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South coast seabirds have stomachs full of plastic

Posted by on 14/09/2018 at 1:59 pm
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Montague island scenes. Interiors.Photo Nick Moir 13 September 2015Seabirds at Montague Island off Narooma have stomachs full of plastic, one of Australia’s leading wildlife biologists has warned.
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Macquarie University professor of marine ecology Rob Harcourt has worked with the seabirds of Montague Island for many years. He is very familiar with the growing of problem of loose, floating plastic in the world’s oceans and how that pollution is impacting on marine animals.

“There is a large colony of seabirds breeding on Montague Island and plastics look a lot like their food items,” Professor Harcourt said.

“They [the birds] pick up the plastics instead, because they look like fish. They take it back to feed their chicks, and the chicks starve because their stomachs are full of plastic. It’s a serious, serious problem.”

He said it particularly affected the migratory seabirds, such as shearwaters, also called mutton birds, and terns.

The short-tailed shearwater birds migrate 10,000 kilometres from the Bering Sea, between Alaska and Japan, to Australian shores in late September to nest.

They have eaten little on their journey and are exhausted by the flight and so have been known to die in mass numbers.

But the plastic in their stomachs is a ticking timebomb for each bird, building up, eventually taking its toll and killing the bird.

“There is no doubt that trash is a problem, and plastic is a major problem for oceans,” Professor Harcourt said.

Professor Harcourt is expected to release 25-year modelling about the effects of climate change on the strength of the East Australian Current early in 2018. His research shows how that will impact the whole ecosystem.

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More Australian families have both parents in the workforce

Posted by on 14/09/2018 at 1:59 pm
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With both parents in the households working, Tanya Losanno admits the family schedule can be a bit hectic.
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“Sometimes you’re rushing home with the kids from their activities to get dinner on the table, and it can be hectic at times, but it’s worth the challenges when you can be there for [your children] at school assemblies,” she said.

Brent Fuller and Tanya Losanno with their children Max, 8, and Frankie, 6. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

The Narrabundah resident is employed in several jobs, working as a marriage celebrant, front of house staff at the Canberra Theatre Centre and occasionally doing work as a comedian, while her husband Brent Fuller is employed as a contractor.

While Mr Fuller’s job is a typical nine-to-five role, work for Ms Losanno is usually at nights or on weekends, meaning both can share in parenting responsibilities for their two children Max, 8, and Frankie, 6.

There’s been an increase in the number of ACT families with both parents in the workforce. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

“It’s fitting our working lives around our family, and that means that our family can get the best of everything,” Ms Losanno said.

“It also means the added benefit of not having to pay for before- and after-school care, which is expensive.”

Over the years, Ms Losanno said there’s been a shift in the number of families who have both parents in the workforce.

“I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone where both parents are not working,” she said.

Tanya admits sometimes the family schedule can be challenging, but is worth it. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

“There’s definitely been a shift since I’ve grown up. Back then it was very different. The mums were at home and the dads were at work, and now that’s all changed.”

New figures released this week from the Australian Bureau of Statistics back up Ms Losanno’s view, showing an increase in the number of Australian families where both parents are working.

Statistics show 64 per cent of families nationally that have two parents have both parents in the workforce, compared to 59 per cent a decade ago.

The bureau’s chief economist Bruce Hockman said women returning to the workforce after having children was a key reason for the increase.

“The increasing proportion of couple families with children where both parents work is an ongoing trend we have been observing for a decade, as female participation rates in the labour market have increased to the current record high of around 60 per cent,” he said.

“In June 2017, 25 per cent of couple families with children had both parents working full time, which increased from 21 per cent a decade ago.”

Out of the 111,600 families in the ACT, 28,500 of them have both parents working, an increase of more than 2 per cent from than 27,900 families in 2016.

The number of families where both parents work has increased every year since 2014, after a slight drop in 2013.

Nationally, there are more than 3.9 million families with both parents working, rising by 58,200 – or 1.9 per cent – from 2016 figures.

The bureau also reported the number of jobless families, either with couples or lone parents, remained steady over the decade at 12 per cent.

The figures from the bureau coincides with research released by the Australian National University this week showing six out 10 working couples had struggled to manage family commitments, with children at greatest risk where both parents experienced conflict between family time and their job.

