Gillard abolishes tariffs for Third World

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has vowed to give developing countries access to the Australian market free of tariffs, and she has ruled out increasing trade protections while the Doha round of free-trade talks is at a standstill.

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At the Commonwealth Business Forum in Perth on Tuesday, Ms Gillard said she wanted Australia to “make a difference for the small and medium countries of the world” and the best way to reduce poverty was trade liberalisation.

Australia was prepared to lead the way in opening doors for developing nations on the trade front, she said.

“Australia will continue the strongest possible commitment to market access for the world’s poorest countries, irrespective of the settlement of other issues in the Doha Round,” Ms Gillard said.

“Tonight I pledge that the world’s least developed countries will have access to Australia’s market free of tariffs and quotas for 100 per cent of the goods they export to our country.”

Ms Gillard urged other countries to follow Australia’s lead ahead of the biennial meeting of trade ministers in Geneva in December.

“These pledges should be unconditional. They shouldn’t be contingent upon the settlement of other issues in the Doha negotiations,” she said.

Australia is also willing to help lead the global fight against protectionism, the prime minister said.

She announced that her government would make a commitment at the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial meeting not to increase protections while the Doha negotiations were at standstill.

“This is an essential policy prescription if an enduring global economic recovery is to be achieved,” she said.

The Doha trade negotiations needed a new direction, Ms Gillard said.

“It’s time to consider breaking the Doha Round into more manageable parts and bringing them to successful conclusion as negotiations are completed,” she said.

“We should also contemplate negotiating new issues, in parallel with Doha but beyond the existing Doha mandate, to ensure the World Trade Organisation keeps pace with the demands of the modern economy.”

Doha was intended to be a development round, Ms Gillard said.

“It must deliver greatly improved market access for the world’s least developed countries, almost a third of them commonwealth nations.”

Detention centres breaking people: report

Self-harm, suicide attempts and asylum seekers drugged up on anti-depressants have become the norm in Australian immigration detention centres, detainees say.

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Afghan Hazara refugee Mohammed Baig saw heartbreaking scenes during his immigration detention at the Curtin detention centre in the Kimberley, 2000km north of Perth.

“The hanging, killing, cutting themself (sic), it was normal,” he told ABC television’s Four Corners on Monday night.

Another detainee, Jaffa, said: “The stress of being in prison … is just killing me day by day.”

Abdul Hamidi – who was at Curtin, Woomera, Port Hedland and Baxter – told the program he fell into a similar spiral of despair.

“In Curtin I did cut myself again, my arms, my stomach, my chest. I tried to talk to them, like, `I’m not well, I need help’,” he said.

“Nobody listens.”

His lawyer Ben Phi said Mr Hamidi was a broken man.

“His doctors say that … to the best of their knowledge he’s never going to work again,” he said.

“It’s my sincere hope that with specialist medical attention he will get back to a point where he can start to, I guess, interact at least a bit better with society.”

Australian Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, who has visited a number of centres, said a 17-year-old girl in detention had given a telling insight into her mindset.

“I was sitting there, her room is covered in drawings of ropes hanging people, of graves,” the senator said.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told the program the government was improving the system and making better use of community detention.

“I accept that in some cases it can be better to move people into the community before their claim is processed,” Mr Bowen said.

“And in fact in the last year we’ve released more people out of detention than have gone into it and that’s the first time that’s happened in a long time.”

But psychiatrist Dr Suresh Sundaram, who recently visited Curtin to report for the Human Rights Commission, says mandatory detention is ruining lives.

“Those mental health problems persist for quite a protracted period of time following resettlement in the general community,” she said.

“We saw lots of people with significant post-traumatic stress disorder.”

She said anti-depressants were being used for sleeplessness.

“It is concerning that people are being given medication not for its approved indication,” she said.

Immigration department spokesman Sandi Logan said the department aimed to ensure the “mental health needs” were addressed.

“We need to ensure their mental and physical health is as good as possible so when the time comes either to be released on a visa or to be returned home they are in as best health as possible,” Mr Logan said.

An alliance of 13 Australian health organisations has called on the federal government to immediately launch an independent investigation into the standards of mental health care in Australia’s immigration detention centres.

The organisations, including the Australian Medical Association, Sane Australia and Mental Health Council of Australia, say it is “clear that conditions inside detention centres are unacceptable”.

“The mental health of immigration detainees can’t wait until the political debate over the appropriateness of immigration detention has been resolved,” the alliance said in a statement on Monday.

Alonso leaves hospital, to miss final test

The Spaniard, a double world champion, smiled and waved to reporters and fans as he left the hospital at around 1430 local time.

