher punishment to act as a deterrent against any repeat of the Springboks’ action by players around the world.

Troops patrol Peru quake town

Rescue crews were now focusing on aid efforts for tens of thousands of people left destitute by the massive earthquake.

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President Alan Garcia has threatened to impose a curfew to stop looting by angry mobs, with 200,000 people said to have been affected by Wednesday's magnitude-8 quake which left 500 dead and 1,600 injured.

"I have ordered to use the harshest measures and if needed to impose a curfew," Mr Garcia told reporters in Pisco, the town, 240 kilometres southeast of Lima, hit hardest by the quake.

More than 1,000 troops and police armed with assault rifles were patrolling the streets of the town which was 70 percent destroyed in the quake.

At least 500 dead

Police on Sunday released the latest official death toll in Pisco. The tally is likely to increase the overall toll in Peru's southern Pacific Coast, previously estimated at 500.

National police colonel Roger Torres told news agency AFP at least 308 people were confirmed dead in Pisco, including 160 worshippers who were crushed when the town's San Clemente church collapsed. Mr Torres believed a further 150 were still buried in rubble elswehere in the town.

Amid mounting reports of looting and assaults, President Garcia on Saturday ordered more troops to the quake-stricken southern area and promised that authorities would keep the peace "whatever the cost."

Many thousands were left homeless by the quake and on Sunday faced a fifth night sleeping in the streets in the chilly southern hemisphere winter.

Emergency workers meanwhile abandoned rescue efforts as hopes for finding any more survivors faded. "The possibility of finding someone alive is nearly nil," Jorge Molina, search and rescue operations chief for the local firefighters, told AFP.

Efforts would now focus on recovering the dead in the rubble and helping secure the distribution of aid, officials said.

Angry mobs

Desperate mobs have been looting trucks carrying food and water, and some people tried to break into the air force base where relief efforts have been centralized.

Close to the provincial capital of Ica, another mob tried to raid a convoy of trucks carrying emergency supplies.

In nearby Chincha, a group of people tried to break into a hospital believing it held emergency food supplies.

Spanish fire-fighters searching the rubble of the Pisco church with trained sniffer dogs also had to stop their work late Saturday when gunfire broke out around them.

Aid workers are also worried of the risk of an outbreak of disease in the town.

Health Minister Carlos Vallejos said some 1,500 doctors and nurses were struggling to prevent the spread of epidemic diseases among earthquake victims.

"The problem is not only that there are still unfound bodies, the problem is water," and how human waste is being disposed of, he said.

Fears over disease

There were fears of an outbreak of infectious diseases in the quake-stricken areas such as diarrhea and cholera, while a choking dust from the rubble of the town was causing respiratory problems.

Medical officials said Saturday that symptoms of respiratory infections have begun to emerge as a floating dust cloaks the town, and warned the situation could deteriorate into an epidemic if residents fail to take precautions.

A field hospital has been set up by 22 US doctors in the grounds of the Pisco football stadium.

Among aid from other countries, the French embassy in Lima said fire-fighters from France had arrived in Peru to help.

Aftershocks are also continuing to keep people on edge. Peru's geophysical institute reported more than 400 tremors following the quake, which was the most devastating to hit the country since 1970.

Injured Chakvetadze retires from tennis

Russian former world No.

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5 and US Open semi-finalist Anna Chakvetadze, whose career was blighted by a horrific armed robbery in 2007, on Thursday announced her retirement from tennis, aged just 26, due to chronic back injuries.

“I no longer see myself in professional tennis so I am ready to say that my career is over,” Chakvetadze told the Sport Express daily.

“Of course, this was a difficult decision and I thought hard about it but now it is finally taken. I understood that the point of return to tennis was behind me.

“I have a chronic back injury,” she explained. “So I took the decision to stop and start a new life.”

In a decade-long career, which earned her more than $US3.9 million ($A4.2 million) in prize money, Chakvetadze reached the last four of the US Open in 2007, won eight WTA singles titles and was also a member of two Russian teams which won the Fed Cup twice.

In 2007, she also reached the quarter-finals of the Australian and French opens, lifting to a career-high world ranking but had since plunged to 577.

Many believe her subsequent decline can be traced to the trauma of being held at knifepoint at home at the peak of her career in December 2007 by robbers who stole $US300,000 ($A323,000) and beat up her father.

“After this, my season was a complete failure. They did not rob me at a good time,” she told the paper with heavy irony. “Yes, it affected my further career.”

But she said the trauma had changed her and made her “look more deeply at things”.

