DIAC ‘derailing’ asylum child case: lawyer

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has tried to derail legal proceedings to prevent it transporting a critically ill asylum-seeker child from Darwin to Sydney against her doctors’ wishes, the Federal Court has heard on Friday.

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On Wednesday, two Northern Territory doctors were granted a temporary injunction by the Court to prevent DIAC from moving the two-year-old, who has chronic heart disease and Down syndrome.

But she had already been flown out on Wednesday morning before the order was made, a day after her paediatrician expressed concerns about her health, the court has heard.

“We wanted to find her and make sure the parents understood the seriousness of the illness, but we didn’t know where she was,” Dr Paul Bauert, director of paediatrics at Royal Darwin Hospital told AAP.

“We didn’t know she’d gone to Sydney. That just highlights the poor communication we have.”

Dr Bauert says Darwin doctors are frustrated by DIAC’s repeated transfer of asylum-seeker patients to other parts of the country without proper care plans and handovers in place.

DIAC issued the girl and her family bridging visas on Wednesday morning before flying her to Sydney, where a spokesman said the family had wanted to go.

But the doctors’ barrister Simon Lee said DIAC was attempting to derail legal proceedings by granting the visas.

“It seems bizarre that if a paediatric cardio specialist from Darwin is indicating he has concerns about this young child, the very next morning (she) is granted a visa and transported out,” he said.

“It all happened very quickly.”

Ms Angela Hanson, representing DIAC, said she didn’t know whether the family was aware of the doctor’s concerns before they left, and said DIAC wasn’t aware an injunction was being sought until after it was granted.

Mr Lee said DIAC would not give him her parents’ names, which Ms Hanson said could not be given out to lawyers “as a matter of privacy”.

The girl’s treating doctor was instructed to send his letters to a department PO Box rather than an office address, which Justice John Mansfield said “seems a bit cagey”.

“It’s not through lack of trying,” Dr Bauert said of the breakdown in communication.

“The Australian Medical Association have been in meetings with DIAC trying to get this sorted out for the last three years, and still there’s multiple kids falling through the cracks like this one.”

The hearing has been adjourned until Wednesday.

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Rudd calls for Syria chemical attack probe

Australia is urging Syria to allow United Nations weapons inspectors access to a Damascus site where a deadly chemical attack is alleged to have occurred.

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Prime Minister Kevin Rudd flew back to Canberra on Saturday to receive an intelligence briefing on the escalating Syrian crisis, after reports the United States was weighing up a possible military strike against the Assad regime.

The world is calling for answers amid claims Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons in an attack on the outskirts of Damascus last week.

“For me it is gut wrenching to see this unfolding,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.

“The thought that these sorts of attacks could occur against unarmed civilians … is like a medieval barbaric scene, rather than something we’d expect on our television sets in the year 2013.”

Australia will use its presidency of the UN security council, which it will assume next week, to call for “full and unfettered” access for investigators to the site where the attack occurred.

UN weapons inspectors are in Syria but have not been given permission to investigate the latest claim.

“The burden of proof now lies with the Syrian regime to establish their culpability or absence of culpability on this matter,” Mr Rudd said.

He said he had sought information about Australian troops attached to UN missions in the Golan Heights, both on the Syrian and Israeli sides of the border, and troops active on the Lebanese border.

He will also seek reports on other military personnel serving in the region.

“Our concern is of course for their well being,” Mr Rudd said.

Defence chiefs have said Australian personnel were trained in handling chemical weapons attacks and were equipped appropriately to handle an attack should there be “any proliferation” of the Damascus incident.

Asked if he had an open mind on any military involvement, Mr Rudd said: “I think it’s unproductive and I think it is unwise to begin to speculate on any form of action and what shape that may take.”

“The business of responding to an international crisis, as this is emerging as one, is to take it calmly and methodically, step by step.”

The prime minister also refused to comment on the appropriateness of US cruise missile strikes against the regime.

“I won’t go to the question of military strategy or military tactics,” he said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott also stopped short of backing military action after receiving a “confidential” briefing on the Syrian situation later on Sunday.

“The important thing is to get to the bottom of what’s happened and the best way for that to happen is to allow UN inspectors on the ground to make an assessment,” Mr Abbott told ABC TV.

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Brooks’ phone hacking trial delayed in UK

The trial of former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks over allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World has been delayed for legal reasons.

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The trial of Brooks and seven other defendants, including Prime Minister David Cameron’s former spin doctor Andy Coulson, was due to start at the Old Bailey on September 9 but is now expected to begin on October 28.

