At least 60 Rohingya refugees feared dead after boat capsize tragedy

Half a million Rohingya have crushed into camps in Bangladesh in just over a month, fleeing a Myanmar army campaign and communal violence that the UN describes as “ethnic cleanising”.


They have poured over on foot or crossed the Naf river which bisects the two countries in overcrowded boats.

One of them capsized in rough waters on Thursday agonisingly close to the shore.

The bodies of 23 people have been retrieved from the water so far but the death toll is expected to surge to around 60.

“Forty are missing and presumed drowned,” IOM spokesman Joel Millman told reporters in Geneva.

In distressing scenes, refugees on Friday held funerals for loved ones — among them children — who had left to seek sanctuary from violence that has cut through their homeland in Rakhine state.

A woman carried a small white bundle to a grave for a Muslim burial, while male relatives wept at a school building where bodies had been laid out.

“My wife and two boys survived, but I lost my three daughters,” Shona Miah, 32, told AFP.

0:00 IOM confirms 23 dead and 40 missing after Rohingya shipwreck Share IOM confirms 23 dead and 40 missing after Rohingya shipwreck

One toilet for hundreds

Those who have made it to Bangladesh have been squeezed into a vast makeshift refugee settlement that has become one of the world’s in a matter of weeks.

Medical staff say the camps are in imminent danger of disease outbreak, as relief groups are overwhelmed by the numbers of hungry and traumatised Rohingya.

A dire shortage of clean water, toilets and sanitation is spreading disease and pushing the camps to the precipice of a health disaster, the Red Cross warned.

“Our mobile clinics are treating more people, especially children, who are very sick from diarrhoeal diseases which are a direct result of the terrible sanitation conditions,” said Mozharul Huq, Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

In some of the camps hundreds of refugees are sharing a single toilet, said Martin Faller, of International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“The conditions for an outbreak of disease are all present – we have to act now and we have to act at scale,” he added.

The UNHCR says nearly one in five of arrivals is suffering from “acute malnutrition”.

Worsening conditions are compelling Rohingya to try to move out of the wedge of land Bangladesh has set aside for the new arrivals.

But Bangladesh police have stopped more than 20,000 Rohingya from going inland, a senior official said Friday, after authorities imposed travel restrictions on the refugees fearing they will move further into the country.

Though Bangladesh has hosted the refugees, it has urged Myanmar to allow a safe return for the Rohingya.

Myanmar says it is ready to begin repatriating refugees to a camp in the Maungdaw district of northern Rakhine.

But rights groups say the criteria for return is convoluted, discriminatory and carefully crafted to take back as few of the reviled minority as possible.

Many Rohingya do not possess the requisite documents to be allowed back or are unwilling to return to villages that have been burnt to the ground.

The Muslim minority are loathed in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and are instead branded ‘Bengalis’ — or illegal migrants who do not belong in the Buddhist-majoriy country.

End the ‘nightmare

‘Attacks on police posts in Rakhine state by Rohingya militant group on August 25, set the crisis in motion.

The kickback by Myanmar’s army killed hundreds and left scores of Rohingya villages in ashes.

Rohingya who fled saying they survived slaughter by soldiers and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists who were once their neighbours.

Ethnic Rakhine and Hindus have also been displaced inside Rakhine, accusing Rohingya militants of atrocities.

Rohingya are still on the move and the UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned that the “systemic violence” could spill further south to the central part of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, threatening a further 250,000 Muslims with displacement.

On Thursday, as the UN Security Council held its first meeting on Myanmar in eight years, he implored Myanmar’s leaders to end the “nightmare” faced by refugees.

But the council failed to agree on a joint resolution after China and Russia supported Myanmar’s right to defend itself.

International pressure has so far done little to rein in Myanmar army operations.

Access to the violence-stricken part of Rakhine is tightly controlled by the military, preventing international aid groups reaching desperate Rohingya left behind or independent reporting on the crisis.

‘Get out’: US Air Force general rebukes ‘bigots’ on campus

“If you’re outraged by those words, then you’re in the right place,” Lieutenant General Jay Silveria said in an address to cadets, faculty and staff at the academy in Colorado Springs, footage of which has since gone viral.


“You should be outraged not only as an airman, but as a human being,” the academy’s superintendent said.

Five African-American students at the Academy’s Preparatory School found racist comments on dormitory message boards earlier this week.

One posted an image on Facebook showing a whiteboard with “Go home, nigger” written on it, and parents then alerted faculty.

“That kind of behavior has no place at the Prep School, has no place at USAFA (US Air Force Academy) and it has no place in the United States Air Force,” Silveria said.

