GRANTS AVAILABLE TO CELEBRATE NSW GRANDPARENTS DAY

The Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, today encouraged local organisations to celebrate the valuable contribution grandparents and older people make in the Coffs Harbour electorate by applying for funding available under the NSW Government’s Grandparents Day event grants program.

This program will enable community organisations, small businesses and local councils to host events that celebrate grandparents and older people for NSW Grandparents Day on Sunday 29 October 2017.

“Grandparents play a significant role in the home and the community, and this extra funding is the NSW Government’s way of thanking them for their hard work,” Mr Fraser said.

“This is the perfect time to show our recognition and support for grandparents and older people in the Coffs Harbour electorate for the amazing role they play in our lives.

“I urge everyone to connect across generations and celebrate grandparents and older people by organising an event in the community.”

Minister for Ageing, Tanya Davies said funding for local events on Grandparents Day will be doubled to $200,000 this year as part of the NSW Government’s continued commitment to seniors across the state.

“I encourage organisations planning NSW Grandparents Day events to focus on activities that help older people, regardless of their age or ability, stay connected and contribute to their communities.”

For the first time, there are three funding categories available this year through the grants program, offering:

  • Tier 1 Grants of up to $1,000 for small scale local events or activities targeted at community organisations and schools.
  • Tier 2 Grants from $1,001 to $5,000 for local community events.
  • Tier 3 Grants from $5,001 to 10,000 for large scale community events targeted at local councils in partnership with organisations and groups.

Applications for the NSW Grandparents Day event grants program are now open.

For more information on how to apply visit  www.grandparentsday.nsw.gov.au

‘NSW BOATING APPLICATIONS OPEN

The Member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser, today announced applications are now open for round 2 of the NSW Boating Program which is set to commit $17 million to improve boating facilities across NSW.

“We’re thrilled to put out a call for applications for the next round of the $70 million NSW Boating Now program, a NSW Government initiative to deliver accessible, modern and safe boating infrastructure where it’s needed most,” Mr Fraser said.

“This adds to the $37.5 million which was allocated in 2015 to 192 round one priority projects which are currently being delivered and are already making a massive improvement to boating facilities in regional communities.

“These projects were identified during consultation with the people who use these waterways the most to ensure that every project delivered through the program helps provide a great boating experience in NSW.”

Councils, community groups and the boating industry are invited to submit applications for funding, which will be allocated according to the 11 Regional Boating Plans developed in consultation with Councils, stakeholders and waterways users.

“This is about giving keen boaters everywhere what they need – better quality facilities and continual improvements in safety and accessibility,” Mr Fraser said.

“Under round 2, consideration will be given to priority projects that were identified during consultation on the Regional Boating Plans and any new projects identified by Councils or other delivery partners.”

To find out more about the second round of NSW Boating Now head to www.rms.nsw.gov.au/boatingnow

Melting and cracking – is Antarctica falling apart?

Melting and cracking

Although fracturing and surface melting on the Larsen C ice shelf might sound like indicators of climate change, these processes are natural

 
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Aerial footage of the split in the Larsen C ice shelf taken at the start of the year.

Antarctica boasts a great many superlatives: it is the driest continent, the coldest, the remotest, the windiest and the highest on average. Right now, during midwinter, it is also the darkest. As a rift on the continent’s Larsen C ice shelf lengthens and gets closer to the ice front, we are anticipating the detachment of a large tabular iceberg within the next few weeks.

This comes after observations of a waterfall on another ice shelf last summer, reports of extensive surface melting on several ice shelves and, in a report last week, indications of a widespread surface-melting event, which included rainfall as far as 82° south, during the 2015-16 El Niño. Are glaciologists shocked by any of this? Is Antarctica going to melt away? Is Larsen C about to collapse?

The answer to these questions is no. Glaciologists are not alarmed about most of these processes; they are examples of Antarctica simply doing what we know Antarctica has done for thousands of years. But because there is a potential link between the ice sheet and climate change, glaciologists are suddenly faced with a situation where the spotlight is on our science on a seemingly daily basis, and every time a crack grows, or a meltstream forms, it becomes news. The situation is a conundrum: we want people to be aware of Antarctica and concerned about what might happen there in the near future as climate changes. But hyping research results to sound like climate change, when they are just improved understanding of natural behaviour, is misleading.

To understand all of this, we need to think about how Antarctica works. The ice sheet stores 90% of Earth’s freshwater, which would translate to about 60m of sea-level rise around the globe if it all melted. If Larsen C were to disappear, its tributaries could contribute about 1cm to the global sea level.

