Monthly Archives: March 2019

  • No Middle East without Christians: Pope


    Pope Francis says the Catholic Church will not accept a Middle East without Christians, who often find themselves forced to flee areas of conflict and unrest in the region.


    “We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians,” he said on Thursday after meeting with Patriarchs from Syria, Iraq and Egypt, before calling for “the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practise one’s own faith to be respected”.

    The Arab Spring uprisings which revolutionised the region have increased tensions between Christians and Muslims.

    Francis said he had spoken to the Patriarchs about “those who live in the Middle East, often in small flocks, in environments marked by hostility and conflicts” and “the size of the diaspora, which is notably growing”.

    He said he was concerned by “the situation of Christians, who suffer in a particularly severe way the consequences of tensions and conflicts in many part of the Middle East”.

    “Syria, Iraq, Egypt and other areas of the Holy Land sometimes overflow with tears,” he said.

    The revolts in the region, which saw Islamist parties sweep to power, left many minority Christians scared of persecution from fundamentalist outgrowths, and sporadic violence against them has driven some to emigrate.

    Francis said he “will not rest while there are still men and women, of any religion, whose dignity is affronted, who are stripped of the basics necessary for survival, whose future is stolen, who are forced to become refugees or displaced people”.

    Last year, Francis’s predecessor Benedict XVI used a trip to the Middle East to offer support to Christian minorities, calling on them not to emigrate or give in to a sense of “victimisation” amid the rising tide of Islamism.

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  • Wanderers are A-League’s hunted: Bridge


    Western Sydney’s Mark Bridge says the Wanderers have become the A-League’s hunted ahead of their top-of-the-table clash with Brisbane Roar on Friday.


    The Wanderers have built on their stunning success of their premiership-winning debut season to race to the top of the ladder after six rounds this season.

    They meet two-time champions the Roar at Suncorp Stadium in one of the most-anticipated games of the season so far and Bridge says the Wanderers’ efforts have other teams gunning for them.

    “I think teams really fire up against us every week; teams are lifting to play us,” Bridge told reporters at training on Thursday.

    “When they come here, they get that atmosphere that everyone wants to play in front of.

    “It’s something that you see. But it doesn’t worry us. You just worry about doing your own job every week.”

    The undefeated Wanderers snatched top spot from the Roar courtesy of a 1-0 last-round win over Melbourne Victory, in which Bridge scored his first goal of the season, and Brisbane’s 2-1 loss to Newcastle.

    But Bridge said holding onto top spot wasn’t the Wanderers’ focus.

    “You are not going to say you don’t want it but there is still a long way to go in the season,” he said.

    “Every game is tough for us. Brisbane is a quality side and I’m sure it will be another tough game for us.”

    In some rare bad news for the Wanderers, coach Tony Popovic said playmaker Youssouf Hersi would not return from a long-term leg injury for the marquee clash.

    “He is not quite ready,” Popovic said.

    “He is almost there but we will give him another week and he should be right for next week.”

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  • Victoria’s prisoner population rising


    The Victorian government’s tough-on-crime agenda is driving up the prisoner population at a higher rate than any other state, justice advocates say.


    But a state government decision to stop publishing independent data on what is happening inside jails is reducing transparency at a time when the jailing rate is at its highest since 1898, the state’s peak welfare body says.

    Victoria’s inmate population jumped 11 per cent to 9134 in the past year, the fastest rate of any state, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) quarterly figures released Thursday.

    Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Emma King says while the number of Victorian prisoners is rising, the accountability of what is happening inside the jails is decreasing after a government decision to stop publishing an independent statistical profile of the system.

    Ms King says in the past the annual data has helped offer a detailed picture of significant issues such as deaths in prison, young people in solitary confinement and spiralling rates of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C among inmates.

    “There’s nowhere else that data’s compiled in the same way,” she said.

    “If we don’t have this statistical profile, it’s just another measure of government accountability that’s disappearing.”

    But Corrections Minister Edward O’Donohue’s spokesman says a decision to no longer publish the profile was taken more than two years ago and the figures are already published in other sources.

    “It is difficult to fathom criticism about the release of figures on a day when comprehensive figures have been released,” he said.

    He said as the ABS releases quarterly figures on the state’s prison population and the Productivity Commission does the same annually based on figures supplied by Corrections Victoria, it was seen as unnecessary for Corrections Victoria to also publish these figures.

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  • Government supports ICAC mining recommendations


    The NSW government has thrown its support behind all of the recommendations made by the corruption watchdog into how coal mining licences are managed across the state.


    Following two inquiries into the allocation of mining licences which ensnared former Labor MPs Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) handed down a report saying corruption was “easy to do” due to systemic weaknesses in the licensing process.

    Premier Barry O’Farrell told parliament on Thursday that the implementation of the ICAC’s recommendations was important for restoring public confidence.

    “The recommendations … go a long way to ensuring the sort of corruption in the handling of mining licences exposed by ICAC will never occur again,” he said.

    All 26 recommendations have either been fully backed by the government or been given “in principle” support.

    Among them was the recommendation that the government uses auctions as the primary method of allotting licences.

    They have also supported the move to hold an inquiry into how members disclose family member’s interests, with the view to making third-party disclosures a requirement.

    The premier has also said he will review the code of conduct for ministers.

    The recommendations follow ICAC operations Jasper and Acacia, which made a variety of corrupt findings.

    Operation Jasper found former Labor mining minister Ian Macdonald rigged a 2008 tender process and granted a coal mining exploration licence on land belonging to former Labor power broker Eddie Obeid and his family in the Bylong Valley.

    The licence enabled the Obeids to net $30 million, with the prospect of making an extra $70 million.

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  • OECD tax forum criticises Switzerland


    Switzerland has been listed alongside well-known tax havens in a new OECD ranking, showing the country still has work to do on banking secrecy despite recent steps aimed at tackling the issue.


    The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes is due to officially release ratings for 50 jurisdictions at a meeting in the Indonesian capital on Friday.

    The forum has rated jurisdictions on how well they comply with rules on tax transparency.

    But Switzerland failed even to make it past the first stage of a two-stage assessment, according to documents obtained by AFP on Thursday, meaning it did not receive a rating.

    Other countries who also didn’t make it to the second stage included Panama, the Marshall Islands and Trinidad and Tobago, although the OECD’s final judgment on them was harsher than on Switzerland.

    It came after Switzerland took steps last month to tackle its long-criticised banking secrecy, including signing an international tax evasion agreement, brokered by the OECD, and introducing new legislation to increase cooperation on money-laundering.

    Swiss authorities have come under pressure from the international community to clamp down on the concealment of illicit funds and on tax evasion, in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent eurozone debt crisis.

    Despite Switzerland’s failure to complete the process, Pascal Saint-Amans, OECD head of tax issues, struck an upbeat note, telling AFP it was now “moving ahead”.

    But he said the OECD would continue to monitor the country closely to ensure its recent steps “are actually enacted and become law, which is not yet the case”.

    Of the jurisdictions that completed the two-stage assessment, 18 were deemed to be “compliant” with the tax transparency rules set out by the forum; many others were considered “largely compliant”; while Austria and Turkey were “partially compliant”.

    Four were deemed to be “non-compliant”: Cyprus, Luxembourg, the Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands.

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