Refugees in Indonesia go on hunger strike to protest delays in resettlement

Refugees in Pekanbaru on the Indonesian island of Sumatra go on a hunger strike to protest against delays to their resettlement in a third country. Photo: Supplied The refugees in Pekanbaru come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Myanmar. Photo: Supplied
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The n government cut its refugee intake from Indonesia last year. Photo: Supplied

Jakarta: A group of 120 refugees stuck in Pekanbaru, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, have gone on a hunger strike to protest their frustration over delays to their resettlement in a third country.

Ahmad Zaki, a Hazara refugee from Pakistan, said the refugees wanted the UN refugee agency to come to Pekanbaru to discuss their resettlement cases and open an office in the Sumatran city.

“We are waiting for our resettlement process from more than one year,” Mr Zaki said. “I want to go to or any other country.”

The men, who are from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Myanmar, have been found to be genuine refugees by the UNHCR. Their accommodation, medical care and a living stipend is paid for by the International Organisation of Migration.

“We tried to contact UNHCR many times. They make excuses every time. They reached other cities every two to three months regularly,” Mr Zaki said.

About 13,000 asylum seekers and refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Indonesia.

Many found to be genuine refugees remain stranded in the archipelago while the UNHCR tries to find a third country in which to resettle them.

In an interview with Fairfax Media last week, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Indonesia was not a destination country for refugees.

“So we hope that countries like could take more. But of course I understand the domestic situation,” she said. “Shared responsibility, shared burden is very important. I leave it to the UNCHR to have a discussion with destination countries that belong to the Convention [relating to the Status of Refugees].”

The UNCHR’s Indonesia representative, Thomas Vargas, strongly advised the men against the hunger strike. “It’s not going to solve their problem or have their resettlement cases expedited,” Mr Vargas said.

“It just causes a lot of problems and the possibility of harm to themselves, which we would consider to be terrible.”

Mr Vargas said resettlement was a long process, which could take up to two years in Indonesia due to the limited resettlement places available globally and the various procedures that needed to be completed to comply with requirements made by resettlement countries.

He said the UNHCR regularly visited all locations where refugees were in lndonesia and was about to post a few staff members permanently in Pekanbaru given the high volume.

However he warned this did not mean the resettlement process would move any quicker.

“The UNHCR can’t force countries to take refugees,” Mr Vargas said. He said the Syrian crisis made it even harder to find resettlement options for refugees coming out of Indonesia.

Former immigration minister Scott Morrison announced on November 18 last year that would cut its annual intake from Indonesia from 600 people to 450. He said anyone who registered with the UNHCR in Indonesia after July 1, 2014, would  not be eligible to come to . The intention, he said at the time, was to “drain the pool” of asylum seekers and refugees in Indonesia.

Mr Vargas said while this had had an impact, he was appreciative that continued to accept refugees who had registered with the UNHCR before July 1 last year.

He said resettlement was only one of a range of protection options.

“We recognise that a very small fraction of the refugee population globally will ever be resettled, which is why we also look at other options and appeal to governments for family reunification, temporary protection and providing labour [programs] for refugees to be able to take care of themselves.”

SIMON WALKER: Topping off the guru lists

SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive
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THERE are certain times in every life when one wonders if one has been successful.

That time might arrive with a glance at one’s superannuation balance, and the dazzling lack of zeroes at the end of it.

Or it might be a glance at one’s waistline and how it’s impeding one’s view of one’s less-than-dazzling super statement. This might not be a bad thing.

Or it may come with a glance at one’s kids, who may or may not get out of juvie within the month.

We’re all different and it’s natural to look for ways to measure up, preferably with a sense of humour, because you might need it.

Inevitably, if you wonder long and hard enough, you’ll end up on the internet reading “guru lists”.

Those scientifically compiled tables of signs, omens, psychopathies arranged in no particular order by people who may have sold pyramid schemes in a former life.