The ice gets there through snowfall, just like the ski slopes at Chamonix, but, in Antarctica, with annual average temperatures ranging from -5C to -60C, most of the snow that falls over winter remains at the end of each summer. Over millions of years, snowfall has been added, buried and compacted by new snowfall, and an ice sheet has grown.

Diagram showing an Antarctic ice shelf
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Diagram showing an Antarctic ice shelf Illustration: Jennifer Matthews

Once the ice is thick enough, it flows downhill towards the ocean, where it lifts off the ground and floats, forming an ice shelf. In contact with the ocean below and the atmosphere above, this is where the “rubber hits the road”: to maintain its size, the ice sheet must shed the extra ice it gains through snowfall, which it does through two processes that both occur at the ice shelves – calving of icebergs at the front, and melting underneath. Ice shelves also hold back the flow of the grounded ice; if shedding from ice shelves exceeds the gains from snowfall, they will shrink, and then glaciers feeding them will feel less resistance to flow and speed up, and sea level will rise.

The Larsen C rift is like a dozen other rifts observed in Antarctica before. What looks like an enormous loss is just ordinary housekeeping for this part of Antarctica. An iceberg, even one as large as Delaware or a quarter of the size of Wales, is small compared to the whole ice sheet, which averages 1.4 miles thick and is larger in area than Australia. Think of it as one grain in a bag of rice. Similarly, waterfalls off the front of the ice shelf are not a catastrophe. Surface melt is common and occurs every summer as temperatures rise above 0C, as reported in papers published in the 1990s.

So, while ice fracturing and surface melting may sound like signs of climate change in action in Antarctica, they are really part of the background against which we must look for real change. Real changes are happening there, and when we report them they need to stand out. Previous collapse events involved large amounts of surface melt that forms ponds on an ice shelf that had already weakened. We have not observed this on Larsen C. We will continue to monitor Antarctica by satellites and from the ground, but we will not cry wolf about an imminent collapse of Larsen C.

  • Helen Amanda Fricker is a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
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Gulf crisis: Trump escalates row by accusing Qatar of sponsoring terror

Saudi Arabia’s billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal has come to Donald Trump’s financial rescue in the past. Photograph: Fayez Nureldine/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s decision to back the blockade of Qatar – even as US diplomats have sharply criticised the embargo – follows decades of private business dealings by the US president with the countries leading the charge against the small Gulf nation.

Trump’s financial history with Saudi Arabia, which is leading the blockade, and Saudi ally the United Arab Emirates, includes the purchase of tens of millions of dollars in Trump’s real estate properties by wealthy Saudis over the years. The situation raises questions about whether the president’s personal financial relationships are dictating US policy, rather than his stated claims that he is concerned about Qatar’s alleged link to terror financing.

There is no evidence that Trump has been untruthful about his reasons to support the blockade. But the US State Department and the Pentagon – acutely aware of Qatar’s role hosting thousands of US and US-led coalition forces on a large airbase south-west of Doha – have taken different positions from the White House. A State Department spokeswoman recently said that the Saudi and UAE move against Qatar was “mystifying”.

Saudi Arabia, however, has been an important partner to the president. In 1995, when Trump was struggling to make payments on one of his most important New York properties, the landmark Plaza Hotel, it was Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a Saudi prince, who came to his rescue with an investment, which relegated Trump to a minority shareholder in the property. A few years earlier, in 1991, bin Talal bought a huge yacht, the Trump Princess, from creditors at a time when Trump’s other big venture, the Atlantic City casinos, were under pressure.

It does not mean the two have always had a warm relationship. The Saudi prince fired off an angry tweet in June 2016 after then-candidate Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, describing the president as a “disgrace not only to the GOP but to all America”. When Trump won the presidency bin Talal congratulated him.

“They spend $40m, $50m. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much,” he said.

More recently, the Saudi government invested $20bn in a fund earmarked for US infrastructure, part of a broader policy that has been endorsed by the White House. The fund is being administered by Blackstone, which also has ties to Trump and his family.

A lawsuit brought by two Democratic officials – from the US state of Maryland and the DC – named Saudi Arabia as one of several foreign countries that have made payments to Trump’s businesses in alleged violation of an anti-corruption clause in the US constitution. The lawsuit cites a public relations firm that was hired by Saudi Arabia that has spent $270,000 on rooms and meals at Trump’s DC hotel.

The White House has dismissed the legal suit as a partisan attack.

Dubai has also been an important bright spot for Trump’s business. According to election-related financial disclosures, The Trump Organization, which is run by the president’s son, Donald Jr, has been paid between $2m to $10m for golfing projects in Dubai that bear Trump’s name and are being built by a group called DAMAC Properties, which is owned by a Emirati billionaire named Hussain Sajwani.