Ms Losanno said the rise in the number of families where both parents are working could be due to many people choosing not to start a family until later in life.

“I didn’t get married until I was 35, so I always worked and looked after myself, so it was hard to suddenly stop work,” she said.

“People already spend a majority of their life in work, and it’s hard to stop.”

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Couple who planned to divorce if same-sex marriage passes renege on promise

Posted by on 14/09/2018 at 1:59 pm
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Overview of the final vote on the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, December 7, 2017. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVINGThey were the Canberra couple who created a national stir in 2015 with their stance against same-sex marriage.
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Nick and Sarah Jensen caused controversy following a first-person piece written by Mr Jensen promising to divorce if same-sex marriage was legalised in Australia.

“My wife and I, as a matter of conscience, refuse to recognise the government’s regulation of marriage if its definition includes the solemnisation of same-sex couples,” he wrote at the time.

While their promise may have seemed outlandish at the time, two years later, same-sex marriage in Australia has become a reality, after it passed a vote in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

So will the Jensens follow through with their public promise to split? The short answer is no.

In a statement to The Canberra Times, Mr Jensen said he doesn’t intend to file for divorce in the wake of the historic vote.

“My previous public comments regarding civil divorce never envisaged me separating from my wife, but rather our marriage from the state,” he said.

“The legislation currently makes it untenable for us to do this under the law. The point we were highlighting, and that still stands however, is the fact that a redefinition of marriage changes the agreement under which we were originally married.

“We will be making no further comment.”

The original article penned by Mr Jensen triggered a wave of online responses at the time, which included a mock party set up with a Facebook page called “Celebrating Nick and Sarah Jensen’s Divorce” attracting more than 140,000 people.

The first same-sex weddings in Australia will be carried out on January 9, after the same-sex marriage bill was given royal assent by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove on Friday.

Same-sex weddings that were carried out overseas will now be officially recognised in Australia as part of the historic legislation.

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‘The court is not King Solomon,’ judge tells parents feuding over son’s body

Posted by on 14/09/2018 at 1:58 pm
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For almost two months the body of a disabled teenager has remained with the State coroner in Newcastle while his family has waged a bitter war over what to do with his remains.
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Pono Aperahama died in tragic circumstances at Lambton swimming pool in Newcastle on October 17.

The 17-year-old had sustained severe head injuries in 2013 when he was hit by a car while riding his bike. He spent nine months in hospital and suffered ongoing health issues as a result of his injuries.

On his release from hospital Pono, who had been living with his grandmother, was placed into care with Challenge Community Services.

He was at the pool with his carer when he became erratic, striking out at the pool staff and repeatedly hitting his head against a brick wall.

He died in the ambulance on the way to John Hunter Hospital.

Almost immediately his family began fighting over whether he would be buried in New Zealand or cremated in Australia.

Pono’s mother Te Rina Abraham, who lives in New Zealand, wanted to bury her son there.

However, his father Steven Henry and sister Piki Aperahama wanted the body to be cremated in Sydney and the ashes to be divided equally between both parents.

Members of the family took to social media to air their grievances.

Two days after her brother’s death, 19-year-old Piki attacked her mother on Facebook. “You haven’t seen your son let alone any of your children in years and now you think you have a say? My brother is dead and still somehow my mother seems to make it about her, YOU WERE NOT THERE, my nana, papa and aunties raised me and the boys, they made sure we had a roof over our heads and were always fed.”

Her mother replied by text saying, “You f—ing lying little c— say you did everything for your brother and how much you love him while he lays here in Newcastle alone on ice.”

The feuding family took the matter to NSW Supreme Court.

“I have found this decision most difficult,” said Justice Stephen Rothman.

“The circumstances are tragic. The Court is not King Solomon. Whatever happens, one or other party will be disadvantaged,” he said in his judgment handed down earlier this week.

He noted both parents are New Zealanders whose son Pono was born in Sydney in January 2000.

His parents separated when he was three-months old and he lived with his mother.

However, at 8, Pono was removed from his mother and placed with her parents.

One of the major issues between the parents was a dispute over Maori culture.