Brooks, 45, denies a total of five charges, including conspiracy to hack phones, conspiracy to pay public officials and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by allegedly trying to hide evidence.

Former Sun and NotW editor Brooks, former managing editor Stuart Kuttner, 73, and former news editor Ian Edmondson, 44, also deny conspiracy to intercept mobile phone voicemails between October 3, 2000, and August 9, 2006.

Coulson, 45, who previously edited the now-defunct NotW, denies the same charge.

He and NotW former royal editor Clive Goodman, 55, are also accused of two charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.

Brooks denies two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

In the same trial, she and former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, 49, are charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice by allegedly trying to hide material from the News International archive between July 6 and 9, 2011.

Brooks’ racehorse trainer husband, Charlie Brooks, 50, and News International head of security Mark Hanna, 50, will also appear in the same trial over a charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, by allegedly hiding documents and computer equipment from police between July 15 and 19 2011, a charge also faced by Brooks.

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Egyptian Islamists call new demos

Islamist supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi have called new protests against the army in a test of their ability to mobilise support seven weeks after his overthrow.

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In recent days, dozens of senior and mid-level members of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested, disrupting the organisation’s structure, and raising questions about its remaining strength.

The call for demonstrations by loyalists of Morsi, who remains in custody at a secret location, came a day after his predecessor Hosni Mubarak was released from jail to house arrest at a military hospital.

The release stirred little interest in Egypt, which has been rocked by political unrest since Morsi’s July 3 ouster by the military after massive protests against him.

Nearly 1000 people were killed in a week of violence between Morsi loyalists and security forces, sparking international concern and condemnation.

Friday was set to be a test of the remaining strength and commitment of the Islamists, who called for “Friday of martyrs” protests after the main weekly Muslim prayers.

In recent days, dwindling numbers of demonstrators have showed up to rallies, their ranks thinned by a fierce crackdown.

Communication by telephone has stopped altogether, and many Brotherhood members are in hiding, avoiding their homes, a mid-level member of the group told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“We no longer receive directives and we don’t really know what we should do anymore. Most of our direct leaders are detained,” the member from the Nile Delta said.

Among those detained is the group’s supreme guide Mohamed Badie – the first time a Brotherhood chief has been arrested since 1981.

Morsi himself is being held at a secret location and faces charges related to his 2011 escape from prison and of inciting the death and torture of protesters.

His continued detention even as Mubarak is released to house arrest has stirred comment, particularly as Mubarak also faces charges of complicity in the deaths of protesters.

But in the face of the deadly unrest that has rocked Egypt in recent days, there was no indication that activists would take to the streets, as they have done before, to protest Mubarak’s transfer.

“A year ago, it would have been difficult to imagine his release without popular protests against it,” said Barah Mikail, a Middle East specialist at the FRIDE think-tank.

“Today, everything else that is happening has moderated the effect”.

Mubarak is still on trial and faces his next court session on Sunday, when Badie and several other Brotherhood leaders will also appear before a court.

Washington on Thursday sidestepped questions about Mubarak’s release from jail, but called for Morsi to be freed.

“With respect to the Mubarak trial and decisions made, this is an internal Egyptian legal matter,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“Our position on Mr Morsi remains the same. We believe there should be a process for his release,” Psaki said

But there has been no sign that a crackdown against the Brotherhood will slow.

The latest arrest was that of Ahmed Aref, one of the few remaining spokesmen for the group who had not been detained.

At the same time, attacks against Christian institutions, which have been blamed on Islamists, have continued.

Dozens of Christian churches, schools, businesses and homes – mostly in the rural south – have been attacked, allegedly by Islamists angry at the Coptic Church leadership’s endorsement of Morsi’s ouster.

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch condemned the government for failing to protect churches, and the Brotherhood for failing to halt incitement against Christians.

Violence has also continued to target police and soldiers, including three who were killed in a drive-by shooting near the Suez Canal town of Ismailia on Thursday.

The unrest has prompted international criticism of the authorities, but the United States has stopped short of halting its $US1.3 billion ($A1.45 billion) a year in mainly military aid.

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Reynolds plays down Pearce NRL match-up

South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds says he can’t afford to focus on a personal duel with Sydney Roosters rival Mitchell Pearce for fear of taking his eye off the bigger picture.

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Pearce will go head-to-head with the man most believe will take over his sky blue NSW State of Origin No.7 jumper next year, with Friday night’s NRL minor premiership playoff at ANZ Stadium a perfect stage for the Souths youngster to push his case.

But Reynolds said team goals were his only focus, with the Rabbitohs attempting to collect their first meaningful piece of silverware in over 40 years.

