Diggers may keep peace in Middle East

IN the lead-up to Anzac Day, past and future Australian peacekeepers were in the news.

Defence Minister Robert Hill said Australia would want to help if peacekeepers were required as part of a solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, while Portugal presented an award to Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Cosgrove, for his role in commanding the Interfet peacekeeping mission in former Portugese colony East Timor.

Meanwhile, Middle East tensions continued to concern communities throughout the world, as disturbing images and tales came out of Jenin, when medical and aid services, international government and media groups were finally allowed in.

Israel continued to deny massacre charges following United Nations comments of horrific scenes, and said it would cooperate with a UN-led inquiry mission, but only if it excluded certain UN officials.

Tick for Telstra

TELSTRA this week achieved something it had not done for a while – gave the ACCC a smile of satisfaction about prospects for improved competition in the telecommunications industry. Telstra received approval from the ACCC last year, and got the green light it needed from Federal Cabinet this past week, for a July 1 increase in line rental charges against an increased range of concessions.

The approvals represent a relaxation of some price controls, including the removal of caps on mobile-to-mobile call charges. The increased competition is expected to result from a fall in Telstra charges for competitors using its infrastructure, in line with Telstra revenue from the increased line fees.

Telstra controls 99 per cent of the nation’s telephone lines.

Disturbing days in Derby

DEBATE surrounding Australia’s mandatory detention policy for asylum seekers came under the international spotlight again this week with riots at the Curtin detention centre near Derby. The centre, which the Federal Government plans to close in July, mostly accommodates people who have had their refugee status applications refused and are awaiting appeals or deportation, but also contains some whose applications were successful and are now awaiting temporary protection visas. Fifty people were reported to have been injured, equipment destroyed and buildings fire-damaged.

Cuts to medical insurance

SPIRALLING medical insurance premiums are under the knife this week at the medical Indemnity Forum at Parliament House in Canberra.

Proposals put forward have included capping elements of medical negligence payouts and tightening the rules for medical insurance funds.

The meeting of Federal State and Territory ministers, medical defence funds, lawyers and consumer groups has also been suggested that doctors should be able to say sorry to victims of medical negligence without admitting liability.

The spotlight on medical indemnity has been prompted by massive insurance costs in high-risk specialties such as obstetrics and neurosurgery.

A need to breed

THE Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner and mother of Kate Fischer, Pru Goward, has released a report saying a national scheme including paid maternity leave was needed to counter Australia’s falling fertility rates.

While we used to talk about the average family having 2.3 kids, that number has dropped to 1.75 in recent years.

This has ramifications for future years, when it’s possible there will be more retirees than the health and welfare systems can sustain without unreasonably burdening younger taxpayers.

Stop press – bank opens branch

IT’S a sign of the times when a bank is compelled to put out a press release to announce it’s opening a branch – only one, mind you.

BankWest opened a ‘customer service centre’ in Cottesloe yesterday, promising in its release that customers could “enjoy the comfortable lounge where they can watch television, browse through the latest BankWest brochures, or experiment with online banking”.

The bank also says the branch will provide its customers with access to Internet and telephone banking, just what you need when you make a personal visit to your bank.

Who’s right?

THE High Court has upheld the right of single women and lesbians to undergo IVF treatment, but Prime Minister John Howard immediately said the Government would introduce legislation that would disallow the practice.

Viewing pleasure

FEDERAL Attorney-General Daryl Williams has asked the Office of Film and Literature Classification to review the rating of a French film Baise-Moi. Mr Williams reportedly made his request after receiving a number of complaints from moviegoers who seem to have been unable to read the OFLC’s rating advice about the film.

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