Police seize massive cocaine shipment

It’s the fifth largest seizure of cocaine in Australian history.

深圳桑拿论坛

Customs stopped two shipping containers of stone pavers from Mexico for inspection at the Port Melbourne Cargo Examination Facility on June 14.

More than 200kg of cocaine was allegedly concealed within some of the pavers.

As part of a joint force police operation, the cocaine was replaced with an inert substance.

It was then delivered to a warehouse in the Melbourne suburb of Moorabbin, where police allege it was sorted, with the pavers containing drugs separated from the legitimate pavers.

The shipment was then allegedly moved to Sydney, where it was delivered to a home in Baulkham Hills on July 3.

The following day police arrested a 25-year-old Mexican after he allegedly sorted and transported the pavers from Victoria.

Two Australian men, aged 24 and 25, were arrested in Mascot three days later as they allegedly tried to take receipt of 30kg of the cocaine shipment.

A 30-year-old American was later charged with attempting to facilitate the distribution of the drug.

Director of the NSW State Crime Commands Organised Crime Directorate, Detective Chief Superintendent Ken McKay, on Tuesday said the operation involved NSW police, Australian Federal Police (AFP), Customs and Border Protection Service.

“This operation has been a major undertaking by all three agencies and has utilised the expertise of police from across states and federal jurisdictions,” he said.

“Police have effectively disrupted what is a large organised crime syndicate and prevented $84 million worth of cocaine reaching our streets.”

Customs and Border Protection NSW regional director, Andrew Asking, thanked all those who “worked tirelessly” on the operation.

“Their dedication and hard work has kept this harmful substance from entering the Australian community,” he said.

The American has been charged with attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug and conspiracy to supply a large commercial quantity of a prohibited drug.

The Mexican was charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

The two Australians have each been charged with an attempt to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

The alleged offenders have been refused bail and will reappear at various dates over the next two months, police said.

ALP popularity dips on asylum uncertainty

Voters are still unsure about Labor’s plan for a regional asylum seeker processing centre, as the party’s popularity slips in the latest newspoll.

深圳桑拿论坛

The party still maintains an election-winning lead over the Coalition in two new opinion polls under new Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Fairfax newspapers report the latest Nielsen poll shows the coalition holds a narrow 44-42 lead over Labor when respondents were asked which party was best for handling asylum seeker policy.

When they were then asked which of the Coalition, Labor and The Greens had the best policy, the coalition led on 34 per cent, down one point , Labor had 25 per cent support, six percentage point improvement, and The Greens scored 20 per cent.

According to News Ltd’s Galaxy poll, 63 per cent of voters approve of Ms Gillard’s regional processing centre plan, while 26 per cent disapprove and 11 per cent remain undecided.

But 59 per cent of voters don’t think the proposal is well thought out, compared with 25 per cent who say it is.

The latest Nielsen poll in Fairfax newspapers, and News Ltd’s Galaxy poll today both show Labor leading the coalition by 52 per cent to 48 on a two-party preferred basis.

Labor’s support was down three points according to the Nielsen poll, but remained steady in the Galaxy polls since the last surveys, which were taken late last month after Ms Gillard assumed the leadership from Kevin Rudd.

The Nielsen poll said Labor’s primary vote is down eight points to 39 per cent from its last poll, but well up on the 33 per cent the party held in June under Mr Rudd.

Labor trailed the Coalition 47 to 53 in the same poll on a two-party preferred basis.

The Coalition’s primary vote remains steady at 42 per cent, according to Nielsen, but Ms Gillard has a thumping 56-35 lead over Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as preferred prime minister, compared with her 55-35 lead in the last poll.

Bill of Rights could help asylum seekers

The Queens Counsel, a vocal critic of the Howard government’s treatment of asylum seekers said a Bill of Rights would go a long way.

深圳桑拿论坛

“A Bill of Rights would certainly provide some ability to prevent the excesses that we saw in the details of what went on in detention centres during the Howard years,” Mr Burnside told

Network Ten on Sunday.

“It would have prevented the decision in a famous case in 2004, which said that a man who has not committed any offence, but who couldn’t be removed because he’s stateless, the High Court ordered he could be held in detention for the rest of his life.”

The United Nations human rights convention could be strengthened and should include climate refugees, Mr Burnside said.

“When a Pacific Island is disappearing beneath the water, to say that those people will have to swim somewhere else seems to me pretty heartless.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Mr Burnside was wrong to label people against asylum seekers as rednecks, when she unveiled her new asylum seeker strategy.

“I don’t happen to think people are rednecks just because they have concerns about boat arrivals,” Mr Burnside said.