“When the attack happened, I thought that was it for us. But we stayed alive.”

She said her parents still live in the same house and the criminals were never found.

Real unlikely to overburden Bale at Villarreal

Soccer’s richest club by income, who like champions Barca have a perfect nine points from three matches, splashed a record 100 million euros (84.

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2 million pounds) to secure Bale’s services and he could make his debut at promoted Villarreal in Saturday’s late kickoff (9 p.m.).

The 24-year-old winger played the final half hour of Wales’s 3-0 World Cup qualification defeat at home to Serbia on Tuesday, his first competitive action since July, and coach Chris Coleman warned afterwards it would be unwise for him to play a full match this weekend considering his relative lack of fitness.

After arriving in the Spanish capital on Wednesday, Bale had his first workout with his new team mates and although Real have a number of players injured, coach Carlo Ancelotti is unlikely to deploy him from the start at the Madrigal.

Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo, Spain playmaker Isco and Brazil fullback Marcelo all returned from international duty with problems of varying degrees of seriousness.

Ronaldo and Isco trained apart from the rest of the squad on Wednesday, while Marcelo had treatment from medical staff along with long-term absentee Xabi Alonso.

Villarreal, along with Atletico Madrid the only other team to win their opening three games, are eager to test themselves against opponents of Real’s calibre after spending a year in the second division last term.

Under coach Marcelino they have shown real attacking flair and their performances so far this term suggest they are more likely to be challenging for a place in Europe than flirting with relegation come the end of the campaign.

“It’s a chance to show that we can compete with anyone and that we can fight against a team like Madrid,” captain Bruno Soriano told a news conference on Wednesday.

“Last year, we were dreaming about playing these teams and now the opportunity has arrived and we want to put in a great performance,” the midfielder added.

“Personally I prefer it if an opponent is at full strength and that the best come so we can take them on.

“Although even if Madrid has some players out, I am sure they will have the same level of quality.”

TRADEMARK SPRINT

Barca are waiting on the fitness of midfielder Sergio Busquets and fullback Daniel Alves as they prepare to host Sevilla on Saturday (7 p.m.).

Coach Gerardo Martino has used Neymar sparingly in the early stages of Barca’s title defence, although he did play 90 minutes of the 3-2 victory at Valencia in their last league outing before the international break.

The Brazil forward shone for his country in friendly victories against Australia and Portugal over the past week, scoring a goal in each game including a trademark sprint through the Portuguese defence followed by a clinical finish.

Barca’s World Player of the Year Lionel Messi also returned on Wednesday after helping Argentina secure qualification for next year’s World Cup in Brazil with two penalties in a 5-2 success in Paraguay.

Messi missed the 1-0 win La Liga at Malaga last month before notching a hat-trick at Valencia to take his tally for the season to five goals in two games including a double at home to Levante in the opening round of matches.

Atletico, who are at home to promoted Almeria (1400) on Saturday, made a couple of new signings this month, bringing in Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld from Ajax Amsterdam and France midfielder Josuha Guilavogui from St Etienne.

Fellow Champions League participants Real Sociedad, who lost 2-1 at home to Atletico in their most recent outing, play at Levante, also on Saturday (5 p.m.).

(Editing by John O’Brien)

Comment: Podcast confessions

Headphones are a blessing of modern life, particularly for those us of who prefer to cultivate our human interactions with a specificity unsuited to living in a highly populated urban space.

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They are one of the most effective ways to enact the role of being a stranger in public – of putting up a wall between you and the seething mass of humanity around you.  But there comes a point when you have exhausted the music available to your tastes and require something more intellectually stimulating.

I’ve long looked forward to the day that information can be beamed directly into my head, and with the rising popularity of audiobooks and podcasts, that day is here. The problem is, where to start?

Systems of crowdsourced valorisation for podcasts are impractical because of the way podcasts are made for and consumed by niche audiences. Consumers are moving away from broadcast television and radio, and are cultivating their cultural consumption in narrowcast channels. We watch television when and how we choose, thanks to the wonder of time-shifted viewing. Podcasts can be seen as a variation of time-shifting for broadcast audio.

The problem shifts from value to discovery. Recommendation from both loose and close ties in your social orbit are still the most popular and effective way to find your next favourite book, tv show, movie and yes, podcast. Despite Amazon’s algorithmic prowess and iTunes list rankings, we still hold our human interactions in more esteem than our machinic ones. So read on for this human’s recommendations from the world of podcasts.

