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November 21, 2005

Darwin and Sumatra rocked by offshore earthquakes

Darwin and Sumatra rocked by offshore earthquakes

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Monday, November 21, 2005

An offshore earthquake shook buildings in Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory today, and an earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.2 struck off the coast of Sumatra yesterday, triggering a tsunami alert.

Geoscience Australia says the offshore quake registered 5.3 on the Richter scale. No damage has been reported in the city of Darwin or the community of Port Keats which is the nearest town to the quake’s epicentre in a region known for its moderate seismicity. The quake’s epicentre was located 500 kilometres west-north-west of Darwin in the Banda Sea. The earthquake hit at 9.51am (CDT).

Geoscience Australia (the government’s geological organisation) says the region may be unstable for a few days and aftershocks or another quake may be felt. Duty seismologist, Dr Svetan Sinadinovski, says it was a shallow quake and the subterranean make-up of the area allowed the tremor waves to travel to Darwin without losing much energy. He says the quake was on Australia’s continental shelf, which is a common place for seismic activity.

“That is the area where Australian plate collides with Asian plate and that extends through the Indonesian islands up to Sumatra and Thailand in the north and east through PNG to Tonga and New Zealand,” he said. “Preliminary reports point to a 5 to 6 in the Darwin region – this means that the earthquake would have been felt by almost everyone indoors according to the Modified Mercali Scale which measures the impact of seismic waves on structures.”

“People would have felt this earthquake up to 500km away from the epicentre, and we have heard numerous reports of residents in the Darwin area having felt the effects of the event,” he said.

Among those who felt the quake were participants involved in the trial of Bradley John Murdoch in the Northern Territory Supreme Court in Darwin – where chairs and TVs shook in the court building.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Darwin office was also shaken, but no reports of damage have been received by police.

“We felt it – I felt the building sway and some of the monitors shook a little,” the bureau’s duty forecaster, Billy Lynch, said. “We are on the third floor of a three-story building.”

Sumatra Earthquake

An earthquake with a magnitude of at least 6.2 struck off the coast of Sumatra yesterday, triggering a tsunami alert, officials said. There were no immediate reports of a tsunami, damages or casualties. The quake’s epicenter was located off Simeulue, 160 miles southwest of Medan on Sumatra’s northwest coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey(USGS).

Indonesia’s Meteorology and Geophysics Agency put the quake’s magnitude at 6.2, whilst the USGS said the magnitude was 6.5. The quake rocked nearby Nias island and was felt in Medan, said an official from the Indonesian agency’s Jakarta office.

Simeulue island is near the epicenter of the December 26 quake that caused a massive tsunami. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii said there was no threat of a tsunami to Pacific coastlines, but quakes of this size can sometimes generate local tsunamis along coasts near the epicenter.

Sumatra has been affected by strong aftershocks since the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake. Experts say the fault line is unstable and may produce another massive quake soon.

Other earthquakes

The biggest earthquake to strike the region, in 1998, had a magnitude of 6.9. The largest earthquake ever recorded was in Chile in 1960. This magnitude 9.5 earthquake resulted in the death of 5,000 people. In 1976 a smaller 8.0 earthquake in China caused the death of an estimated 255,000 people. More recently, in December 2003 an earthquake in Iran resulted in the death of approximately 50,000 people.

Geoscience Australia said the 5.3 quake did not generate a tsunami. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which had a magnitude of 9.0, triggered a series of lethal tsunamis on December 26, 2004 that killed over 270,000 people, making it the deadliest tsunami in recorded history.

In March 2005 another strong earthquake rocked parts of Darwin, with tremors lasting several minutes felt across the city and rural areas. The quake measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, and its epicentre was 500 kilometres east north-east of East Timor in the Banda Sea.

Sources

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November 19, 2005

US bombers to train in Australia

US bombers to train in Australia – Wikinews, the free news source

US bombers to train in Australia

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

In a joint agreement by Australia and the United States, the U.S. Air Force will begin regular strategic bomber aircraft training in the Northern Territory early next year. At the recent high-level AUSMIN talks between the U.S. and Australia it was announced that the strategic bomber training program would involve B-52 and B-1 bombers and the B-2 stealth aircraft.

