Month: February 2019

German multiculturalism ‘utterly failed’

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration that Germany’s attempts to build a multicultural society had “utterly failed” is feeding a growing debate over how to deal with the millions of foreigners who call the country home.

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Merkel told a meeting of young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union that while immigrants are welcome in Germany, they must learn the language and accept the country’s cultural norms, sounding a note heard increasingly across Europe as it battles an economic slump and worries about homegrown terrorism.

“This multicultural approach, saying that we simply live side by side and live happily with each other has failed. Utterly failed,” she said.

Merkel’s comments were met with applause by the more conservative members of her party, but some Germans in cosmopolitan Berlin argued on Sunday she was out of touch with the country’s daily life.

“I think her statement is very black and white and does not reflect honestly the lifestyle people are living here,” said Daniela Jonas, a German setting up a flea market in the city’s diverse Kreuzberg district, where immigrants and native-born Germans live among each other.

Germany and other European countries have grappled with the idea of themselves as immigration nations and Merkel has long been sceptical of the country’s attempts to build a multicultural society that includes its estimated five million Muslims.

Many immigrants speak little or no German, work in low-paying jobs or live off of government handouts at the same time that the country faces an ageing population and a shortage of highly skilled workers.

“Germany needs more qualified immigration to maintain its economic advantage and deal with the demographic developments,” Volker Beck, a legislator with the opposition Greens party said on Sunday.

Merkel acknowledged in her Saturday comments that then West Germany in the 1960s opened its doors to Turkish labourers who helped the nation rebuild from the ruins of World War II. Yet German politicians believed those labourers would eventually return home. Instead, many have stayed and their children’s children are now starting families here.

A European Championship football qualifier between Germany and Turkey last week reflected built-up tensions. Star Germany player Mesut Oezil, who is of Turkish heritage, was whistled and booed throughout the game by Turkey fans, who outnumbered German supporters in Berlin’s Olympic stadium.

The 22-year-old Oezil has become Merkel’s poster child for successful integration, and Turkish President Abdullah Gul said in an interview on Saturday that he supported Oezil’s decision to play for Germany instead of his parents’ native Turkey.

Gul also called on Turks living in Germany to learn to speak German “fluently and without an accent”, but insisted it was up to German politicians to create the opportunities for its Turkish citizens to learn the language and integrate into society.

“That must begin in kindergarten,” Gul told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. “I have told Mrs Merkel that.”

Last week, several German universities launched departments to train imams who would be able to lead prayers in German as well as Turkish. Most imams in Germany are sent from Turkey and speak no German.

Some argued on Sunday that Merkel’s comment makes them feel less welcome, and do nothing to encourage integration.

“It’s a shame,” said a man, an immigrant from Morocco who gave his name only as Hakim. “It is not good for the atmosphere in Germany and it is not a helpful comment.”

WA premier backs Taser investigation

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has backed a WA Police decision to internally investigate police dealings with a man who was tasered by officers on three different occasions.

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In August 2008, an unarmed Kevin Spratt was tasered 13 times while in custody and surrounded by nine officers at the East Perth Watch House.

He was later tasered another 11 times by Corrective Services officers.

It’s now been revealed that police also had tasered Mr Spratt on another two occasions, a week before the lock-up incident.

Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan on Monday said he had launched an internal investigation into how police had dealt with Mr Spratt because he wanted to set the record straight.

The investigation would not include the watch house tasering incident.

“My concern is that the public are hearing a lot of allegations being made and there’s no clarification of those things so that’s why I want to do this internal investigation,” Mr O’Callaghan told ABC Radio.

“Unfortunately, as part of that process, we have to talk about Mr Spratt’s behaviour because you can’t actually talk about the justification of a Taser application in the public domain unless you have the corresponding context for it.”

Police released a flow chart showing Mr Spratt’s recent history of offending and police responses but Mr O’Callaghan denied there was any attempt at a smear campaign to justify officers’ actions.

The premier said the watch house incident was not handled well but he hoped the police investigation would be fair and put an end to the controversy surrounding the issue.

Mr Barnett said Mr Spratt had a long record and was not an innocent, law-abiding citizen.

“I guess what he (the commissioner) was trying to do is put some context to this issue,” he said.

