One dead as Cyclone Zena approaches Fiji

Aid groups are preparing to swing back into action as another tropical cyclone is on track to hit Fiji just weeks after Cyclone Winston battered the country, killing 44 people.

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The category three storm, named Cyclone Zena, is moving southeast from Vanuatu to Fiji and is expected to bring more flooding and strong winds to the tiny island nation which has experienced torrential rains over the past two days.

One person has already been reportedly killed in the lead up to the storm according to local media, while another is missing.

Calm before the storm!in Suva. Category 3 cyclone heading for Fiji. Curfew from 6 pm. pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/BdHcbin3Ld

— Christine Milne (@ChristineMilne) April 6, 2016

The Guardian reported a nationwide curfew has been established with residents ordered to remain inside from 6pm until the storm has passed.

Oxfam say although the cyclone will not be as damaging as Cyclone Winston, which was category five, it is still dangerous.

“The flood waters and threat posed by Cyclone Zena’s gale force winds are the last thing Fijians recovering from Cyclone Winston need,” Oxfam country director Dolores Devesi said on Wednesday.

So far more than 3500 people have been evacuated in affected regions while schools are closed following upgraded warnings about heavy rain and strong winds which have upped expectations of more severe flooding.

The Fiji Meteorological Service issued a special alert on Wednesday morning saying the cyclone had winds of 95km/h and was intensifying as it approached the western city of Nadi.

The cyclone is expected to sit 170km south-southeast of Nadi on Thursday morning.

Air New Zealand and Fiji Airways have cancelled services to the country.

Republican Cruz and Democrat Sanders score wins in Wisconsin

Cruz’s win was a breakthrough for Republican Party forces battling to block the controversial New York billionaire, and it raised the prospect of a prolonged nominating fight that could last to the July convention.

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Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders also won in Wisconsin, gaining momentum in his fight against front-runner Hillary Clinton and trimming her commanding lead in delegates.

Trump had 737 convention delegates to Cruz’s 481 heading into the vote, leaving him 500 delegates short of the 1,237 needed to win the nomination. Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich, the other remaining Republican contender, hope to stop Trump short of a first-ballot victory and trigger a contested convention.

Cruz, a conservative U.S. senator from Texas, was aided in Wisconsin by the backing of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who had dropped his own presidential bid in September. Party establishment figures, worried that Trump will lead Republicans to a broad defeat in November, have banded together to try to stop him.

The Wisconsin primary followed a difficult week for Trump, who was forced to backtrack after saying women who have abortions should face punishment if the procedure is outlawed, and who voiced support for his campaign manager after he was charged with misdemeanor assault for grabbing a reporter.

In the Democratic race, the win for Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, is his sixth in the last seven presidential nominating contests, but he still faces a difficult task to overtake Clinton as the presidential nominating race moves to New York on April 19 and to five other Eastern states on April 26.

 

PM faces ‘internal’ criticism

A coaltion backbencher has criticised the performance of her own government as wishy washy.

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But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull brushed off worries about his falling approval ratings by saying MPs should be more upbeat.

Malcolm Turnbull has had a tough time lately as he tries to convince the public he’s up to the economic leadership he promised before becoming prime minister six months ago.

Now he’s facing critcism from within, as Queensland MP Michelle Landry repeatedly used the media to voice her concerns.

“I just think that we’ve lost our focus a bit so you know I have said that I thought we were a little wishy-washy and i think that we just need to refocus on the jobs at hand. The Coalition Government is very strong with the economy and people want us to do that and I think everything is getting lost a bit with that 24/7 news cycle.”

A Liberal-National MP, Michelle Landry took the Labor-held Queensland seat of Capricornia in the 2013 federal election.

As a first-term government backbencher she’s concerned about heading to the polls this year holding her seat with a margin of less than one per cent.

“I think we’ve had too much of a mixed message out there. There’s lots of discussion about things we could do and you know different issues with taxes and changes to medicare and all that sort of thing. So I think we just need to come out, say what we’re doing.”