“If you can’t treat someone from another race or different color skin with dignity and respect, then you need to get out,” he said.

At the close of his remarks, the general invited those gathered to take out their phones and record his message.

If “you need my words, then you keep these words, and you use them and you remember them and you share them and you talk about them: If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”

US Senator John McCain, a former naval officer who was held captive in Vietnam, tweeted a video of Silveria’s remarks, saying that it was an “important statement.”

Backdrop of racial tension 

“I agree, there’s no place for racism or bigotry in our military or this great nation,” McCain said.

The graffiti — and Silveria’s reply — come at a time of heightened focus on racism in the United States, a context he noted in his speech.

“We would… be tone-deaf not to think about the backdrop of what’s going on in our country, things like Charlottesville and Ferguson, the protests in the NFL,” he said.

In mid-August, top military officers offered strong condemnation of racism after a violent neo-Nazi and white supremacist rally over the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.

One woman was killed when an avowed white supremacist plowed his car into a crowd of people after the Charlottesville rally turned violent, and numerous demonstrators were injured during the events of August 11 and 12.

The response of senior officers was in contrast to that of President Donald Trump, who suggested there was blame “on both sides,” and that there were “very fine people” among the white supremacist protesters — remarks that were widely criticized.

There have been heightened calls for the removal of other Confederate statues in the wake of the violence.

Ferguson is a suburb of St Louis that became the focus of national attention following the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown, which sparked demonstrations and a heavy-handed police response.

Protesters have recently taken to the streets in St Louis amid outrage over the acquittal of a white former police officer in the shooting death of a black man.

And NFL players are protesting against racism by kneeling during the national anthem before games — protests that have drawn repeated criticism from Trump.

Hugh Hefner: oppressor or liberator?

Oppressor or liberator? Feminist in a silk robe, or pipe-smoking exploiter? Opinions were flying a day after Hugh Hefner’s death over just what he did – and didn’t do – for women.


On one side, there were those who saw Hefner’s dressing women in bunny costumes with cottontails on their rears, or displaying them nude in his magazine with a staple in their navels, as simple subjugation of females, no matter how slick and smooth the packaging.

On the other were those who felt the Playboy founder was actually at the forefront of the sexual revolution, bringing sexuality into the mainstream and advancing the cause of feminism with his stand on social issues, especially abortion rights.

“I think it’s disgusting,” said feminist author Susan Brownmiller, of the praise she’d been seeing on social media since Hefner’s death on Wednesday at age 91.

“Even some of my Facebook friends are hewing to the notion that, gee whiz, he supported abortion, he supported civil rights … Yes he was for abortion, (because) if you convince your girlfriend to get an abortion because she got pregnant, you don’t have to think about marrying her! I mean, that was his point.”

Most offensive to Brownmiller was what she called Hefner’s equating the word “feminist” with “anti-sex.”

“It wasn’t that we were opposed to a liberation of sexual morality,” she said, “but the idea that he would make women into little bunnies, rabbits, with those ears … That was the horror of it.”

For Kathy Spillar, executive editor of Ms Magazine, the accolades were a result of something deeper: a decades-long public relations strategy of Playboy to sanitise what she called an empire devoted to the subjugation of women.

“From the beginning, they tried to sell it as women’s liberation,” said Spillar, who also directs the Feminist Majority Foundation. “And so they made huge outreach efforts over the years to women’s rights groups.” But there was nothing liberating about it, Spillar said: “Those photographs of women certainly aren’t empowering of those women. They’re there for the pleasure of men.”

“He was right about one thing,” Spillar added. “Sex sells. But it sells to men. And to put women in those horrible costumes that Gloria Steinem wrote about! Talk about sexual harassment, talk a hostile work environment.” She was referring to the famous magazine expose that a young Steinem went undercover to write, training as a Playboy bunny in a New York club – bunny suit and all.

Hefner himself, obviously, saw it very differently. “The truth of the matter is the bunnies were the pre-feminist feminists,” Hefner told the Associated Press in 2011. “They were the beginning, really, of independent women. The bunnies were earning more money than, in many cases, their fathers and their husbands. That was a revolution.”

To Kathryn Leigh Scott, a former bunny at the New York club, much of what Hefner said then rings true. Scott trained at the club in January 1963, at age 19, she says, with six other bunnies, one of them Steinem. She said she had fun, and made good money. She later wrote a book, The Bunny Years, to counter the view that Steinem portrayed in her article.

“I did not feel exploited,” Scott says now. “As a matter of fact, I felt that I was exploiting Playboy – because I was earning very good money in a very safe environment, certainly safer than that many of my friends were working in at the time.”

