Liberals, Labor vie to be tougher on crime

Bikie gangs, knives and violent crime in local neighbourhoods – issues that worry state leaders – moved to the federal arena yesterday as both major parties outlined tough on crime policies.Citing last year’s bikie gang attack at Sydney Airport as evidence of a growing threat, the Coalition pledged to make ”disturbingly high” knife crime and bikie activity a national issue.A US-style violent gangs database would be set up to track gangs across state borders, and a violent gangs squad set up within the Australian Crime Commission, the Coalition said. In a $179 million package, more weapons would be outlawed, more metal detectors issued to police and minimum penalties imposed an anyone found carrying a knife.The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said the rise of major gangs associated with drug distribution rackets and ”horrific outbreaks of violence” required federal government intervention in a policing area traditionally dealt with by the states.”Gangs are responsible for a significant and growing percentage of crime in Australia, and the gangs operate on a national basis,” he said in Melbourne.Across town, Labor said it was moving to restrict the weapons that can be imported, and had agreed with state police ministers to move to uniform knife laws.The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, said on radio: ”We want to crack down on knife crime … and we will work with police around the country.”The Home Affairs Minister, Brendan O’Connor, said customs stopped 16,700 knives at the border last year but the government could ”always … be tougher”.Mr Abbott accused the federal government of stripping the Australian Crime Commission of investigating officers who could make arrests, and failing to deliver a promised 500 extra Australian Federal Police positions. The Coalition said it would shift 200 state and federal police into the ACC.Labor said the commission already maintained a register of gang members as part of its intelligence operations. Mr O’Connor said the Labor government would spend $200 million to fund 500 more AFP places by 2012, and had put another 280 police ”on the ground”.”Mr Abbott is planning to take front-line police off the streets of Australian cities and towns and put them behind desks in Canberra,” Mr O’Connor said.The chief executive of the Australian Federal Police Association, Jim Torr, attended the Coalition’s policy launch and said he supported the plan but it was imperative that the boost to the crime commission didn’t leave the federal police with fewer officers.”It shouldn’t divert a single police officer from what they are currently doing,” he said. POLICY POINTSCOALITION- Uniform knife laws with minimum community-order penalties for first offences- Crime commission boosted with state 200 officers- Commonwealth to fund training of replacement officers- $33 million violent gangs database- $1 million for hand-held metal detectors- Customs laws amended to restrict hunting knivesLABOR- Uniform knife laws- Customs laws amended to restrict weapons
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Pledge of $12,000 for early intervention among children

A re-elected Gillard government would offer families of every child with a disability under the age of six $12,000 to help pay for early intervention services.The plan is part of a $182 million package of promises to improve disability services. he rebate would help 7800 children in the first year of the scheme and could be spent on speech pathology, occupational therapy and psychology.The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced the package, to be paid for by cuts that are yet to be made public, in Melbourne. She said she wanted people with disabilities to have equal opportunities..The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Bill Shorten, and the Community Services Minister, Jenny Macklin, also attended the launch.Mr Shorten said disability issues had to be put on the political agenda.”Disability is an invisible issue in Australia politics but it affects far more people, either directly or through people they know who are carers, people who are caught up in the trauma of car injury, right through those early-onset diseases that affect people as they get older,” he said.Under the package Labor would also give 20,000 children up to the age of 15 access to Medicare cover for diagnosis and treatment of disabilities through allied health services. Ms Gillard said Labor would spend $60 million to create 150 extra places in supported accommodation and respite facilities, with the first of the money to be spent next year.The extra places would be created by offering grants to community organisations for work such as home renovations, pooling resources to build care centres for overnight stays, or expanding an existing centre.Ms Gillard released a 10-year draft disabilities plan, which Labor would put to the Council of Australian Governments.The plan would seek to improve access to mainstream government services for people with disabilities and create a more coherent policy across all levels of government.The National Disability Services alliance welcomed the announcement but said much more was needed to support the thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families.Recently the alliance said the present arrangements were ”unsustainable and indefensible” and ”chronically underfunded, inefficient, inequitable and, most seriously, fails to meet the needs of Australians with a disability, their families and carers”.But the opposition spokesman on disabilities, Mick Fifield, said Labor could not be trusted to deliver the extra supported accommodation places.Ms Gillard’s promise to lift spending on disability services by $182 million has reignited calls for the next government, Labor or Coalition, to introduce a multibillion-dollar disability insurance scheme.The inequities confronting Australians with a disability and their families is one of at least four health-related issues that loom as areas of growing cost and sensitivity. Mental and dental care drew attention this week.Today it will be aged care with the release of a report by the Aged Care Association Australia calling for urgent reform of the highly subsidised and regulated aged-care sector.”If government does not act now, quite simply there will not be sufficient aged-care beds to meet demand,” said Rod Young the chief executive. LABOR’S PROMISES – From July 2011 children under six with a disability can get up to $12,000 for early intervention services.- About 20,000 children under 13 will have access to new Medicare services for diagnosis and treatment.- Up to 150 new supported accommodation and respite places for people with disability.- Total cost of policies: $182 million over four years.
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Gillard vows to dismiss traitors