Her comments have prompted senior government ministers to publicly defend the government’s record.

Industry Minister Christopher Pyne had to do so while battling rival trucking rallies behind him in Adelaide.

“We are getting on with the job of creating jobs and growth, that’s an easy message for me to sell because it’s true and Michelle Landry should sell that message too.”

Mr Turnbull has tried to brush it off the concerns from his own backbench.

His advice to them and to the Australian public: wait for the budget to be delivered on May 3rd.

“I haven’t spoken to (Michelle) but if I did I would encourage her to be more upbeat that’s for sure. Look we have a robust party, she’s entitled to her view but she’s like everybody else very keen to see what’s in the budget.”

While the Prime Minister may not be concerned about being labelled wishy washy, others are.

Nationals party leader Barnaby Joyce passionately addressing the issue head on in a press concernece.

“Michelle is a good mate of mine. We work well together. But I think we are far from wishy washy. We’re not wishy washy when we make sure that wee keep our borders strong. We’re not wishy washy when we make sure that our defence spending goes up to two percent to protect our nation.”

But resources Minister Josh Frydenberg told the ABC Michelle Landry’s message shouldn’t be dismissed outright.

“Michelle’s an important part of the team and she makes an important point that we’ve had a number of successes as a government and we need to communicate those to the public”

The tightening polls have put a spring the Opposition leaders Bill Shorten’s step as he spent another day campaigning on schools funding.

“These little grade ones, we can guarantee that if Labor is elected, that from next year they will have certainty of funding for their education right through to Year 12.”

“Here’s a numeracy test for Mr Shorten. How are you going to pay for the 51 billion dollars of unfunded promises? Is it higher taxes or more debt or perhaps both?”

Mr Turnbull may not have the benefit of time to get his message back on track.

He’s threatened an early election if the Senate crossbenchers don’t pass the building and construction commission in this month’s special sitting.

As it stands that legislation will not be passed and a July 2 early election is looking all the more likely.

 

 

Banks likely to raise mortgage rates

Homeowners are likely to be hit by another out-of-cycle rate hike as banks pass on higher funding costs.

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The official interest rate remains at a record low but market watchers expect the major banks will hike variable mortgage rates this year regardless of any Reserve Bank of Australia action.

“It’s a very strong possibility that we’ll see more out-of-cycle rate hikes this year as lenders address funding cost pressures,” comparison site Mozo苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,苏州美甲培训机构, director Kirsty Lamont told AAP.

The major banks lifted variable mortgage rates in November to offset costs linked to new requirements to hold more capital against home lending to absorb possible losses.

Ms Lamont said the capital adequacy requirements continued to flow through the system, causing funding cost pressures, while some lenders were also reporting increases in wholesale funding costs.

Mortgage broker 1300HomeLoan managing director John Kolenda said it is highly likely the banks will hike rates this quarter, before the capital requirement change comes into effect on July 1.

“With the additional cost of funding, they won’t have any choice but to pass that cost on,” he said.

The RBA kept the cash rate on hold at two per cent on Tuesday but has warned the soaring Australian dollar could threaten the non-mining economy’s recovery.

Mr Kolenda said the RBA is likely to lower the cash rate this quarter but the central bank’s actions could be made redundant by the major lenders lifting their rates out of cycle.

Ms Lamont expects a RBA cut at some stage within the next six months, but warns borrowers may not see the benefit of any reduction.

“If the RBA cuts rates before lenders have adjusted rates themselves then it’s likely that lenders might hold back some or all of any cut that the RBA passes through.”

Mr Kolenda said the coming hike in variable mortgage rates could be in the order of 15-30 basis points, after a rise of up to 29 basis points last year, and an increase of up to 49 basis points for investor loans.

Ms Lamont said borrowers should consider fixing part or all of their home loan as the gap between fixed and variable rates has widened over the last few months, to the point where average fixed rates across all terms are now lower than average variable rates.