For the aspiring science nerd – Aeon Magazine

Aeon magazine features experts writing about interests ranging in  diversity from astronomy – the night sky as a necropolis of alien civilisations – to vegan carnivores. They record an audio version of some of the essays from the site, often offering fascinating insight into the chosen topic.

For the recreational history user – Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

American political commentator Dan Carlin has two podcasts. Common Sense focuses on his world of almost anarchist suspicions about mainstream US politics. The more popular Hardcore History podcast is the place to start, as he discusses historical events by framing them in terms of current and relatable concepts. They’re a major commitment – recent episodes have clocked in at  over 4 hours – but that’s the beauty of podcasts. Pause at will.

For some 90s pop culture nostalgia – Bring a Plate with Peter and Bec

You might be familiar with Bec as @brocklesnitch on twitter, and if you enjoy her 140 character musings you are going to adore the extended audio version. Peter and Bec discuss recent newsworthy events, and then watch and recap a movie from the 90s. It’s both hilarious and enlightening for those of us who grew up in the 90s, and useful trivia for those who didn’t.

For the pop-economics buff – Econ Talk

Russ Roberts is a professor of economics at George Mason University, and hosts a one-on-one discussion with a guest every week. The guest often has recently written a topical book or is knowledgeable regarding a recent newsworthy event, making this podcast one of the most useful for learning about economic ideas and theories with real world examples.

For the media-savvy – On The Media

A behind the scenes look at the issues concerned in reporting the news and current events. Warm and often humorous, it takes a reflective and cerebral approach to examining how the media “sausage” is made. Highly recommended for those inside news reporting as well as outsiders with more than a passing interest.

For the genre-fiction fan – Podmentum

Full disclosure, this “official podcast of Momentum books” used to be my baby. I have now handed the solemn duty of discussing sci-fi, urban fantasy and romance fiction over to my former colleagues and fellow book nerds, and their last episode about political erotic fiction did not disappoint.

Okay, excited about listening to podcasts? Chosen which one you want to hear? Don’t have a clue how to access them? Here’s a handy guide I prepared earlier. And if you’re looking for more recommendations, come find me on twitter @annetreasure.

Anne Treasure is a recent survivor of the book industry.

Trekkers attacked by PNG bandits tell of horror

A group of Australian and New Zealand trekkers brutally attacked by bandits in Papua New Guinea told Thursday of their harrowing ordeal and horror as two porters were butchered.

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The eight tourists were in their tents on the remote jungle-clad Black Cat Track in the lawless Pacific nation’s northern Morobe province when a mob of six armed men struck at dusk on Tuesday.

   

Two porters were hacked to death with machetes and four of the Australians were injured, including one who was speared through the leg.

   

“It started to rain and some of us were inside the tents when there was a whole lot of noise, shouting. I thought the boys had found a bush kangaroo, an animal or something like that,” one of the survivors, Nick Bennett, told Channel Nine after arriving in the capital Port Moresby.

   

“Next thing, I thought ‘what’s going on’, I put my head outside tent and smack — I thought I’d been shot actually,” he said of being hit with a rifle butt.

   

“Blood just erupted out of my head and I looked up and I saw this guy with a mask on standing over me, and then the whole thing unfolded.

   

“They were laying into the porter boys. I realised they were butchering the porters. It was just appalling and we’re very fortunate.”

   

Another survivor, Peter Stevens, told Australian Associated Press he and the rest of the group were forced to lie on the ground as the men ransacked their backpacks, stealing passports and other items.

   

“They then laid into us with bush knives, hitting us with the flats of the knives,” Stevens said.

   

“You can’t tell whether they’re going to hit you with the flat side. Some people were cut.”

   

Stevens said two of the attackers were clearly on drugs and “they did the most damage”.

   

The group managed to hike some four hours back to safety, reportedly carrying the porters’ bodies.

   

Papua Prime Minister Peter O’Neill vowed the tribesmen responsible will face the death penalty if caught and convicted.

   

“I make no apology whatsoever for the death penalty being the punishment available to be applied for such crimes,” he said in a statement.

   

While the attack was believed to be a robbery, some reports suggested it could also stem from growing resentment that the booming trekking industry is not giving back to local communities.

   

Crime in Papua New Guinea is rampant, including in Port Moresby where in June four Chinese nationals were hacked to death, with one reportedly beheaded and the others dismembered.

   

Brutality against women is particularly endemic, with high rates of domestic violence. In April, a US academic was gang-raped while she was trekking along a jungle trail with her husband and a guide.