Designed to inform if you are successful “in the now”, or likely to be in the soon-to-be-arriving now – that’s guru talk for “the future” – prior to death, which is a sure indicator you need a new guru.

You know the lists I’m talking about.

Guides like: “10 things you need to stop doing if you are going to be successful”.

I’m always surprised No1 on this type of list is not: Stop taking the piss out of these lists.

Or: “11 things you need to start doing if you are going to be successful.”

Getting off your arse and doing something rarely seems to get spelt out.

Then of course there’s the “12 signs you are successful and simply unaware of it.”

Often cited in the “13 hard-core pieces of evidence you’re in denial” list.

And rarely referred to in the “14.5 sociopathic tendencies of millionaires”.

That’s because millionaires are focused, they think big, they make mistakes (often with other people’s money) before making truckloads of their own.

Based on that standard they may be totally unaware that they are successful, but you’re not, courtesy of the guru lists you might want to copy in your darker moments.

Like when you contemplate your super balance.

Yes, you can get can transported out of your comfort zone reading these lists.

And usually, moving out of your comfort zone is No9 on such lists.

It’s all about manipulating misgivings. I mean, moulding mindsets.

That’s why I warmed to one I stumbled across the other day on a business-type “yeah baby, go for it” website.

It was called “20 Habits of Eventual Millionaires”.

This was a list I could get my teeth into because it combined the idea of being probably not that successful in the now with the possibility of being hopefully a bit more successful sometime in the soon-to-be-arriving now, prior to death.

I noticed early on that chewing your fingernails did not rate a mention as one of the habits.

But I read on anyhow because the suspense was killing me.

According to this particular guru it’s all about “Taking one ray of light and combining them all to become the sun”.

In fact, one was urged to put that concept to one’s 20-year-old self and ask him or her what constitutes success.

Knowing my 20-year-old self, I believe he may well have asked what I’d been smoking. And if I had any spare. But I got the gist of where this list was coming from.

Reverse engineering. Envisioning the end product, you, and working backwards through the process that led to its arrival.

If this process seems alarming, I suggest you refer back to the “12 signs you’re successful but unaware of it” before proceeding.

I did because I was struggling for claret at that moment. I mean clarity.

One trait top of the “20 habits of eventual millionaires” list I found easy to understand was: “Avoid death.”

String that one out as long as possible I would have thought. A little obvious but a good indication of the level of nitty gritty detail this guru was prepared to go into.

Gurus should never get too specific.

Another habit that didn’t seem so self-evident was: “Every day be around people who are kind to you and love you.”

Ironic in a Catch 22 type of way, depending on where you work and how things are going at home.

Which is OK because the next habit is: “Solve difficult gratitude problems.”

Apparently it helps to be grateful for things that really give you the gee willikers.

As the guru outlines, it’s the difference between being scared in a movie and saying, “wait, it’s just a movie”.

Except it’s not a movie.

Speaking of movies, the next habit is a shining light: “Write down 10 ideas a day.”

A great idea, unless that idea you’re writing repeatedly is, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Planting seeds is recommended because, according to my guru, 50 per cent of flowers come from 1 per cent of seeds.

I get lost when it comes to such garden variety mathematics, but I can’t help suspecting it could help when buying a Lotto ticket, and may also have applications regarding my super statement.

Hopefully that’s something I can measure up in the long term and tick off my guru list when it comes to signs of success.

The Walk: One man’s extraordinary risks

Frenchman Philippe Petit walked across a cable that had been illegally strung between Manhattan’s Twin Towers in 1974.THE WALK (PG)
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Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Guillaume Baillargeon, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Screening: General release

Rating: ★★★

THE true story of Philippe Petit – the Frenchman who kept onlookers enthralled for 45 minutes while he walked, sat and lay on a cable strung between the tops of Manhattan’s Twin Towers in 1974 – was told in James Marsh’s documentary Man on Wire (2008). It was a tale of a phenomenally brave and gifted obsessive, charismatic enough to draw others into helping him fulfil his lofty ambition.

