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A stern test of faith for leaders

BOTH Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Governor General Peter Hollingworth have had a tough week, and things don’t look like getting any easier. Mr Howard is facing accusations that he lied to, or at least willingly misled, the Australian people in the lead up to last year’s Federal election by claiming that boat people threw their children overboard. A report from Mr Howard’s office found that senior public servants in the Government knew that reports about asylum seekers throwing their children overboard made in October were false just days later. However, Mr Howard was still making reference to the incident in November. Mr Howard has stuck to his story that he had not been given any reason to doubt the incident had occurred, despite asking for clarification.

Dr Hollingworth’s woes date back to his 11-year tenure as Brisbane Archbishop, where it has been alleged he covered up sex abuse claims made against ministers in the Anglican Church. It has been claimed Dr Hollingworth discouraged sex abuse victims from reporting assaults to authorities and ignored police advice to inform parents about the molestation of some children at the Toowoomba Preparatory School. Dr Hollingworth has said he intends to serve out the rest of his term as Governor-General.

Australian gold

FOR a brief period Australia has become one of the star performers at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, with a record haul of two gold medals. Short-track speed skater Steven Bradbury won Australia’s first ever winter olympics gold medal after the rest of the finalists crashed out just metres from the finish line. Bradbury, who was about 10 metres off the back of the pack, skated to victory in disbelief. Just two days later, aerialist Alisa Camplin won the second gold medal, relegating two Canadian skiers into the minor places. For a brief period Australia has managed to leap ahead of more winter olympic-oriented nations such as Austria in the gold medal tally.

Bikie charged

POLICE have charged Gypsy Jokers member Sidney John Reid with the carbombing murders of former Criminal Investigations Bureau chief Don Hancock and his friend Lew Lewis. Mr Reid has been accused of planting the bomb that killed the two men on September 1. The incident sparked a huge police investigation and increased tension between them and the Gypsy Jokers.

Soldier killed

A WA-based Special Air Services regiment soldier has become the first Australian military fatality in Afghanistan. Sergeant Andrew Russell was killed when his vehicle triggered an anti-tank mine. Concerns have been raised over reported delays in getting medical help to him. Sgt Russell leaves behind a widow, Kylie, and a two-week-old daughter Leisa.

Alleged smuggler on the Feds’ payroll

THE Government has asked the Australian Federal Police to provide a report into claims that Kevin Judge Ennis was involved in illegally smuggling people into the country. Mr Ennis, who is an informant for the AFP and, consequently, on the Federal payroll, has been alleged to be operating his own people—smuggling racket while alerting the police to competitor operations taking place in Indonesia. It is alleged that he organised for people to land on the WA coastline and used his knowledge of police operations to deliver a clear-cut route to WA’s north coast to captains of various vessels. The accusations were made on the Sunday Program last week, which involved the Nine Network’s program taping several of Mr Ennis’ conversations with Indonesian operations.

Diversity defended by BHP Billiton

ANALYSTS worldwide have continued to trade views on BHP Billiton’s initial half-year results, released late last week. In Perth this week, BHP Billiton chief executive Paul Anderson described the past six months as “the one year out of 20 – about as bad as you can get”.

Comparing the conglomerate’s performance with companies such as Alcoa, Western Mining Corporation and Rio Tinto, Mr Anderson said diversity had bolstered BHP Billiton’s performance in a “sorry set of financial circumstances”.

The conglomerate’s diversified portfolio would ensure quality of cashflow and staying power in uncertain times, he said. Singling out BHP Billiton’s petroleum division, Mr Anderson said the company, though not in the big league in terms of reserves and daily production, had proven its ability to successfully pursue large projects and was in the top 10 in terms of financial capability.

State Government sued

INSOLVENCY Management Fund Limited has been described as the knight in shining armour, prepared to do battle on behalf of long-suffering retirees caught up in the WA brokers’ scandal.

A claim by IMF on behalf of 1,000 clients has been filed against the Finance Brokers Supervisory Board established by the State Government to regulate the WA industry amid claims it failed to honour its responsibility.

The $50-million-plus negligence claim came at the same time that the Temby royal commission into the broking scandal was tabled in Parliament.

On recommendations from the $5 million Royal Commission, the State Government announced that it would scrap the Finance Brokers Control Act 1975, with control of the brokers to be handed over to the Federal Government under the Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

of Commerce and Industry economist Nicky Cusworth said the states that had the largest population growth through the 1990s were the ones that had the highest GDP growth.

“But the question remains about whether the economic growth came before or after the population growth.”

Ms Cusworth said studies showed that migrants did not drive down wages.

“The studies show that migrants help create jobs rather than destroy them,” Ms Cusworth said.

However, she said that Australia did not need to encourage migrants as more wanted to come here than the country wanted to let in.

She also said that the economic benefits of migration would decrease as Australia’s population grew.

“I think Australia could increase its migrant intake to about 120,000 a year and we’re not far off that now.”

Curtin University Institute of Research into International Competitiveness director Peter Kenyon is less forthcoming on an actual figure for Australia’s immigration intake.

“We need a rational, non-emotive and considered debate on what Australia’s optimal population is,” Professor Kenyon said.

“I don’t know what that number is, but I do feel we haven’t gotten close to it yet. All the evidence I’ve seen shows Australia can sustain a bigger population.

“What Australia needs in terms of its long-term economic growth is more people.”

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