Following Hefner’s death, many celebrities tweeted affectionate messages. “Thank you for being a revolutionary and changing so many people’s lives, especially mine,” wrote television personality and former Playboy model Jenny McCarthy. “We’ve lost a true explorer, a man who had a keen sense of the future,” wrote writer-producer Norman Lear. “We learned a lot from you Mr. Hefner.”

As for Steinem, who briefly wore that bunny suit in the early ’60s, she preferred not to comment so close to Hefner’s death.

“Obit time,” she wrote in an email, “is not the time for truth-telling. People will now be free to tell it, but later.”

Saudi Arabian women rejoice at their new freedom to drive

King Salman announced the historic change on Tuesday, ending a conservative tradition which limited women’s mobility and was seen by rights activists as an emblem of their suppression.


Saudi Arabia was the only remaining country in the world to bar women from driving.

A woman behind the wheel in Saudi Arabia.AAP

Hundreds of others chatted with hiring managers at a Riyadh job fair, factoring in the new element in their career plans: their ability to drive themselves to work.

Thinking of @manal_alsharif her fight, her voice and all of the sacrifices and risks she took for #Women2Drive in Saudi Arabia Bravo!!!

— Lilia Luciano (@lilialuciano) September 27, 2017

At the jobs fair, Sultana, 30, said she had received four job offers since graduating from law school two years ago but turned them down because of transport issues.

“My parents don’t allow me to use Uber or Careem, so one of my brothers or the driver would need to take me,” she said, referring to dial-a ride companies.

“I’m so excited to learn how to drive. This will be a big difference for me. I will be independent. I won’t need a driver. I can do everything myself.”

She plans to start taking driving lessons when her family travels abroad for vacation.

Other women weren’t waiting. Internet videos showed a handful of women driving cars overnight, even though the ban has not been officially lifted.

The move represents a big crack in the laws and social mores governing women in the conservative Muslim kingdom. The guardianship system requires women to have a male relative’s approval for most decisions on education, employment, marriage, travel plans and even medical treatment.

The new initiative recalls previous modernising milestones that unnerved conservatives at first but were eventually accepted, such as the 1960s start of state education for girls and the introduction of television.

Great day for @manal_alsharif, @LoujainHathloul and all the #Saudi #Women2Drive activists over the years. pic老站出售,/oFSv6fvQZx

— Jim Early (@mkearley2008) September 26, 2017

“Saudi Arabia will never be the same again. The rain begins with a single drop,” Manal al-Sharif, who was arrested in 2011 after a driving protest, said in an online statement.

She wrote an article in the New York Times saying the day would go down in history as their “Emancipation Day”.

“We Saudi women have been like birds with clipped wings, full of song, but unable to take flight,” she said. “That will change. Now we must become the driving force of our own destinies, able to make our own decisions. Our brains are 100 per cent strong. We are fully capable of being our own guardians.”

My opinion piece in the @NYTimes today

I Can’t Wait to Drive in Saudi Arabia Again 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/5P4HlyTGix#Women2Drive #SaudiWomenCanDrive

— منال مسعود الشريف (@manal_alsharif) September 28, 2017Need for speed

The decree is expected to boost the fortunes of 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has ascended to the heights of power in the kingdom with an ambitious domestic reform programme and assertive foreign policy.

A muted response from Saudi’s clergy, which has long backed the ban, suggested power shared between the Al Saud dynasty and the Wahhabi religious establishment could be shifting decisively in favour of the royals.

Many younger Saudis regard Prince Mohammed’s ascent as evidence their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old and blocked women’s progress.

A woman sits behind the wheel of a car in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.AAP

Sharif, the activist, described the driving ban’s removal as “just the start to end long-standing unjust laws (that) have always considered Saudi women minors who are not trusted to drive their own destiny.”

A driving instructor at a government-run centre said women called all day to inquire about registering a license, but he had received no instructions yet from the government.

Um Faisal, a mother of six, said her daughters would get licenses as soon as possible.

“Years ago, there wasn’t work outside the house. But today women need to get out and go places. This generation needs to drive,” she said, clad in a long black abaya.

It’s testament to #Saudi’s brave women activists that govt has relented on driving, but the wider crackdown goes on 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/VIh8nD02bi pic老站出售,/S4RnyFdu9m

— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) September 27, 2017Dissent muffled

The Saudi ambassador to Washington said on Tuesday that women would not need their guardians’ permission to get a licence, nor to have a guardian in the car when driving.