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McLaren said in a statement that the 33-year-old would return to his family home in northern Spain for further rest and recuperation and would not be back in the car before the Australian season-opener on March 15.

“He will sit out this week’s final winter test, at which he was due to share driving duties with Jenson Button,” the team said.

“Kevin Magnussen, McLaren-Honda’s test and reserve driver, will replace him.”

Button will be first in the car at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday. Denmark’s Magnussen raced for the team last season when they had Mercedes engines rather than the current Honda power unit.

Alonso has been in hospital since the crash on Sunday, with speculation running wild about what really happened when he hit the wall at the high speed Turn Three.

McLaren issued a detailed statement on Monday blaming gusting wind and ruling out any mechanical failure but that explanation, and Alonso’s lengthy stay in hospital, has failed to silence all of the doubters.

The car did not appear significantly damaged after the impact and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, Alonso’s replacement at the Italian team, told reporters the Spaniard’s crash had appeared ‘strange’ to him.

McLaren, whose racing director Eric Boullier initially played down the crash as a “just one of those things that happens in testing”, have rejected speculation that Alonso might have been rendered unconscious by an electrical fault.

The team, who have had a difficult pre-season with new partners Honda, said that rumour was “simply not true”.

They have not said how fast he was going at the time of impact or given a precise reading of the G-forces he sustained, however.

(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris and Justin Palmer)

Joint bidders get 50.1% of Macarthur

Macarthur Coal is one of the nation’s last independent coal producers and is the subject of a $4.

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9 billion bid by US-based Peabody Energy and Belgium steel-maker ArcelorMittal through their equal joint venture bid vehicle, PEAM Coal Pty Ltd.

“PEAMCoal Pty Ltd disclosed today that it has a relevant interest in approximately 59.85 per cent of the Macarthur shares, excluding shares subject to the Institutional Acceptance Facility (IAF).

“As a result, the minimum acceptance condition of 50.01 per cent has been satisfied and PEAMCoal has declared the offer unconditional,” the joint bidders said in a statement on Monday, issued after the close of share trading.

“Those shares subject to IAF instructions will now be converted into actual acceptances of the offer.”

PEAMCoal will now proceed to appoint representatives to the Macarthur board.

“We are pleased to obtain a controlling interest in Macarthur Coal and look forward to advancing the company’s operating performance and growth initiatives, Peabody Energy chairman and chief executive Gregory Boyce said in the statement.

ArcelorMittal chief financial officer Aditya Mittal said in a statement that he encouraged “remaining Macarthur shareholders to accept without delay and improve their chances of receiving the premium $16.25 per share price”, should the bid vehicle reach the 90 per cent compulsory acquisition threshold..

PEAMCoal has said previously that it would increase the offer price for all shareholders from $16.00 to $16.25 per share if PEAMCoal acquires relevant interests in at least 90 per cent of Macarthur shares by 2000 AEDT on 11 November.

The statement also said that all participating members of the Macarthur board continue to recommend that Macarthur shareholders accept the PEAMCoal offer.

China’s state-owned invement company Citic, which held a 25.2 per cent shareholding in Macarthur, late last week agreed to sell its stake to Peabody Energy and ArcelorMittal.

Citic’s decision to accept the offer gave the bidders control of 49.2 per cent of Macarthur.

A further 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the shares are believed to be held by hedge funds.

Macarthur had rejected an original $16 approach in July from Peabody because it had no-shop provisions – those that bar the seller from soliciting a purchase proposal from any other party.

That prompted the pair to go hostile with a then-$15.50 bid, raised to $16 a share in August.

Macarthur is the world’s largest exporter of low-volatile Pulverised Coal Injection (LV-PCI) coal used in the production of steel.

The product is mined at Macarthur’s Coppabella, Moorvale and Middlemount mines, all in Queensland.

Peabody Energy is the world’s biggest non-government coalminer and Arcelor is the world’s biggest steelmaker.

Macarthur Coal shares closed down two cents at $16.20 on Monday.

Greece suspends professional soccer indefinitely

The move follows a pitch invasion at the end of the Athens derby last weekend and a Super League board meeting which ended in a brawl on Tuesday, with Greece’s recently-elected Syriza ruling party aiming to stamp out the problem of crowd violence.

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“What we have been informed is that the Super League and the Football League have been suspended indefinitely,” Super League president Giorgos Borovilos told reporters.

“We have a new government who are looking to bring this subject up for discussion and implement state laws related to it.”

Greece’s Sports Minister Stavros Kontonis met Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Wednesday to discuss the matter and held further meetings with Super League president Giorgos Borovilos.

