Abbas warns Hamas over Gaza governance

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has threatened to break off a unity agreement with Hamas if the Islamist movement does not allow the government to operate properly in the Gaza Strip.


His remarks came on the eve of talks in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and a key address to the Arab League nearly two weeks after a ceasefire ended a major 50-day confrontation with Israel in Gaza.

“We will not accept the situation with Hamas continuing as it is at the moment,” Abbas said on arrival in the Egyptian capital late Saturday, in remarks published by official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

“We won’t accept a partnership with them if the situation continues like this in Gaza, where there is a shadow government … running the territory,” he said.

“The national consensus government cannot do anything on the ground,” he charged.

But Hamas denounced his allegations as “baseless.”

“Abbas’s statements against Hamas and the resistance are unjustified,” spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

“It is untrue, baseless and unfair to our people,” he said, indicating that Hamas representatives would meet “soon” with their counterparts in the rival Fatah movement to discuss fleshing out the reconciliation deal which was inked in April.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Palestinians agreed to form an interim consensus government of technocrats, ending seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza.

The unity deal sought to end years of bitter and sometimes bloody rivalry between the Islamist Hamas movement and its Fatah rivals who dominate the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

The new cabinet, which is based in Ramallah, took office on June 2, with Gaza’s Hamas government officially stepping down the same day.

Despite the handover, Hamas has remained the de facto power in Gaza, with moves to implement the provisions of the unity agreement put on hold in the face of the deadly offensive which Israel launched on July 8.

29/07/2019 0

Deadly floods hit Indian Kashmir’s Srinagar

Almost 250 people have been killed in the northern Himalayan region and in neighbouring Pakistan since torrential monsoon rains triggered flooding, landslides and house collapses in recent days.


Troops and other emergency personnel have been deployed in both countries to help with relief operations, with boats and helicopters used to reach those stranded.

The Jhelum river, swollen by days of heavy rain, flooded parts of Srinagar on Sunday and forced frantic residents to move to rooftops, with reports the first floors of several hospitals were underwater and cellular phone networks disrupted.

“I want to appeal to people not to panic,” Kashmir and Jammu state chief minister Omar Abdullah told reporters.

“I know the situation is bad but they should stay above the water level… it may take up to an hour but we will reach them and take them out,” he said.

“We are taking all the measures to ensure that we can reach the maximum number of people.”

Modi arrived to meet Abdullah and emergency response officials and take stock of the situation, described as the worst floods in the region for half a century.

Several thousand villages across the Jammu and Kashmir region have been hit and 350 of them are submerged, the home ministry said in a statement late Saturday.

The military, backed by 22 helicopters and four aircraft, has fanned out across the region to help with relief operations, with 11,000 people rescued so far, it said.

The death toll has reached 116 in northern India, the ministry said, with another 128 across the border in Pakistan.

Some 69 people have died in Pakistan’s worst-hit Punjab province, another 48 in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and 11 in the northernmost territory of Gilgit-Baltistan, said Ahmed Kamal, spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Authority.

Heavy rains were, however, easing and have stopped altogether in parts of Pakistan following the floods that have hit 108 villages and damaged farmland in that country.

In Srinagar an army headquarters was under water along with some government buildings, while main roads including the one connecting the city to the airport were submerged.

An AFP reporter in Srinagar was forced to the third floor of his house after water flooded the second, with no sign of emergency officials to evacuate him.

“We will have to move to the roof but we are also worried about the building collapsing,” he said.

A police official said continuing bad weather and the floods have knocked out phone services in parts of the region. 

“We are not able to get information from areas which have been cut off by floodwater,” an official in Srinagar’s police control room told the Press Trust of India news agency.

“Exact extent of deaths and destruction over the past 24 hours is not known.”

On Saturday some 30 bodies were pulled from a river in the mountainous Rajouri region of south Kashmir, a senior state official said.

The victims were among at least 63 people aboard a bus swept into a gorge last Thursday by fast-flowing floodwaters. 