   

The Black Cat Track runs between Wau and Salamaua in northern PNG through leech- and snake-infested jungle with precarious drops and potentially dangerous river crossings.

   

It was the scene of bitter fighting in 1943, pitting Australian and US troops against Japanese forces.

  

Jobless rate hits four-year high

The unemployment rate rose to a four-year high in August, posing a challenge for both the central bank and the incoming Abbott government.

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New data on Thursday showed the jobless rate rising to 5.8 per cent, as economists had expected, compared to 5.7 per cent in both June and July.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said the number of people in employment dropped by 10,800 in August, when economists had expected a 10,000 increase.

Full-time employment fell by 2600, while those in part-time work decreased by 8200.

Forward indicators of employment, such as job advertisements, point to a continued reluctance to hire by business in the coming months.

Treasury has forecast the unemployment rate rising to 6.25 per cent by June next year.

Among the states, the jobless rate rose to 5.9 per cent from 5.7 per cent in NSW, while in Queensland it increased to six per cent from 5.9 per cent.

In Western Australia the rate jumped to five per cent from 4.6 per cent and in Tasmania it rose to 8.3 per cent from 8.2 per cent.

South Australia bucked the trend with its unemployment rate easing to 6.8 per cent from 7.1 per cent, while in Victoria it was unchanged at 5.7 per cent.

In The ACT the rate was also unchanged at 3.7 per cent, while in the Northern Territory it rose to 5.5 per cent from 5.4 per cent.

SEASONALLY ADJUSTED UNEMPLOYMENT RATES STATE BY STATE:

   

NSW – 5.9% in August, up from 5.7% in July

Vic – 5.7%, unchanged from July

Qld – 6.0%, up from 5.9%

SA –  6.8%, down from 7.1%

WA –  5.0%, up from 4.6%

Tas – 8.3%, up from 8.2%

Ball use key to Cats’ AFL revival: Bartel

Geelong star Jimmy Bartel says smarter kicking can ease the Cats’ attacking woes as they strive to keep their AFL premiership hopes alive against Port Adelaide on Friday night.

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Geelong kicked their lowest score this season, 9.18 (72), in last Saturday’s upset qualifying final loss to Fremantle.

The absence of spearhead Tom Hawkins, who has struggled for months with a back injury, was sorely felt, with 10-gamer Josh Walker contributing little in his place.

Hawkins was named to return for Friday night’s cut-throat MCG semi-final against the buoyant Power.

The Cats’ inexperienced ruck pairing of Mark Blicavs and Nathan Vardy also copped a hiding from Fremantle’s Aaron Sandilands and Zac Clarke, enabling the Dockers to dominate the clearances.

But Geelong football manager Neil Balme backed the pair on Thursday.

Bartel said it was Geelong’s ball use that most needed addressing.

“It wasn’t our forwards’ fault that we kept dumping it on their heads,” he told AAP.

“Probably if our ball use was a bit better, it might have made the game a bit different.”

He said it was unfair to blame Walker, who was dropped for Friday’s clash.

“He gave us everything he could. The problem is we kept kicking it on top of his head,” Bartel said.

He added the Cats had lost the hit-out and clearance counts regularly this season, but it hadn’t generally mattered.

“We’ve been beaten all year there and we managed to get to second on the ladder,” he said.

“But there’s no disgrace in getting beaten by the tallest man to ever play the game.

“It’s always going to make it hard.

“We’ll just saddle up Friday and hopefully get a better result out of that.”

Adding to the Cats’ problems, they’ve lost two-time best and fairest Corey Enright to a knee injury.

Josh Caddy (ankle) is also out, with Taylor and Josh Hunt returning.

They’ll take on a Power side that is unchanged and buzzing after last Saturday night’s upset of Collingwood.

“They’re a young side that’s fit and Kenny Hinkley’s got them playing some daring and brave football,” Bartel said.

“They play exciting, they’re good to watch, they take the ball up through the middle and they’re never out of the game.”

In the Cats’ favour, they’ve won their past nine meetings with the Power and it’s been six years since any side with the double chance has exited the finals in straight sets.

Geelong still believe they can fight back and win the flag.

“We’re disappointed but we’re not defeated yet,” Bartel said.

“The equation’s still the same. We’ve got to win three games to get there in the end.

“Freo certainly outplayed us but we’ll work on it.

“We’ve got a great opportunity on Friday night against a side in pretty good touch.”

Shorten calls for Labor unity as Rudd hands keys to Abbott

Bill Shorten today said he wanted unity to return to the Australian Labor Party.