In a country where gender segregation has been strictly enforced for decades in keeping with the austere Wahhabi form of Sunni Islam, the decree means women will have regular contact with unrelated men, such as fellow drivers and traffic police.

Other rules have loosened recently, with the government sponsoring concerts deemed un-Islamic by clerics, allowing women into a large sports stadium for the first time and permitting them to dance beside men in a central Riyadh street over the weekend.

Amnesty International welcomed the decree as “long overdue” but said there was still a range of discriminatory laws and practices that needed to be overturned.

A woman prepares to drive a car in Saudi Arabia.AAP

Inflaming tensions

That risks inflaming tensions with influential Wahhabi clerics with whom the ruling Al Saud has enjoyed a close strategic alliance since the kingdom’s founding.

The state-backed Council of Religious Scholars expressed support for the king’s decree. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, who has repeatedly opposed women working and driving and said letting them into politics may mean “opening the door to evil”, has yet to comment.

Some Islamist clerics are currently in detention in Saudi Arabia following an apparent crackdown on potential opponents of the kingdom’s rulers this month.

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near East studies at Princeton University, said the driving announcement may help explain that.

“They might have raised a storm against the government by mobilising opposition in the name of religion. They have been stymied,” he said.

Still, some men expressed outrage at the about-face by prominent clerics, who in the past have sometimes justified the driving ban by saying women’s brains are too small or that driving endangered their ovaries.

“Whoever says this is permitted is a sinner. Women driving means great evils and this makes them especially sinful,” one Twitter user wrote.

Kawthar al-Arbash, a member of the Shura Council, a government advisory body, acknowledged that resistance, saying: “That’s how things go. Everything new is accompanied by fears.”

Related Reading

It’s been a year since SA’s big blackout

A year on from the statewide blackout which focused national attention on energy policy, the South Australian government says it has done all it can to keep the lights on this summer.


Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis says he can’t control the weather but the state’s problems with power outages have formed the basis for a $550 million plan to become energy self-sufficient.

“Fundamentally, 12 months ago we were a net importer of energy, today we’re a net exporter of energy,” he said on Thursday.

“Construction of the Tesla grid-scale battery is well underway, a new solar thermal plant announced for Port Augusta and our state owned back-up power plant is on track to be in place by December 1.”

The government has also introduced more powers for the minister to intervene in the electricity market in times of emergency.

Mr Koutsantonis used the anniversary of the blackout to again criticise the federal government’s response to the “natural disaster” that caused the system outage.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull should apologise on behalf of the federal government for using the statewide blackout as an excuse to ridicule South Australia,” Mr Koutsantonis said.

“Debate in federal parliament consisted of members of the government making jokes about SA at a time when many households and businesses were without power.”

SA Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said the government’s energy plan had done nothing but increase power prices by 20 per cent.

“Their deliberate policy drove affordable, reliable base load from the South Australian grid and now we have the most unreliable and the most expensive power in the entire nation,” he said.

On September 28 last year, at least seven tornadoes ripped through the state, tearing more than 20 transmission towers from the ground and bringing down major power lines.

SA was also hit by about 80,000 lightning strikes with some damaging power generation facilities.

The storms caused automatic emergency systems to sever the electricity interconnector with Victoria, cutting power to hundreds of thousands of South Australian properties.

Services to metropolitan Adelaide were largely restored within hours but some areas of the state remained without electricity for several days as repairs were made.

The incident was eventually ruled a freak weather event but some chose to point to SA’s high reliance on renewable energy as a source of concern, arguing it rendered the energy grid unreliable.

Brandis hits out at Abbott for opposing Macklemore’s pro-same sex marriage song at NRL final

Speaking on US radio show The Cruz Show, Macklemore said he had received tweets from “angry old white dudes in Australia” after it was announced he would be performing his song, ‘Same Love’, that discusses LGBTQI rights.


“I’m actually going out to Australia to perform at kind of the Super Bowl of their rugby league,” he said.

“And it’s interesting actually cause I’m gonna play ‘Same Love’ and they’re going through trying to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia.

“So I’m getting a lot of tweets from angry old white dudes in Australia. Today I think there is a petition to ban me from playing. It’s interesting times in Australia and I’m heading on a flight over there later tonight.”

Macklemore performs at BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival at Napa Valley Expo on Friday, May 26, 2017, in Napa, Calif.AAP

But the controversy seems to have made the rapper more determined to stand up for what he believes in.

“I’m gonna go harder, I’m going to love” Macklemore said.

Macklemore’s hit ‘Same Love’ was recorded during the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Washington State in 2012.