29/07/2019 0

Tony Abbott’s triumphs and troubles in first year as Prime Minister


<strong style="line-height: 1.


538em;”>Timeline: The Highlights of Tony Abbott’s first year in government 

Prime Minister Tony Abbott – sworn into the top job on September 18, 2013 after almost three years as Liberal leader – has won both praise and criticism for his actions on issues as wide ranging as the economy, foreign affairs and public protests.

According to some, it’s been more up than down.

“Over the first 12 months, you would probably give the Abbott Government and Prime Minister Abbott himself a pass mark,” says John Warhurst, emeritus professor from the Australian National University.

“It’s in many ways been a learning year for him and the government. There have been problems that could have been foreseen, including negotiating with the new senate late in his first year of government, and there have also been unforeseen issues particularly to do with international relations.

‘You would probably give Prime Minister Abbott himself a pass mark’ – John Warhurst

Professor Warhurst describes it as a “settling in year”, a description his academic colleague John Wanna also refers to.

Professor Wanna says the short parliamentary period before Christmas last year did undermine the government in some way, meaning it had little opportunity to push through tough messages ahead of the incoming Senate the following year.

“It’s meant that 2014 has been a more troublesome and more problematic year for the government than it otherwise might have been,” he said.

The Federal Budget

One of Tony Abbott’s biggest tests in his first year of government was the federal budget and, according to former Liberal leader John Hewson, it’s a test he failed.

Mr Hewson, who himself faced significant backlash to his Fightback! economic plan in the early 1990s, said the tough budget sell lost Mr Abbott’s team significant credibility as economic managers.

“They probably stand out in terms of our political history as having burnt an enormous amount of political capital to get to where they are, with little net gain on a number of fronts,” he said.

“In terms of the budget measures, they’ve got the mining tax but they’ve had to pay away several billion dollars’ worth of expenditure in order to achieve that.

“They’ve created a lot of business uncertainty, a lot of uncertainty among consumers and they’ve been distracted from time to time with some silliness.”

‘I think the problem with the budget is it lacked an overall strategy’ – John Wanna

Professor Warhurst drew comparisons to another former Liberal leader, saying the first Abbott budget was received less well than the similarly tough first budget of John Howard’s government.

“The first Howard Government had lots of problems just getting into speed as far as governing was concerned,” he said.

“In fact, I think there are some comparisons with the first Howard Government. It looked at one stage as though the Howard Government was going to be a one term government; it looked that bad in its first year or two. But it recovered.

“It’s always possible that the Abbott Government will be the same.”

Keeping promises

But any recovery will require Mr Abbott to bounce back from the perception that he has broken promises, says Professor Wanna.

He said a number of pre-election commitments – including no cuts to public broadcasters and no new taxes – were “if not broken then certainly bent” in the budget, leaving the Abbott Government in need of a sales plan.

“The government was very critical in Opposition of Julia Gillard for breaking promises and they made that one of their lead motifs of their attack on the Gillard Government,” he said.

“Abbott and his senior ministers have been very careful not to be seen to be breaking promises… There are issues there in terms of how they sell the things they’ve done. The message of why you needed to make the change is important and I don’t see the senior government people making that.”

‘Although Abbott said there’d be no surprises, the surprise would have been if he hadn’t broken some promises on the way through’ – John Hewson

Professor Wanna says a number of significant promises had been kept, including stopping asylum seeker boats reaching Australia, as well as abolishing the carbon and mining taxes.

“They would feel on those big ticket items they tried and eventually delivered to do as they promised,” he said.

The Senate

Mr Abbott’s pre-election commitments have been hindered by the Senate, where the Coalition must negotiate with 18 cross benchers in order to pass any legislation.

His government has come under fire for deals done with balance of power Senators from the Palmer United Party to pass bills such as the repeal of the carbon tax, but for Mr Hewson, negotiations have been more odd than ominous.

“I found their negotiating strategy quite strange,” he said.