But, like all obsessives, Petit found it hard to be grateful. And when it was all over, these loyal disciples fell to earth with a bump while he gave himself over to being adored by a much larger and louder audience.

Robert Zemeckis’ take on the Frenchman’s great adventure gets some of this right. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Petit is an impish charmer deaf and blind to anybody’s state of mind but his own. He crackles with nervous energy tempered, when necessary, by his mighty powers of concentration. But you get little sense of the hard-headedness that took him through six years of preparation.

Full of Gallic shrugs and merry montages, the early scenes have him as a whimsical clown working the streets of a Paris that looks as if it’s been plucked straight out of Amelie. Here, he meets Ben Kingsley as a circus aerialist extraordinaire and begins to learn from him.

Pretty soon he’s rehearsing for the big event with a wire walk between the spires of Notre Dame, and it’s not long before he’s off to New York with his devoted girlfriend, Annie Allix (Charlotte Le Bon), and a small team of pals willing to risk jail to help him get to the top of the towers.

I was so pleased to leave behind Zemeckis’ cloying vision of Paris that I didn’t mind the speed of all this. But once we’re in New York, we switch genres with a suddenness that’s a little disorienting.

We’re now in a caper movie, with the shift in worlds signalled by a score reminiscent of The Pink Panther. The group of conspirators take on more recruits, including a couple of stoners who look as if they’d be felled by vertigo if they attempted to stand upright, and a hardware-store salesman whose talents as a fast-talker are to prove indispensable when the time comes for the group to bluff their way into the tower building, disguised as workmen.

Such an enthusiastic embrace of the story’s more farcical elements does toss up some easy laughs but putting the group on a par with the Keystone Cops also limits the degree of sophistication that the script is able to bring to the interplay between their personalities.

And there was plenty to talk about. As Marsh’s documentary revealed, the strains, fears and disagreements within the group constituted a drama within the drama. But Zemeckis glosses them over with caricature. He’s making a fable here and the only person he’s really interested in is its hero.

So it’s basically a one-man show, with Levitt keeping the others entranced with his demands, explosions and propensity for taking extraordinary chances. His practical, methodical side is there, too, but more often than not, it’s upstaged by his theatricality. And, like any case of extreme self-absorption, his soon begins to bore.

But all these irritations fall away once the group get inside the Twin Towers and we’re confronted by the enormity of the task they’ve set themselves. As the buildings are closing for the night, they have to smuggle in their equipment, which includes a 200-kilogram cable, and get it on to the roof. And having done that, they have to evade the security guard while they work with their teammates on the roof of the other building to rig the cable.

This is what Zemeckis has been waiting for. His hallmark as a director is his passion for visual effects and his use of CGI and 3D is dazzling. I’m pleased to report there’s no hint of the religious in the sense of sublime you feel in Petit’s kinship with space, air and the slender cable beneath his feet. Even so, it is as if he’s consorting with angels.

The last shot is a homage to the lost towers, standing burnished by sunlight, and there’s a certain poignancy in it. But it’s Petit you’re thinking about.

Government asks Treasury officials to investigate cause of ‘welfare traps’

Treasurer Scott Morrison during question time on Thursday. Photo: Alex EllinghausenCashless welfare trial to go aheadWelfare spending must be reined in: minister
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The Turnbull government has asked officials from Treasury and the Department of Social Services to form a working group to investigate why ‘s tax and welfare system creates “welfare traps” for some recipients.

Treasurer Scott Morrison and Minister for Social Services Christian Porter say the group will analyse “impediments” in the system that create disincentives for welfare recipients to rejoin the workforce.

They say the tax and welfare systems ought to ensure that ns are “better off working than being on welfare”.

A spokesman for Mr Morrison said senior officers from both departments will be involved.

In a joint statement, Mr Morrison and Mr Porter said the government was determined to ensure that the efforts of working ns are rewarded as they work more and receive fewer welfare benefits, and that they are not penalised with “excessively high tax rates”.