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He wanted to “rule a line under the divisions of the Rudd and Gillard era”, for everyone in his party to be nice to each other and for the plotting and conniving to end.

As he announced his wish to become the new Labor leader, Mr Shorten referred to the disunity that is generally regarded as a major cause of Labor’s election rout.

And he accepted his part in it, suggesting it’s acceptable to be disruptive if your intentions are as honourable as his were.

“In making hard decisions, what’s motivated me is how to make the Labor Party the most competitive force it can be in Australian politics,” he said.

“It is very clear that I, along with all members of the caucus, should accept some responsibility for the last few years.

“Decisions were hard. But I have always acted with the best interests of the Labor Party and the nation at stake.”

Mr Shorten made his opening bid for the top job with sincerity and conviction.

He delivered his words thoughtfully and calmly, took a shot at Mr Rudd and later praised him and Ms Gillard.

Mr Rudd, the first prime minister against whom he plotted, had done a good job in the campaign, his efforts ensuring the return to parliament of as many Labor MPs as possible.

“I will acknowledge that forever,” Mr Shorten said.

In line with his call for positivism, Mr Shorten spoke pleasantly, if not glowingly, about Ms Gillard, whose demise he worked for this year.

“I am grateful for the work Julia Gillard did in a minority government. She led us through some difficult times.”

The announcement came as Kevin Rudd today handed the keys to the lodge over to Tony Abbott.

Mt Abbott said his daughters would live there also, and joked they would do so until they were married.

Kevin Rudd quipped, “I know that feeling.”

 

Dutch apologise for Indonesian executions

Thousands of Indonesians lost their lives during the war that led to the country’s independence in the 1940s.

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The apology is being welcomed by the Indonesian community in Australia, which says it will bring closure to many who lost loved ones.

Recent years have seen the Netherlands acknowledge and express regret over isolated cases of violence and killings during its colonial rule of Indonesia, which formally ended in 1949.

This latest apology is the first public acknowledgment that summary executions were also carried out by the Dutch army, particularly on the island of Sulawesi.

The Dutch had controlled the Indonesian archipelago for some three centuries, exploiting it for its precious spices and cash crops.

During the Second World War, when parts of Indonesia came under Japanese occupation, the Indonesians began to push for independence.

When the Dutch attempted to reassert control after the end of the war, they met fierce resistance.

Experts say it’s hard to know exactly how many Indonesians were killed during the period, but some estimates are around the 100-thousand mark.

This woman told Al Jazeera her husband was killed in 1947 after he responded to an invitation to meet with Dutch soldiers.

“I had just married him. He wanted to build us a big house and promised to take me to Mecca. We had so many plans together, but nothing ever happened because he was murdered.”

It was five years between when the Indonesians declared independence and when it was formally acknowledged by the Dutch at a conference in The Hague in 1949.

Tuti Gunawan from the Indonesian Community Association of Victoria was just five years old when Indonesia’s independence was finally recognised.

She says she still remembers her family home in Jakarta being searched by Dutch soldiers.

“They did what you call a ‘search’. They did a search for weapons and things like that. It must have been more than once but yes they were searching for weapons. My brother was in the student guerilla (group).”

More than 60 years on, the role of the Netherlands during the war is still a delicate subject between the two countries.

The Dutch have only recently set about addressing the wrongs of the past, with their first major apology coming two years ago over the 1947 massacre of at least 150 people in the village of Rawagede on Java.

Ms Gunawan says official apologies by the Dutch go a long way in helping heal the wounds of the past.

“It will be received very warmly, very favourably in Indonesia and also by Indonesians, because it’s not only in the last century that there have been atrocities, killings and even mass killings in Sulawesi for example, but also in the 300 years of the Dutch colonialism there has been a lot of suffering by Indonesian people.”

The latest public apology by the Netherlands comes after it recently reached a compensation settlement with ten widows from South Sulawesi.

The Netherlands is to pay the widows 20,000 euros, or around 30,000 Australian dollars, to each of them.

The women were also invited to the apology ceremony in Jakarta and their travel expenses paid for by the Dutch government.

The Dutch apology over the Rawagede massacre came only after the government was sued in a Dutch court in an unprecedented class action.

However, Professor Adrian Vickers from the University of Sydney’s Southeast Asia Centre says the Dutch government’s other attempts to bookend its bloody past in Indonesia have come largely of its own volition.