“I don’t think they ever really tried to negotiate with the main opposition party, the Labor Party. It’s an interesting question whether they would have got a better deal by negotiating with the Labor Party than they would have from negotiating with a string of minor parties in the Senate.

“There are questions about the effectiveness of that negotiating strategy.”

‘I think they’ve been slow to learn to negotiate’ – John Wanna

Professor Warhurst acknowledges that it has been a difficult task for the government, though it may “fade into insignificance” compared with the troubles faced by the previous minority government led by Julia Gillard.

He says there have been improvements, despite a slow start with Senate relations.

“Initially they didn’t do a particularly good job in negotiating with the Senate and presumed that what they called their mandate would carry them through,” he said.

“That hasn’t proven to be the case. In more recent days, they’ve had some more successful negotiations and it remains to be seen how that will continue.”

The public and protests

While the government battles with a difficult Senate, Mr Abbott and his team have also been facing significant hostility from the some members of the public.

Protests against the government, its budget and numerous policies have been held nationwide, with the burning of budget papers and even a cardboard cut-out of Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

The protesters have come under fire for their sometimes violent outbursts, but Professor Warhurst says that for the most part, the protests are similar to those faced by previous governments.

‘Strong backlash is not unusual in terms of community protests’ – John Warhurst

“There were of course extensive protests against the Gillard Government from very early in her term as Prime Minster,” he said.

“Strong backlash is not unusual in terms of community protests, but I think what’s unusual here is the breadth of the backlash, particularly to the budget. This was a backlash that involved not just left wing protests against an incoming right wing coalition government, but it involved strenuous backlashes from state premiers, most of whom are coalition premiers who were devastated by the consequences of the budget.

“The distinctive feature is its breadth and it’s not just the usual suspects, but a range of other voices, some within the Liberal and National parties themselves.”

Things haven’t been easy for the government in terms of selling it’s proposed new anti-terror laws, which would make it easier to detain people returning from conflict countries such as Iraq and Syria. Some Muslim leaders have denounced the laws as discriminatory.

International affairs

The government did however win some public praise over its handling of international affairs over its first year in power.

With the exception of incidents such as the Indonesian spying revelations, Mr Abbott has been acknowledged as taking a leading role in the international response to issues such as the Malaysian Airlines disasters, the ongoing threat from terror groups in Iraq and he gained praise for signing a Free Trade Deal with Japan.

‘He responded quite decisively to the MH17 disaster’ – John Wanna

Professor Wanna described Mr Abbott’s actions as an “important global achievement”, while Professor Warhurst said international affairs had provided both tests and opportunities for Abbott.

“That’s been a feature of the first 12 months, particularly the last few with the issues of Ukraine and Iraq and the terrible tragedies of the Malaysian Airlines planes,” he said.

“The government has been given an opportunity to play a role on the international stage and I think the jury is still out as to how the community will react to the role that the prime minister has set up the government to play.”

More recently, there has been bipartisan support for Australia’s involvement in the Iraq crisis, which so far has included aid and arms drops. But any escalation of Australia’s role, such as joining a US-led military campaign, would likely be a significant test for Mr Abbott’s leadership.

Looking forward

Professor Wanna said it was likely that the Abbott Government’s second year will likely be better than the first, while his colleague Professor Warhurst warned that issues such as carbon tax and asylum seekers will return “with a vengeance” in the years to come.

Polling as recent as this month showed Mr Abbott’s team trailing Labor 52 to 48 per cent, in the two-party preferred Essential Research results, a slump which Professor Warhurst noted. 

“The opinions polls show that it’s not necessarily a very popular government, nor is he as prime minister particularly popular,” he said.

“But he has a big majority and he was two more years to go before the next election.

“There’s plenty of time to raise that mark from a pass to a credit.”

Explore Tony Abbott’s first year as Prime Minister as recorded in Hansard. The document below is all of Mr Abbott’s recorded entries from November 2013 to September 2014, including 959 references to the Opposition and 834 to Australia, Australian and Australians.

