The Big Dry through your eyesPHOTOS

Dust is part of everyday life for people like James Rogers and Jody Fraser, who work on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser James Rogers pulls stuck sheep from a dam on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser.
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Hand-feeding sheep in the Riverina. Picture: Caleb Thomson

James Rogers at work on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser

James Rogers pulls stuck sheep from a dam on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser.

Dust is part of everyday life for people like James Rogers and Jody Fraser, who work on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser

Just a few years after the last drought broke, paddocks are getting barer. Picture: Jody Fraser

Dams across the state are drying up, leaving mud holes perfect for stock to get stuck in. Picture: Jody Fraser

A familiar but heartbreaking sight for many on the land, this messy job is a regular one. Picture: Jody Fraser

Dust is part of everyday life for people like James Rogers and Jody Fraser, who work on a property near Cobar. Picture: Jody Fraser

Flat, open plains of “Furlong”, west of Hillston. Photo: Allan Vagg

Flat, open plains at “Furlong”, west of Hillston. Picture: Allan Vagg

Feeding cattle at “Furlong”, west of Hillston. Picture: Allan Vagg

Picture: Allan Vagg

Picture: Allan Vagg

Moving sheep lift a little dust. Picture: Allan Vagg

There’s a mob of sheep under that dust. Picture: Allan Vagg

A dust storm rolls into the Riverina. Picture: Allan Vagg

Picture: Allan Vagg

Picture: Ben Holmes

Picture: Ben Holmes

Picture: Ben Holmes

Picture: Ben Holmes

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

It’s dry at Mayfield, western NSW. Picture: Kayla Barrett

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions near Ivanhoe, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

Drought conditions at “Barwonnie”, Mossgiel, NSW are a not-so-distant memory. Picture: Di Huntly

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Asylum seeker data bungle: Thousands could be granted refugee status

Details of thousands of asylum seekers across Australia were revealed, Immigration concedes. Photo: Luis AscuiFederal politics: full coveragePrivacy Commissioner to investigate data breachCall for independent Manus inquiry
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The Privacy Commissioner and the Immigration Department have launched investigations into how details of thousands of asylum seekers in Australia were inadvertently made accessible online.

The breach could potentially see thousands of asylum seekers in Australia who were previously ineligible for refugee status have their claims validated, one legal expert says.

Refugee lawyer David Manne said the law was “crystal clear that identification of a person seeking protection can result in them being granted protection on that basis itself”.

“It’s a fundamental principle of refugee law that a person seeking asylum should be free to make their claim free of disclosure of their identity to the authorities in their home country,” he said, describing the reported revelation as one of the most “grave and dangerous breaches of privacy in Australian history”.

Guardian Australia reported on Wednesday that the personal details of a third of asylum seekers held in Australia – making up about 10,000 people – were revealed on the Immigration Department’s website.

Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim announced on Wednesday afternoon that he had spoken to Immigration and had “been assured” that the information was “no longer publicly available”.

Describing the breach as a “serious incident” Mr Pilgrim said he would investigate how it occurred. He added that Immigration would provide a detailed report about the incident as part of the investigation.

Later on Wednesday, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison released a statement confirming that an “immigration detention statistics report” released on the department’s website on February 11 “inadvertently provided access to the underlying data source used to collate the report content which included private information on detainees”.

Mr Morrison welcomed Mr Pilgrim’s investigation and said Immigration Department’s secretary Martin Bowles had also tasked KPMG to review how the breach occured, with an interim report due next week.

He said the “unacceptable incident” was a “serious breach of privacy” by the department.

“I have asked the department Secretary to keep me informed of the actions that have been initiated, including any disciplinary measures that may be taken, as appropriate,” Mr Morrison said.

The Immigration Minister said that immediate steps had been taken to remove the documents from the department’s website after media alerted it of the breach.

“The information was never intended to be in the public domain, nor was it in an easily accessible format within the public domain,” he said.

Mr Morrison also told Sky News it was still to be seen whether the release of the information would have implications for the protection claims of the asylum seekers involved.

‘‘All people’s protection claims are considered individually on the merits of each specific case,’’ he said.

‘‘There would be no general rule that would apply to these sorts of things.’’

A report by Guardian Australia said the information online included all asylum seekers held in a mainland detention facilities, on Christmas Island and several thousand in community detention. Children were also included.