“I call people rednecks who advocate shooting them out of the water or turning them back at gunpoint and a lot of these people write to me and tell me that’s what they’d do.”

Mr Burnside cautiously backed Ms Gillard’s plan to create a regional processing centre last week, saying it had been used effectively under Malcolm Fraser.

“(The Fraser government) They organised a regional processing arrangement, about 25,000 Vietnamese boat people each year processed through that system were then brought onshore to Australia and interestingly, even with 25,000 Vietnamese a year, the public were unconcerned.”

Retailers support business confidence

Rising sales and profits lifted business conditions in June, while the confidence of firms was generally unchanged, a survey says.

深圳桑拿论坛

The National Australia Bank’s (NAB) monthly survey of business conditions rose two points to eight index points in June, the report released on Tuesday said.

A reading above zero indicates more firms are optimistic about business conditions than pessimistic.

“Business conditions moved higher on the back of better performances in trading (especially mining),” the report said.

“Profitability also improved.”

The trading sub-index rose four points to plus 12 points, while the profitability sub-index also rose four points to plus five points.

“The mining sector recorded extremely large increases in trading conditions, profitability and employment, and mining now has by far the strongest index levels in three components,” the report said.

Trading conditions firmed in the construction and retail sectors, but fell in manufacturing and recreation and personal services.

Despite miners reporting strong trading conditions, the sector had the sharpest drop in confidence, the report said.

Miners dragged the overall confidence index lower as the survey was conducted during the week ending June 30, two days before the federal government announced changes to the resources rent tax.

The business confidence index fell one point to plus four points in June, below its long-run average of plus seven points, the survey said. Confidence dipped in all major states.

The large mining states of Western Australia and Queensland were the most confident states, while South Australia had the weakest confidence of mainland states.

NAB said its forecast for economic growth remained unchanged, with the bank predicting gross domestic product (GDP) to expand 2.75 per cent in 2010 and 3.5 per cent a year later.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) would keep monetary policy unchanged until the latter part of this year with 25 basis points rises in both November and December for a year-end overnight cash rate of 5.0 per cent, NAB predicted.

Citigroup senior economist Joshua Williamson said the business confidence data should support the central bank’s view of the economy.

“Today’s data does not add to the case for higher interest rates,” Mr Williamson said.

“It indicates an economy on a trend growth path, but one that reflects the cyclical drivers occurring more broadly.”

He said Citigroup forecast the RBA would leave the cash rate unchanged following its board meeting on August 3.

Voters want leadership on climate change

A new survey shows voters want political leadership on climate change with many seeing little difference between the two main parties.

深圳桑拿论坛

Auspoll asked 1,500 Australians about climate change and the next federal election, says the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

When asked who of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her opposition counterpart Tony Abbott they trusted more to deliver on the issues of pollution and climate change, 43 per cent of respondents thought there was no difference between them.

That figure increased to 58 per cent of undecided voters.

Forty-five per cent of this group also said they would be more likely to vote Labor if Ms Gillard promised to negotiate and deliver a pollution reduction scheme in the next year.

ACF chief executive Don Henry, who commissioned the survey, said the results proved that tackling climate change was still important to many Australians, even if politicians had abandoned the issue.

“The public is crying out for leadership and the issue is there for the politicians to pick up,” he told AAP.

“Whether it’s the Greens, Labor or the coalition, whoever comes forward with fair dinkum action on the climate is going to be clearly rewarded in the polls.”

Mr Henry said voters were disappointed that Labor, which campaigned hard on the issue ahead of the 2007 election, had now mothballed plans for an emissions trading scheme (ETS).

“There’s no doubt that this poll, and other polls over the last month, show that there’s a lot of frustration with Labor for not taking strong action on climate change,” he said.

“Frustration they haven’t delivered on their promises and the coalition doesn’t have a strong suite of policies either.”

But Mr Henry said resurrecting the ETS wasn’t necessarily the best policy approach to take now.

“We think there is three crucial things that in fact both major parties should be supporting,” he said.

“One is a strong boost to renewables like solar, secondly really helping cut energy waste in our businesses and homes and the third thing is yes, we do need a price on pollution.

“In our view that should be brought in next year.”

Cabinet meets to talk climate

Voters may have to wait a little longer to find out about the Gillard government’s new plan on climate change.

深圳桑拿论坛

Cabinet met this afternoon to work on its pre-election climate policy, but Prime Minister Julia Gillard has hinted she’s not in a hurry.

“The government is working its way through these issues,” Ms Gillard told reporters in Parliament House before the cabinet meeting. “And we will do so methodically, taking the time necessary to get it right.”