29/07/2019 0

Tigers coach laments miserable failure

Dubbing it a miserable failure, Richmond coach Damien Hardwick says he’ll let emotions subside before making some tough calls.


Hardwick says Sunday’s 57-point AFL elimination final capitulation to Port Adelaide needs cool dissection, not emotional knee-jerk reactions.

“It was just one of those games unfortunately. And unfortunately it was one of the most important occasions for our footy club,” Hardwick said after Port made the Tigers road kill, winning 20.12 (132) to 11.9 (75) at Adelaide Oval.

Port kicked 7.1 to nothing in the opening 18 minutes as Richmond’s season ended without a whimper.

“You have just got to take the emotion out of it,” Hardwick said.

“We just couldn’t win critical contests and we turned over the ball too much in the first quarter.”

Hardwick said the Tigers “failed miserably” against a red-hot Port side now booked for an away semi-final against Fremantle next Saturday.

Port’s stunning assault – 12 of the initial 13 goals – was hailed by coach Ken Hinkley as the best footy he’s seen from his Power outfit.

“Yes. It was. It was brutal … it was an awesome display by a group of young men who were determined to stick together and play tough footy,” Hinkley said.

While Hinkley admired the “ferociousness” of Port, his counterpart Hardwick said trade and draft tables beckon for the Tigers.

“I know what we need,” Hardwick said, with the rider: “I’m not telling you.”

“It’s simplistic to look at one thing … but we’re short of where we need to be at the moment.

“You give yourself a chance to play finals. But then the reality is you get measured by your finals success … and it’s a long time before you get back there again.

“Our boys are bitterly disappointed with our performance in a big game. We played nowhere near our potential.”

Richmond’s submission alarmed Hardwick, but he took some solace from a nine-game winning streak just to make the play-offs, noting most clubs experience finals heartache before prevailing.

“Most sides, it takes them a couple of goes before they get a crack,” he said.

“It’s a process. I have got a relatively young core group of good players so we will just continue to add to that, continue to get better.

“We have got a few deficiencies. There’s a few areas we will address over the course of the summer through draft and trade but we will work our way back.”

Richmond’s demise came after a bizarre opening: the Tigers took the field in their away strip, with the AFL on Thursday over-ruling their earlier edict to wear their home jumper.

The AFL originally ordered Port to wear their away strip, but the Power instead wore the club’s heritage prison bars guernsey.

A puzzled Hardwick was unaware of Richmond’s late jumper change until he saw players kitted for the game, likening league headquarters to television character the Fonz – having trouble admitting they’re wrong.

“You know, the AFL are like, they’re like the Fonz … w w w wrong,” he said.

29/07/2019 0

Port are AFL finals wildcards

Port Adelaide’s brutal demolition of Richmond confirms their status as the wildcards of this AFL finals series.


Power coach Ken Hinkley was rapt with Sunday’s 57-point elimination final win, where they kicked the first seven goals in 18 minutes of mayhem.

Hinkley added they had no fear about travelling to Perth to play Fremantle in a knockout semi-final on Saturday.

As former Cats great Cameron Ling observed during halftime at Adelaide Oval, Port Adelaide’s start against the hapless Tigers sent a ripple through the top four.

Adelaide’s unlikely 1998 premiership is the last time a team outside the top four has triumphed in September.

Also this weekend, defending premiers Hawthorn and Sydney confirmed their status as the top two flag favourites and North Melbourne had an outstanding comeback win.

Geelong, who lost their qualifying final to the Hawks, will play North at the MCG on Friday night in the other semi.

Port Adelaide finished fifth this season, but were on top for eight weeks.

While they dropped out of the top four with six losses from their last nine games, they only lost to the Dockers in Perth by eight points two weekends ago.

“Freo are an amazing side. I love the way they play … I know we’re going to go over there and give a real good account of ourselves though,” Hinkley said.