Connected Aussies outpacing US

Australians are networking their homes at twice the rate of Americans and will be eager adopters of the much-anticipated “internet of things”, Telstra’s technology chief says.

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Telstra chief technical officer Vish Nandlall says US homes had an average of four devices connected to the internet in 2014, a rate well below tech-hungry Aussies.

“When you look what’s happening within Telstra and our domestic network, you’re seeing a lot more connected devices than you see in the US. We’re seeing on average eight connected devices,” Mr Nandlall said on Wednesday.

Those devices aren’t terribly sexy – comprising PCs, smartphones and set-top boxes – but Mr Nandlall says the connection rate is an indicator of things to come.

“There’s now an adoption from a behaviour perspective, that consumers will have more connected devices in their household that they might have had not even two or four years ago,” he said in an address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia in Melbourne.

Mr Nandlall said the “internet of things” was still in its early days and it will be some time before consumers are ordering food from the supermarket via their fridge or shopping for ties via the washing machine.

The internet of things is the label given to the network of objects, devices, vehicles and buildings that are expected to one day be connected to the internet to collect and exchange data.

Mr Nandlall said it is going to be hard to create a network enabling everything to talk to everything else and to process the massive amount of data involved.

Security would be challenging and, currently, it was “horrible”, he said, noting he had been able to hack into his father’s internet-connected television in Florida and turn it on and off while his parents were watching it.

“Security in IoT is harder actually quite a lot harder than security in the real world that you and I live in today,” he said.

South Korean researchers develop ‘diabetes patch’

Most diabetics need a finger prick test several times a day to determine whether their blood sugar level is under control.

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But with this transparent patch with wiggly electric circuits and tiny gold plates, they can be freed from the painful, frightening cycles of pin prick by simply putting the patch on their wrists.

This “diabetes patch” is a see-through, graphene-based electrochemical patch with sensors that can detect temperature, PH level, and glucose level from the wearer’s sweat.

Developed by Professor Kim Dae-hyeong of Seoul National University in South Korea and a team of researchers, the patch enables diabetics to easily monitor their blood sugar levels and inject their medication at any time, any place.

If the app judges that the patient needs medication, then the microneedles embedded in the patch deliver the drug filled inside the needles.

Kim believes the discreteness of the sensor as well as its easy use will make it popular among patients.

“(Diabetics) are very reluctant to measure blood sugar, or get an insulin shot in public. (This creates) a problem with the management of that disease.

“Things which a diabetic should take care of on a daily basis is often only done once a fortnight. However, this technology makes (the diabetes management) painless. It’s also not visible to others and less stressful,” he says.

The sensors of the patch send the data collected from the patient’s sweat to a smartphone app which makes calculations based on the sweat-based data. If the app judges that the patient needs medication, then the microneedles embedded in the patch deliver the drug filled inside the needles.

Under the control of the heater and temperature sensors of the patch, microneedles can accurately deliver medication within a much less painful way compared to the conventional injection method using a syringe. The thin microneedles cause hardly any pain to the patient even when they penetrate his skin.

Moon Min Kyong, a diabetes specialist at Seoul National University Boramae Hospital, believes the patch is truly innovative.

“The first step of diabetes management for diabetics is measuring blood sugar level. Diabetics find it difficult to use the current method of measuring blood sugar level, which is done by pricking fingertip, because of pain.

The newly developed, noninvasive glucose measuring method that uses sweat is considered a highly innovative method, and the drug delivery method (of the diabetes patch) that was developed together (with the non invasive glucose measuring method) is also very interesting,” Moon said.

Kim believes that such convenience of the diabetes patch will help diabetics to regularly manage their illness and prevent or delay facing complications of diabetes.

“Now, what makes diabetics afraid are the serious complications of diabetes, rather than diabetes itself (Complications like) cardiovascular disorders, stroke, diabetic foot ulcer and diabetic optic nerve damage are very terrible diseases,” Kim says.

Kim expects that it will take about five years to complete the technical development of the patch, get it certified and introduce it to the market.