“We need a tax and transfer system that supports those most in need while rewarding working ns trying to secure their financial security by building personal wealth,” they said.

“The way our personal income tax system and complicated welfare system interact should not result in the creation of welfare traps, eroding or even removing the financial incentive to join the workforce.”

They say the working group’s investigation will inform the government’s tax white paper process, which will look at this issue in more detail.

The news comes a day after the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council released a new report on ns living in poverty.

St Vincent’s national chief executive, John Falzon, said political attitudes towards people who needed welfare had changed for the worse in over the past 20 years.

“It has become completely stigmatised and something that is treated with disdain by our political elders,” Mr Falzon said.

Community and welfare groups have long been calling for Newstart payments, which are currently $523.40 for a single person per fortnight, to be boosted by $50 a week.

With Judith Ireland

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Crimson Peak: Fanboy’s take lacks novelty

As a bold, eye-filling spectacle, Crimson Peak will gratify any fan of fantasy and horror.CRIMSON PEAK (MA)
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Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Screening: general release

Rating: ★★★

“ALL baronets are bad,” pronounces the heroine of Ruddigore, Gilbert and Sullivan’s parody of a rip-roaring Gothic melodrama. The principle holds good in Crimson Peak, which sees Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro trying his hand at the same genre.

Del Toro is an unrepentant fanboy, and all his films are in a mode of loving pastiche. Here he’s drawing on various literary works in the Gothic tradition, from The Fall of the House of Usher to Rebecca, as well as their cinematic adaptations. Set around 1900, Crimson Peak is meant to suggest an old novel found in a dusty attic, with illustrations in colours more vivid than life itself: glistening gold, morbid blue-green, and deep, bloody red.

Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), the independent-minded American heroine, has literary forebears of her own: she’s an aspiring writer like Jo in Little Women, and an heiress like Isobel Archer in The Portrait of a Lady. In both these capacities, she attracts the attention of the pale and interesting Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a baronet who’s in the States seeking capital for a mining venture.

Once the pair are joined in wedlock, Thomas brings Edith back to his ancestral home in northern England – a mouldering pile resembling the villain’s lair in a Disney cartoon, with spiked archways, swarms of moths, and glaring family portraits. Glaring, too, is Thomas’ witchy sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), who clutches an ominous set of keys and warns Edith that parts of the house must never be visited.

As a bold, eye-filling spectacle, Crimson Peak will gratify any fan of fantasy and horror. In plot terms, though, there’s something lacking: Del Toro does not add much to the sources he borrows from, except in upping the level of violence, and generally substituting explicit statement for lingering mystery.

There is also the problem of tone – of knowing when to hold back and when to go right over the top. Tim Burton is a master at this sort of thing: his best films, such as Sleepy Hollow, manage to be eerie, droll and romantic all at once.

Crimson Peak, by contrast, is grisly without being frightening, and campy without being particularly funny. While the dialogue is often knowingly absurd, the performances are earnest to a fault: even the typically arch Hiddleston – hilarious as the villainous Loki in a string of Marvel superhero films – is obliged to play it relatively straight.

Concerned families, community ‘need easier access to authorities to stop extremism’

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives for the summit with national counter-terrorism co-ordinator Greg Moriarty. Photo: Andrew MearesAnalysis: Building trust the key to countering terrorism
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Families, friends and teachers of youngsters who show signs of budding Islamic extremism need to feel more comfortable about approaching authorities, Malcolm Turnbull’s urgent counter-terrorism summit has concluded.

National security and law enforcement chiefs as well as top bureaucrats from education and social services departments met in Canberra on Thursday and are set to recommend to federal and state governments that earlier intervention is needed to stop youngsters becoming extremists.

Fairfax Media understands that much of the discussion – which will form the basis of recommendations to governments – revolved around giving concerned families and community members easier ways to reach out to authorities.