“We certainly don’t go over there with too many fears. We go over there with a bit of a freedom to play the game.”

Hinkley acknowledged that the 20.12 (132) to 11.9 (75) cakewalk on Sunday was the best Port had played under him.

“It was brutal … it was an awesome display,” he said.

The only setback was a suspected broken jaw for speedster Matt White, who went to hospital for scans.

While Port are building momentum, Richmond have lost their second-straight elimination final after reaching the top eight with a nine-game winning streak.

Port’s runaway win completed an opening weekend of finals where all four games went to form.

But it was far from straightforward, with Essendon ruing a blown chance in their elimination final classic against North.

Fremantle also came within 10 points of Sydney in the last quarter of their qualifying final before the Swans, led by two stunning goals from Lance Franklin, kicked clear.

North enhanced their reputation as masters of the strong finish with their 12-point victory over the Bombers on Saturday night at the MCG.

They trailed by 33 points early in the third term, but roared home on the back of four goals from Ben Brown.

Their veteran Drew Petrie kicked the last two goals of the match, giving them a memorable 14.9 (93) to 10.9 (69) win.

It was a galling end to the season for the Bombers, who again paid for patchy form during a match.

At the ANZ Stadium on Saturday, Dockers coach Ross Lyon had a confrontation with a Fremantle fan on the way to the four-goal loss to Sydney.

But Lyon’s far bigger problem was the inability to curb Franklin, who kicked three goals in the 13.15 (93) to 10.9 (69) win.

A scan will decide the finals fate of Swans veteran Nick Malceski after he was subbed off with a hamstring injury.

On Friday night, Hawthorn opened the finals series with a powerful 15.14 (104) to 10.8 (68) qualifying final win over their arch-rivals Geelong.

29/07/2019 0

Australia, China hail ‘strong’ relationship ahead of free trade talks

Australia is hosting Foreign Minister Wang Yi for the second annual Australia-China Foreign and Strategic Dialogue, which comes ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit in November for the G20 summit in Brisbane.


“The Australia-China relationship is strong, it is mature, it is growing,” Bishop said at a media conference with Wang.

“China is Australia’s largest two-way trading partner. We are on track to sign a free-trade agreement with China later this year which will further strengthen this relationship.”

The trade talks began in 2005, but stalled last year over agriculture and China’s insistence on removing investment limits for state-owned enterprises.

Over the past year Australia has sealed free trade deals with Japan and South Korea.

The bilateral talks follow Australia’s push to forge closer ties with Japan, China’s regional rival. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a historic visit to Canberra and Perth in July.

Wang acknowledged that China “may not be Australia’s closest friend at the moment, but we can surely become your most sincere friend”.

He added that Australia was a “key cooperation power” for China in the Asian region.

“China welcomes and supports Australia to further understand Asia and to integrate into Asia,” Wang said through a translator.

“And of course, we would also like Australia to play an active role as a bridge and as a link between the East and the West.”

Bishop said the bilateral talks came at a time of “great global challenge” and were an opportunity to discuss the movement of citizens from the two countries to Iraq and Syria to fight for violent jihadist groups such as the Islamic State.

“The conflict in Syria and Iraq affects both our nations, for foreign fighters are leaving our shores to take part in the brutal and bloody conflict in the Middle East,” she said.

“Our meeting together affords us an opportunity to discuss ways that we together can combat terrorism and extremism such as we’ve seen with the emergence of ISIL,” she said, using one of the acronyms by which the Islamic State is known.

26/06/2019 0

Evildoers benefit from the world’s short attention span

But even a casual observer might not have the head space for more than two or three major events; after all, there’s work, family and everything else, as well.


That’s where things get interesting.

Once upon a time, economists modeled human decisions as perfectly rational, on the assumption that people used all the information available to make optimal choices at all times. Later, however, economists — with a little help from psychologists – realised that there were limits to how much people could think about each decision.