Under the new arrangements aircraft would fly direct from the United States for bombing operations at the Delamere Air Weapons Range situated about 130km south-west of Katherine in the Northern Territory. Delamere is a 211,000ha bombing range used regularly by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) for dropping live weapons. The Darwin RAAF base would also be available for the bombers to land and refuel if necessary. The planes will fly to the Northern Territory from the U.S. Pacific Island base of Guam.

A B-52 Stratofortress drops live ordnance over Nevada on May 12 2005 during an Air Force firepower demo – (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)

Support

Defence Minister Robert Hill says Australia is helping in the rebalancing of America’s military forces in Asia. Senator Hill said strategic bomber training had been conducted some time ago and that the U.S. had now asked Australia whether it could be resumed.

“We have said we are happy to assist,” Senator Hill told reporters. Mr Hill said some of the aircraft may not even touch down in Australia, while others will land at the Darwin RAAF base.

The bombers will fly from the major US base on the Pacific island of Guam. “It may be aircraft that come down to Australia from a considerable distance and use our bombing ranges and then return without landing,” he said. “There will also be occasions when the aircraft will land and utilise facilities at Darwin. We think it’s just another example in which we can be helpful to our ally”.

Labor’s opposition defence spokesman, Robert McClelland, also supports the program. “It’s very important to our long-term security that we support the United States alliance as a partner – not being dictated to in anyway – but as a partner,” he said. “It is quite reasonable we provide a significant resource we have in Australia, which is open space, to develop the technologies and the skills.”

Concerns

But the Australian Greens are outraged by the project, saying there has been no consultation in the Territory. “The Australian Government more and more is allowing the Americans to view this country as the 51st state,” Greens leader Senator Bob Brown said.

The mayor of Katherine, Anne Shepherd, also has serious concerns about the plan. “I know of the other accidents that have happened there when the Americans were training,” Ms Shepherd said.

In August this year, A U.S. Marine Corps fighter jet dropped a bomb and damaged a building in an accident. The bomb, dropped by an F/A-18 Hornet, exploded near a control tower and damaged facilities at Delamere Air Weapons Range – attached to the RAAF Base Tindal near Katherine.

At the time, Prime Minister John Howard said: “Things like this will always happen; we hope not very frequently and we hope not any more dangerously,” he told Melbourne Radio 3AW in August. “But the idea that you can conduct any kind of military exercise without some kind of potential for mishap is unrealistic.”

Ms Shepherd is also worried about the possible use of depleted uranium. “I know that they use the depleted uranium on the warheads for added penetration … and the weapons can penetrate much more easily with the depleted uranium and I’d be quite concerned if they use those kind of weapons,” she said.

The Northern Territory Environment Center says it is disgusted by the announcement. Co-ordinator Peter Robertson is alarmed about the location of the training. “Only a matter of 100 kilometres or so from one of the proposed nuclear waste dump sites near Katherine, and it would be extraordinarily alarming and ironic if an American B-52 bomber dropped a live bomb on top of the Commonwealth’s nuclear waste dump,” he said.

Concerns have also been raised about the environmental impact of the training program. Australia and the United States have agreed to work towards world’s best practice in environmental management for the combined military activities.

But Mr Robertson says world’s best practice is simply to stop doing it. “Not to do it in a way that puts at risk communities, the environment… I mean the notion that there are clean green bombs that can be rained down on the Northern Territory, or any other part of the world, is an absolute nonsense,” he said.

Sources

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October 30, 2005

Opposing a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory

Opposing a nuclear waste dump in the Northern Territory

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

A protest against a proposed nuclear waste dump is continuing this week in Australia’s Northern Territory. The traditional owners of the site in the Arrernte Nation say they will continue to protest against the facility near the Stuart Highway about 20 kilometres north of Alice Springs.

The Federal Government wants an operating licence for a new reactor in Sydney, to replace the ageing Lucas Heights facility. One of the key conditions for the operating licence of a new reactor is the establishment of a viable waste management plan. In July the federal government announced a short list of three locations in the Northern Territory as potential sites for a radioactive waste dump. The Government wants a facility to store and manage low and intermediate level radioactive waste resulting from the medical, industrial and research use of radioactive materials by Commonwealth agencies.

Traditional owners of Athenge Alhere – an estate group of the Arrernte Nation – have voiced their dissent to the nuclear dump and say they don’t want waste from Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor brought to their land. “Because the land we take care of, because all our ancestors lived in this land and hunted on this land as well, so it’s mainly because of the animals and the next generation of our kids and their children, so we still say no,” traditional owner Benedict Stevens said.