Despite the federal government’s insistence about the need for greater secrecy when it comes to immigration and border protection, the full names, nationalities, location, arrival date and boat arrival information was reportedly revealed on the department’s website.

Guardian Australia has not identified where the database was located online and said it told the department about the information before it reported the breach.

Refugee Council of Australia president Phil Glendenning said the release of asylum seekers’ information was “outrageous” and unprecedented.

“We are deeply disturbed by this,” he told Fairfax Media.

Mr Glendenning said the breach ran the risk of exposing people who were already vulnerable to “very serious danger”.

This not only included reprisals if asylum seekers were sent back to their country of origin, but their families – either in home countries, or transit countries in between.

The Refugee Council is also seeking particular assurances about the safety of people in community detention who may have had their location revealed.

Labor’s immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the report was an “enormous concern”. “Let’s be clear – this is a government with a culture of secrecy but it is utterly unable to manage secrecy,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Coalition MP Jane Prentice told Sky News that the breach was a “shocking mistake” and that the “full ramifications” would have to be examined.

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Brisbane protest calls for Manus Island closure

Protesters outside the Department of Immigration’s Brisbane office call for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Cameron Atfield Former senator Andrew Bartlett addresses a Brisbane protest calling for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre. Photo: Ashley Mackinnon
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Refugee advocates have protested outside the Department of Immigration’s Brisbane office calling for the Manus Island detention centre to be closed after the death of a detainee.

The Australian and Papua New Guinea governments have announced inquiries after violent clashes between security forces and asylum seekers on the PNG island left one Iranian asylum seeker dead and 77 injured.

Refugee Action Collective spokesman Mark Gillespie said his organisation had been in touch with asylum seekers, who were allowed phone access, and staff on Manus Island.

He said details of recent events were sketchy.

“All the messages we’re getting from the asylum seekers themselves and the staff at the detention centre are saying it was more than just them trying to get out, that it was an attack on the centre,” Mr Gillespie said.

On Tuesday night, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison conceded it was unclear whether the attacks happened inside or outside the detention centre.

“I can’t give you an absolute position on that as there are some conflicting reports at the moment and once those are resolved and the reasons for those conflicts then I’d be in a position to report on it,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Mr Gillespie said the Brisbane protest was organised on Tuesday following the violent clashes.

“A person has lost their life on Manus Island and we think that’s just tragic,” he said.

“We put it out on Facebook and, in less than 24 hours, this is the turnout.”

Former Queensland Democrats Senator Andrew Bartlett, now the state convenor for the Greens, said he had “seen firsthand” the damage done during the Howard government’s Pacific solution.

“(It was a) deliberate policy of putting people beyond the reach of the law and beyond the reach of the media,” he said.

“What is happening now on Manus Island is clearly far worse than any of the harmful atrocities committed under the Howard government.

“This is an inevitable consequence of what happens when you dehumanise people, when you put them outside the reach of media and public scrutiny.”

Among the 50-strong protest was Julie Mauger.

“The government promised two things to the Australian people, that they’d stop the boats and that the PNG solution would work effectively,” she said.

“The riots on Manus and what’s happened this week has just shown that it’s simply not workable.”

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The Real Housewives of Melbourne set their own rules about catfights

The Real Housewives of Melbourne (L-R) Andrea Moss, Jackie Gillies, Lydia Schiavello, Chyka Keebaugh, Gina Liano and Janet Roach: the show will premiere on Sunday on Arena. Photo: Tamara DeanDon’t be fooled by the big hair, spangly dresses and killer heels.
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There is evidently more brain than brawn among this group of alpha Melbourne “housewives”, who are about to explode on screens on Foxtel on Sunday night in the latest chapter of the reality juggernaut.

The colourful sextet who arrived in Sydney on Tuesday morning and are taking to the Harbour on Wednesday, are about to launch onto television screens as part of the global franchise The Real Housewives, which is also filmed in New York, Orange County, Vancouver, Beverly Hills and Miami, among other US post codes.

For the uninitiated, the format typically sees a handful of gazillionaire wives, who argue about who said what to who, socialise and attend functions. They are pursued by cameras which eavesdrop on their every move. The over-the-top results are traditionally wildly disturbing yet utterly fascinating.