This reflects a long-held concern by police and intelligence agencies that they cannot spot every extremist, nor stop every plot, and therefore need the community’s help as a source of information.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan, speaking after the summit, said concerned family members, friends and teachers needed to come forward about suspected extremists but this did not mean arrests and charges would follow.

“Just because you’ve called the national security hotline does not mean that a law enforcement intervention will follow. It is possible that when the facts of the particular individual’s circumstances become clear, that we could … divert people away from this dark path without having to go down a law enforcement intervention,” he said.

“It may well be that we could work with the school community, it may well be that you could work with a social worker. These are the sorts of things that are available to us if we have concerns about somebody.

“The earlier we know, the more likelihood we’ve got of being able to work to save somebody.”

The national counter-terrorism co-ordinator Greg Moriarty, who chaired the meeting, said this was the strong view among police gathered at the Canberra summit.

“Talking to all of the police forces gathered in the room today, they are looking where they possibly can to keep people out of the justice system. They are really wanting to work with communities, to work with educators, to work with others to makes ure that people can be put onto pathways that avoid the justice system.”

Sources inside the meeting said that “alternative pathways” such as new phone hotlines, websites and apps were discussed for the community to come forward earlier.

Much of the talking was done by officials from outside law enforcement, such as education and multicultural affairs agencies, it is understood.

Mr Keenan said the meeting had covered “the need for further teacher training, for resourcing for youth, and for how we can run interventions that are aimed at peer groups”.

The meeting’s recommendations will go to the Council of n Governments, when Mr Turnbull meets with state leaders, expected to be at the end of November.

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NSW to push treasurers on GST increase to meet federal health cuts

Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian is planning further spending cuts and other savings. Photo: Dominic LorrimerNSW Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian will continue the push to increase the GST from 10 to 15 per cent to address a looming health funding gap at a meeting of her state and federal counterparts in Sydney on Friday.
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The meeting with new federal Treasurer Scott Morrison is expected to cover implementing the abolition of the $1000 GST-free threshold for online purchases from overseas and establishment of a national register of foreign ownership of land titles.

Mr Morrison has also placed the recommendations of the Harper review of competition ­policy on the meeting agenda.

The review urged reforms across government sectors including health and education to which Mr Morrison has said he is keen to have the states and territories respond.

It was the cuts to health and education grants unveiled in former Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first budget that prompted NSW Premier Mike Baird to raise the prospect of increasing the GST to 15 per cent.

Mr Baird proposed the increase at a meeting of state and federal leaders in July to cover an estimated $35 billion national health funding shortfall by 2030.

He proposed that there would be no broadening of the GST base to include fresh food or education.

Ms Berejiklian told Fairfax Media that she looked forward to working with Mr Morrison and that state and territory treasurers “have a once in a generation opportunity to modernise the Federation”.

“As far as NSW is concerned, our focus remains on addressing the looming fiscal gap which hits our Budget from 2017-18,” she said.

“All options should remain on the table as we work constructively with our State and Federal counterparts on addressing our shared funding needs.

“NSW will continue to argue for the GST rate to be increased to 15 per cent with compensation for households with incomes of $100,000 or less.”

Ms Berejiklian also welcomed Mr Morrison’s focus on the Harper review recommendations.

“NSW welcomes the renewed focus on productivity enhancing reform,” he said.

“Promoting effective competition will be a critical aspect of this reform.”

At a meeting in August, ‘s treasurers agreed to impose the GST on all goods bought online from overseas from July 1, 2017.

The treasurers are also likely to discuss details of a proposed national register of foreign ownership of land titles to be administered by the Commonwealth, including the cost to states of gathering the data.

The NSW budget surplus for last financial year has grown to a record $2.9 billion, according to the total state sector accounts released on Thursday.

The June budget estimated the 2014-15 surplus at $2.1 billion, but Ms Berejiklian said it had increased by $823 million.

This was largely due to one-off items including higher than expected distributions from managed investments and Commonwealth payments, she said.