Today these limits, called “bounded rationality,” are more relevant than ever. We have virtually infinite options for things like investments, clothing, music, books and games, all available through the Internet. But we don’t weigh every single option before we buy; we take shortcuts. This means we don’t always make the best choice, but we make choices that we consider good enough.

… it would be impossible to follow every single event happening around the world. Even the best news organisations can’t, because they have finite resources.

How is this relevant to the news? Well, it would be impossible to follow every single event happening around the world. Even the best news organisations can’t, because they have finite resources. But the rest of us can’t, either, because we have other things to do besides sitting in front of our various screens. Instead, we delegate to the media the decision of what will draw our attention.

There are only a few global media organisations, and they tend to prioritise a few stories each day. Stories that gain more viewers and readers get more time because they bring in advertising dollars. When the audience loses interest, the stories disappear in favour of something more popular – or at least something with the potential to be more popular.

This means no single story is likely to occupy the news for very long, no matter how important it might be.

Deaths in Syria’s civil war long ago passed the 100,000 mark, with hundreds more every day, but there is almost no coverage today of the day-to-day fighting and plight of civilians there. The novelty has worn off, and new stories have grabbed the attention of the media and public. As a result, Syrian leader Bashar Assad, his cronies and his opponents have the license to keep on killing without much fear of global outcry or intervention. The moment for that appears to have passed.\

A look back at this year shows just how fickle the public’s attention can be.

A look back at this year shows just how fickle the public’s attention can be. Several stories have peaked in the news, but no two have commanded the same peaks of attention at the same time. Google Trends tracks how often people search for keywords – including those related to major events – all over the world. Back in March, the conflict in Ukraine grabbed the world’s attention, but it was largely forgotten when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared. It wasn’t that the action in Ukraine or its global importance diminished, as we would see later in the year; audiences and news organizations simply switched head space and resources to the other story. Two stories could not claim the same peak of attention at the same time.

Then, in July, the fighting in Gaza ramped up along with its audience. But just as it was heading for a Google Trends peak as high as those of Ukraine and MH370, something else happened: the shootdown of another Malaysia Airlines jet in Ukraine. With two big stories developing simultaneously – the plane was shot down on the same day Israel launched its ground invasion of Gaza – neither managed the heights of attention of Ukraine and MH370 earlier in the year.

Within weeks, however, attention shifted again. An outbreak of ebola in West Africa wiped almost everything else off the map. In August, there was another change. Ebola dropped well off its peak, as the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, began to capture eyes from around the world. Then, as the Islamic State has advanced farther across Syria and Iraq and has committed horrific crimes, it has pulled readers and viewers away from ebola and other stories. Of course, none of this has any impact on whether the deaths from ebola are mounting (they are) or concern from public health officials is growing (it is).

Naturally, novelty gives stories an advantage in both media coverage and head space. Even the most gruesome crimes, like the massacres of civilians in Syria, soon drop off the radar. A practical evildoer can try to weather the initial storm of attention and then go on killing relatively undisturbed, or simply wait until an even bigger event distracts the world.

Assad may even be wise to this game. 

Assad may even be wise to this game. The bloodiest period of the Syrian civil war came in the busiest months of the 2012 presidential campaign in the United States, stretching from the convention season to the election itself. Immediately after the election, deaths dropped for several weeks. It could have been pure coincidence, or something more sinister.

From then on, the conflict in Syria was barely a blip for the media. It was another spin on political theorist Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase describing the crimes and criminals of the Holocaust, “the banality of evil.” As far as the news media and its consumers were concerned, continuous and repeated evil really was just banal. It wasn’t news anymore if it wasn’t new.

The spotlight did return to Syria in the summer of 2013 with the use of chemical weapons on civilians, which was probably the result of a failure in the chain of command. But that spike — from a spectacular and well-documented crime against humanity — didn’t last long, either. Perhaps there were too many other tragedies competing for attention. Or maybe everyone was playing Grand Theft Auto V.