The Medical Association for Prevention of War condemned as “scaremongering” the claims by Federal MPs that the health of Australians would be in jeopardy if a nuclear waste dump was not imposed on the Northern Territory by the Commonwealth Government.

The three proposed sites include:

  • Fishers Ridge, a defence site 42km south-east of Katherine.
  • Harts Range, a defence site 165km north-east of Alice Springs.
  • Mount Everard a defence site 27km north-west of Alice Springs.

The NT Government cannot prevent the dump from proceeding, as all three sites are all on Commonwealth land. Although the Northern Territory Parliament has passed legislation banning the storage or transport of any nuclear waste, the Federal Government is able to use its external affairs power to override the legislation.

The Federal Government abandoned locating the dump in South Australia and Western Australia following local opposition.

A final decision is expected to be made by the end of 2006, with the preferred site to be operational by 2011.

Sources

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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.

April 20, 2005

Australian blitz on fish poaching

Australian blitz on fish poaching – Wikinews, the free news source

Australian blitz on fish poaching

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Australian officials have impounded 27 Indonesian boats in what it says is the biggest operation so far against illegal fishing.
Map: Vardion of Wikipedia

Australian officials have impounded 27 Indonesian boats and 240 crew off the country’s north coast, in what it says is the biggest operation against illegal fishing so far. Fisheries Minister, Ian Macdonald, told the nation’s ABC Radio that a number of boats caught fishing for shark fin and reef fish had been taken to Gove and Darwin.

The nine-day joint navy, customs and army “Operation Clearwater” was continuing, and had taken months to plan.

“I think all of the illegal vessels up there, because of their inter-vessel communication will now be aware that there is a major sting on by the Australian authorities and those that haven’t been arrested, I think will be hightailing it back to Indonesian ports as we speak,” said Senator MacDonald.

Intelligence indicated what he called “organised transnational criminal activity”, including some Asian connections beyond the Indonesian village ports where the vessels originated, but the activity was apparently limited to illegal fishing, and did not include smuggling.

“We are talking about large-scale commercial operations rather than simply subsistence fishing,” Macdonald said in a statement, indicating that fifteen of the boats were large vessels with ice for storage. Two boats each had one tonne of fish, and shark fin.

“I would expect that most of these boats … will be destroyed,” said Australian Senator MacDonald.
Photo: Gallery/imagegallery.htm Lars Lentz

Fishing by some Indonesian peoples has occurred legitimately in the area between the two nations for hundreds of years before European colonization. A 1906 Australian claim on as much as 80% of the waters has since been softened by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two governments, recognizing some traditional fishing rights.

However analysts say the Australian government strategy is flawed, since it is based on the fishing technology employed, rather than catch numbers. [1] [2] [3]

At time of writing, it has not been ascertained whether the currently detained vessels were fishing in such “traditional” waters or not, or whether they were operated by crews who would have traditional fishing rights, if they had been in compliance with the MOU.

Senator MacDonald told the ABC Radio programme AM that he expected in the case of those thought to have been fishing in Australian waters illegally, the captain and perhaps the senior fishing master would be charged, with other crew being immediately repatriated to Indonesia.

As for the boats, “We’re required by international law to offer them to bond them back to the owners, but as the crew are immediately repatriated the ability of the owners to get them back to Indonesia … is fairly limited,” the Senator explained.

“I would expect that most of these boats apprehended in operation Clearwater will actually be forfeited to the crown and will be destroyed.”

The fishermen were expected to appear in court next week, reported Reuters news agency. An Indonesian fisherman was last week fined $A130,000, setting a new record, after his boat was caught off with over 100kg of dried reef fish, 300kg of fish on ice and 10kg of dried shark fin.

The Northern Territory Fisheries Minister, Kon Vatskalis, on ABC Radio asked the Federal Government to commit the same level of resources permanently.

“Provide the extra funding, provide the extra resources to the Navy and the Customs and then they will be able to stop the illegal boats, not only when they run an operation but every day, every week, every month,” Mr Vatskalis told the ABC.