JOANNE McCARTHY: My cup runneth over

IT was Sunday morning, 6.30am.
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The sun was up, the coffee was steaming at a friendly cafe, and a woman sat in a chair, concentrating on the cup in front of her despite the chatter from nearby tables.

She picked up a little sugar packet, slowly.

She tore the corner, let the contents fall into her coffee, and placed the empty packet back on the table, taking the time to place an edge under the cup so it wouldn’t fly away.

She picked up the spoon, put it in the cup and stirred, slowly, moving her hand and arm in a rhythmic motion around, and around, and around, without taking her eyes off it.

She lifted the spoon out of the cup, placed it in the saucer, and watched the steam rise without making any move to drink.

Then she kept watching. And watching. And watching.

Until I couldn’t stand it any longer.

“What the hell are you doing?” I said to my friend, the weird coffee woman.

“I’m being mindful,” she said.

“What?” I said.

“I’m practising mindfulness. I’m in the moment. I’m savouring what’s happening right here and now, without thinking about the past or the future. Just now. This coffee. This sense of appreciating it for what it is.”

On a Sunday morning for heaven’s sake, while the rest of the world was in bed, probably sleeping, and only I was stuck with Sense-of-Wonder-Woman having a deep and personal moment with a hot beverage.

Normally normal, my friend has a demanding job that’s been more demanding than usual this year.

She has coped by drinking slightly more than normal, then giving up; running slightly more than normal, then taking up a gym class; driving her husband insane, driving her children insane, and now driving her friends insane by adopting the latest trend in do-it-yourself therapy, mindfulness.

Hence the coffee staring.

“What exactly are you getting from watching your coffee go cold?” I asked, ever the supportive friend.

“I don’t aim to get anything,” she said. “That’s the point. I am allowing my mind to appreciate the coffee for what it is, to feel everything I’m feeling now without making any judgments. It’s very freeing.”

I kept drinking my coffee. It was hot. It was nice. It was there to be drunk. I did so. I finished.

“I was mindful as well,” I said.

“I was mindful of the fact that I hate a lukewarm coffee so I drank the thing.”

She looked at me.

“I’m sensing you’re not really into mindfulness,” she said.

“I thought you weren’t into making judgments,” I said.

“Shut up,” she said.

She is a good friend, and one of the funniest women I know.

She just has a tendency to embrace fads, thus providing an endless form of entertainment for her friends.

There was the army-style beach training period, when she trudged up and down in the sand lugging a heavy rope, then a big ball, then a big man, until she gave it away a few months later because – surprise – lugging a big man in soft sand with a bunch of other grim-faced people wasn’t fun.

And so she took up pole dancing.

During the pole-dancing period you couldn’t walk more than 20 metres down the street without having to drag her away from upright objects – taxi stands, traffic signals, awning supports, people collecting money for charities, or startled commuters waiting in line for their buses.

When the paleo diet was all the rage, she went paleo.

When people were “cleansing” their systems by giving up coffee, alcohol, meat, dairy, fish, sugar, bread, and basically any known foods except cabbage and organic chickpeas, she “cleansed”. Mindfulness was inevitable.

She had even given up using the dishwasher because of it.

“You’re supposed to pick a mundane job like washing up to practise being mindful,” she said, a couple of weeks before the coffee-staring incident.

“So how did that go?” I asked.

“Well, I think it’s easier to be mindful if I’m doing the washing up and it’s just me and Barry, but if the kids are round I use the dishwasher, otherwise I have to be mindful for ages. I can only be mindful for about 10 minutes doing the washing up, then I start getting cranky with the whole thing,” she said.

“Aren’t you supposed to be so in the here and now that you can keep doing the washing up for hours because you are just appreciating the moment, and feeling the silky smoothness of the water and the detergent, and smelling the washing-up smells?” I asked.

I’ve read the mindfulness websites as well. I know the drill.

My friend looked at me in a very mindful way.

She wasn’t thinking about matters from her childhood. She wasn’t anticipating events in the future.

We were there, in the moment, the here and now, unburdened by life’s distractions.