Ms Gillard is to give her first speech as prime minister to the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday, but her office says the speech will not be about climate change.

There is speculation Ms Gillard will call the election in the next fortnight, possibly by Saturday, for a late August poll. It’s not clear if she intends to release her climate policy before calling the election.

With Labor shelving its ETS until at least 2013, cabinet was expected to continue new measures to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Restrictions on new coal-fired power stations and moves to encourage the protection and planting of forests are also believed to have been considered.

Ms Gillard reiterated her message that it will take time to introduce a carbon price, acknowledging some were disappointed at the delay

“I understand there are millions of Australians disappointed that we have not yet been able to put a price on carbon. I am disappointed by that too,” she said.

The opposition warned that Labor’s new climate policy would push up electricity prices. Opposition leader Tony Abbott said his climate plan, which sends money from the budget directly to programs to cut emissions, would not put impositions on consumers or producers.

Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt said Labor was “all about increasing electricity pricing, not about decreasing emissions”.

Don Henry, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, called on Ms Gillard to release her climate policy soon.

“Australians are hoping for leadership on climate change and they’ll be very frustrated if the government and the opposition are just sitting on their hands,” Mr Henry told AAP.

The Climate Institute’s John Connor said the government needed to make public a “detailed plan on pollution and climate change”. AAP ca/sb 13-07-10 1825

Cahill tips Heart for A-League win

Socceroos and Everton star Tim Cahill predicts Melbourne Heart could win the A-League championship in their inaugural season on the back of a core of proven international-class players.

深圳桑拿论坛

Cahill, part of an Everton side that will play the Heart at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night, said he expected the A-League newcomers to put up a major challenge.

He said the likes of current Australian representative Michael Beauchamp and former Socceroos Josip Skoko and John Aloisi would help them become an instant powerhouse in the Australian domestic league.

“I honestly think the Heart are going to be challenging for the title and pushing,” Cahill said.

“Sometimes people say it takes time to grow and get into the A-League, but I think for them they’ve got so many experienced players and players that have been there and done it on a European level as well, an international level.

“For Heart, they’ve done all the right things to have all the ingredients for a great team.”

Everton downed A-League champions Sydney FC 1-0 on Saturday night and Cahill said the English Premier League club were fielding a strong team in the friendlies as they built towards their new season.

“We want all the fans to come out and support it, even the Melbourne Victory fans, because it’s not often I get to play in Australia and it’s great for the city of Melbourne to have two teams to compete in the A-League.”

Cahill said it was a positive that the Heart’s introduction would give the A-League intra-city derbies for the first time.

“Derby games are massive for us (in the EPL), Everton and Liverpool is the pinnacle of football and for the fans something that they get the bragging rights, it has a big onus on it and the players know what’s riding on it,” he said.

“For Melbourne Heart and Victory, who are pretty much when you look at the squads, even keel, it could be pretty exciting.”

Meanwhile, Cahill said he had plans to help the growth of the A-League after his playing career was over, but refused to elaborate.

Spaniards revel in Cup glory

A thunderous roar erupted across the Spanish capital and fans danced in the streets chanting “Viva Espana!” as the country’s first ever World Cup triumph sparked a nationwide fiesta.

深圳桑拿论坛

The centre of Madrid was a sea of the red and gold national colours as Spain celebrated its nailbiting 1-0 extra-time win over Holland Sunday.

The deafening sounds of cheering, vuvuzelas, firecrackers and cars horns rang out as the World Cup’s perennial underachievers won the trophy in their first appearance in the final thanks to a late goal from midfielder Andres Iniesta.

“The dream has come true,” said Spain’s leading daily El Pais on its website.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he was “happy and emotional” at the victory which help would restore some “confidence” to the country amid its economic crisis.

“This has been an epic match, I suffered like never before,” he told Cadena Ser radio.

In blistering heat, a crowd estimated by Spanish media at more than 250,000 watched the match on massive screens in a giant fan park in a one-kilometre (half-mile) stretch of the city’s main thoroughfare.

“We are very proud and very happy, I thought it would go to penalties, Iniesta saved us,” said Raul, 18. “We deserved it after winning the European championship in 2008.”

Said Adolfo, 25, “It’s an extraordinary feeling, of happiness and nerves.”

Others crammed into bars or gathered at home for the match, which left the country paralysed for two and a half hours Sunday evening.

Most were either wrapped in the Spanish flag, wore the red team shirts or red wigs or had their faces painted red and gold.

One young woman was disguised as an octopus, in tribute to Paul, the now famous clairvoyant cephalopod in Germany who predicted Spain’s victory.

