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Australian politicians plea for deportation of Sukumaran, Chan

 

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0080003738403px; line-height: 1.538em;”>Read the full letter and the complete list of signatories below.

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan have spent more than 10 years in Kerobokan prison, where they are facing execution for the crime of drug trafficking.

Australian politicians have written to the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema to appeal for Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan to be deported.

The 111 politicians from a range of parties said that they believe the pair should be punished, but noted that Australia had abolished the death penalty.

“We request that their death sentences be commuted to an appropriate term of imprisonment or that they be deported back to Australia on condition they face the criminal justice system here,” they said.

The correspondence – led by Philip Ruddock, Chris Hayes, Craig Laundy, Melissa Parke, Brett Mason and Warren Snowdon – emphasised the relationship between the two countries, including the ties between Indonesian and Australian Federal Police.

‘We request that their death sentences be commuted to an appropriate term of imprisonment or that they be deported back to Australia’

They further pressed the Ambassador on the “genuine remorse” and rehabilitation shown by Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan.

“By reason of their good behaviour, demonstrated rehabilitation and education of other prisoners, both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran come within the Constitutional Court’s recommendation,” they said.

“Also, we believe it is significant that both Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran were only apprehended as a result of the Australian Federal Police providing information to Indonesian Police. Their crime, serious as it was, was intended to impact on Australians in Australia, not Indonesia.”

Their correspondence, dated February 6, coincides with a push from the Australians’ lawyers to challenge the presidential decree that denied clemency.

Lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, said it was “unfair, unjust and unacceptable” that individual cases weren’t judged on their merits.

“This is probably the only legal recourse left for us at the moment,” he said.

The challenge would be filed this week and a letter sent to inform the attorney-general, who is planning the next executions.

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No more tinkering, says out-of-sorts Scott

Former world No.

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Scott lines up at the $US10 million Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass finally settled on the equipment in his bag after working with a variety of iron shafts, a new driver and, of course, experimenting with the short putter in 2015.

Starting late in the year thanks to the birth of daughter Bo Vera, Scott came out with a T4 at the WGC Cadillac Championship in Doral but has since failed to be a factor.

The current world No.9 missed his first cut in three years at the Valspar Championship, finished T35 at the Arnold Palmer invitational, T38 at the Masters before going 0-3 in group play at the WGC Match Play last week.

“Everything is now in good shape which is nice especially coming into a place I like, I am looking for a good week because it is time for getting runs on the board,” the 2004 Players champion said.

“There is some frustration from not getting a result but you have to weigh that up with everything I have been working on through the bag.

“There has been a lot of equipment changing back and forth this year and I think we are at a point where we’ve now also made a conscious decision to leave the stuff where it is and get some consistency going.”

Plenty has been made of the Queenslander’s decline in putting stats this year but Scott says his chopping and changing from a short to long putter is not a concern.

He was ranked 55th in strokes gained putting last season but has ballooned to 189th.

“Everything is good with the putter. I feel I hit good putts last week they just didn’t go in,” Scott countered.

“I putted good at Augusta and I am not giving two thoughts about my putting to be honest.

“I have been changing iron shafts and we are hitting the ball different distances which has caused a few surprises so I need to get some consistency there more than anything.

“I am playing all right and not making much out if it and you have those runs but if this is my bad golf, the upside is good.”

Eight other Australians are in the field including world No.7 Jason Day, Marc Leishman, John Senden, Matt Jones, Geoff Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley, Robert Allenby and Steven Bowditch.

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McIlroy plays down rivalry with Masters champion Spieth

While Masters champion Spieth rates the PGA Tour’s flagship event as the most prestigious behind the four majors, McIlroy’s late arrival, at lunchtime on tournament eve, might suggest he does not place the Players on much of a pedestal.

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Not that McIlroy has contempt for the event. It is one the Northern Irishman is keen to add to his glowing resume, but given his hectic schedule in winning the WGC-Cadillac Match Play last week, he decided less was more in the lead-up.

McIlroy played seven competitive rounds in San Francisco on the way to his 10th PGA tour win, with 69 holes needed on a mammoth weekend.

Consequently he figured that 18 holes in preparation for the Players Championship, or perhaps even less, on the famed TPC Sawgrass layout would be enough as he tries to improve on his career-best tie for sixth at the event last year.

“I don’t think any tiredness is there. It’s nice to get a couple of nights in my own bed and get up here and I feel pretty fresh,” McIlroy told reporters after spending Monday and Tuesday nights at his South Florida home.

The Northern Irishman downplayed his rivalry with Spieth, with whom he will play the first two rounds in a high-profile threesome that also includes world number seven Jason Day of Australia.