His mother argued that Maori culture forbade cremation and that “a deceased must be buried so as to return the body to the earth from whence it came”.

Ms Abraham’s older sister, Maata Takiari, a liaison officer and secretary with the Maori Performing Arts Group in Brisbane, gave evidence on behalf of Pono’s father that although Maori tradition was to bury rather than cremate “it is not uncommon for Maori families to decide to cremate a body because it is cheaper than a burial,” she said in her affidavit.

Pono’s sister Piki testified that her brother did not have a strong connection with Maori culture or New Zealand, having been there only three times in his life.

Ms Aperahama told the court the family wanted a traditional Maori service in Penrith, lasting from three to five days, during which family and friends could come to pay their respects in accordance with traditional Maori practices.

Justice Rothman agreed with Ms Aperahama and her father and ordered that the body be released to them.

The judge also ordered that after the funeral service and the cremation, both parents were to receive half of the ashes.

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Gombau takes responsibility for Wanderers’ distressing loss

Posted by on 14/09/2018 at 1:58 pm
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Western Sydney Wanderers coach Josep Gombau has taken full responsibility for the club suffering their worst A-League defeat in history after being thrashed 5-0 by Sydney FC in the derby on Saturday night.
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A major selection gamble failed in the club’s biggest home game of the season after Gombau opted to hand two teenagers their first starts of the season against the reigning champions, and played others out of position.

Lachlan Scott is yet to play a minute this season but started ahead of experienced striker Brendon Santalab at the arrow point of their attack, while Keanu Baccus was deployed as the Wanderers’ holding midfield in his first start of the season and just the second of his career. Right back Josh Risdon was played as a winger, and Kearyn Baccus, brother of Keanu, was moved from his holding midfield role to a more attacking position.

The changes were said to be in line with Gombau’s evolution of the club’s playing style. He says it will take a lot of time but the blame for their performance in the derby falls on his shoulders.

“For me, the players are trying to do what the coach is asking them to do. I assume all the responsibility of this big loss,” he said. “I want to said my apologies to the fans who come to support the team. For me, the team I am coaching, things are improving.”

The Spanish coach is embarking on changing the club’s playing style and mentality but is yet to experience any joy from his project. The Wanderers are yet to win under Gombau, losing three of their four games and having scored just once.

“Today is a starting point and it’s not good but for sure the finish point will be good,” Gombau said.

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Rachel Jarry faces six months on the sidelines

Posted by on 15/08/2018 at 4:07 pm
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Canberra Capitals forward Rachel Jarry is facing a six-month stint on the sidelines as repeated concussions threaten to derail her career.
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A distressed Jarry was stretchered from the court and taken to hospital early in Canberra’s drought-breaking win over the Dandenong Rangers at Dandenong Stadium on Saturday night.

Jarry has suffered at least six concussions in her career and was told not to move as a precaution and left the venue on a stretcher, with the incident halting the WNBL clash for almost 20 minutes.

Jarry did not lose consciousness and was taken from the court by paramedics during the first quarter of Canberra’s stunning 81-78 win.

???The win snaps the second-worst losing streak in Capitals history at 13 games, leading Canberra fans to proclaim “ding dong, the witch is dead”.

But it wasn’t all good news with Jarry playing just 2:35 minutes before suffering her third concussion of the season, which came 10 days after she returned from a three week concussion-imposed lay-off.

The Olympian went down with ball in hand and was treated by support staff from both clubs, who opted to call an ambulance for additional help.

Capitals coach Paul Goriss was shattered for the star forward who was looking to use the final month of the season to relaunch her Australian Opals hopes.

“Obviously with the concussion history it’s probably not very good news for her. They called an ambulance and she’s in hospital right now with her mum,” Goriss said.

“She more than likely will be out for an extended period of time due to this being her third concussion in like eight weeks.

“She’s just hard-nosed. That’s the thing, she’s hard-nosed and she’s a competitor. Not that it’s her fault, but she puts herself in situations where she competes.

“That’s her and that’s her calling card but unfortunately it’s not good from a medical standpoint.”

Jarry, 26, told The Canberra Times the lack of knowledge about the long-term effects of concussion is “worrying” but she wouldn’t change her style when she had her most recent setback in November.