Sources

  • Campbell Watson. “Permeable border” — Inside Indonesia (No. 54), June, 1998

See also

  • Robyn Williams, The Science Show. “Throw the Big Fish Back” — Australian Broadcasting Corporation, April 16, 2005


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March 28, 2005

Australia silent on UN racism committee condemnation

Australia silent on UN racism committee condemnation

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Monday, March 28, 2005

The Australian government has been keeping quiet about a UN committee’s repeated criticism of its record on race issues. A report issued over two weeks ago by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has not received comment from the government in the media, and domestic media coverage has been scant, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, and confirmed by a search of news search engine news.google.com.

According to Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) National Director David Cooper before the case was heard by the UN committee, “We fully expect the government is going to deflect it by criticising the UN process.”

In fact, this criticism was given in the session, and nothing has been heard from the Australian Federal Government since, on the committee hearing and report.

After reciting a list of Australian anti-racism initiatives, ambassador to the UN Mike Smith, described the 18 committee members’ work in the previous session five years ago as “cursory” and “unreasonable”. He said they had largely ignored progress being made in Australia, yet displayed “an unquestioning acceptance” of critics of the Government.

Regis de Gouttes of France called Mr Smith “exceptionally rude”.

Jose Lindgren Alves of Brazil told him, “As a veteran diplomat, this statement, with its language describing programs and attacks on NGOs, reminds me of the sort of statement from communist bloc countries and Latin American dictatorships that Australia used to condemn.”

The committee was positive about a number of improvements in race-related issues in Australia over the five years since its last report. These were,

  • the criminalising of acts and incitement of racial hatred in most Australian States and Territories
  • progress in the economic, social and cultural rights by indigenous

peoples

  • commitment of state and federal governments to work together on the issues
  • programmes and practices among the police and the judiciary, aimed at reducing the number of indigenous juveniles entering the criminal justice system
  • the abolition of mandatory sentencing in the Northern Territory
  • the adoption of a Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society to ensure that government services are provided in a way that is sensitive to the language and cultural needs of all Australians
  • and the numerous human rights education programmes developed by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).

However the report contained a large number of serious criticisms, and a reminder that the Convention prohibits direct as well as indirect discrimination. Australia was asked to report back on progress on a number of items within one year.

The criticisms were,

  • that there was nothing to stop racially discriminative Commonwealth laws
  • proposed reforms to HREOC that may limit its independence and hinder its effectiveness at monitoring Australia’s compliance with the provisions of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  • the abolition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), an elected body of indigenous representatives, the main policy-making body in Aboriginal affairs
  • a lack of legislation criminalising serious acts or incitement of racial hatred, in the Commonwealth, the State of Tasmania and the Northern Territory
  • that reported prejudice against Arabs and Muslims had increased
  • that counter-terrorism legislation may have an indirect discriminatory effect against Arab and Muslim Australians
  • reportedly biased treatment of asylum-seekers by the media
  • difficulty in gaining successful litigation under the Racial Discrimination Act in the absence of direct evidence
  • that no cases of racial discrimination, as distinct from racial hatred, have been successfully litigated in the Federal courts since 2001
  • reversal since 1998 of progress made under 1993’s Native Title Act and Mabo case, with new legal certainty for government and third parties provided at the expense of indigenous title
  • diverging perceptions between governmental authorities and indigenous peoples and others on the compatibility of the 1998 amendments to the Native Title Act with the Convention
  • that proof of continuous observance and acknowledgement of the laws and customs of indigenous peoples since the British acquisition of sovereignty over Australia is required to establish native title
  • very poor conditions of employment, housing, health, education and income for indigenous Australians, compared with non-indigenous
  • mandatory sentencing in Western Australia, which disproportionately impacts indigenous Australians
  • the “striking over-representation” of indigenous people in prison, and dying in custody
  • that indigenous women are the fastest growing prison population
  • allegations, accompanied by State denials, of discrimination in the grant of visas against Asian and Muslim people
  • Australia’s mandatory detention of migrants determined to be illegal, including asylum-seekers, particularly when it affects women, children, unaccompanied minors, and the stateless
  • that many have been in detention for over three years
  • lack of access by many migrants and protected refugees to social security
  • precariousness of circumstances, and denial of right of family reunion, for many protected refugees
  • that the Federal Government has rejected most of the recommendations adopted by the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation given in 2000

Sources

External links

  • Rights Australia. “Research & Papers” — Rights Australia, viewed March 28, 2005
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This text comes from Wikinews. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 licence. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikinews.
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