Julia Gillard took her campaign to Perth last night after reasserting her authority by vowing to sack from her cabinet anyone caught leaking information.Labor is clinging to four of the 15 seats in Western Australia, which rivals Queensland in hostility towards the government.In her first visit to the west since calling the election, Ms Gillard is expected to confront anger from mid-sized mining companies about the mineral resources rent tax.Responding to a damaging leak about statements on pensions and the maternity leave scheme, Ms Gillard said that if re-elected she would not tolerate such disloyalty from within cabinet.”I will, as Prime Minister, have a proper system of cabinet government and that means that when you are in the cabinet room, you should have free and frank discussions,” she said.”If there is anybody in my cabinet that does not respect the confidentiality of cabinet, then they will no longer be a cabinet minister.”Andrew Robb, the Coalition’s campaign spokesman, said this was an admission the cabinet was already dysfunctional.”She’s lost control of the cabinet and therefore the party,” Mr Robb said.The leak, which has been generally blamed on the former leader Kevin Rudd but which Mr Rudd denied, alleged Ms Gillard argued in a cabinet session against Labor’s paid parental leave policy and an increase to the aged pension.Ms Gillard rejected the assertions, saying her concerns were to ensure the programs, worth collectively more than $50 billion over 10 years, were affordable.Ms Gillard was in Melbourne yesterday to unveil a policy to support people with disabilities. During her speech she broke away and appealed to voters to focus on the bigger picture.”Today is July 29 and that means we are just 23 days out from a federal election,” she said. Key issues were at stake, she said, listing programs that the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, had vowed to abolish including the national broadband network and trade training centres.Drawing attention to the 1.7 per cent increase in company tax that Mr Abbott has proposed to fund his $2.7 billion paid parental leave scheme, Ms Gillard said: ”They want to impose a new tax on business that will push up the cost of milk, petrol and other everyday items for disability pensioners and their carers.”Mr Abbott is to relaunch his parental leave scheme and the Herald understands the 1.7 percentage point increase in company tax will be trimmed to 1.5 points and abolished sooner than the original target of 2017-18 when debt is scheduled to be repaid. A source said it would be abolished when debt was deemed as ”manageable”.While promising the increase in company tax for the nation’s biggest companies, Mr Abbott has also promised to decrease the tax by 1.5 points for all companies in 2013, at a cost of $2.1 billion.
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Mouth-to-mouth resuscitation may not save more lives