The WNBL concussion policy states any player suffering a concussion must be reported to the league and ticked off by an official club doctor before returning to play.

Jarry likely won’t play another minute this season with the Capitals out of finals contention with only five games remaining in the regular season.

It is a heartbreaking mishap for Jarry, who worked tirelessly to overcome a knee injury that hampered her start to the competition.

The Capitals shot out of the blocks to take a 26-18 lead into the first break and built one of their most complete performances of the season to clinch the nail-biting win.

Their lead was sliced to one with 14 seconds remaining but the Capitals held out for a three-point win, steered home by Jordan Hooper (21 points) and Nat Hurst (15).

It’s Canberra’s first win since they went back-to-back on opening weekend over two months ago and Goriss says it’s just reward for the effort they’ve put in during a rough season.

“A huge sense of relief. It’s just great for the girls because as I’ve said all along they’ve still worked their arses off every day after every game,” Goriss said.

“Losses mount up and have a toll physically and mentally and they’ve stayed strong throughout this period. They’ve deserved better than what they’ve got in the wins and losses column.

“The difference was we played consistent basketball for 40 minutes and I think that was showing in the end with a win. Everyone contributed.”

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‘The beginning in truth telling:’ 25 years on from the Redfern speech

Posted by on 15/08/2018 at 4:07 pm
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When Prime Minister Paul Keating took to a podium in Redfern Park on a warm December day in 1992, those present had no idea they would be witnessing history.
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Twenty-five years ago to the day, Keating’s address, now simply known as the “Redfern Speech” delivered a profound message on Aboriginal injustice.

“We took the traditional lands and smashed the traditional way of life. We brought the diseases. The alcohol. We committed the murders. We took the children from their mothers,” he said.

“With some noble exceptions, we failed to make the most basic human response and enter into their hearts and minds. We failed to ask, how would I feel if this were done to me?”

In a joint statement to Fairfax Media, Linda Burney MP and Senator Patrick Dodson described the speech as the “beginning in truth telling,” speaking “truth to the power of an unexamined history.”

“The Redfern Address was an honest, unflinching acknowledgement by a prime minister of the impact of colonisation on our people, an acknowledgement of the appalling history for which they have been dealt, and a recognition of the role and responsibility not only of the colonists, but the collective responsibility of all Australians to play their part in redressing past and continuing wrongs.”

Twenty-five years on Ms Burney and Mr Dodson said the speech was a reminder of the “continuing gaps in economic, health and social indicators” for indigenous Australians.

“The Gap is still wide.”

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‘Meet the Pharks’: TV host Lauren Phillips weds

Posted by on 15/08/2018 at 4:07 pm
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TV presenter and Myer ambassador Lauren Phillips has married Lachlan Spark on Victoria’s picturesque Mornington Peninsula.
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About 180 guests, including well-known faces from television and sport, attended the wedding, held at a private property at Flinders on Saturday. The did it! #meetthepharks @lfizzlphillips @lachsparkA post shared by K A T E A R N O T T (@kate_arnott) on Dec 9, 2017 at 1:56am PSTThey said I DO . Love you guys so much; thank you for letting me be part of this incredible journey #meetthepharks #conilioA post shared by CON ILIO (@conilio.official) on Dec 9, 2017 at 2:02am PSTBesties unite!!!! #meetthepharks @lachspark @lfizzlphillipsA post shared by Susanne Gray (Messara) (@suzygrayback) on Dec 9, 2017 at 12:06am PSTPrincess @lfizzlphillips @lachspark #meetthepharksA post shared by S U Z Y E S K A N D E R (@suzeskander) on Dec 8, 2017 at 11:51pm PSTWhat a bunch of hotties! @conilio.official epic job!! #meetthepharks #Wedding #TheDreamDayCo #Creative #Beautiful #Inspiring Image | Gowns: @conilio.official xA post shared by Weddings Fashion Lifestyle (@thedreamdayco) on Dec 8, 2017 at 11:51pm PSTBest pharking couple – what a union of two special people in my life #meetthepharks @lfizzlphillips @lachsparkA post shared by Mitch catlin (@catchymmm) on Dec 8, 2017 at 11:14pm PSTThe calm before the Pharkin party arrived in the groundbreaking Atrium Marquee by @harrythehirer #allclass #allglass #meetthepharksA post shared by Hello Blossoms (@helloblossomsweddings) on Dec 9, 2017 at 2:04am PSTThis story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Chinese whispers push Canberra to change the law