“I’m not too worried about the match-up between me and him,” Reynolds said on Tuesday.

“If I focus too hard on that I’m sure I won’t have a good game or do my part for the team.

“He’s a great player and a great competitor, you can’t fault anything he’s done this year.

“He’s been one of the best halves this year … it’s a good rivalry, a good challenge coming up against good halves in the comp.

“It’s a good challenge to see where I’m at.”

With Reynolds and teammate John Sutton going up against Pearce and James Maloney, there is the very real possibility that Friday night’s clash of halves pairings could be a case of NSW Origin present against NSW Origin future.

Sutton was part of the extended Blues squad for the opening two games of this year’s series while Maloney played all three games at five eighth, but Reynolds denied the playmakers would decide the winner at ANZ Stadium.

“These games are usually won through the middle or built on field position,” Reynolds said.

“It’s exciting playing against one of the best teams in the comp – they’ve been the form team of the comp the whole way through.’

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DisabilityCare logo had $130,000 price tag

The logo for the national disability insurance scheme’s rebranded name – DisabilityCare Australia – cost taxpayers $130,000.

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But it will have been money down the drain if the coalition wins the federal election because they’ve vowed to dump the DisabilityCare tag.

The government quietly announced the name change in March, burying it in a press statement about playgroups.

The rebranding angered many people with disabilities who felt the new name was condescending.

A document obtained by AAP under Freedom of Information laws shows Sydney brand consultants Landor Associates were paid $131,032 to come up with a logo and brand strategy as part of a four-phase project.

The company also received additional undisclosed amounts for production of new concepts paid at a cost per option, payments for tweaking concepts, payments for fonts, travel costs and copywriting fees.

The government spent $22 million on an advertising campaign for DisabilityCare ahead of the opening of launch sites last month.

It spent close to $200,000 on focus group testing of names to rename the scheme, according to documents given to AAP under freedom of information laws in July.

The documents revealed the NDIS agency rolling out the scheme did not like the DisabilityCare name describing it as “passive” and “confused”.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the coalition will drop the name and simply call the scheme the NDIS.

When fully operational, DisabilityCare is expected to cover 410,000 Australians with disabilities and cost upward of $15 billion a year.

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Murray backs squash for 2020 Olympics

Olympic, Wimbledon and US Open champion Andy Murray, who played squash before becoming a tennis star, is backing squash’s bid to be an Olympic sport in 2020.

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He said on Tuesday, after advancing to the US Open quarter-finals, he will cheer on squash during an International Olympic Committee vote on Sunday in Buenos Aires.

Olympic officials will consider squash, combined baseball/softball and wrestling for the 2020 Games, the site of which will be chosen at the same meetings.

Murray supports growth in racquet sports in the Olympics lineup.

“I played it a little bit when I was younger. I used to play at our local sports club.

“I like it. I think it’s a tough sport. I think, physically, it’s very challenging. I could be wrong, but I think why it’s not on TV as much is because it almost seems like the same point is getting played.

“It’s maybe not the best spectator sport, but it’s a very difficult sport to play. You have to be extremely fit, have very good hand-eye coordination, good feel and good touch.

“It’s another racquet sport. When you play one, you like to tend to like to watch the other ones, as well. I love watching badminton, too.”

Murray is the latest big name to back squash as an Olympic sport.

In April, Andre Agassi, Kim Clijsters and Stefan Edberg followed Roger Federer in supporting squash for 2020.

“Squash is absolutely one of the best, toughest sports,” said Agassi, winner of eight grand slams and Olympic gold.

“The Games would be proud.”

Federer, who played squash as a junior, was one of the first leading tennis players to pledge support for his fellow racquet sport.

“I think it’s a wonderful sport. It’s unfortunate some sports don’t get the opportunity to be in the Olympics – I think squash would deserve it.”

“I think squash would be a great addition to the Olympic Games,” said Clijsters who won four grand slams.

“It’s a great competitive game and different from the other racquet sports in not having a net dividing the players.

Edberg started playing squash while on the ATP Tour.

“Squash has all the credentials to be an Olympic sport. It would complement the other racquet sports that are already part of the program and it would be great to see it included in the Games.”

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Mirvac eyes residential property recovery

Property developer Mirvac’s residential portfolio is showing signs of recovery after a writedown on the value of some projects caused a 66 per cent fall in full year profit.

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The company reduced the value of several apartment projects in Queensland and Western Australia by $273 million six months ago due to weaker housing markets.

That reduced its net profit in the 2012/13 financial year to $139.9 million, down from $416 million in the previous year.

But chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said the outlook for the company’s development division was strong, with major projects in inner-city Sydney and Melbourne set to deliver additional earnings in the next three years.

“Residential markets remain mixed in terms of current performance and outlook,” she said.

“However, we are seeing signs of recovery as a result of improving housing affordability, population growth and low rental vacancy.”

Mirvac’s residential division delivers less earnings than its office and retail divisions, but Morningstar analyst Tony Sherlock said it was the area with the most growth potential.

“That’s the bit that’s going to get some higher growth in the year ahead,” he said.

Mirvac has forecast earnings per security of between 11.7 cents and 12.0 cents in 2013/14, up from the 10.9 cents per security it achieved in 2012/13.

Mr Sherlock said most of that growth would come from Mirvac’s residential business.

“The very positive rhetoric from Mirvac, it really points to a much more favourable outcome.”

Mirvac’s office sector posted income growth despite softening market conditions, maintaining a high occupancy rate.

The retail division turned its focus towards supermarket chains, helping it maintain a 99.2 per cent occupancy rate.

Mirvac’s operating profit, which excludes one-off financial items such as project value writedowns, grew by three per cent in 2012/13 to $377.6 million.

Mirvac shares gained 2.5 cents to $1.665.

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Injuries leave Titans short for NRL clash

Gold Coast will be forced to ask the NRL for salary cap concessions in order to field a full team for Sunday’s clash with the Sydney Roosters.

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Titans coach John Cartwright could only name 16 fit players on Tuesday for the must-win game at Allianz Stadium with forwards Mark Minichiello (eye) and Ashley Harrison (hand) out for the season.

Luke Bailey and Greg Bird were both named to make their return from injury but that pair as well as Jamie Dowling and Brad Takairangi are all facing fitness tests later in the week.

It means the club must find a back-rower from their feeder squads and get the okay from the NRL to free up the money to let them play against the Roosters.

“Like most sides, we’ve used up as much as we can use in the bottom tier (of the salary cap),” Cartwright told reporters.

“With the injuries that we have, you do get dispensation to go a bit deeper into the bottom tier. We’ll just have to wait and see who is fit and who is not.

“We probably won’t be able to make a decision until we go down on Saturday.”

The injury woes are the last thing the Titans need as they try to keep their finals hopes alive.

Sitting ninth after last weekend’s two-point loss to the Warriors, the Titans need to win at least one – if not both – of their last two games to have any hope of making the eight.

The Roosters will also be desperate to bounce back after their minor premiership push was dented in a shock loss to Cronulla on Monday night.

“It’s not an ideal situation when a side on top of the comp is down 26-0 at halftime,” he said.

“No doubt they’ll address that and they’ll come out firing for their last home game.

“All we can do is get ourselves right … we’re confident we can cause an upset,” Cartwright said.

Titans: David Mead, Kevin Gordon, Brad Takairangi, Jamie Dowling, Anthony Don, Aidan Sezer, Albert Kelly, Luke Douglas, Beau Falloon, Ryan James, Greg Bird, Ben Ridge, Nate Myles. Interchange: David Taylor, Luke Bailey, TBC, Matt Srama.

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Vettel fastest in 3rd Belgian F1 practice

Sebastian Vettel topped the times for Red Bull in Saturday morning’s third and final free practice session for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

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The defending triple Formula One world champion and 2013 title race leader clocked a best time of one minute and 48.327 seconds around the majestic seven-kilometre track in the Ardennes.

The 26-year-old German’s best lap came in the final minutes of a one-hour session run in dry if overcast conditions and lifted him 0.105 seconds clear of nearest rival Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.

Vettel’s Red Bull teammate, retirement-bound Australian Mark Webber, was third fastest, 0.206 adrift of the German, but ahead of in-form Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso and fifth-placed Brazilian Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari.

Briton Jenson Button was sixth for McLaren ahead of Mexican Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber, Frenchman Romain Grosjean of Lotus, German Nico Rosberg of Mercedes and Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Lotus.

Briton Lewis Hamilton, winner of last month’s Hungarian Grand Prix, was down in 12th place in the second Mercedes and clearly struggling to recapture the form that brought him three consecutive pole positions.

The drivers took part after overnight investigations by Pirelli found the piece of metal debris that caused two high-speed punctures during Friday’s practice sessions.

Following a detailed examination of the circuit between turns 13 (Fagnes) and 15 (Stavelot) where the incidents occurred, Pirelli discovered that a metal skidplate was the cause of the punctures and that it was not a tyre-related issue.

“No issues from our perspective,” Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said. “We’ve seen no signs of fatigue. From our point of view, there is no reason to be concerned.”

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