Either way, even something as terrible as the deaths of children from chemicals could not hold the public’s attention for more than a few days.

And who could blame them? The Internet has shortened people’s attention spans so much that they are like hummingbirds darting from flower to flower in search of titillation. In the meantime, the globalization of the media through information technology has bombarded people with ever more stories from around the world. There simply isn’t enough time to take everything in, let alone focus on one or two issues above all the others.

This situation used to be unique to people like the president of the United States, who receives daily briefings on hot spots around the world. Now, however, all of us are hooked up to this combination of a gushing fire hose and an ever-changing kaleidoscope. Is it any wonder that, like him, we can’t focus long enough on any one thing to do something about it?

Altman teaches economics at New York University’s Stern School of Business and is chief economist of Big Think.

(c) 2014, Foreign Policy

26/06/2019 0

‘Jude was perfect,’ says Rozelle dad

Bianka O’Brien and her baby boy Jude along with neighbour Chris Noble were killed in the early hours of Thursday morning when an explosion ripped through a convenience store in the inner-west Sydney suburb of Rozelle.


Ms O’Brien’s husband, John, on Sunday said his wife was preparing to enter the next phase of her life by caring full-time for Jude, who had just learned to walk.

“Bianka and I were together for eight years, married for two, and to say she was the love of my life is an understatement,” he said in a statement.

“I can’t believe how quickly those eight years have flown by but they have definitely been the best years of my life.

“Bianka was an inspiration to all who knew her – she was loyal, caring and absolutely loved life.”

Jude was just discovering the world around him, Mr O’Brien said.

“He was a perfect baby and never stopped smiling,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Everything was exciting to him and he was just a joy to be around. He made everyone smile.”

Mr O’Brien and Bianka’s father Bill also thanked the community, police and emergency service for their ongoing support, and extended their sympathy to the family of Chris Noble.

At a public meeting in neighbouring Balmain on Sunday, police told residents there was little risk of airborne asbestos exposure from the wreckage following days of wet weather in Sydney.

The exclusion zone has been reduced along the busy commercial and residential street between Victoria road and Merton St.

A frantic two-day search for survivors ended on Friday when the bodies of Bianka and Jude were carried out together from the charred wreckage of the convenience store and apartments.

The devastated site of the blast is now a crime scene.

Investigators are reviewing CCTV footage with Strike Force Baracchi launched to investigate the fire.

Police have still to speak with the convenience store owner, who is in a serious condition in hospital after emergency services had to dig him out of the debris by hand.

Reports of a car fleeing the area after the explosion are being investigated.

Full Statement from John O’Brien 

On Thursday morning I lost my beloved wife, Bianka, and our baby Jude.

Bianka was an inspiration to all who knew her – she was loyal, caring and absolutely loved life. People gravitated towards her because of her beautiful and warm personality.

Bianka and I were together for eight years, married for two, and to say she was the love of my life is an understatement.

I can’t believe how quickly those eight years have flown by but they have definitely been the best years of my life.

I know I was truly loved by her and the feeling was entirely mutual.

She was an exceptional person, a wonderful wife and an even better mother. This week Bianka was due to finish up her part-time work so she could move into the next phase of her life and fulfil her dream of caring for our boy full time.

Being a mother made her happy and she was a natural at it.

That brings me to my son, Jude, who I love with all my heart. By far the proudest moment of my life was becoming a father. He was a perfect baby and never stopped smiling.

Jude had just started to walk and was only just discovering the world around him. Everything was exciting to him and he was just a joy to be around.

He made everyone smile.

On behalf of Bianka’s father, Bill, and myself I would like to thank the community for the many well-wishes, flowers and phone calls we have received.

The events of the past few days have been devastating, but we have been overwhelmed by the response and support from the community.

I would also like to thank the police and other emergency services who have been by our side and continue to support us.

Finally, I would like to extend my sympathy to the family of Chris Noble and everyone else who has been affected by this.

We now ask that the media and public continue to respect our privacy during this time.