Chest compressions performed by bystanders work just as well to save the lives of unconscious people compared with the better known combined technique of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with heart massage, new studies show.The findings are likely to influence a revision of international guidelines this year.They are the best evidence yet that untrained people’s attempts at resuscitation are at least as effective if they exclude breathing into the collapsed person’s lungs – probably because this distracts them from working on the heart. In the studies, of nearly 2000 people in Washington state in the US and and 1300 people in Sweden, bystanders called ambulance dispatchers who were randomly assigned to instruct them how to carry out one of the two techniques.Neither found any significant difference in the likelihood the person would survive.The research is the first to compare how people fare when their revival attempt is made according to specific instructions for one method or the other.Previous studies have measured the survival of those resuscitated using the techniques, but the results could have been skewed, for example, if people attempting mouth-to-mouth felt more confident about their resuscitation skills.Ian Jacobs, the chairman of the Australian Resuscitation Council, said the results were consistent with national guidelines that people who do not feel able or willing to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation should consider doing chest compressions alone – at a rate of 100 per minute and to a depth of about 5 centimetres.”Only 40 per cent of people who collapse receive any resuscitation. Sixty per cent have nothing done,” said Professor Jacobs. It was important to reassure the public that chest compressions could not harm an unconscious person, even if they had a pulse, he said.Professor Jacobs called for resuscitation to become part of the school curriculum. ”These are life-saving skills and would take half an hour of the school term,” he said.The new Australian and New Zealand guidelines, to be released in December, are expected to follow those of the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation, of which the council is a member.
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After drought, farmers must now face a plague of locusts

Peter Hammond cradles the tiny white eggs in his hand that could ruin his 2200-hectare sheep and cattle property near Lake Cowal when they hatch in spring.”When you squash them, they create moisture, so you know that they’re actually alive, that there’s grasshoppers in them,” he said.Farmers are on alert across the four Murray Darling Basin states to watch for the first hatchings from egg beds laid so extensively and in conditions so kind to locusts that a massive plague potentially costing billions of dollars has been predicted this year.And now the senior ranger at the Lachlan Livestock Health and Pest Authority, Craig Ridley, said the predicted hatching date of mid-September for central western NSW may be brought forward because of mild weather.”It’s going to be a war of some note and we can’t let the locusts win,” said Graham Falconer, an agronomist and the deputy mayor of Forbes Shire Council, who has calculated a ”little plague” in autumn wiped out 35,000 hectares of crops worth about $40 million there.Planting methods perfected during the drought, in which farmers directly drill seed into the ground without disturbing surrounding soil, have made it harder to see hatchlings when they emerge so aerial surveillance is essential, he said.A sheep farmer, Andrew Gartner, believes that if the coming hatchlings cannot be killed, more lamb producers will be forced to leave the land and the price of the meat will rise because it will only be available from feedlots.His neighbours asked if he was hallucinating when he said he had planted an oat crop which disappeared from his property at Bogan Gate, 45 kilometres north-west of Forbes, this autumn.”It was a terrific germination. I could see the oats there all in rows, and over a week, it looked less and less,” he said.On his hands and knees, he discovered locust hatchlings, munching the $7000 crop.He lost more than 120 of his 450 hectares planted for feed and has had to send 1000 ewes and lambs to Warren and Coonamble on agistment at $5000 a month.Having run a 140,000 acre property near Wilcannia solo, Mr Gartner said he fears a plague will descend from the western division, where locusts are predicted to hatch next month, but where there are fewer people to spot and kill them.”Out there, they’re a bit uncontrollable,” he said.Mr Ridley is confident that with chemicals at the ready and egg beds mapped using GPS, hatchlings can be contained in his region. But he also worries that locusts on the wing could arrive from western NSW in October, wrecking wheat crops by eating the juicy heads which will be ripening then.Mr Falconer says locusts’ preferences are first for wheat, then barley, then oats.Mr Hammond’s father, James, aged 95, remembers a 1930s plague so bad that the locusts ate the farmhouse’s green blinds.The son, Peter Hammond, said that after running an irrigation property for 10 years without water, if locusts eat his crops and pasture, he will have to quit, but wonders by how much it will devalue his land. ”Even worse, if we wanted to get out we probably couldn’t,” he said.
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