Former NRL player Tony Wall is lobbying against the song being performed before the final and has written a petition to NRL boss Todd Greenberg to “take LGBTIQ politics out of the NRL”.

“It will be very difficult to watch the NRL Grand Final with my wife and five young children as the event will be heavily politicised with a LGBTIQ anthem taking centre stage,” he writes in the petition.

“My family and many other loyal NRL fans, who are No voters, will not feel comfortable watching the Grand Final when the NRL is imposing such a bold political stance on its fans while the issue is currently being voted on by the Australian people.”

Mr Abbott tweeted his support for the petition.

“Footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final. Sport is sport!” he said.

However, one of Tony Abbott’s senior colleagues Attorney-General George Brandis insists Same Love is one of the singer’s chart-topping songs and popular artists regularly sing at sporting finals.

“For Mr Abbott and anyone else to say that it should be banned I think is a bizarre thing to say. I thought Mr Abbott believed in freedom of speech,” he told ABC TV on Thursday.

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson said Australians were tired of the same-sex marriage issue and wanted a home grown artist to play at the final.

“I think people have had it up to here with the same sex marriage issue,” she told Seven’s Sunrise.

“We’ve got so many other great artists in this country that we could actually put up there.”

0:00 Hanson: ‘We’ve got so many other great artists in this country’ Share Hanson: ‘We’ve got so many other great artists in this country’

The NRL website lists Macklemore as the only half-time entertiainment during the Grand Final.

Footy fans shouldn’t be subjected to a politicised grand final. Sport is sport! 南京桑拿,南京SPA,/1uRh4eZ61Z

— Tony Abbott (@TonyAbbottMHR) September 27, 2017

The Grammy winner will fly over from the US for the one-off performance.

No campaigners – The Coalition for Marriage – backed the petition as well.

“Australian sports fans just want to watch the footy without being force-fed LGBTIQ messages at the game,” spokesman David Goodwin said in a statement.

“Sport is something that unites all Australians, so it is pretty bizarre that the NRL would choose to use its half-time entertainment to push a message which it knows millions of Australians disagree with.”

Mr Greenberg said Macklemore would be playing four of his biggest hits including ‘Same Love’.

Speaking with 2GB Radio, he denied the NRL was making a political statement.

Tony Abbott tweeted his support for the petiton. AAP

Mr Greenberg felt it would be hypocritical of the NRL to be promoting inclusivity while not delivering on it.

“We’re very comfortable with that, we’re an inclusive game and whilst everyone will stand for their own issues and make their own decisions, we’re very comfortable with where we sit,” he told the radio programme. 

“We’ve made our position pretty clear – I don’t expect everyone to agree on that.”

0:00 Tony Abbott’s daughter supports marriage equality Share Tony Abbott’s daughter supports marriage equality

Hodge hops on Tigers’ AFL GF bandwagon

A childhood filled with yellow-and-black angst has led to Luke Hodge hopping on Richmond’s AFL bandwagon this week.


Hodge will always be a Hawthorn person — even if he takes up an offer to come out of retirement and play for Brisbane next season.

But the four-time premiership star has a soft spot for the team he supported as a boy in Colac.

Hodge will watch Saturday’s grand final from the MCG stands with his uncle, who remains a “mad Richmond supporter”.

Hodge, prior to being recruited by the Hawks with pick No.1 in the 2001 draft, was exactly the same.

“My first game was against Richmond. I said to my pa ‘who are you barracking for?’ and he didn’t answer,” Hodge said.

“So deep down I want the Tigers to win.

“I’ve seen what they’ve been through since 1980, the heartbreak, the prelim finals.

“I still remember how devastated I was after that ’95 prelim (when Geelong crushed the Tigers by 89 points).”

Hodge’s hopes of playing for the club he supported as a child were non-existent.

The Tigers’ first selection in 2001 draft was pick No.33 and it was clear to everybody that Hodge would be long gone before then.

But that didn’t stop former Tigers coach Danny Frawley interviewing Hodge, who went on to play 305 games and help Hawthorn become a powerhouse.

“He (Frawley) said ‘we’d love to but I don’t think you’re going to be there’ .. it was more of a ‘thanks for being a Richmond supporter’,” Hodge recalled.

Two-time Norm Smith medallist Hodge tipped Tigers skipper Trent Cotchin to be judged best on ground this weekend.

“He’s been as good a captain as anyone … it’s all come from Cotchin putting the team above himself,” Hodge said at Greater Western Sydney’s grand-final lunch.

“He prided himself on touches in the past … now he’ll run defensively to make sure the opposition doesn’t get a goal, rather than run to get a touch.”