According to an account in the New York Times, Sajwani, who attended Trump’s New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, offered to pay Trump an additional $2bn to develop more properties.

A 16 May post on Sajwani’s Instagram account showed him having a meal with Trump Jr, who Sajwani called his “dear friend and business partner”.

Experts condemn Pauline Hanson’s comments about children with autism

Senator suggests teaching children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms disadvantages other students

Pauline Hanson speaks on the government’s schools funding package on Wednesday.
Pauline Hanson speaks on the government’s schools funding package on Wednesday. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Education experts have condemned the One Nation leader, Pauline Hanson, for suggesting children with autism should be removed from mainstream classrooms so other students aren’t held back.

The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, and Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young also rebuked Hanson for the remarks.

But the former prime minister Tony Abbott refused to join the criticism, saying it was not his practice to offer a running commentary on “every single member of the Senate”.

She insisted parents and teachers had raised the matter with her, saying teachers were devoting too much time to children with disabilities, to the detriment of other students in the classroom.

 Children with special needs should be taught in dedicated classrooms where they could be looked after and given special attention, she said.

“I hear so many times from parents and teachers whose time is taken up with children in the classroom where they have a disability, or where they are autistic, that it is taking up the teacher’s time,” Hanson said.

“These kids have a right to an education by all means, but if there is a number of them these children should actually go into a special classroom, looked after and given that special attention.

“Most of the time the teacher spends so much time on them they forget about the child who … wants to go ahead in leaps and bounds in their education, but are held back by those because the teachers spend time with them.

“I’m not denying them. If it was one of my children I’d love all the time given to them, to give them those opportunities. But it is about the loss [for] our other kids.

“I think that we have more autistic children and yet we are not providing the special classrooms or the schools for these autistic children, and if there are, they’re at huge expense to parents.

It’s no good saying ‘We’ve got to allow these kids to feel good about themselves and we don’t want to upset them and make them feel hurt’, and I understand that.“But we have to be realistic at times and consider the impact that is having on other children in that classroom.”

She said Australia could not afford to hold students back as students in other countries overtook them in educational rankings.

“All children, with and without disabilities, have a legislated right to be educated in their local neighbourhood school, and Senator Hanson’s comments show a disregard for Australia’s legislative provisions and international human rights obligations,” said a joint statement from Prof Lorraine Graham, senior lecturers Shiralee Poed and Lisa Mckay-Brown, and lecturers Sharon Klieve and Kate Leigh, from the Melbourne graduate school of education.

David Roy, from the University of Newcastle’s school of education, told Fairfax Media Hanson’s comments were not borne out by evidence.

“Children with a disability may have a deficit in one area, but will often and regularly have an asset in the other so they can support other children in the classroom who aren’t good with language or literacy, who aren’t good with maths … and see an alternative way of doing something.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was “heartbreaking and upsetting” for parents of children with autism to hear Hanson’s comments.

He read to parliament an email from a parent he had received in response to Hanson’s comments

“What the senator is saying is that our clever, funny, naughty, spunky kid doesn’t deserve a good education,” the letter said.
“That she doesn’t deserve the same opportunities as other kids. That she is lesser. Not worthy. Not really one of us.”

Hanson-Young condemned the One Nation leader’s comments. “It’s disgusting that Pauline Hanson thinks kids with autism should not be in our classrooms … what sort of woman is Pauline Hanson, what sort of mother? It is disgusting.”

Crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie said she wanted children with disabilities in mainstream classrooms because it was great for all students, including those without disabilities.

“They learn compassion. They learn how to deal with these matters. It gives them coping mechanisms for the rest of their lives. Everybody wins out with this,” she told parliament.

Autism Awareness Australia said Hanson’s comments were “appalling, archaic and cruel”.

Its chief executive, Nicole Rogerson, described Senator Hanson as a “truly deplorable woman”.

“@PaulineHansonOz is a disgrace. Dangerous, hurtful and archaic thinking,” she tweeted. “This is one of the most disgusting things a member of parliament could say.”

Paris agreement’s 1.5C target ‘only way’ to save coral reefs,

First global assessment of climate change impact on world heritage-listed reefs says local efforts are ‘no longer sufficient’

Great Barrier Reef bleaching
The report says the Great Barrier Reef was ‘seriously affected’ by bleaching this year and last, despite considerable investment in efforts to build resilience. Photograph: Greg Torda/EPA

Greater emissions reductions and delivering on the Paris climate agreement are now “the only opportunity” to save coral reefs the world over from decline, with local responses no longer sufficient, a report by Unesco has found.