In what appears to be a world first, Fairfax Media has learned that these wise-cracking, fast-talking, Louboutin-wearing women of the up-market postcodes of 3141-3144 (or “Planet Toorak” as Housewives outsider Jackie Gillies likes to say) asserted their authority on the show’s producers, Matchbox Pictures, before they had even filmed their first scene.

Gathered at The Darling Hotel in Pyrmont the perfumed posse reveal that after much discussions with the production company’s lawyers, the group negotiated to have things removed from the standard contracts issued to Housewives across the globe – which they were not comfortable with.

No bitch-slaps and poolside wig-tugging for this lot, as is the standard pre-requisite and what we’ve come to expect from flash-and-trash Real Housewives series.

Barrister Gina Liano, 47, a divorced mum-of-two who has been fighting battles in the courtroom for 14 years (not to mention creating a range of sequinned stilettos on the side), leads the charge to have certain clauses removed after reading the contract.

The main sticking point was the clause in the contract which said the Housewives were allowed to be physically harmed in the line of duty and would not be able to sue the production company if they were hurt.

Traditionally cast members around the world get pushed into pools, shoved from their towering heels or involved in catfights with no recourse. Think Jerry Springer but with Gucci, false lashes and hair extensions.

“Even in the contracts in the US, I understand they are actually allowed to assault each other. It’s part of the contract. When we got our contracts that was one of the conditions. It said that we consented to being assaulted. But I got rid of it,” legal eagle Liano reveals.

“I said, apart from anything I’m not about to embark on anything like that and nor are the rest of the cast – or the three girls that I knew [before the show started taping] – and I said to them ‘you can’t bind yourself into anything like that’.”

Despite being a likely first for the franchise, all of the women read their contracts and agreed it had to be removed.

“I think we all had a discussion about what we were comfortable with – all the girls read it, we are all business women,” Liano says, with Janet Roach, 55, the solo blonde of the pack adding: “I was going through mine with a tooth comb but Gina explained it really well. She said ‘we’re not doing that, we’re not doing that or that’.”

Brunette mum and extravagant shopaholic Lydia Schiavello, 45, said the only part she agreed with on her contract was the name and date.

“The only part of the original contract I was going to actually sign was the date and my name, they were the only things that were fine until we all attacked it.”

Liano, with her background, then approached the show’s legal department.

“I went and sat with the solicitor face to face for about 30 hours actually. There were about five things we changed.

“We the signed uniform contracts, with special conditions attached to each contract and particular to all of us.”

Clearly the leader of the pack, the no-holds-barred Liano even calms the youngest member of the pack, rock star wife Jackie Gillies, 33, (she’s married to Silverchair’s Ben Gillies) when she asks if we should be discussing contracts at all.

“Yeh, yeh it’s fine,” Liano settles her. “Trust me, I know what’s in that contact! It’s fine.”

Even after fixing their contracts the women agree they didn’t really know what they were signing up for.

A little like lambs to the slaughter, the group admit they were naieve when it came to the editing process and dealing with the media. Both Roach and Moss hadn’t even seen the other Real Housewives shows when they were approached.

“It’s all new to us. We are all raw. I think they chose us for that reason,” says the most level-headed of the group Chyka Keebaugh, 45, who along with her husband Bruce runs one of Australia’s biggest and most successful privately-owned catering companies, The Big Group.

“We knew this was going to happen – but we didn’t know the level to which it would happen,” Keebaugh says.

Property developer Roach, a singleton who dumped her husband last year after an internet dating scandal, says she’s nervously awaiting episode four and seven when she goes on a date with a younger bloke.

“It’s nothing like what I expected, but lots and lots of fun,” says the effervescent blonde. “I think when it was sold to me it was a little bit less; it wasn’t such a big thing that we would film this little show for a few weeks.

“I had never seen an episode. We had to watch an episode before we signed, and I watched Atlanta. They had sequinned dresses on and pulled each others wigs off and pushed each other into the pool. So I did have an idea of what I was getting myself into.”

Moss says her husband told her she shouldn’t do it after he watched a Miami episode where one wife had sex.

Are they worried about how they will be portrayed?

“I went into this with a TV background, and I am a journalist, so I felt they could only portray me the way I am,” Moss says.

She, however, didn’t bank on the copious amounts of champagne supplied creating onscreen gold.