Diabetes has become a common disease and one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

In South Korea, there are approximately 2.7 million diabetics, which is about 8 percent of the total adult population.

By 2040, it is expected that there will be 620 million diabetics across the globe.

Crossbench bloc ‘too silly for words’

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm won’t bow to federal government pressure and “shop” his proposed changes to legislation restoring the building watchdog to crossbench colleagues.

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Senator Leyonhjelm wants a sunset clause added to the Australian Building and Construction commission legislation, which he said the government had previously agreed to.

“But apparently now I’m expected to shop it around my crossbench colleagues and get six votes for it. As if,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

“The idea that (we) should work as a group, like a party with an agreed platform is just too silly for words.”

The government maintains any crossbench changes to the ABCC legislation must be presented as a bloc of six and be consistent with its intention.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has recalled parliament from April 18 to consider the ABCC bill before his government delivers its budget.

If the bills aren’t passed, voters will go to a double-dissolution election on July 2.

Senator Leyonhjelm believes the ABCC might not even get to a vote because most of the crossbench would support a likely Labor motion to adjourn the Senate until the budget on May 3.

“There’s no point hanging around if the end result is obvious,” he said.

“And frankly, I don’t believe the prime minister will care.”

Fellow crossbencher Glenn Lazarus won’t support the bill unless the ABCC is expanded to a national corruption body – something Mr Turnbull has ruled out.

The crossbenchers have a personal interest in the outcome, with recent changes to Senate voting making it more difficult for micro-party candidates to win seats.

But Senator Leyonhjelm said a double-dissolution election was not a particularly unattractive option for a number of them.

Independent Nick Xenophon doesn’t believe voters care if the government goes to a double-dissolution election or one later in the year.

“They are tired of the same old stale confrontational politics that we’ve seen so often in recent years,” he said.

Assange needs UK medical care: lawyers

Swedish lawyers representing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have filed new documents seeking to repeal his arrest warrant, so that he can receive medical care in Britain.

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Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012.

He fled there after losing a legal battle in Britain against extradition to Sweden.

The defence team said it wanted a new hearing at the Stockholm District Court to lift a 2010 Swedish arrest warrant.

Defence lawyer Per E Samuelson told DPA that the long period in the Ecuadorean embassy had affected Assange’s health, and that the Australian needed a shoulder X-ray, as well as dental treatment.

A physician who examined Assange said his “mental health is also likely to deteriorate over time if he remains in his current situation”, according to court documents seen by DPA.

The defence team said the court should take into consideration an opinion from the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a panel of independent legal scholars, which stated that Assange had been subjected to arbitrary detention since his arrest in London in 2010 on allegations of rape and sexual harassment.

A Stockholm District Court official said the Swedish Prosecution Authority had until April 13 to reply.

Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange in connection with a suspected rape in 2010, an allegation he denies.

Britain and Sweden have dismissed the UN panel’s findings.

Meanwhile, Sweden was waiting for a reply from Ecuador on a request to question Assange that was sent in March.

Ecuador granted Assange asylum because he was afraid of a possible extradition to the United States, where he is wanted in connection with WikiLeaks’ publication of top secret diplomatic cables.

Kenbi land rights claim settled after 37 years

Larrakia traditional owners have won one of Australia’s longest-running Aboriginal land rights claims, but not everyone’s happy.

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On Wednesday it was announced that 37 years after they began, traditional owners had agreed to the terms of the final proposed settlement of the Kenbi land claim, covering 676sq km of the Cox Peninsula west of Darwin.

There have been ongoing disputes since before the claim was lodged in 1979 between different Larrakia groups who don’t accept that the Tommy Lyons family group were determined to be the primary traditional owners.

Northern Land Council CEO Joe Morrison said the Kenbi land claim “has gone down in our history as the most complex and hard-fought”, subject of two hearings, three Federal Court reviews and two High Court appeals.