Posted by on 15/08/2018 at 4:06 pm
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Labor Senator Sam Dastyari in the Senate, at Parliament House in Canberra on Wednesday 6 December 2017. fedpol Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Dr Feng Chongyi. 16th May 2017. Photo: Steven Siewert
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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 12: Xiangmo Huang and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull walk along dixon street before the official lantern lighting ceremony at Tumbalong Park on February 12, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Dominic Lorrimer/Fairfax Media)

The disgraced former US national security adviser Mike Flynn is now the world’s most famous peddler of foreign influence. His woes began when it was revealed he had accepted $US45,000 to appear on the Kremlin propaganda machine posing as a news outfit, Russia Today, or RT.

The next domino to fall was the revelation that he had been paid about $US500,000 by the Turkish government. Things spiralled from there.

Another former Donald Trump adviser, Paul Manafort, has already been charged with failing to register under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act, despite reportedly being paid millions of dollars to promote a pro-Moscow Ukrainian political party.

The US laws have come under criticism for being ineffective. But Australia has no equivalent laws at all. Flynn and Manafort would have done nothing illegal and would not even have been compelled to disclose their foreign connections.

Similarly, Sam Dastyari did not appear to meet the threshold of any illegality in his dealings with the Beijing-connected businessman Huang Xiangmo, Attorney-General George Brandis said this week when he and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a sweeping package of proposed laws to curb foreign influence and interference on Wednesday.

The government’s argument is that Australia’s laws are outdated and in serious need of overhaul in an era in which the incidence of foreign interference is at “unprecedented” levels – higher than during the Cold War, according to Brandis.

Globalisation and connectivity allow more vectors of interference. Foreign governments can communicate instantly with large numbers of proxies, agents and supporters, while large diaspora communities provide fertile ground for lobbying efforts. Business communities are closely linked across the globe. Cyber attacks allow the theft of secrets electronically to coerce or interfere in democracies – as was the case with Russia’s meddling in the US election.

Perhaps most importantly, Australia’s strategic circumstances have been transformed. It now has a rising great power in its region that wants to become Asia’s hegemon, which means decoupling the US from its allies, including Australia. For China this means emphasising the economic advantages its has to offer to an export-dependent country and normalising – as much as it plausibly can – its own system of government, the Chinese Communist Party.

Australia is particularly ripe because China is by far its biggest export destination.

It is also a bellwether country in how it handles Beijing’s increasing assertiveness, according to Rory Medcalf of the Australian National University.

“Were Australia to privilege China’s preferences on matters such as its disputes with Japan, India and South-east Asian countries, or over human rights and governance issues, other small and medium powers could follow,” Professor Medcalf wrote in the Australian Financial Review. “The ripples would be global.”

While it might not be realistic to break US alliances in Asia, “Beijing will keep trying to weaken them”.

Former Labor leader and ambassador to Washington Kim Beazley said foreign interference was certainly “elevated” now. He said China had a clear intention to influence Australia political decision-making, though it was different from Russia’s interference in the US which aimed to “discombobulate American society”.

“China wants us to support their foreign policy objectives and cull us from the US alliance. That is their purpose. There’s nothing surprising about it, nor about our resistance to it,” Beazley said.

China’s reaction to the Turnbull laws, which seasoned observers predicted would likely be muted, turned out to be quite the contrary. In a three-pronged attack, its foreign ministry, its embassy in Canberra and the state mouthpiece China Daily newspaper all launched broadsides.

In doing so, it called the Turnbull government out, demolishing the polite diplomatic fiction that this package was about an abstract collection of countries that are trying to influence Australian politics and not China per se.

Medcalf described this heated reaction as “a soft power own goal” on Beijing’s part, smacking of desperation and frustration.

Feng Chongyi, a Sydney professor who is a vocal critic of Chinese influence and who made headlines earlier this year when he was detained for week while trying to leave China, has studied how the networks of influence operate.