“Not really, because it’s been … like last year it was Rickie (Fowler), this year it’s Jordan, it might be someone else, could have been Tiger,” McIlroy said.

“There’s been four or five rivalries over the past year so it doesn’t really do anything for me.

“I don’t think I need any extra incentive to get the juices flowing this week. It’s one of the most important tournaments of the year.”

Spieth made his Players Championship debut last year and finished tied for fourth after carrying the lead into the final round with eventual champion Martin Kaymer.

It was one of a number of failed chances the Texan had to win big events in 2014, including the Masters, but he admitted this one hurt most of all amongst his learning experiences.

The 21-year-old says he has a long way to go before being considered McIlroy’s main adversary.

“I could certainly appreciate if I could get to where he’s at, but right now I don’t see myself there,” he said.

“There’s a lot of hard work that needs to be had to get there, and once I am there it’s certainly a huge goal of mine to make it interesting with him and possibly take over number one.”

(Editing by Andrew Both)

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Maintaining foreign aid a ‘moral obligation’, NGOs say ahead of cuts

 

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0080003738403px; line-height: 1.538em;”>Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced $24 million aid package for PakistanRead our full coverage of Budget 2015-16

Aid organisations are calling on the Abbott Government to “stick to its moral obligation” to maintain foreign aid, which has seen more than $11 billion in cuts since the Coalition came to office.

Treasurer Joe Hockey cut $7.9 billion over four years in his first budget last year, followed by a further $3.7 billion in December’s mid-year budget review.

Researchers have said the cuts mark both the largest ever multi-year aid cuts and largest ever single year cuts, while Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures find that 2016 will see the Australian government’s foreign aid spending drop to its lowest levels since records began in 1960.

Thulsi Narayansamy, director of AID/WATCH, Australia’s independent watchdog on foreign aid, told SBS that Australia had an inherent responsibility to have an aid budget.

‘There needs to be an understanding between the poverty that people experience in other countries and our relative wealth’

“We have a moral imperative to support people who are living in disadvantage in other countries,” she said.

“In many ways, the system that we live in that perpetuates poverty is something that we benefit from… I think there needs to be an understanding between the poverty that people experience in other countries and our relative wealth.”

Ms Narayansamy said although wider cuts were expected, they shouldn’t impact on areas prioritised by Australia’s domestic policies, meaning Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Cambodia weren’t likely to see cuts.

Other countries and organisations aren’t expected to be as lucky, with Fairfax Media reporting that ambassadors from African countries including Botswana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Angola and Ethiopia implored the government to maintain funding during a March meeting.

Meanwhile, groups working in growing need areas such as climate aid and disaster prevention are also expecting cuts.

Ms Narayansamy said the budget needed to be maintained and should involve shifting funding from areas such as aid for trade and private sector enticements to infrastructure, health and education.

“The one trend that we’ve seen since the Coalition stepped into government is there’s an overwhelming sense of unease, because there isn’t a continuation of policy priorities,” she said.

“Things are changing rapidly with very little accountability or transparency, which makes things very difficult.”

‘Things are changing rapidly with very little accountability or transparency’

Ms Narayansamy also criticised politicians such as Jacqui Lambie, labelling her calls for further cuts “disappointing”.

The Independent Senator caused controversy with her comments about aid, including a call to redirect aid from Indonesia to Nepal in the wake of the Bali Nine executions.

“I make no apology for putting poor Tasmanians and Australians first, before any other country’s people,” she said.

“Charity begins at home.”

Senator Lambie has called for “the truth” about the size of the foreign aid budget, which Care Australia has described as “sliding to unprecedented low levels”.

Head of Care Australia Julia Newton-Howes told SBS said a further $1 billion would be cut from the foreign aid budget in the coming year, representing one sixth of its former total.

‘We are going from being a relatively generous donor among developed countries to being one of the least’

“Although [$5 billion] sounds like a lot of money, and clearly it is a lot of money, it’s around one per cent of federal government expenditure,” she said.

“I don’t think ever the Australian aid budget has received such a massive cut. We are going from being a relatively generous donor among developed countries to being one of the least.”

Dr Newton-Howes said while the exact cuts are not yet known, her own agency was looking at having to cut funding to programs such as those targeting maternal health in Papua New Guinea.

She said the program helped address the mortality rates among expecting mothers, which, at 250 per 100,000 mothers, is around 50 times the rate among Australian women.

“These areas have some of the highest maternal fatality rates in the world,” she said.

“That’s the sort of program we’re really concerned we may not be able to continue.”

Dr Newton-Howes said the government had to not only address its revenue issues, but examine the funding allocated to programs which have no proof of successful outcomes.