“Shut up,” she said.

‘Significant privacy concerns’ over myHealth Record system

Privacy concerns have been raised over the government’s e-health bill. Photo: Andrew Quilty Liberal Party elder Philip Ruddock. Photo: Andrew Meares
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New laws to give doctors and pharmacists instant access to medical records may pose a risk to human rights by violating privacy.

A parliamentary joint committee on human rights has called on Health Minister Sussan Ley to explain what safeguards are in place to protect ns’ privacy when their health records are uploaded onto a central electronic database, under the new myHealth Record system.

Currently, ns’ health records are only included on the database if they choose to register.

Longstanding Liberal MP Philip Ruddock, who chairs the committee, told Parliament the e-health bill raised “significant privacy concerns”.

It was questionable whether the bill’s objective – to drive increased use of the database by health professionals – justified the potential privacy breach, Mr Ruddock said.

“To be capable of justifying a proposed limitation of human rights, a legitimate objective must address a pressing or substantial concern and not simply an outcome regarded as desirable or convenient.”

The e-health bill is the federal government’s attempt to revamp the troubled electronic record system introduced by Labor, which spent $1 billion on the scheme but only one in 10 people registered.

In a bid to increase participation, the health records of all ns will automatically be uploaded onto the database, unless they actively choose to opt out.

Proponents of the database say that it will lead to better co-ordination between health professionals, reduce unnecessary hospitalisations due to prescription errors and medication misadventures, and cut down on the duplication of tests.

But the n Privacy Foundation has raised concerns in its submission to the legislation discussion paper that the information will be perceived as “a thinly disguised national identity number attached to some health information”.

“We suggest that the identity data … will be seen as very useful to the government, especially when cross-matched against the internet and telecommunications data and other databases such as those operated by the ATO, Immigration and Medicare, as well as a range of law enforcement agencies.”

The foundation’s health committee chair, Bernard Robertson-Dunn, said the benefits of the system needed to outweigh the risks to privacy, and it was not clear that the advantages of the electronic record system – which was designed to be opt-in – justified a move to an opt-out arrangement.

“If I go to a hospital to get a stitch in my foot, anybody can see my record,” Dr Robertson-Dunn said of the electronic record system.

“They can see my mental health record, they can see if I’ve had an abortion, they can see anything about my health record.”

The Health Department said in a written response that individuals would have a range of privacy options, including the ability to set access controls to their myHealth Record, cancel their registration or request that their healthcare provider not upload certain information.

They would also be able to monitor activity to check whether somebody had accessed their record, “effectively remove” documents from it and make a complaint about privacy breaches.

Contacted for comment, Health Minister Sussan Ley said: “I can assure all ns that as we develop an electronic health record system for the 21st century, all privacy and security measures will be taken to ensure the protection of a patient’s personal details.”

It’s not over until a fat lady swims

Tony Moy wins the Jarvis Walker tacklebox and Tsunami lure pack for this 100cm flathead, caught and released in Lake Macquarie this week.NOW the weather is warming up, the flathead are on the move throughout all local estuary systems, according to Brett “Hammer” Hancock from Tackle World Port Stephens.
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“The water warms up quickly and it’s a breeding time of year.

“Guys are mainly getting them on soft plastics.

“You get one or two big females hanging with a bunch of males.

“The big girls can be easy to catch because they congregate in numbers.

“You want to let those fish go, anything below 60 centimetres keep, but above, let them go – it’s not good to kill the big girls.

“Everyone wants a feed of fish but be selective.”

Hammer said flathead usually have two breeding times: October/November and March/April.

Fighter released

THERE’S been no shortage of flathead in Lake Macquarie this week either.

Tony Moy, pictured, caught a 100cm flathead at Swansea on Friday.

Tony and mate Steve hit the water just after sunrise and while targeting bream on light gear, Tony’s rod buckled over and line went spooling from the reel.

Steve thought a big jewfish had picked up Tony’s bait from the way it ran for deeper water.