Mobile phone locker idea for schools, work

A specialised mobile phone locker aimed at boosting productivity and curbing student phone addiction could heap further pressure on school budgets, Western Australia’s teacher union warns.


Bill Brown began working on the 30-door storage locker in January last year because he could see mobile phone use becoming increasingly problematic in schools and workplaces, especially with some people developing an addiction to their portable screens.

“Some employees have them for work but it’s not the bulk of the workforce,” he told AAP.

“I wanted to make a difference. I could see mobile phones were becoming very addictive … people were oblivious to what’s around them.”

Mr Brown believes removing and storing mobile phones away from the classroom will allow children to better communicate face-to-face, reduce cyber bullying and provide more “technology-free” time.

He also pointed to research into mobile phone use affecting people’s sleeping habits, eyesight, mental health and attention span.

University academic Ralph Martins, who specialises in Alzheimers disease, said the locker was a good idea for certain settings, such as schools, labs and construction sites.

“In terms of safety, it does make sense,” he said.

State School Teachers Union president Pat Byrne agreed the inappropriate use of mobile phones in classrooms continued to be a disruption but expressed concern about the $750 cost.

“The introduction of phone lockers will not only be a further impost on school budgets but is likely to result in an additional layer of checking and follow up for teachers, further distracting them from their teaching roles,” she said.

Unions WA secretary Meredith Hammat said employers should use common sense and recognise that employees may need reasonable access to mobiles if they care for young children or older relatives.

“There are some jobs that are physically onerous, potentially dangerous or that require high standards of hygiene where it may be reasonable to limit access to personal items such as a mobile phone,” she said.

United Voice WA assistant secretary Pat O’Donnell said most workplaces already had mobile phone policies.

“Employers should consider ways to boost productivity that motivate staff and boost morale, rather than enforcing restrictions on unnecessary issues,” he said.

Bourke St charges drive up Vic homicides

Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall tragedy, which killed six people and seriously injured dozens, has been blamed for a jump in the state’s homicide rate.


The homicide figure jumped almost 10 per cent to 233 in the 2016-17 financial year, the state’s Crime Statistics Agency revealed on Thursday.

“In fact murders themselves are down by 13 per cent, it is all related to the Bourke Street tragedy that we’ve seen that increase,” Police Minister Lisa Neville told reporters.

Dimitrious Gargasoulas is charged with the January rampage through central Melbourne’s main shopping precinct, including six counts of murder.

He also faces 28 attempted murder charges, which contribute to the agency’s definition of “homicide”.

Without the charges stemming from the Bourke Street incident, the total homicide figure would have dropped by 6.2 per cent compared to 2015-16.

The homicide category comprises charges of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter conspiracy or accessory to murder and driving causing death.

While the figure was of “critical concern” to the government it was largely attributed to the mall tragedy, Ms Neville said.

Other “high harm” crimes including aggravated burglaries, robberies and assaults also jumped with growing numbers of crooks using social media to target potential victims, Victoria Police said.

Aggravated burglaries increased by 12.2 per cent, robberies by 10 per cent and assaults by four per cent, the statistics showed.

“It’s terrible and it’s terrifying,” police deputy commissioner Andrew Crisp said of crimes which threaten physical harm.

Jewellery shop robberies in particular had been an area of concern with 27 in the past 12 months, but there had only been one attempt in the past three months, he said.

Police are “determined” to turn around these particular statistics, the senior cop said.

Social media users have also been warned to take care using dating apps, with some sexual assaults linked to meet-ups, he said.

People using popular websites such as Gumtree and eBay have also been targeted by crooks sourcing goods to steal, police added.

Despite the bad news, overall crime rates dropped for the first time in six years.

Diamonds coach puts players on notice

Diamonds’ netball coach Lisa Alexander has put her players on notice and admits there’s an element of uncertainty after being thrown some curve balls.


Reigning world and commonwealth champions Australia suffered a rare setback earlier this month when they lost 57-47 to arch-rivals New Zealand in Invercargill.

The victory allowed the Silver Ferns to pip Australia for the Quad Series title on percentage.

Australia have a chance to extract revenge in October in the four match Constellation Cup in which both countries host two games.

The selectors have shown they value form above reputation by dropping established wing attack Madi Robinson.

“Even though that was a very tough decision and a very tough call to have to make, this will give players like Kate Moloney and Caitlyn Nevins an opportunity to press their claims for Commonwealth Games selection,” Alexander said.

“That’s really important that we make sure that everyone understands that they are accountable for their performances.

“A couple of the players already in our team are on notice that they need to lift their game, so everyone is very focused on making sure we get the wins.”