“However, I again repeat, despite Mr Spratt’s record and despite some of his previous behaviour … that particular incident when he was sitting relatively calmly in that room and received repeated Taser assaults if you like, to me was indefensible.”

Mr O’Callaghan said he would allow the internal review, which could take several weeks, to be made public.

The investigation will be overseen by the Corruption and Crime Commission.

Australia welcomes St Mary of the Cross

Australia has welcomed the nation’s first saint, Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, with cheers, tears of joy and enthusiastic applause.

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St Mary was declared at about 1945 AEDT on Sunday during a canonisation ceremony at the Vatican in Rome led by Pope Benedict XVI.

Up to 8000 Australians, wearing yellow or teal coloured scarves, watched from the square of St Peter’s, the centre of Roman Catholicism. Across Australia, many thousands more watched the live broadcast.

The Pope named each candidate in turn, ending with the declaration that their names be inscribed “in the canon (list) of the saints and establish that throughout the church they be honoured devoutly among all the saints.”

“It was lovely I’m so glad I was here,” Dianna Georges told AAP at Mary MacKillop Place where 2000 people had roared their approval and erupted with cheers and applause following the formal canonisation.

The mother of three from Croydon, in Sydney’s inner west, was cradling her three-week-old baby Elyssa Anne Mary, named after Mother Mary.

“Hopefully, Mary MacKillop will keep her safe and protect her throughout her life.”

Following the canonisation, dozens poured into the chapel to pray at St Mary’s tomb.

Father Graeme Malone, priest to Mary MacKillop Place, said he was deeply stirred by the moment.

“It was a great privilege to witness it,” he told AAP.

The ceremony was broadcast live on television and the internet and at various sites around Australia where thousands had gathered, including her birthplace of Melbourne and the rural town of Penola in South Australia where her religious journey began.

In Penola, there were cheers and tears among town residents.

“I have come because it is history in the making; this will never happen again you know: Australia’s first saint,” Coral Butcher said.

More than 15,000 people travelled to Mary MacKillop Place on Sunday, the mother house of the Sisters.

In Sydney, Acting Secretary General of the Sisters of St Joseph, Sister Monica Cavanagh thanked St Mary’s many admirers for the enthusiasm they have showed for the order’s founder.

“We are overwhelmed with the response,” she said.

St Mary, a founder of the order of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart who died in 1909, was canonised along with five others blesseds from Spain, Poland, Canada and Italy.

About 50,000 people were gathered at St Peter’s to hear the Pope conduct the rite during a two hour mass.

The Pope began with a formal greeting to the church universal before calling on the congregation to reflect on their lives.

The crowd was silent as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, formally asked the Pope to proceed with the canonisations.

Archbishop Amaoto told of St Mary’s early years during a short a biography, which he made for each candidate.

St Mary was born in Melbourne on January 15, 1842, the first child of Scottish immigrants Flora and Alexander.

Her childhood was humble and she grew up knowing what it was like to be poor.

She went on to found the order with Father Julian Woods to help educate and care for poor children in rural areas.

However, her journey was not easy.

St Mary’s path to sainthood has taken 85 years, the church recognition of two healing miracles, the personal attentions of Popes, years of research, countless prayers and patience.

The title means she will be recognised around the world as a person close to God.

Australian clergy in Rome for the canonisation included Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell, Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, Brisbane Archbishop John Bathersby, and Perth Archbishop Barry Hickey.

Government ‘ignoring water unrest’

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has declared cuts to water use in the Murray-Darling food bowl inevitable and accused the coalition of trying to wreck the reform process started by the Howard government.

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Farmers have reacted angrily to a Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) guide flagging a cut in water usage by up to 37 per cent to boost the health of the iconic river system.

Government ignoring unrest: Coalition

The opposition focused on water reform during question time in parliament on Monday, accusing Water Minister Tony Burke and Ms Gillard of ignoring unrest in the Murray-Darling basin communities.

Labor was also accused of pushing up the price of food and putting rural property values at risk through the proposed changes.

But the government turned the attack on Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his predecessor Malcolm Turnbull, both of whom signed off on new water laws as coalition government ministers.

