January, 2019

Serious abuse at Defence Academy ‘widespread and persistent’

Claims of serious abuse at the Australian Defence Force Academy and HMAS Leeuwin naval base are “more widespread and persistent” than previously reported, a high-level inquiry has found.
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In an interim report, the Defence Abuse Response Taskforce, headed by retired judge Len Roberts-Smith, found that abuse was evident at other recruit schools and training institutions as well.

The finding comes as soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, based in Townsville, were reportedly charged with defence discipline offences over Facebook postings that referred to women as “sluts”.

The Roberts-Smith taskforce was commissioned last year by Defence Minister Stephen Smith to investigate decades of abuse claims in the military – part of the government’s response to the 2011 “Skype affair” at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

In particular, the taskforce has been asked to prioritise 24 claims of rape at ADFA and abuse of cadet sailors as young as 14 at the now-closed Western Australian naval base HMAS Leeuwin.

So far, only four of the 19 complainants from the “ADFA 24” rape cases from the 1990s have agreed to have their complaints assessed by the taskforce, Mr Smith said in a statement summarising the taskforce’s interim findings.

But a further 48 complaints alleging “physical abuse, sexual abuse, harassment or bullying” at ADFA had surfaced.

“The allegations of serious abuse at HMAS Leeuwin and ADFA are more widespread and persistent than was reported in the 1971 Rapke Report and in the 1998 Grey Review respectively,” the taskforce has reported.

“The particular issues which arose at HMAS Leeuwin and ADFA can also be seen at other ADF recruit schools and training institutions.”

The number of complaints that will be assessed by the taskforce has soared to 2410 – 1535 new claims on top of the 875 uncovered by the previous review by law firm DLA Piper.

The revelations follow the announcement last week by Chief of Army David Morrison that 17 soldiers including officers and non-commissioned officers had been involved in an internet sex ring that swapped demeaning images and text about women.

The ring, calling itself the “Jedi Council”, shared footage and naked images of women with whom some of the ring’s members had had sex. The images were accompanied by offensive commentary and in some cases included encouragement for other members of the ring to seek the women out and have sex with them as well.

On Thursday, the Townsville Bulletin reported that 3rd Brigade commander Brigadier Shane Caughey had said soldiers associated with sexist Facebook pages would be charged under the Australian Defence Force Discipline Act.

The Facebook pages labelled women “sluts” and “fat chicks”. Brigadier Caughey said the Army needed to be held to a higher account than the general community.

In his statement, Mr Smith also said that analysis from the Australian Defence Force Investigative Service showed there had been on average 80 reports of sexual assault per year over the past five years.

“One case of sexual assault is unacceptable. Eighty cases is of grave concern,” he said.

Of particular concern was the fact that research had shown about four out of five victims never reported their experiences, he said.

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

NSW woodchippers at risk after Boral exits

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
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The future of the woodchipping industry in NSW is in doubt, following a decision by timber company Boral to sell its export arm and wood processing plant.

Decades of native forest woodchip exports from Newcastle to Japan now seem set to come to an end.

“Boral will exit the residue and woodchip export business and sell the associated processing plant and equipment based at Tea Gardens and at the Port of Newcastle, in NSW,” the company said.

Boral said it will shutter the business within days, and blamed a fall in demand and reduced competitiveness from the high Australian dollar.

“As part of our efforts to ensure Boral Timber remains a sustainable business, our restructure will result in some job losses, which is regrettable but, sadly, unavoidable,” a Boral Timber executive, Steve Dadd, said in a statement.

It will also exit the softwood distribution business in Queensland, and stop manufacturing floorboards in Murwillumbah, in NSW.

Eight permanent employees will be made redundant, and another 21 jobs would go as staff left or were redeployed elsewhere, the company said.

The company is also reportedly seeking to move its head office out of the Sydney CBD to cheaper offices in North Ryde or Chatswood.

Long battle

The company has fought a long war of words with environment groups in northern NSW, which turned up evidence of breaches in logging rules that they said revealed the unsustainable nature of the export woodchip industry.

“This gives the NSW Government an opportunity to dramatically reduce the intensity of logging that is trashing north coast forests,” said Susie Russell, the president of the North Coast Environment Council.

Boral Timber recently sought certification from the Forestry Stewardship Council, which it would have allowed it to sell its timber exports as “sustainable”.

An audit was conducted, but the results have not yet been released.

The Wilderness Society said the Boral decision to pull out of woodchipping showed that a recent push by some NSW Nationals MPs to allow selective logging in national parks should not be allowed.

A draft report produced by a NSW Upper House Committee chaired by Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Brown said the government should “immediately” open some national parks to logging to help prop up the state’s timber industry.

“It is sheer lunacy to log our national parks, our most precious environmental properties, when the state’s only export woodchipper north of Sydney struggles to sell its woodchips,” said Warrick Jordan, a Wilderness Society spokesman.