“The case a couple of years ago was a particular one, the Rawagede Massacres as they’re called. That was a particular one where there was pressure. But more recently there hasn’t been necessarily a lot of discussion from the Indonesian side, so this is something that the Dutch have initiated.”

Professor Vickers says the Dutch apologies and compensation deals form part of a broader attempt by former colonial powers to officially redress their past misdeeds.

“So there’s been this recent case of the British in Kenya and revelations about British use of torture and murder in the so-called Mau Mau Uprising, so I think the Dutch are very aware about the international situation. I guess, as there’s been a change of government in the Netherlands, that there’s consideration that this is the right time to make a broader apology.”

Hodgson launches defence of England tactics

A point from a forgettable match in Kiev kept England on course for next year’s World Cup finals but the negative tactics and lack of flair were seen as further evidence that Hodgson’s side are falling behind the world’s best.

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Former England striker Gary Lineker and now BBC presenter described the performance as “woeful”.

However, Hodgson seemed baffled by the reaction and took Lineker to task.

“I’m surprised anyone who has played for England, captained England and played in games of this nature can be that critical,” Hodgson was quoted in British newspapers.

“This is the second time. My disappointment would be that I saw Gary Lineker play, I remember him captaining the team and playing some great games for England but I’m also pretty sure he played in some games when it wasn’t easy and I don’t think every game he played for England was a total success.

“I try to placate most people but I’m afraid I’ve just seen a group of players missing seven first-team members beat Moldova 4-0 and come to Ukraine and draw 0-0.

“You can criticise us or praise us or do whatever you want to do but don’t think you’re going to put words into my mouth or get me agreeing with these opinions.”

Hodgson said Lineker was out of step with the public.

“I will be surprised if I’m walking down the street in the next few weeks and people aren’t actually saying ‘You did well in those two games.’ I’d be surprised. But we’ll see.”

England have been hard to beat since Hodgson took over from Fabio Capello, losing just once in his 20 games.

They have rarely looked like a side capable of challenging for major honours though, and were outplayed by Italy in last year’s Euro 2012 quarter-finals before losing on penalties.

So far in the qualifying campaign for the World Cup, their only wins have been against San Marino and Moldova.

Captain Steven Gerrard also defended England’s performance.

“The manager asked us for a clean sheet before the game,” Gerrard said in the Guardian. “He asked us to be difficult to beat and make sure the group was still in our hands.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by John O’Brien)

Wiggins almost quit 2012 Tour after Froome attack

Froome, who finished second overall to Wiggins before going on to win this year’s race, caused a storm when appearing to attack his team mate on a mountainous Stage 11 rather than help his British compatriot retain the yellow jersey.

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Wiggins reacted later by sending a text message saying it would be “better for everyone if I went home”, according to Yates in his autobiography “It’s All About the Bike” which lifts the lid on the intricate relationship between the two riders.

“Froomey was keen to establish himself in second place overall and have a free hand,” Yates wrote in his book of the infamous climb up the Col de la Croix de Fer when Froome threatened to leave Wiggins trailing in his wake.

“(Team Sky general manager) Dave (Brailsford) and I wanted to stick to the original plan of Brad taking the yellow jersey all the way to Paris. Brad was obviously supportive of that. But wary of what could happen if Froomey was to ride off.

“We decided, without any ambiguity that Froomey would stay at Brad’s side until the last 500 metres, when he would be free to attack if he wished, the idea being that he could take time out of (Vicenzo) Nibali and (Cadel) Evans in the race for second without endangering Brad’s lead.”

What actually happened was that Froome accelerated with four kilometres to go with Wiggins obviously struggling to keep pace.

“For a moment I couldn’t believe it,” Yates wrote. ‘What the xxxx?’ I said. God knows what Brad thought, as he had been riding pretty close to his limit for the previous kilometre, believing that Froomey was spent.

“I made it pretty clear on the radio that this was NOT the plan and he had better wait. He did.”

The incident caused a media frenzy, according to Yates, and left Wiggins threatening to quit.

“I got back to my room and received a text from Brad reading ‘I think it would be better for everyone if I went home.’ I went straight to his room. He was upset and felt like Froomey had stabbed him in the back after the discussion we’d had before the stage. He couldn’t understand why he’s gone back on the agreement, especially with everything going so well.”

Yates said he and Brailsford had to talk Wiggins into remaining in the race which he eventually won to become the first British man to win the Tour de France.

Both riders in action at the Road World Championships in Italy this month where Wiggins is expected to go for the time trial title and Froome for the road race.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by John O’Brien)