In her first parliamentary appearance since the MDBA’s guide was released, Ms Gillard said Labor would stand by its election pledge to implement the final plan.

“No change is not an option,” the prime minister said.

“No change is not in the interests of rural communities … (or) Australian farmers.”

Ms Gillard said she understood the reform was difficult and had “inflamed community passion”.

“But it is not in anybody’s interests, not the interests of any Australian, any farmer, any regional community for the leader of the opposition to use his status to wreck this process,” she said.

Mr Abbott accused Water Minister Tony Burke of failing to turn up to consultative meetings being held by the MDBA across the basin.

“Is water reform the responsibility of the government or is it the responsibility of the government?” Mr Abbott asked.

“If it’s the responsibility of the government, why won’t he lead the debate and actually visit the affected communities?”

Mr Burke told parliament that he planned to visit “every single one of those irrigation communities”.

Meanwhile, a new survey shows voters are starting to tune into water issues.

An Essential Media online survey of 1,901 people showed only 17 per cent believe that existing water allocations in the Murray-Darling system should be maintained and 53 per cent think the government should buy back water rights either compulsorily (17 per cent) or from irrigators willing to sell (36 per cent).

Support for maintaining existing allocations was a little higher among Liberal voters (24 per cent).

US hiker killed in rare goat attack

A hiker in the US has died after reportedly being fatally attacked by a mountain goat while at a national park in the western US state of Washington, US park officials said on Sunday.

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Barb Maynes, spokeswoman for Olympic National Park, told AFP that the victim Robert Boardman, 63, was hiking Saturday with his wife and a friend when he “apparently sustained fatal injuries after the encounter” with the ram.

She said details remain sketchy and an investigation is underway.

“We’re not sure at this point what happened,” she said. “We are aware that the hiking group did have some kind of an encounter with the mountain goat.”

The spokeswoman said the goat was fatally shot by park rangers when they “observed blood on its horns” after the incident.

“We are waiting for a report from the coroner” Maynes added, as well as the results of a separate examination from a veterinary pathologist to determine if the animal was sick or injured, she said.

Maynes added that an attack by a mountain goat, if confirmed, is extremely rare. “This is highly, highly unusual,” she said.

“We are not aware of anything like this ever happening” at the park before.

The local Peninsula Daily newspaper said Boardman was hiking with his wife and a friend when he was attacked by the male goat, which witnesses said had been behaving aggressively.

An experienced hiker, Boardman was gored in the thigh while trying to shoo the ram away, according to the news report.

The newspaper said a park ranger who was not on duty but happened to be nearby shook a “safety blanket” at the goat, and pelted the animal with rocks to keep it at bay until help could arrive.

A coast guard helicopter airlifted the injured man, who was unresponsive, shortly afterwards but he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

Maynes said officials were in the process of “interviewing people who were on the scene and close by” as part of their investigation.

Until they get the results of the inquiry, she said they will continue their program of “public information” – urging nature enthusiasts to steer clear of wildlife.

“We have taken steps to warn people never to approach any wild animal,” she said, adding that the program was initiated before the incident occurred.

Bandt sides with Keneally in IR stoush

Prime Minister Julia Gilla has vowed to keep pushing New South Wales to honour a deal on national work safety laws, after NSW Premier Kristina Keneally said today that her government won’t back down to Gillard’s ‘sabre rattling’

Ms Keneally said it was disappointing that she only became aware of Ms Gillard’s threat to withhold 144 million dollars of funding to the NSW government through media reports on Monday, and accused a “heavy-handed” commonwealth of ambushing the state.

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She said NSW “overwhelmingly” supported the harmonisation of workplace laws, but thought the state should be granted exemptions to keep provisions on the onus of proof and unions’ right to prosecute employers.

“NSW has the best occupational health and safety standards in the nation,” she said.

“We have always insisted that our safety standards should not be weakened as part of a national harmonisation process and we will continue to insist upon this.

“We have at every ministerial council meeting insisted that harmonisation should be a rising tide that lifts all boats.

“It should come as no surprise to the commonwealth that this is NSW’s position.”

Bandt sides with NSW

And in a new twist, the Australian Greens’ sole federal lower house MP Adam Bandt has released a statement supporting the New South Wales government in its fight with the federal government.