“After a long battle on light line with the fish running from the boat several times, we found it was too big for our net so it was lifted in carefully with a gaff placed under its jaw so as not to hurt the fish,” Tony said.

“She was always going to be returned to the sea to breed and keep the waters filled with fantastic fish like this.”

Later in the day Tony landed a 75cm flathead so there are plenty of lizards about.

Byrnne Tran with his 80cm flattie.

Byrnne Tran got an 80cm flattie fishing the lake around Valentine last Saturday. He backed that up with a bag of bream on Sunday.

Sasha Garner got this 70cm flathead off Pulbah Island.

Sasha Garner got a 70cm flathead off Pulbah Island on Sunday, while Noah Hamilton caught and released a 76cm lizard on plastics using bream gear.

Noah Hamilton caught and released this 76cm lizard.

Meanwhile, Ryder Sutton, 11, opened his fishing account with a shovel-nosed shark up at Forster the other day. Check out the pics online.

He’s on. Ryder Sutton braces for battle.

Holy cow. Ryder takes on board what he’s taken on board.

Easy does it now. Ryder takes control.

Proud moment. Ryder parades his catch.

Flathead Classic

WHILE we’re talking lizards, don’t forget the Allworth Flathead Classic is running next weekend, October 24 and 25. Pre-entries are available online. For further details ring 0428 945 860.

Marlin whispers

THERE’S been some great snapper around on the inshore reefs off the coast. Plenty of fish around the 5-7kg mark in the shallows off Big Island and even off the rocks, according to Hammer and Duff.

“Blake Chaffey nailed some nice reds up to 3kg around Boat Harbour,” Hammer said.

“And there’s a good chance you’ll get drummer too after this southerly change. Definitely worth a crack early morning.”

Duff reports a few kings and jew off Horse Shoe Bay and around Big Island and flathead in the 50m line.

“There have been a few whispers about marlin but nothing out of the box.”

Those whispers may have come from Hammer who tagged an 85kg striped marlin out on the Shelf a week or so ago.

“It was in a patch of water about 21 degrees with plenty of pilchards,” Hammer said. “We were hoping for a yellowfin to no avail.”

Hammer was speaking to a longliner this week who said he’d been getting stripes and big-eye tuna about 110 kilometres off Forster.

“It’s that time of year where the water fluctuates on the Shelf,” Hammer said.

“It can be a lot of water between fish but if you put the time in you’ll get results.

“We should see some big dolphin fish wandering down in this water soon, it doesn’t have to be that warm for dolphin fish to show up.”

Weekend for jew

SPEAKING of warm, local beaches have been red hot hot, throwing up jew, whiting and bream, along with a steady supply of tailor and salmon.

“This should be a really good weekend to target jew on the beaches, actually,” Hammer said.

“We’ve got some really good tides just after dark and it’s about a week since the full moon.”

There’s been some nice whiting turning up on Fingal and Samurai and still plenty of salmon to keep people occupied.

Off the rocks anglers are getting squid in most of the inlets.

Drummer and luderick are lurking too.

Mud crabs on go

ROSS Duff, of Salamander Bay Bait and Tackle, reports lots of luderick on Nelson Bay breakwall and some nice bream around the oyster rack.

Jew have landed up to 15 kilograms around Middle Island.

Sand whiting are starting to come into Shoal Bay and Jimmys Beach and are well worth a shot on the turn of the tide with live worms.

Mud crabs are on the go, with lots of good size.

Diggers day out

A LARGE turnout attended Nelson Bay Diggers Fishing Club’s monthly outing last weekend in glorious weather.

Barry Malvern took overall honours with heaviest fish going to Ken Higson’s prize flathead.

Pam Dooley took out ladies and Mitch Dooley saluted in juniors.

Next month that club will host its annual Invitational Fishing Tournament.

Clubs from Sydney, North Coast, Hunter and Newcastle will attend.

Last year they had 124 entries.

If you want to find out more, ring Chris on 0407 945 192.