The first global scientific assessment of the impacts of climate change on the 29 world heritage-listed coral reefs, published on Saturday, found that the frequency, intensity and duration of heat-stress events had worsened with increasing global warming, with massive consequences for the 29 world heritage sites.

Analysis of recent studies and newly-developed data from the US national ocean and atmospheric administration (NOAA) coral-reef watch showed that 13 of the 29 listed reefs had been exposed to levels of heat stress that cause coral bleaching, on average more than twice per decade from 1985 to 2013.

Bleaching had occurred more frequently in recent years than in decades prior, with coral mortality during the third global bleaching event from mid-2014 to mid-2017 “among the worst ever recorded”. Twenty-one listed sites had suffered severe and/or repeated heat stress in the last three years.

Compounding the devastating impact of bleaching – which can take coral communities at least 15 to 25 years to recover from – were more frequent and more severe extreme weather events, increasing ocean acidification, and pollution.

The Great Barrier Reef, “one of the world’s most iconic coral reef systems” and among four of the total 29 listed located in Australia, had been “seriously affected” by back-to-back severe bleaching events this year and last, despite considerable investment in efforts to build resilience.

Professor Terry Hughes, director of the Australian Research Council centre of excellence for coral reef studies in Townsville, provided an analysis of bleaching records for the report. “It basically makes the point that everywhere is bleaching,” he said. “It’s certainly not a phenomenon only on the Great Barrier Reef.”

Australia’s scientific community had appealed to the UN world heritage committee to list the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger” last year. Hughes said this was “not on the current agenda”, as the committee awaited the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s third outlook report due in 2019.

The Unesco report found that local efforts to increase reefs’ resilience “remain necessary but are no longer sufficient” without complementary national and international efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels – the most ambitious target set by the Paris agreement, and understood to be the maximum possible to secure coral reefs’ long-term survival.

“We need all of the above,” said Jon Day, a former director with the Great Barrier marine park authority, now at James Cook University. “We can’t just assume local responses are enough, and they must be augmented by global’s efforts too.”

He said while the world heritage convention aimed to “transmit the world heritage values” of listed sites for future generations, a natural system would inevitably change with time. “The question is what is acceptable change, and the reported levels of coral bleaching and coral mortality can hardly be considered by anyone to be acceptable.”

The report found that, if emissions were to follow their current trajectory and not decline – similar to a “business-as-usual scenario” – 25 of the 29 world heritage reefs (68%) would suffer severe bleaching twice per decade by 2040, rapidly killing most corals present and preventing successful reproduction necessary for their recovery.

Reducing emissions so that they peak around 2040 and then decline would reduce that number of affected sites to 14 (48%), and allow an extra 12 years, on average, for them to recover.

Hughes said the prospects of coral reefs’ long-term survival was at a crossroads, with the worst-case scenario able to be avoided only “if we quickly adopt the 1.5C target”.

“1.5C or 2C degrees won’t be a particularly comfortable place for reefs – they will still see quite regular bleaching and they will be different to how they were 15 or 20 years ago – but they will be able to survive.”

He said he was optimistic about reefs’ prospects, given that the business-as-usual path was looking “increasingly unlikely” as cities and states the world over moved to exceed federal or commonwealth commitments to curbing emissions.

A draft decision prepared by Unesco, to be addressed by the world heritage committee at its meeting in Krakow in Poland from 2 to 12 July, had stated the report’s findings were of “utmost concern”.

But Day said it was “very disappointing” that the draft decision only committed to further studies at this stage: “How much evidence do they need?”

Trump questions impartiality of Russia investigation chief Robert Mueller

Trump says Mueller, a former FBI director, is ‘good friends’ with James Comey and that his Russia investigation staff ‘are all Hillary Clinton supporters’

Robert Mueller leaves the Capitol building in Washington DC on Wednesday.
Robert Mueller leaves the Capitol building in Washington DC on Wednesday. Photograph: Xinhua/Barcroft Images

Donald Trump has questioned the impartiality of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the US election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

In an interview with Fox News aired Friday morning, Trump argued that Mueller, a former FBI director, is “good friends” with James Comey, Mueller’s successor at the spy agency whom Trump fired on 9 May. Trump later acknowledged he took this step with the Russia investigation in mind.

When George W Bush was president, Mueller and Comey worked together – Mueller as FBI director and Comey as deputy attorney general.

Trump also said that some of the staffers that Mueller has hired for his investigation “are all Hillary Clinton supporters”. US news reports say some of these staffers have made campaign contributions to Democratic candidates.