Boral to shutter woodchip export business and sell off assets in the Hunter. Photo: ERIN JONASSON

POLL: Port sale passes lower house

NSW Treasurer Mike Baird has defended rushing through legislation to privatise the Port of Newcastle, saying investors are ready and waiting to go.
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The bill passed the lower house late on Wednesday night, a day after the government announced plans for the port’s 99-year-lease in its third budget.

STORY: Port sale plan rush criticised

It’s expected to net the government $700 million, with about half of that money to go back to the growth city north of Sydney for a light rail network.

The government suspended standing orders on Wednesday afternoon to allow debate on the bill, prompting outrage from the opposition.

‘‘The opposition believes this needs to be looked at closely and shouldn’t be rushed through in this manner,’’ said opposition transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe.

The government’s also been slammed for seeking to push through the legislation before it’s completed a scoping study setting out the transactions details.

Local Labor MPs also have questioned whether the government is selling off a golden goose in its quest for cash for infrastructure projects.

Mr Baird rejected the criticism, saying there was a group of investors around the world looking for ‘‘exactly these sorts of assets’’.

‘‘We want to act as quickly as possible,’’ he told reporters in Sydney. ‘‘This is a point-in-time opportunity.’’

Mr Baird said the government would consider all of the details of a scoping study before making a final decision.

‘‘But we are determined and ready to go, given the incredible market opportunity,’’ he said.

‘‘This is too good an opportunity for the city of Newcastle. This is too good an opportunity for the state, so we are undertaking all the actions we need to get on with the transaction.’’

Mr Baird said Newcastle had waited for decades for action on infrastructure.

‘‘We are getting on with the job with an urgency and pace because the community deserves it.’’

The upper house will consider the bill on Tuesday before parliament breaks for winter.

Picture by Darren Pateman

AAP

Fed statement on monetary policy

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in May suggests that economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace. Labor market conditions have shown further improvement in recent months, on balance, but the unemployment rate remains elevated.
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Household spending and business fixed investment advanced, and the housing sector has strengthened further, but fiscal policy is restraining economic growth. Partly reflecting transitory influences, inflation has been running below the Committee’s longer-run objective, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.

Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth will proceed at a moderate pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee sees the downside risks to the outlook for the economy and the labor market as having diminished since the fall. The Committee also anticipates that inflation over the medium term likely will run at or below its 2 percent objective.

To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee decided to continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.

The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. The Committee will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will continue to take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases as well as the extent of progress toward its economic objectives.

To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored.

In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.

Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Charles L. Evans; Jerome H. Powell; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Eric S. Rosengren; Jeremy C. Stein; Daniel K. Tarullo; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against the action was James Bullard, who believed that the Committee should signal more strongly its willingness to defend its inflation goal in light of recent low inflation readings, and Esther L. George, who was concerned that the continued high level of monetary accommodation increased the risks of future economic and financial imbalances and, over time, could cause an increase in long-term inflation expectations.

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

Offspring recap: Setting the record straight

It’s the Proudman hamster rescue service. Awkwardness thrown in free of charge. Martin coping with his devastation has potentially devastating consquences. Nina to the rescue (again).
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Last week’s recap: Game, set, match

There is a lot to talk about in this episode, for one, we finally find out what Eloise’s true agenda is, but before we get into that, we have a baby belly! A beautiful reveal in the opening shot sees Nina bending over to drink from a bubbler and, there it is, a definite rounded tum. It’s adorable, and about time too.

Once that scene has served its purpose (thank you) she promptly puts on a jumper – bye bye baby – and walks home where she springs Patrick in the kitchen with Eloise, cutting vegetables. Those sexy so-and-so’s with their saucy vegetable cutting. Nina responds how any sane person would (sarcasm alert) and calls for backup, ie, her sister Billie.

“Eloise is peeling Patrick’s sweet potato,” she says, and Billie reacts with appropriate emergency and invites herself to dinner; this means we have about 30 seconds to steel ourselves for another awkward Proudman family meal.

We really should be somewhat desensitised by now, but this one still had me gnashing my teeth and looking at the screen through my fingers. “What’s an attractive woman like you doing without a boyfriend,” Billie asks in her cross examination of Eloise. If only it stopped there, but no, it mercilessly (for us as well as Eloise) continued: Don’t you think Patrick is gorgeous, how can you think straight around him, hospitals are so over-sexed, and on and on. She even said the word “secretions” which should never be said at the dinner table.

Just when I can’t take any more Nina thankfully squirrels her away by the pantry and tells Billie to STFU. She may have put it more politely. And bless Billie’s cotton socks, she says she is just doing what Nina knows is necessary, because clearly something needs to be done because clearly Eloise has the hots for Patrick. Clearly.