Between business groups, student associations, alumni groups and overtly political associations such as the Australian Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China – of which Huang Xiangmo stepped down as chairman a fortnight ago – there are about 300 groups in Sydney alone, Feng said.

Huang and his predecessor, the council’s late founder William Chiu, a Chinese-Malaysian businessman, were especially politically active, which is why there are photos in the public domain of them with virtually every senior Australian politician.

Through its United Front Work Department, the Chinese government has created a structure of patronage and coercion, whereby “if you work with authorities of China, then you get can benefits financially and socially”.

“Patriotic Chinese community leaders, including owners and editors of media outlets and heads of community associations, are rewarded with annual training programs and tours in China paid by the Chinese government, which also establish valuable contacts and create business opportunities,” Feng said.

“[They are] are invited to the dinners organised by the Chinese embassy or consulates and to the parties welcoming the visits of high-ranking officials from China, activities valuable for business, contacts and social status.”

Ultimately it means that businessmen and women with interests in China can win contracts there if they do Beijing’s bidding in Australia, but find their businesses under investigation if they do not.

These “patriotic proxies” in turn try to influence politics, media and business circles, he says.

Anne-Marie Brady, from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, who has done ground-breaking research on Chinese influence, says that as Beijing’s foreign policy becomes more ambitious, its influence reach has “gone into hyperdrive”.

She says it’s important to remember most Chinese businesspeople are that and nothing else. But those like Huang – who have clear connections through front organisations like the reunification council, to the United Front to the Chinese Communist Party – need to be called out.

Everyone is entitled to put their case in the marketplace of ideas that forms the Australian democratic polity, but needs to be clear who they are representing. That is the thinking behind the Turnbull government’s planned “foreign influence transparency scheme”, based on – but improving on – the US foreign agents registry.

Feng and Brady both back this scheme, saying that if it is properly implemented, the value of subtle influence will be lost because everyone knows who’s behind it and what their agenda is.

“If [Chinese proxies] see economic, commercial or political risks here, they will stop the practice,” Feng says.

It remains to be seen how precisely this will be put into practice. How might it work, for instance, in the case of Chinese community newspapers, which Feng says come under significant pressure from advertisers who are Chinese state-owned enterprises or pro-Beijing community groups?

Media outlets are generally exempt unless they are foreign government-owned. Advertisers might be liable for listing if they are pushing a message from Beijing, but there will be a lot of judgement calls required by the Attorney-General’s Department as to who must and must not go on the register.

At the very least, a Flynn-like mover and shaker in Australia would need to declare themselves, which is why the new laws have been widely welcomed by experts.

At the more extreme end of foreign interference that goes beyond mere transparency, the Turnbull government is creating a new offence of foreign interference that covertly meddles in Australia’s democracy. It recognises the reality that Australia’s espionage and treason laws are virtually never used.

Anyone working covertly with a foreign power to influence government or political processes, interfere in elections, help a foreign intelligence agency or harm Australia’s national security will be liable for jail time of up to 20 years.

Brandis has indicated that had Dastyari conducted his business with Huang under the new laws, he might have been open to prosecution.

Brandis also highlighted the danger to political parties, which he said are “very porous organisations” of which it is easy to become a member.

“If a foreign government or a foreign principal wants to influence Australian domestic politics, one of the ways in which they can do that is by joining a political party, seeking to rise to a position of influence or power in that political party,” he told the ABC this week.

The government’s new laws also modernise laws covering treason, treachery, mutiny, sabotage and – most critically – espionage, which will become broader and mean that a person need not be caught literally in the act of handing over state secrets to a foreign power with the demonstrable intention of harming Australia.

Anne-Marie Brady says serious operators will still try to get around these laws. But the awareness created by the new laws will do as much as anything to make Australian decision-makers and opinion-shapers more canny in their dealings.

“Putting some sunlight on it is a good thing,” she said, noting there has been too much blindness to this for too long. “A lot of the pushback is going to have to come from people in Australian society having a better idea of what is going on and who they’re interacting with.”