‘These aid budget cuts are unfair because they hit the poorest people the hardest’

“Some of the aid cuts have been made to increase spending to ASIO on surveillance,” she said.

“It would be good to have an evidence-based discussion on the likely impact of that sort of expenditure.”

The Australian Council for International Development has also criticised the cuts, which Executive director Marc Purcell described as “ungenerous, unfair and unthinking”.

“These aid budget cuts are unfair because they hit the poorest people the hardest,” he said.

Dr Purcell’s comment reflect sentiments reported by the most recent Lowy Institute poll, which found that 75 per cent of Australians believed that helping reduce poverty in poor countries was the most important objective of Australia’s foreign aid program. 

Foreign Aid funding (as a percentage of gross national income)

1. Sweden – 1.1 per cent2. Luxembourg – 1.07 per cent3. Norway – 0.99 per cent4. Denmark – 0.85 per cent5. UK – 0.7 per cent14. Australia – 0.27 per cent (will fall to 0.22 per cent)

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Budget deficit figures ‘like a Stephen King novel’: Deloitte

 

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A pre-budget report issued by Deloitte Access Economics on Monday outlined the growing problems for the Abbott Government, in both an economic and political sense.

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Its annual budget monitor – this year titled “The Wheels Come Off” – stated that revenue writedowns from falling iron ore prices and the senate’s refusal to approve policy has left little room for new government spending.

“This has meant that new policy proposals amount to little in additional funding,” it stated.

“Even the likely centrepiece of the coming budget, a family and childcare package, is expected to be financed from the savings realised from scrapping the paid parental leave scheme.”

Deloitte economists projected an underlying cash deficit of $45.9 billion in 2014-15, $5.5 billion worse than what was projected at budget time.

Their report stated that the coming financial year would be even worse, “like it has been written by Stephen King and painted by Edvard Munch”.

“Dull it ain’t,” it stated.

Mining boom ‘threatening to become a budget bust’

Economists have stated that the poster child for Treasurer Joe Hockey’s woes is the falling iron ore price, a sentiment shared by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Addressing the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry last month, Mr Abbott listed the falling price as one of the government’s main challenges.

“Iron ore prices have fallen from record highs of $180 a tonne three years ago and $120 a tonne at the election time to below $50 a tonne today,” he said.

“Since last year’s budget, collapsing iron ore prices have already driven a cut in government revenue of more than $30 billion over four years.”

Deloitte economists are similarly pessimistic, stating tin their report hat the mining boom was “threatening to become a budget bust”.

“Even if you extended the GST to cover fresh food, you wouldn’t fill the ongoing budget hole left by the iron ore price falls of the last six months,” it stated, “We estimate revenues will fall shy of the latest officials estimates by $5.2 billion in 2014-15, and by an ugly $10.8 billion in 2015-16.”

Hockey ‘damaged by perception of unfairness and inability to negotiate’

Iron ore prices aside, economists stated that the politics of negotiating the federal budget were also falling below expectations.

Deloitte economists estimated that senate delays cost the government $1 billion in 2014-15, after the crossbench and opposition pushed against changes to the carbon tax and higher education.

The delays were expected to cost a further $2.3 billion in the coming financial year, but the Australian National University’s John Warhurst said the stalled budget had implications outside the economic sense.

Professor Warhurst told SBS that Treasurer Joe Hockey was damaged not so much by the toughness of his first budget, but rather the perception of unfairness and inability to negotiate.

“I think it reflected poorly on the ability of the Treasurer and the government to negotiate with the crossbench,” he said.

“There’s been a general feeling that while it’s a difficult task to negotiate with such a diverse senate cross bench, that essentially the budget was unfair and that the senate crossbench were not being unreasonable.”

What’s passed and what’s been scrapped from 2014-15

Passed

Cuts to public broadcasters, including the axing of Australia Network one year into the ABC’s 10-year contract, forcing more than 400 job losses.Repeal of the carbon tax and mining tax.Immigration overhaul, including $711 million to fund the establishment of the Australian Border Force and a college to train new staff.The establishment of a Green Army, to be funded by $525 million over four years.Cuts to foreign aid, totalling almost $8 billion with no growth in spending until next year.

Scrapped

Planned cuts to legal aid reversed, meaning $25.5 million will remain for frontline legal services.Paid Parental Leave levy axed.Cuts to defence wages reversed, with the government’s offer lifted to two per cent in a deal to cost $217 million over the forward estimates.GP co-payment scrapped after widespread public and political backlash.Cuts to the indexation rate of pensions, which has been blocked by the Senate before being dropped by the government over the weekend.

Controversial changes to higher education are still in limbo, while the government has since announced additional funding for homeless, drug and alcohol services. A $246 million program for nannies has also been outlined.

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