Have her killed, says Billie. Break her legs.

Sidenote: Billie really is frightening sometimes, but fabulous. If any of us finds ourselves in a similar situation (doubtful) I hope we all are lucky enough to have a Billie on our side.

Billie returns to the table where she moves from interrogation to torture techniques, telling Eloise how beautiful Nina looks, positively glowing, most likely from all the great sex she and Patrick must be having. It is both impressive and impressively awful. Eloise, proving her smarts once again, makes a quick exit. The Proudmans really know how to treat guests.

From interrogation to devastation, we move to Dr Martin Clegg who is trying valiantly to get on with life but is actually coping rather badly without Cherie. He is shouting at staff — in typical Clegg fashion he only shouts random words in a sentence, just to keep it sufficiently weird — he’s rude to Kim and Nina and is basically being a nightmare. So far it’s not out of the realm of plausibility (stapler throwing aside), but more on that later.

Nina puts Martin on the backburner for now and instead zeroes in on Eloise. Coming off the back of a very Billie dinner Eloise is now faced with a patient who insists on extolling the virtues of Patrick. “Yeah, yeah, you have to be professional about him but I don’t”. I really love this scene, the patient Joelene is warm, effusive, and frankly it’s like she’s saying everything I am thinking. But, unlike me, Eloise doesn’t want to hear about Patrick’s hotness so she leaves the room.

Nina being Nina thinks “I’ll have to sort this out”. NO YOU DON’T NINA, JUST LEAVE IT ALONE.

“I don’t want it be awkward, it’s better if these things are out in the open”. NO IT ISN’T NINA, IT REALLY ISN’T.

Then she asks Eloise if she has feelings for anyone in the hospital and I actually slapped my forehead. WHY DOES SHE DO THIS, WHY?

But I didn’t see this answer coming: “I actually have feelings for you,” says Eloise. Well that shut me up and set me back in my lounge chair.

And once that sinks in we call off the attack dogs, our hearts soften and our spirits become a little gayer, as it were. She doesn’t want our Patrick, phew!

(Oh Eloise, so much for that ladyboner witch hunt, you really deserve an apology.)

Then of course you realise why working at the hospital would be difficult for her, you can see the true hideousness of dobbing in Nina’s boyfriend, and also understand why she keeps turning up by Patrick’s side – he is the only one with a reason to resent her and yet also the only one who has been nice to her. Typical Patrick really.

Nina of course sees none of this, she is too busy marvelling at the idea of someone having a crush on her. This of course leads directly to a Neendream where she imagines the entire cast of Offspring – and, inexplicably, Matt Preston — declaring their love for her. “Everything I do is for her”. Yes, it’s insensitive but also very funny.

Of course with that major revelation out of the way Nina now needs to hotfoot it to the Proudman residence at Jimmy’s behest. Is Nina freaking out just a tiny little bit? Of course she is, and her sister is too sharp not to notice.

“I’m getting some buzzing here,” says Billie, who seems to have a spidey sense for Nina’s emotional state. Neen-sense? It’s all a bit nonsense but who’s judging?

After getting the skinny on Eloise’s affections Billie cuts straight back to her own feelings. “I’m getting so many different reactions simultaneously: disbelief, pity for Eloise, and yeah, some envy.”

Plus: “You’re having lesbian fantasies about her aren’t you”.

“No,” says Nina, which means yes. Cue the Neendream.

A Nina lesbian fantasy is, shall we say, interesting. It includes nuzzling a rabbit, and that isn’t a euphemism but I really wish it was, there is also wavy hair, a soft focus lens and, wait, did we just row a boat back to the seventies? I wouldn’t have been surprised if we saw Stevie Nicks wandering along the shoreline. In fact, I think there was both leather and lace in Nina’s fantasy – there was definitely a white corset. Did it just get hot in here?

With an almost-kiss the dream is over (ugh, why do dreams always end just when you get to the good bit?) and it’s time for tacos (yes, really).

Poor Jimmy. Sweet Jimmy. He desperately wants to be a supportive partner and father so he is trying to find a job, but doing what? Billie didn’t hire him so a career in real estate is a no-go, but that still leaves him at a loose end. It turns out he has his heart set on working with children (awwww) but fears his public urination charge will hamper his chances (will it? really? it’s kind of strange considering helping your child wee in public is a necessary skill if you have a boy, not that I would ever do that sort of thing, noooooo, of course not).

The ever-helpful (not!) Geraldine is also quick to point out that his lack of educational qualifications will set him back (“but I didn’t say that was a bad thing”). Thanks for the support Mum! Never one to do things the ordinary way (he is a Proudman after all) Jimmy latches on to the idea of opening a taco stand. (The writers really did go all out for this revealing episode.)