Bandt says the Greens support the move to uniform national laws for workplace safety, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of existing protections.

He says the right to prosecute and the requirement for employers to show they’ve fulfilled their duty of care are important aspects of the OHS regime that have been hard won by workers in NSW.

Aussies working out of the office more

Almost half of all working Australians spend more hours doing business outside the office than they were five years ago, a Telstra survey has found.

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Researchers surveyed more than 2000 working Australians and found a quarter spend five or more hours a week working outside the workplace.

Almost 15 per cent are spending 10 or more hours a week, or the equivalent of 13 full working weeks a year, doing business outside the office.

Telstra spokeswoman Rebekah O’Flaherty said broadband speeds played a large part in allowing people to work away from the office.

“Our research shows almost half of all working Australians are spending more time doing business outside the workplace than they were five years ago and they’re attributing that to better technology and increased flexibility of employers,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

She said the survey found men spent more time out of the office than women.

It also found the baby boomer generation spent the most time working in non-traditional workplaces – either from home, outside or in a mobile office.

“Our research found the increase in mobile working has actually allowed people to spend more time with their family and friends,” Ms O’Flaherty said.

Almost 80 per cent of Australian employees surveyed said they would work outside the workplace if allowed by their employer along with a fast, reliable mobile broadband network.

The results were released alongside Telstra’s launch of a faster mobile broadband device, the Telstra BigPond Ultimate USB.

Telstra says the device is twice as fast as its current fastest Next G modem and offers coverage in Australian capital cities, airports, selected metropolitan hubs and more than 100 regional centres.

Bin Laden ‘living comfortably in Pakistan’

Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is living comfortably in a house in northwest Pakistan, close to his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, CNN on Monday quoted a NATO official as saying.

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The Saudi-born militant, who is wanted for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, was being protected by local people and “some members of the Pakistani intelligence services,” CNN said.

It also said that the al-Qaeda number two, the Egyptian-born Zawahiri, was living close to him.

“Nobody in al-Qaeda is living in a cave,” the unnamed senior NATO official is quoted as saying.

“The official also confirmed the US assessment that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, has moved between the cities of Quetta and Karachi in Pakistan over the last several months,” said the report on CNN’s website.

It said the NATO official could not be named “because of the sensitivity of the intelligence matters involved”.

Pakistan’s mountainous North Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan, is believed to be a vortex of Afghan, Pakistani and Arab militants, and long held to be a possible hiding place for bin Laden.

Pakistani authorities have denied they are providing protection for the terror mastermind, who has a $US25 million ($A25.25 million) bounty on his head.

Bin Laden is believed to have escaped to the area from Afghanistan’s Tora Bora region, which was a Taliban stronghold during the US-led invasion of late 2001 that unseated the Islamist regime that had provided him with safe haven.

The invasion was launched to punish the Taliban for allowing al-Qaeda to train and plot the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington that killed around 3,000 people.

The militants soon regrouped to launch an insurgency which is being fought by more than 150,000 US and NATO troops.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, predicted in an interview earlier this month that bin Laden and Zawahiri — who also has a $US25 million ($A25.25 million) price on his head — would eventually would be hunted down.

MacKillop ‘should be patron for the abused’

Australia’s first Catholic saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, has been lauded at home and abroad, with the suggestion that she should be considered a patron for the abused.

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On Sunday, in front of a crowd of about 50,000 Catholics from around the world, Pope Benedict XVI canonised Mary MacKillop – the co-founder of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart – and five others.

In his homily, Pope Benedict paid tribute to St Mary’s tireless work improving the lives of so many Australians, starting with the establishment of her first school in Penola, South Australia in 1866.

“For many years countless young people throughout Australia have been blessed with teachers who were inspired by the courageous and saintly example of zeal, perseverance and prayer of Mother Mary MacKillop,” the Pope said.

“She dedicated herself as a young woman to the education of the poor in the difficult and demanding terrain of rural Australia, inspiring other women to join her in the first women’s community of religious sisters of that country.

“She attended to the needs of each young person entrusted to her, without regard for station or wealth, providing both intellectual and spiritual formation.”