Borovilos said it had not yet been decided how long matches would be suspended and on what conditions they would resume, adding that “some things are not done in one or two weeks. “The government wants games to start again as soon as possible, but for that they want to see immediate reactions from all of us,” he said.

“There will be further discussions between ourselves, the board of the Hellenic Football Federation (EPO) and the Football League where we will see how we can build legislative frameworks and implement security measures to ensure football is safe”.

It is the third time this season that professional soccer in Greece has been shut down.

Matches were halted for one week last September following the death of a soccer fan after violent clashes at a third division match between Ethnikos Piraeus and Irodotos. The authorities then suspended games last November after Christoforos Zografos, assistant director of the Central Refereeing Committee(KED), was taken to hospital following a violent assault.

OUT OF CONTROL

Panathinaikos’s 2-1 derby win over Olympiakos Piraeus two days ago ended with a pitch invasion after flares were thrown onto the field at various times during the match, one of which hit the Olympiakos midfielder Pajtim Kasami on the arm.

Kontonis told national TV news channel Skai: “What went on during the (Athens) derby and what has been happening in other stadiums in the past has surpassed all limits… fans invading the pitch, throwing flares that are aimed to hurt people; all this is unthinkable and this situation cannot continue.

“The government will not simply monitor these phenomena in silence. What happened yesterday shows the reality.

“When we see this violence from the stadium go to a boardroom of a football institution, then you understand that the situation is completely out of control.”

A Super League board meeting ended abruptly on Tuesday when a verbal spat between Olympiakos Piraeus president Evangelos Marinakis and his Panathinaikos counterpart Giannis Alafouzos sparked a violent scuffle with tensions high following the trouble at the Athens derby.

The incident meant the meeting between the presidents of all Greece’s top flight clubs came to a premature end with Alafouzos telling reporters his deputy Vasilis Konstantinou suffered a cut lip from a blow by one of Marinakis’s bodyguards.

“We were assaulted,” he said. “Mr Marinakis threw a glass of water at me and then his bodyguard threw a punch at Mr Konstantinou. I cannot believe that a Super League board meeting had such violence.”

(Editing by Ken Ferris)

Top rugby award for France’s Dusautoir

France captain Thierry Dusautoir completed a notable double on Monday when he was named International Rugby Board player of the year, a day after winning man-of-the-match honours in the World Cup final.

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New Zealand were named team of the year, with All Blacks boss Graham Henry the coach of the year.

Flanker Dusautoir saw off competition for the award from the All Blacks trio of rival flanker Jerome Kaino, centre Ma’a Nonu and halfback Piri Weepu, who all played against him in Sunday’s final.

Also on the shortlist were Australia’s duo of flanker David Pocock and halfback Will Genia, members of the Wallabies side who finished third at the World Cup.

Australians didn’t walk away empty handed from the awards night though with Radike Samo’s remarkable individual five-pointer for Australia in the final Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup match against New Zealand named try of the year while former Wallabies captain George Smith received the IRPA special merit award.

But blindside flanker Dusautoir was the man of the night, his effort all the more impressive given France lost the final, going down 8-7 to tournament hosts New Zealand at Eden Park despite Dusautoir’s early second-half try.

Dusautoir has been at the helm during some of French rugby’s darkest recent days, notably a Six Nations defeat by Italy, two heavy losses to South Africa and Argentina, and then a record 59-16 loss to Australia, and in this World Cup a shock pool defeat by Tonga.

Amid rumours of splits between management and the World Cup squad, Dusautoir had to ride out public criticism of the players from France coach Marc Lievremont and ridicule from an unforgiving French press.

Dusautoir sprang to prominence when he produced an astonishing 38 tackles playing as blindside flanker in France’s stunning 2007 World Cup quarter-final victory over New Zealand.

Taciturn, in a style very different to that of loquacious former captains Fabien Galthie and Raphael Ibanez, Dusautoir said French rugby chiefs were well aware of his approach before they chose him as skipper.

“I’m maybe not quite as exuberant but I’m someone who analyses things and says measured things,” said the 29-year-old Toulouse back-row forward.

“It’s the way I am, I’m not going to change. They knew that I was like that when they selected me.”

In 2010, Dusautoir, who has won three French titles with Biarritz and Toulouse and one European Cup with the latter side, captained France to their first Six Nations Grand Slam since 2004.

Born in the Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan, to an Ivorian mother and French father, Dusautoir only arrived in France at the age of 10.

His main sport as a youngster was judo, before he took up rugby at the relatively late age of 16.