Asked point blank if Mueller should recuse himself from the Russia investigation, Trump said: “Well, he’s very, very good friends with Comey, which is very bothersome. But he’s also – we’re going to have to see.”

Trump added: “I mean we’re going to have to see in terms – look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey.”

Trump did say, however, that Mueller is an “honorable man”.

Trump also claimed he had always told a “straight story” about whether he recorded his private conversations with Comey.

He repeated his statement from Thursday that he had never made “tapes” of their conversations – despite an earlier menacing tweet and comments suggesting he might have – but added that when Comey “found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed”.

He added: “The reality is that he wanted to make sure that the truth came out and by talking about something like tapes made people have to – made Comey in particular think to himself, ‘I better be honest, I better tell the truth about the circumstances regarding the situation.’”

Trump has disputed Comey’s assertion that Trump asked the FBI director for a pledge of loyalty during a meeting. When news of Comey’s account broke, Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”

AFP and the Associated Press contributed to this report

Let’s call child sexual abuse in the church what it is: Catholic extremism

Donetsk, Ukraine, 10 June 2017: the Roman Catholic Church of St Joseph
‘As a Catholic, I shudder at the thought. But I know that such labels would be truthful’ Photograph: Mikhail Sokolov/TASS

Call it the Abbott Test for Moral Action. We can’t defeat a threat until we properly identify and name it, and the most important threats are those that have already proven deadly.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott led a chorus of voices last week demanding that political leaders define recent deadly terrorist attacks as Islamic. Abbott rejected concerns that such comments could inflame anti-Islam sentiment: “Islamophobia hasn’t killed anyone,” he said.

I’ve never had a problem using phrases like “radical Islam” or “extremist Islamic terrorists.” Being theologically trained, I understand that scripture is always interpreted in context and culture, and some interpretations are radical, extreme and seriously flawed.

I’m taken with this Abbottian notion that society needs to correctly name a challenge in order to meet it. I don’t often agree with the former prime minister, but he’s correct that we could better define those things that are currently killing Australians.

 Let’s start with “institutional sexual abuse”. The current royal commission into institutional sexual abuse has heard thousands of submissions from victims and their families. Too many victims’ stories include suicide. In Ballarat, one police officer compiled a dossier of 43 deaths – suicides, overdoses and others – attributable to sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests and brothers in that diocese alone. (Another police report, Operation Plangere, disputed this finding, but Louise Milligan’s carefully researched book “Cardinal” lays out the flaws in Plangere’s investigations.)

But the label “institutional sexual abuse” is too bland to confront us with the terror and deadly impact on the victims. It allows abusers – individually or as a class – to continue hiding behind the institution.

The phrase also fails to catch the important differences between institutions that lead some organisations to support more awful and systematic abuse than others.

The royal commission has heard from victims of abuse in many religious and state-run institutions, but the Catholic church (my church, and Abbott’s too) stands out. Over 4,000 cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic church were reported to the royal commission. These reports showed wilful ignorance by church leaders, systematic shielding of abusers and a continual preference for the perpetrator and the institution over the victim.

The royal commission is likely to make findings about how church beliefs and structures allowed abuse to occur. In Australia and elsewhere, such as in Ireland, priests, bishops and nuns have testified to a belief that prayer could cure paedophiles. Some have pointed to a belief that it was God’s work to protect the church’s reputation by not reporting abuse to the police. Had the church been drawn into such scandal, thousands of souls might have lost their faith and been in jeopardy.

The end result of this flawed theology and ecclesiology is the nauseating, terrifying, grotesque, ritualised and repeated violent assaults and rapes of children by Catholic clergy and religious.

Should we label this “Catholic terrorism”? The Australian victims of sexual abuse have been terrorised by the Catholic church, no doubt. Is it “radical Catholic ideology” or “extremist Catholic belief” to cover up the sin of sexual abuse for “the greater good”? It’s hard to deny it.

As a Catholic, I shudder at the thought. But I know that such labels would be truthful. And I know, as Abbott argues, that if we really want to solve the problem of the child sexual abuse by Catholic religious (priests, brothers and nuns) then we should name it appropriately.

And we should not comfort ourselves that this distorted theology and these crimes are necessarily a thing of the past. If anything, seminaries are becoming more orthodox and traditional. Little has changed in structure or governance of the Catholic church. As Cardinal Pell told commissioner McClellan, the church’s structure came from God. Why would the church change it?

Under the Abbott test, we should call such flawed thinking out. We must name it. It’s Catholic extremism. It’s killing and terrorising Australians.

Unless we see it for what it is, we will remain powerless to stop it.