Alexander agreed the squad wasn’t as settled as it had been at the corresponding stage before the last Commonwealth Games.

She has been grooming some young defenders and wing attack and goal attack are positions which are still very much up for grabs.

“We’ve had quite a few curve balls thrown at us,” Alexander said.

“With Sharni Layton not being available for this two Test series, which we originally thought she would be, and then also the spectre of Laura Geitz making her way back after having a little break for motherhood.

“There’s a little bit of uncertainty around things.”

She hopes leading defenders Geitz and Layton will both be available for the Quad Series in early 2018, the last leadup tournament to the Commonwealth Games.

Layton pulled out of the mid-year Quad Series and the Constellation Cup due to exhaustion.

“We’re just making sure she’s doing all the things she needs to do to get herself well and back playing and training and getting herself ready for this January series,” Alexander said.

She said World Cup winning captain Geitz, who missed the last domestic season after giving birth, was back training with her Super Netball side Queensland Firebirds.

“She’s done a really good job in being very thorough in her preparations to start pre-season training,” Alexander said.

Recent quakes and volcanic rumbling in Pacific Ring of Fire ‘coincidence’: expert

Residents of countries located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean seem to be experiencing more natural disasters than usual, however one of Australia’s quake experts says the apparent cluster of events is no more than a coincidence.


As Mexico recovers from last Tuesday’s deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake, Japan and Papua New Guinea also felt shocks last week in the 6.0 range.

Meanwhile Vanuatu and Bali have experienced widespread evacuations in the last few days due to volcanic activity, affecting thousands of people. 

Despite some chatter that these events are an indication to prepare for the worst, Geoscience Australia’s senior seismologist Professor Phil Cummins says it would be hard to link each specific event. 

“I think it’s just by chance that a lot of these things are happening at the same time,” Professor Cummins told SBS World News.

“It’s very difficult to explain how earthquakes and volcanoes that are [located] quite some distances from each other are coupled.

“The mechanism that causes an earthquake here and to cause a volcanic eruption a great distance away is very poorly understood. 

“We can’t explain that and we just have to regard it as a random clustering.”

View of the Popocatepetl volcano emitting a column of steam and gas, from San Andres Calpan, MexicoEFE/AAP

Professor Cummins said that the activity was related in so far as all the events were located in the Pacific Ring of Fire – the horseshoe shaped ring of volcanic and earthquake activity that lines the Pacific Ocean.

“All of these things are somewhat related, they’re all affected by the state of stress in the Earth’s interior… so in some sense they are related.” 

However, he found it difficult to believe that each incident was directly related or caused by a previous one due to the great distances between each specific event.

“My personal feeling is that they are not causally related,” he said. 

“When you get a large event that is soon followed by another large event in the immediate vicinity, then it is much easier to believe they are related.”

He used the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and tsunami, and subsequent Sumatra earthquakes as an example of this.

“But when you get Mexico, followed by Japan or Vanuatu, I tend to think it’s probably just a random clustering in time.”

Rescue workers search a building in the Roma neighbourhood of Mexico CityAAP

However, Professor Cummins said it was possible for a large quake to cause strong seismic waves that could lead to further earthquakes occurring even at quite large distances from the initial one. 

He also noted earthquakes did typically have a pattern of foreshocks, a main shock and a series of aftershocks within the same area.

However, “This isn’t a pattern that happens all of the time,” he said. 

0:00 Tens of thousands flee rumbling Bali volcano Share Tens of thousands flee rumbling Bali volcano

When asked how concerned we should be about the amount of activity in the Ring of Fire in the last few weeks, Professor Cummins said there was not a lot we could do.

“For earthquakes we cannot really count on a warning… the early warnings given by the sophisticated systems in Japan and California are tens of seconds or a minute at most,” he said. 

“There really is no silver bullet earthquake prediction method, but seismology and science can help societies to better prepare by estimating how strong the ground shaking caused by earthquakes is likely to be, so we can design buildings to withstand this.

“We have to be aware that quakes could happen at any time,” he said.

Some of the world’s biggest cataclysmic events have occurred in the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami in 2004, the Chile earthquake in 1960, and Japan and New Zealand quakes in 2011 are some of the more recent devastating effects of living inside the ring. 

There have also been major volcanic eruptions in the Ring of Fire, including the 1883 eruption of Krakatau in Indonesia and the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

While these large scale deadly phenomena are fortunately infrequent, the agricultural and tourism benefits of living in the area around a volcano explain why so many are happy to continue to do so. 