After qualifying for the knockout phase here despite losing pool matches to New Zealand and Tonga, the French displayed their mettle in a 19-12 quarter-final win over England, before staunch defence saw them home 9-8 against a 14-man Wales.

And, led by the outstanding Dusautoir, they so nearly achieved what would have been arguably the most impressive World Cup final win of them all on Sunday.

British PM says ‘no bad blood’ on EU

British Prime Minister David Cameron insists there is ‘no bad blood’ after 79 of his Conservative MPs defied his orders to vote in favour of a referendum on UK membership of the EU.

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The government won the House of Commons vote late on Monday by 483 votes to 111 with support from the Liberal Democrats, the Tories’ euro-friendly junior coalition partners, and the main opposition Labour Party.

But in the biggest show of internal dissent in his 18 months in charge, the Tory eurosceptic wing ignored Cameron’s plea that it was the wrong time for a referendum because of the debt crisis engulfing the eurozone.

After helping orchestrate the largest ever Conservative rebellion over Europe, senior backbench MP Mark Pritchard insisted it would become “more rather than less of an issue” in the months to come.

However, Cameron played down suggestions of lasting damage to his party, which suffered bitter divisions over Europe in the 1990s.

“This has always been a difficult issue for my party, it always will be, but the important thing is to do the right thing for the country,” he said, arguing that now was not the right time to have a vote on EU membership.

“I understand why people feel strongly and we will go forward together and tackle the difficult decisions that the country face.

“But you have to do the right thing and give a lead in politics and that was what yesterday was about.”

Cameron added: “What I would say from last night is there’s no bad blood, there’s no rancour, no bitterness.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband described the result as “a humiliation” for Cameron.

The vote took place against a backdrop of intense negotiations on the eurozone debt crisis, which prompted French President Nicolas Sarkozy to criticise Cameron for interfering during a stormy Brussels summit on Sunday.

Cameron returns for a European Council meeting on Wednesday, the same day as crunch eurozone talks during which the 17 countries in the single currency hope to thrash out a plan to boost confidence after months of uncertainty.

Official figures show 79 of the Conservative party’s 305 MPs voted against the government on Monday night with two abstaining, in the biggest rebellion over Europe in the history of the party of Margaret Thatcher.

In 1993, 41 MPs defied then-leader John Major over the Maastricht treaty.

Members who defied the three-line whip, the strictest party device used in parliament, will face internal disciplinary action, and two ministerial aides, Adam Holloway and Stewart Jackson, have already lost their jobs.

Although the vote was not legally binding, polls suggest the rebels had the public on their side.

A ComRes survey on Monday revealed that 68 per cent of Britons support a national vote on EU membership, while an ICM poll published on Tuesday found 49 per cent want to leave Europe, compared to 41 per cent who want to stay.

Opening the debate on Monday, Cameron said he sympathised with those who wanted a new relationship with Brussels and promised reform.

But he said: “It’s not the right time, at this moment of economic crisis, to launch legislation that includes an in-out referendum. When your neighbour’s house is on fire, your first impulse should be to help him put out the flames.”

The proposed referendum would have asked the British public if they wanted to remain in the EU, leave or renegotiate membership, in the first such vote since 1975.

Stosur calm ahead of Sharapova match-up

Samantha Stosur is taking a relaxed attitude into her opening match against nemesis Maria Sharapova at this week’s season-ending WTA championships in Istanbul.

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Stosur has never beaten the Russian in nine encounters, a run dating back to 2004, ahead of Tuesday’s round robin match (Wednesday AM AEDT) at the Sinan Erdem Arena.

The expectations on the Australian this week have been tempered by the sight of Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka on her half of the elite $A4.8m tournament.

Stosur has never defeated Azarenka in four matches while the Queenslander enjoys a 5-0 win-loss record against Li Na, the other competitor in the group.

The US Open champion said the quality of the eight-player field and topsy-turvy nature of women’s tennis at the moment made it hard to predict results.

“In some ways it does take pressure off knowing you just have to play well,” she said.

“It is the last tournament of the year I don’t think there is too much to lose for everyone.

“We just want put it all out there and see what happens.”

Stosur has had major problems in the past dealing with Sharapova, the Australian’s heavy top-spin putting the ball in the tall three-time grand slam winners strike zone.

“If I am playing some of the shorter girls then my shots do bounce up higher and it is out of their zone whereas if you are playing someone six foot whatever, that hitting zone is much nicer for them,” she said.

“But maybe that is where you need to work things out and adjust things slightly.”

The top two players from the group progress to Saturday’s semi-final.