Metaphors aside, this could actually be a stroke of brilliance. Does Geraldine think so? Nooooo. Does Billie? Of course not, she is the only Proudman offspring running a business thankyouverymuch. Nina is too busy eating tacos to offer an opinion (no, I can’t believe it either). Thank god for Philip who brings the much-needed encouragement and support; he really is a nice guy.

Except when he’s keep a diary of Geraldine’s drug and alcohol intake, then he’s kind of a killjoy. He actually says the words “substance abuse”, two words that no one ever wants to hear from their partner. I understand it comes from a place of love but he’s on shaky ground right about now and Geraldine, quite understandably, storms off.

That said, judging by the week’s new events, apparently these days men of a certain age like to express their love with a little neck choking in public, you know, just to emphasise a point. In hindsight perhaps some pedantic note taking isn’t so bad.

Geraldine does seem to be quietly going off the rails this season – or perhaps not so quietly, she is a fiery one – and I too don’t know whether I would caution her or just turn up with a nice pinot grigio. Probably the latter if I’m being honest (cheers).

Of course the character with a real drinking problem this episode is Martin. He does the inexcusable and freezes during surgery and then he does the unthinkable and gets a tattoo while blind drunk (from the tattoo parlour’s point of view, is that really legal? It seems worse than public urination to me). But that’s neither here nor there as he now has a lovely portrait of Cherie on his forearm, and even in extreme drunkenness he is still eloquent about his feelings.

He tells Patrick: “I was attempting to close my heart again, go back to the man I was, but it’s impossible”. Oh Martin.

But, as moving as that was (and it was, kudos to you Lachy Hulme), I can’t get past the treatment of Eloise. She of course feels the need to transfer to another hospital and Nina of course feels the need to confront her. Can you imagine if the person of your dreams suddenly turns up on your doorstep unannounced. Aside from needing to quickly run around the house hiding bras, underwear and other personal items, you would be freaking out. I have to say it again, poor Eloise. To add insult to injury Nina sat on her hamster, and no, that isn’t a euphemism either.

Thankfully Nina gave the hamster the kiss of life (let’s not even go there) and managed to convince Eloise to stay, and I for one am very happy about that. Now that she clearly isn’t after my Patrick (MY Patrick) I wish her no harm – no death wishes or leg breakages necessary. So she is infatuated with Nina, so what? Let’s face it, aren’t we all? Maybe not in sexy Flake-eating ways but definitely in the ‘wow, her eyes are so pretty and I want that dress’ ways. Perhaps now that the air has been cleared Eloise can start speaking in non-stilted sentences.

Finally, as amazing as this episode was I did notice the lack of Cherie and Darcy. I don’t like not seeing them every week. If you can hear me Cherie (and Darcy and Ray), come back!

Yes please (best bits)

Geraldine defending her wine consumption: “You haven’t counted for spillage here at all”.

It’s not as fun but I do love how the show makes a reference to Billie’s baby heartbreak without making it the entire storyline. It might be a small mention but it’s an effective one.

Mick receives hero status with this line: “I don’t give a flying fuck [about the interview] I just want to know that you’re ok”.

And much like the makers of Offspring I too am leaving the best until last. The best being, of course, Patrick talking to Nina’s belly which was very sweet, and not nearly as cheesy as I would have expected. Plus he referred to himself and Nina as ‘mum’ and ‘dad’.

Oh please (I’m calling bs on that one)

We were offered a rare surgery scene in this episode but it seems a tad unrealistic that the only four people in the operating room were Martin, Nina, Eloise and Patrick. I am no expert on these things so please correct me if I’m wrong. Also according to the experts on Twitter his accumulated 67 weeks of annual leave is entirely plausible (scary!).

Which brings me to Patrick who now apparently is back working at St Francis. How incredibly convenient, and very hastily done.

And yes I know Martin is devastated but would he actually put a patient’s life at risk? I’m not sure to be honest, it seems too dramatic even for him.

Regarding Matt Preston’s cameo appearance, I can only assume the head honchos at Ten said they needed a MasterChef crossover in Offspring. I do like Matt Preston, and it was funny, but it did stick out like a sore thumb.

Oh god, please, no (the awkward files)

There was so much awkwardness littered throughout this episode that it is hard to pick a standalone element but for me the cringe factor was Nina recoiling from what she thought was Eloise’s romantic advances. I hate to say it but it was a bit offensive. Did she think she was going to get lesbian germs? She’s a doctor, she should know you can get an antibacterial wash for that sort of thing. (Joking!)

Pretty please (sartorial splendour)

Billie styled her house to perfection for the magazine interview and as well as herself. Her white jeans and pretty colourful top was the very picture of glamorous Sunday casual. Speaking of Billie, it was sad to see her dreams start to fall apart this week but next week’s episode looks positively horrendous. What could her secret be? Feel free to start wildly hypothesising in the comments while I start preparing for another go through the emotional wringer.

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