“Volcanoes can be very attractive as they offer fertile soil, usually for a very long period between eruptions. It’s good for farming and the pressure to populate these areas can be pretty irresistible,” Professor Cummins said.

 Ring of Fire’s fury

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner dead at 91

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, the pipe-smoking hedonist who revved up the sexual revolution in the 1950s and built a multimedia empire of clubs, mansions, movies and television, has died aged 91.


He died peacefully from natural causes on Wednesday night at the Playboy Mansion, Playboy Enterprises said in a statement.

Hefner was sometimes characterised as an oversexed Peter Pan as he kept a harem of young blondes, which was chronicled in The Girls Next Door, a TV reality show that aired in 2005-10.

Hefner settled down somewhat in 2012 at 86 when he took Crystal Harris, who was 60 years younger, as his third wife.

He said his swinging lifestyle might have been a reaction to growing up in a repressed family.

Hefner’s “Playboy philosophy” based on romance, style and casting off mainstream mores came to life at the legendary parties in his mansions – first in his native Chicago, then in Los Angeles.

Hefner created Playboy as the first stylish glossy men’s magazine and as well as nude fold-outs, it had intellectual appeal, with top writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Vladimir Nabokov and Alex Haley for men who liked to say they did not buy the magazine just for the pictures.

“I’ve never thought of Playboy quite frankly as a sex magazine,” Hefner told CNN in 2002.

“I always thought of it as a lifestyle magazine in which sex was one important ingredient.”

The magazine’s rabbit silhouette became one of the world’s best-known logos and the waitresses in his nightclubs were instantly recognisable in their low-cut uniforms with bow ties, cotton tails and rabbit ears.

After writing for Esquire, Hefner married and worked at Children’s Activities magazine when he began plotting what would become Playboy.

In 1953, a time when US states could ban contraceptives and the word “pregnant” was not allowed on I Love Lucy, Hefner published the first issue, featuring naked photos of Marilyn Monroe (taken years earlier) and a promise of “humour, sophistication and spice”.

As the magazine took off, it was attacked from the right because of the nudity and from the left by feminists who said it reduced women to sex objects.

However, Playboy flourished during the sexual revolution and into the 1970s, when monthly circulation hit seven million.

He ran into trouble in the 1980s with competition from more-explicit magazines, and Playboy’s social impact faded considerably by the 21st century.

After suffering a stroke in 1985, Hefner made daughter Christie chief executive of Playboy Enterprises. She stepped down in 2009.

In 2015, Playboy ceased publishing images of naked women, citing the proliferation of online nudity, but restored them earlier this year.

In 2016, one of Hefner’s neighbours bought the Playboy Mansion for $US100 million, with the understanding Hefner could stay there until he died.

Hefner is survived by his wife, Crystal, and four grown children: Christie, David, Marston and Cooper, who serves as chief creative officer at the company.

SA voters may face referendum

A referendum may be put to voters at the South Australian election in March to better entrench the principle of one vote, one value.


The move follows a recent redistribution of seats across SA which left some with more voters than others and the variation between the largest and smallest seats about 17 per cent.

Attorney-General John Rau says the government doesn’t believe that’s fair and has always held the view that one vote, one value is a fundamental principle of democracy.

“Every voter’s opinion should hold the same value,” Mr Rau said on Thursday.

But before the question can be put to voters, the changes to the constitution must be approved by state parliament with the Liberals already signalling opposition.

“It’s a matter for the parliament whether this even goes forward,” the attorney-general said.

“But if it does go forward, we’re of the view that one vote, one value is a fundamental underpinning principle of the democratic system here.

“This is not about Labor or Liberal. This is about whether or not a voter in one seat has a vote which is worth more than a voter in another seat.”

Mr Rau said the recent boundary changes were a significant departure from the previous objective to ensure every electorate be equal, as far as possible, in the number of voters.

It also made it harder for the Labor government to retain office at the next election.

Labor challenged the redistribution in the Supreme Court but the court rejected its argument leaving some rural seats with significantly fewer voters than others in metropolitan Adelaide.

In its judgment, the court found the boundary changes took into account the disproportionate distribution of Liberal voters across the state.

The changes were also expected to help address the issue of the Liberals clearly winning the popular vote but failing to win enough seats to form government.

Deputy Opposition Leader Vickie Chapman said the Liberals believed the current system confirmed the principle of one vote, one value and did not believe voter numbers in different seats were “wildly different”.

“The reality is we have a very fair system in South Australia,” she said.

“We have, as near as practicable, equal numbers of people in each electorate.”

Ms Chapman said the proposed referendum was “an act of a desperate government to cling onto government”.