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Ingenious activities to keep kids entertained over the holidays

Posted by on 15/08/2018 at 4:06 pm
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Summer is here, and school holidays are a breath away, so if you’re one of the lucky 70 per cent of Australians who happen to own a backyard, you might as well get use out of it.
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Granted, it’s what you tell yourself and your kids every year and every year the trampoline stands un-jumped on. The cricket set is unplayed while the kids sit comfortably opposite their best friends – their screens. Perhaps it’s time to get a little bit creative.

The following ideas for backyard games are cheap, they’re easy and they’re a great way to keep kids occupied so you can go back to watching Netflix on your iPad. I’m joking of course, but the luxury of the backyard has always been that it’s a ready-made safe space for everyone to maximise their vitamin D intake with minimal supervision. 1. Gardening

OK. I know what you’re thinking: “It’s boring”, and it’s for people with arthritis, my kids are going to hate me. But gardening is the perfect activity for the exercise-averse tween, or the more compact backyard. And, as the holidays stretch out over six weeks, it’s one of the few ventures that will change in appearance just enough each day to hold interest. Also: toddlers love watering cans.

Just make sure you choose something relatively exciting, such as gardenias, (which can grow in pots) bougainvillea, (which quickly takes on a life of its own) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, a frangipani tree. All of these varieties do well in warm, sunny conditions. If your kids aren’t too keen on flowers you can always try fruit, such as tomatoes, (which take around five weeks to fully mature, so plant them now).

Your kids can make their own recipes from their crop, pretending they’re Matthew Evans or Stephanie Alexander while they talk you through their “process” as they decorate their pizza. You might even set up an outdoor “cafe” by throwing a tablecloth over your outdoor furniture. Try your local nursery or hardware store for seeds, pots and fertiliser. Related: A guide to growing your own cocktail ingredientsRelated: Is it possible to renovate with kids around?Related: Why tech in the bedroom is bad news2. Water balloons

The beach is a wonderful option but on days when it’s too crowded, or too hot or too hard to find a parking spot, there’s always your own backyard. For those Aussies fortunate enough to own a swimming pool, congrats. For the rest of us, we have to be a little more resourceful.

In my day, we ran under the sprinkler, but summer water restrictions have since made that an impossibility.

Water balloons combine the sporty element of dodgeball with the aggressive determination of paint ball. The best bit is that water balloons are now super easy to tie in bulk, thanks to a product called, Bunch of Balloons, that you attach to your tap or hose and watch it fill up all 100 balloons at once before it detaches all by itself. Available from Amazon. 3. Treasure hunt

Who needs to wait until Easter? After the kids have gone to bed each night, creep out into your yard and go nuts. You can hide anything from fun-size chocolate bars, to clues about forthcoming Christmas presents (a great way to build excitement and buzz).

But if it’s pre-schoolers you wish to entertain, you can “discover” encouraging notes from Santa’s elves – a terrific way to motivate good behaviour. 4. Camping

There’s nothing like camping in a tent in your own backyard, but you can upgrade the excitement by taking a couple of blow-up mattresses out into the garden for an unobstructed view of the stars.

You’ll need your usual supply of blankets, cushions, insect repellent and torches, or if your kids are feeling fancy, a bunch of flameless, battery operated candles, (available from $2 shops). Give each child a ration of food, lollies and drink in a backpack and challenge them to “survive” the night outdoors, or realistically, at least wait until you’ve finished binge-watching Will & Grace. 5. DIY art

Grab an old double-bed top sheet (or buy one for about $12 from K-Mart) and peg it to the clothesline. Next, amass five or six spray bottles (about $4 from Target). Fill them with water and a drop of food colouring.

Now, encourage your kid to channel their inner Jackson Pollock by squirting the coloured water onto the sheet. The more mess, the better! At least that’s what you can tell yourself before you call them in for a bath. 6. Make dinosaur eggs

Gather all your kids favourite dinosaur toys, (or any kind of plastic animal, really). Fill up an ice cream bucket with water, and then freeze the toy inside. Scatter them throughout the backyard the next day, and as the sun comes up, the ice will melt away, “birthing” the dinosaur!

As with all outdoor activities, remember to slip, slip slap those kids with sun protection and keep them hydrated. Last, but probably most important of all, enjoy the holidays, they’re yours as well.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.