26/06/2019 0

UK offers Scots new powers after poll

The British government scrambled to pledge greater autonomy for Scotland, after a poll put the pro-independence camp ahead just 11 days before the referendum on separation.


Finance Minister George Osborne said greater tax and spending powers would be announced in the coming days and would be implemented if Scotland votes on September 18 to remain in the 300-year-old union with England.

The government’s offer came after a YouGov poll published in The Sunday Times newspaper gave the “Yes” camp 51 per cent support compared to the “No” camp’s 49 per cent, excluding undecided voters. Six per cent said they had not made up their minds.

Although the two-point lead is within the margin of error, the findings dramatically up the stakes ahead of the vote.

“Scotland faces a very big choice,” Osborne told BBC.

“If people were in any doubt that they can stay at home, that they don’t need to go out to the polls and vote ‘No’ to avoid separation, they won’t be in that doubt today.

“They should also be in no doubt about the consequences of this decision,” the chancellor of the exchequer added.

“No ifs, no buts: we will not share the pound if Scotland separates from the rest of the UK.”

He said sharing the currency after independence would be equivalent to a couple divorcing but keeping a joint bank account.

Salmond says he would refuse to take on Scotland’s share of the United Kingdom’s debt post-independence if he does not get his way on a euro-style cross-border currency union.

Osborne said it was “clear” that Scots wanted greater autonomy and the three main United Kingdom-wide parties – the Conservatives, their Liberal Democrat junior partners in government and the Labour opposition – had agreed to “deliver” on that.

“You will see in the next few days a plan of action to give more powers to Scotland. More tax powers, more spending powers, more plans for powers over the welfare state,” he said.

“Then Scotland will have the best of both worlds.

Any vote for Scotland to leave the UK would raise questions about Britain’s standing in the international community and could put pressure on British Prime Minister David Cameron to stand down.

Scotland represents one-third of Britain’s landmass and is home to Britain’s submarine-based Trident nuclear deterrent, which the SNP says must be out of an independent Scotland by 2020.

The Better Together campaign, which backs Scotland staying in Britain, has been ahead in opinion polls for months but its lead has narrowed in recent days.

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FIFA asks arrested finance watchdog member for explanation

Canover Watson, one of eight members of FIFA’s Audit and Compliance Committee and a vice-president of the Caribbean Football Union, has denied the charges and been released on bail in the British overseas territory.


Domenico Scala, head of the committee, said he had asked Watson for details.

“In agreement with the Ethics Committee we have asked Canover Watson whether he can share with the Audit and Compliance Committee any additional information,” said Scala in a statement issued by FIFA. “Once we have more information we will consider appropriate measures.”

The FIFA committee is charged with ensuring the “completeness and reliability of the financial accounting” of world football’s governing body.

Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commissioner David Baines, in a statement to local media, said that Watson was suspected of “breach of trust contrary to section 13 of the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Law, as well as abuse of public office… and conflict of interest”.

Those allegations refer to Watson’s time at the head of Cayman’s Health Service Authority and follow a police investigation into the introduction of a swipe card system.

Baines also cited “suspicion of money-laundering contrary to section 133 of the Proceeds of Crime Law” in the Watson case.

Watson denied the allegations in a statement to the Cayman Compass newspaper. The newspaper said no charges had yet been filed against Watson who under his bail terms is due to report back to police on Sept. 29.

CONCACAF, the confederation which governs football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, said it was waiting for further details.

“…CONCACAF is awaiting the complete review of the ongoing proceedings,” the confederation said in a statement.

“At CONCACAF, we take great pride of the highest standards of integrity, governance and transparency that lead the organisation.”

The Cayman Islands has become a power centre within the CONCACAF region.

The CONCACAF president is FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb, who is also president of the Cayman Islands Football Association which lists Watson as its treasurer.

Webb took over as CONCACAF president after the resignation of Trinidadian Jack Warner, who was at the centre of numerous corruption allegations.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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