“Spain, Spain, Spain!” screamed the daily El Mundo in a headline on its website. “This World Cup has crowned one of the best teams of all time.”

“Iniesta took us up into heaven” after an “agonising” game, said the sports daily Marca. “We suffered, but it was worth it.”

Thousands of fans had earlier poured into the capital from other parts of the country to soak up the atmosphere, many travelling all night and planning to leave the next morning after a night of revelry.

“We’re going to celebrate like crazy, all night, all Monday, until Tuesday morning,” said Miguel Angel, 41, who had traveled from the northern city of Bilbao for the match.

More than 2,000 police officers were on duty in the capital as well as medical teams, who treated dozens of people who suffered amid the stifling heat and the crush of supporters in the fan park.

Early Tuesday, several hours after the end of the match, tens of thousands were still celebrating on the streets and in the bars of Madrid but no major incidents were reported, as municipal workers began clearing away the garbage left behind.

Almost all towns and cities throughout the country had installed giant screens for people to watch the match.

There was even excitement in Catalonia, a region with its own distinct culture and language and which has traditionally been disdainful of the Spanish national team.

Authorities in the Catalan capital of Barcelona set up a giant outdoor fan park for the final for the first time during the tournament, where authorities said around 75,000 people watched the match.

The crowd erupted with joy and waved Spanish flags, with many in tears, at the historic victory.

In the northern town of Pamplona, the World Cup final heightened the fervour and revelry over this week’s annual San Fermin festival, which includes “running of the bulls”.

The players will be feted in a parade in an open-top bus that will pass through central Madrid on Monday evening, ahead of a reception by Zapatero.

Tassie Devil in need of sanctuary

The Australian Reptile Park in Somersby has teamed up with the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species (FAME) to develop the “Devil’s Ark” in a bid to boost the devil population.

深圳桑拿论坛

A group of 48 devils is due to arrive at the facility in November and they hope for a captive bred population of 9000 devils by 2020.

The proposed ark will be established in about 350 hectares of bushland at Barrington Tops in the state’s north – a site donated by Ellerston Pty Ltd, a company owned by James Packer.

The black furred marsupials face extinction because of a rare transmissible cancer that causes tumours on their faces.

The tumours interfere with feeding, resulting in some affected animals starving to death.

If a cure is not found, the devils might become extinct within 25 to 30 years.

The ark project has been in the pipeline since 2006 but it’s yet to be approved by the Upper Hunter Valley Shire Council, which will consider a development application later this month.

If it gets the go-ahead, it will be one of the most ambitious endangered species breeding programs ever undertaken in Australia, Australian Reptile Park owner John Weigel said.

“I have stuck with the vision because we genuinely believe that if we don’t all rally together to do the work, the Tasmanian devil may be lost forever,” he said.

“Despite the continuing efforts of researchers, veterinarians and government agencies to find a solution, there remains little cause for optimism for the future of the devil.”

About 80 per cent of the Tasmanian population has been decimated by facial disease

Concern over asylum seekers’ mental health

Health Minister Nicola Roxon has denied a return to offshore processing would lead to poorer mental health outcomes for asylum seekers.

深圳桑拿论坛

When Labor was elected it reassessed the support needed for those potential refugees who might be detained, she told ABC Television.

“We’ve put in place … good, strong mental health protections.

“(And) we would have to make sure, if we’re contracting with another country, that health needs generally, let alone mental health needs, are properly taken care of and that’s something that as a government I’m sure we would do.”

Ms Roxon insisted Labor’s plan was not a return to the previous coalition government’s so-called Pacific Solution.

Last week, Ms Gillard announced the government would reintroduce offshore processing of asylum claims.

The government is in negotiations with East Timor regarding the possibility of building a regional refugee processing centre on the island state.

MP backs PM’s action

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s stance on border protection has eased community tension on the issue, a federal Labor MP from western Sydney says.

Border security is one of the hottest issues with voters in David Bradbury’s seat of Lindsay, which the coalition hopes to win back at the next election.

Mr Bradbury says there has been widespread concern about the number of asylum seekers travelling to Australia by boat.

“People have been raising concerns about … securing our borders,” he told ABC Radio on Monday, adding that a “fairer and more orderly” migration system was crucial.

Voters wanted real action on asylum seekers, he said, noting that Labor’s plans to create a regional processing hub was just that.

“Everything that people have seen over the last week demonstrates (the) prime minister is going to take strong and

effective action.”

Mr Bradbury accompanied Ms Gillard on an inspection of border security operations in northern Australia last week.