St Mary MacKillop, who was briefly excommunicated in 1871 reportedly for exposing a pedophile priest, should be considered a patron saint for the abused, according to an editorial in America, the United States’ national Catholic weekly.

The Catholic church has been rocked by the global sexual abuse crisis within its ranks that has seriously damaged its public standing.

“Perhaps abuse victims, and all who desire justice and reconciliation in the church in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis, will see in St Mary MacKillop a powerful intercessor,” the editorial in the online edition says.

“It may be providential that she walks back onto the world stage at this moment. “Like all saints, she is a model for all Catholics. But at this time, abuse victims and their families especially need all the help they can get from heaven as on earth.”

The canonisation of St Mary MacKillop, who was born in Melbourne in 1842 and died in Sydney 101 years ago, has been hailed as a day of rejoicing for all Australians, and a very special day for the Sisters of St Joseph.

A large contingent of Australians was in Rome for the ceremony, while at home thousands attended celebrations throughout the day.

The ceremony was broadcast live on television and the internet and many watched the service from her birthplace of Melbourne, the rural town of Penola in South Australia where her religious journey began, and at Mary MacKillop Place in North Sydney, where her tomb is housed.

Members of the official Australian delegation – including Cardinal George Pell, Sister Maria Casey, Sister Anne Derwin, Bishop Philip Wilson, Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop and Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd – addressed the media following the canonisation ceremony in St Peter’s Square.

“This is a day of rejoicing and it’s a day first of all for the Josephites – we rejoice for them, we rejoice with them,” Cardinal Pell said.

“But it’s also significant for the rest of us, as Australians and as Catholic Australians.” Postulator Sister Maria Casey, who has worked hard for years to get Mary’s sainthood recognised, said it had been a very emotional day for her.

“I felt very moved when the Holy Father actually spoke the words of the canonisation and I was able to look up at Mary looking down on us and out onto the square and I thought, ‘Mary, we’ve acknowledged you at last’,” Sr Casey said.

We can’t pull out from Afghanistan now: Smith

Defence Minister Stephen Smith has admitted it has taken too long for the international community to find the right strategy in Afghanistan, but says pulling out now would be a mistake.

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Nine years after Australia first committed troops to the war in Afghanistan, the Australian parliament will start debating the conflict today.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott will recommit their parties to the war, amid calls for a political solution.

Alex Downer, who was foreign minister in 2001 when the Howard government first sent troops to Afghanistan, says the initial military aims have been achieved and “new and creative” diplomacy is now needed.

Australia has lost 21 soldiers in the war while more than 150 have been wounded.

A national association of veterans and former military personnel opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will rally outside Parliament House ahead of the debate’s start.

Stand Fast says the debate is nine years too late.

“The best things we could do to support our troops is to bring them home,” Graeme Dunstan said. “Immediate and unconditional withdrawal is what we want.”

But Mr Smith says that would be a mistake. “We can’t leave tomorrow,” he told ABC Radio, adding it was his “grave fear” that doing so would leave the way clear for the re-emergence of terrorist groups.

Mr Smith admitted it had taken too long for the international community to arrive at the right strategy for Afghanistan.

“It’s not just a military strategy, it’s a military and political strategy,” he said.

“The problem is that it’s taken us nine-and-a-half years to get there.” That was why political will and the “patience of domestic constituencies” were now an issue in Australia, the US and Europe.

The NATO-led coalition needed to put Afghanistan, especially its security forces, in a position to manage its own affairs, Mr Smith said. “We can only do that, not by staying forever, but by training them.”

Mr Smith said a two-to-four year time period for withdrawal of Australian troops from Oruzgan Province was realistic.

“We think we can make that.”

The Australian Greens will use the debate to reiterate their opposition to the war.

The minor party is expected to be joined by at least one independent MP – Andrew Wilkie – who is a former intelligence analyst.

Greens leader Bob Brown says it is time for a “serious raincheck” on the war and to safely withdraw the troops.

“Things are changing rapidly in Afghanistan and I’m concerned about the lives and safety of Australian troops,” he told ABC Radio.

There wouldn’t be anyone in the parliament who did not support and admire the the courage and commitment of Australian troops, Senator Brown said.

“This debate will be a very strong endorsement of our troops.”