It was recommended to be designated Aboriginal land in 2000 but ongoing negotiations have revolved around compensation for allowing permit-free ongoing access for the public to access the peninsula’s intertidal zone for fishing and camping, and for almost $32 million worth of asbestos contamination clean-up.

“We’re not greedy… we’ve been patient for our country.”

The agreement includes 52,000 hectares for land trust land and 13,000 hectares as freehold land which can be used for indigenous business development, with about 2000 Larrakia people to benefit.

But the tense negotiations remain apparent, with Mr Morrison calling them “torturous”, exhausting, and stressful for everyone involved.

“I want this day to be an occasion of celebration, in spite of the reservations held by some of the Larrakia people,” he said.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the land had always belonged to the Larrakia: “That land has always been Aboriginal people’s land, it is really important that we acknowledge and recognise today that they have always looked after that land, they have always had a cultural connection with that land, and that cultural connection remains to this day, unbroken.”

He said the designated traditional owners had been “as generous as they could possibly be” in trying to reconcile with other disaffected Larrakia groups.

“This is a settlement that in many ways reaches out to those people who felt dispossessed or left out of the original determination,” Senator Scullion said.

Raylene, Jason and Zoe Singh are grandchildren of Tommy Lyons and the land claim struggle has been a feature of their lives since they were children – passed on by their parents, who died before seeing it resolved.

“Very happy, we’ve been waiting for a long time,” Zoe said.

“It’s very exciting … but sad at the same time.”

She said she wasn’t sure if the other competing groups would be appeased.

“We’re willing to share … our country, let them come over, hunting. We’re not greedy … we’ve been patient for our country.”

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Australia to strengthen sporting ties with Asian neighbours

A new government sports program is aiming to conduct diplomacy through sport.

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The $4 million Asia Sports Program (ASP) will provide sporting programs in countries throughout Asia over two years.

The first $2 million will go to 10 Australian sporting organisations who will use sport to promote community health, social inclusion, and youth participation in eight Asian countries.

The sports include football, badminton, cricket, hockey, table tennis and tennis and programs will be carried out in countries such as Nepal, Indonesia, Laos, India and Timor-Leste.

Supporting Asian Sports Partnerships @FFA @CLogarzo @CAComms @gurinder_19 @NetballAust @Senator_CFW @LaundyCraigMP pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/iP3nGQsXC2

— Julie Bishop (@JulieBishopMP) April 6, 2016

“Whether they’re parents learning about nutrition through playing basketball in Timor Leste, or school children improving with their help by playing football in India or communities coming together by playing netball in Sri Lanka, Australia will be using its expertise in sport to make a difference,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.

Representatives from cricket, netball and football were at Sydney’s Kiribilli House on Wednesday to launch the partnership, which will also focus on gender equality, disability inclusion and peace building.

“This is our region, our neighbourhood, our part of the world where we can make the biggest difference,” Ms Bishop said.

Netball Australia plans to deliver programs to increase sport participation levels among girls and women by contributing to health and leadership outcomes in India, Nepal, Timor-Leste and Sri Lanka.

Under the ASP program, @NetballAust will receive $200,000 in funding to implement an new program #onenetball Asia: 苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/UjaaS4Sa1I

— Netball Australia (@NetballAust) April 6, 2016

“This program will allow Netball Australia and our partners to engage thousands of women in positive, supportive environments that provide the opportunity and encourage them to get active, build networks and practice their leadership skills,” Netball Australia chief executive Kate Palmer said in a statement.

“The community development team at Netball Australia has a wealth of experience in establishing high-quality, high-impact sport for development programs and we’re excited to share this expertise with our closest neighbours.”

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was at Kiribilli House for the awarding of a $200,000 grant to Netball Australia to go towards the programs.

As in Australia, netball is the most popular sport played by women and girls in Sri Lanka since it was introduced in 1921.

It is hoped through some of Australia’s elite athletes, many of whom double as role models, the ASP will act as a key part of Australia’s links with people from nations in the Indo-Pacific region.

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