Players earn a minimum of $A106,000 just for turning up, with the winner collecting up to $A1.68m for a week’s work.

Stosur has the chance to climb as high as No.2 in the world if results fall her way in Istanbul.

Being so close to the end for the season, Stosur said players would be determined to finish their campaigns on a high.

“We all know we’re close to the end of year, but you have five or six days left and you can put absolutely everything into that event, everything into that match,” she said.

“You can’t leave anything to chance when you’re playing the best in the world.”

Sheens keen not to rush back Inglis

Inglis is recovering from minor off-season knee surgery and has not played since sustaining ankle syndesmosis in South Sydney’s defeat to Brisbane in September.

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Although the Queensland centre was passed fit to fly to the UK with the rest of the squad last week, Sheens is not keen to rush him back, with Chris Lawrence and Willie Tonga both impressing in the 42-6 win over the Kiwis in Newcastle.

The veteran coach hinted on Monday that the 24-year-old may return for the second game against England at Wembley on November 5, which he’s pinpointed as the team’s pivotal fixture.

“Greg’s in full training,” Sheens said.

“Whether we’ll use him in the first game or the second game will be determined by this week’s training.

“Wembley is England’s spiritual home.

“Australia played there in ’94 and lost the first Test to England so I’m very, very wary of England at Wembley.

“And so, if you lose to New Zealand, you can find yourselves out of the tournament. It’s a tough draw for us.”

The emphatic win over New Zealand at Ausgrid Stadium has seen the bookies make the Kangaroos red-hot favourites to repeat their success of 2009.

However, Sheens believes that victory will count for nothing when the two teams run out at the homely surroundings of the 13,000-capacity Halliwell Jones Stadium on Friday.

“If anything, it works in reverse,” he said.

“They will fire up from that. We’ve got to fight to maintain an intensity. We still felt we owed them for last year’s Four Nations so there’s a bit of an element of that and I’ll be using that a little bit for this game too.”

Gaddafi body buried in secret

Muammar Gaddafi’s body has been buried in secret after being displayed in public, in an ignominious end for Libya’s longtime ruler.

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The last top figures of his ousted regime, Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, meanwhile, were poised to cross the border into Niger.

Saif al-Islam was “near the Niger border, he hasn’t entered Niger yet but he’s close”, a local official from the northern Niger Agadez region said.

A Misrata military council member said Gaddafi was buried on Monday night in a religious ceremony, along with another of his sons, Mutassim and former defence minister Abu Bakr Yunis Jaber.

The bodies had been put on display in a market freezer on the outskirts of Misrata, with thousands of Libyans queuing up since Friday to view and photograph them.

According to guards at the entrance to the market, a convoy of four or five military vehicles took the bodies away to an unknown location, being kept secret to avoid the site turning into a rallying point for Gaddafi supporters.

Three Muslim religious figures loyal to the ousted dictator prayed and performed a religious ceremony before the burial, according to the military council member.

The overnight burials come amid raging controversy over the circumstances of Gaddafi’s death after he was taken alive last Thursday during the fall of his hometown Sirte, the last hold out after an eight-month armed revolt.

Libya’s interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil said on Monday that a commission of inquiry is to probe the strongman’s killing after concerns raised by foreign governments and rights group.

Disquiet has grown internationally over how Gaddafi met his end after NTC fighters hauled him out of a culvert where he was hiding following NATO air strikes on the convoy in which he had been trying to flee his falling hometown.

Mobile phone videos show him still alive at that point.

Libya’s interim prime minister Mahmud Jibril has said an autopsy report showed Gaddafi was killed in “crossfire from both sides.”

On the political and military front, the NTC said it wants NATO to extend its mission in the north African country.

“I ask NATO to remain at least for another month,” said interim oil and finance minister Ali Tarhuni, four days after the military alliance announced plans to end its seven-month mission on October 31.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ambassadors are scheduled to meet on Wednesday to make a formal decision on a preliminary agreement on the end of the mission.

Meanwhile a fuel tank exploded in Sirte late on Monday killing more than 100 people, NTC military commander Leith Mohammed said.

“There was an enormous explosion and a huge fire. More than 100 people were killed and 50 others wounded,” he said. The scene was “a heart wrenching spectacle with dozens of charred bodies”.

The accidental explosion, apparently caused by a spark from a nearby electricity generator, happened as a crowd of people waited near the fuel tank to fill up their cars.

Some of the victims had returned to the town to inspect the damage to their properties, the NTC commander added.

Some of Sirte’s residents, who numbered 120,000 before the conflict, have returned to salvage the remains of their personal belongings. But few are expected to stay.