“The tricky thing is when there’s no alcohol involved you are yourself and you’re careful. But when they put the alcohol there and you have one or two glasses of champagne (for the record Liano doesn’t drink), well, after a couple of champagnes you loosen up … which is fine, I can drink a lot being a journalist. But then I don’t have such good recollections of what I said or did.

“Having said that I think I’ve pretty much stood true to who I am.”

In the first few episodes alone fat-wobbling machines have opening nights, vaginal botox is discussed (seriously) and when Gillies, a psychic, tells Liano her long distant boyfriend is having an affair she hops on a plane straight to the US.

It’s also evident several friendships have been ruined by the show – a common trait of the series, which sees best friends end up enemies.

Liano and Moss came into taping as the firmest of friends and it’s clear during our photo shoot that isn’t the case now. The tension is noticeable as Moss and Schiavello appear to be the ones cosying up together today. (A little bit Mean Girls but outside of the playground.)

“Yes, it’s true,” says Liano.

“Friendships and relationships did fall apart. I think Andrea has described it the best way. In normal life if you had a falling out with a friend you’d back off and wait a while till you saw each other and cool down, but with this you were contracted and forced to see each other the next day.

“We don’t speak that much now…”

Moss agreed she and Liano had come into the show friends. “We came together more because of the contract initially. I’m too busy anyway with work and kids. Gina said a couple of things that upset me.”

All six women then heatedly rake over what happened in most heated moment of the first episode, when Liano was given the reading by Gillies and the ensuing fallout.

“I wanted to be Switzerland,” says Schiavello. “When Jackie gave Gina a reading she was upset and I rang to see if she was upset. I then had to go to the art gallery to explain it to Jackie.”

“But you misquoted me,” Liano interjects.

The fallout was the result of chinese whispers at play, which created the typical blown-out-of-proportion hysteria expected of reality drama.

“The producers won’t manipulate the storyline by telling you actually what happened – I guess that’s why we’ve got a good show,” says Liano. “But that means you’re reacting to situations without knowing everything.”

The entire group have signed for three series and it’s up to Foxtel whether it’ll commission them. Series two is apparently in the pipeline.

“We all pushed and pushed and pushed only to do one [series] – to suck it and see – but then the fee was not negotiable,” says Moss.

“It’s uniform and I think we’re all paid the same as what the American girls are paid. You don’t want someone who does a show like this for the money, you want unfiltered real women.”

For Roach the show was “definitely an emotional rollercoaster”.

“I found lust,” she says, with a laugh, about her young romance depicted in the show, while another voice adds: “It was the young jump she had to have – which is very good for the ego.”

“So far all we’re all happy,” says Schiavello.

For tough-talker Liano, dealings with the media have actually been the hardest on her during the whole experience.

“I think what’s been challenging about it for us is the media and what’s been quoted and what’s being said.

“I said things about Lydia, like she’s a beautiful woman, she’s a beautiful mother and they just cut it – and I can see that now, so I’m much more careful about what I say.”

Roach says she too has been shocked by the publicity process.

“Before as a punter I had a different idea about what was on TV and what was written about it.”

And while Gillies had been warned of how things worked by her rocker husband, who has spent years in the spotlight, she says nothing can prepare you: “I knew they take things and write anything to sell a paper. They add things. Things are left out and taken out of context. We think now before we talk.”

Always armed with the most rounded view, Chyka chimes in: “I think the level of production has been fantastic, Melbourne looks incredible and so far the back stories have been true to us.”

Mind you, the ladies have only seen up to episode three – there’s seven more episodes to go.

“I have no regrets at this stage. Though I’ll let you know after 10 episodes,” Liano says with a wink.

With talons sharpened, no doubt that will be one reunion episode worth watching.

The Real Housewives of Melbourne premieres Sunday, February 23, at 8.30pm on Foxtel’s Arena.

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Biennale of Sydney: artists send protest letter over detention centre links

Luca Belgiorno-Nettis is executive director of Transfield Services and the Biennale chairman. Photo: James Brickwood Signatory: Angelica Mesiti with “The Calling 2013/14”. Photo: Angela Wylie
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The ethical minefield of arts sponsorship

Artists involved in this year’s Biennale of Sydney have threatened to pull out unless event organisers abandon a sponsorship deal with a company involved in offshore detention centres.

The move casts a cloud over the showcase event, the biggest on the nation’s visual arts calendar.

The Biennale of Sydney, which starts on March 21, lists Transfield Holdings as a major sponsor.

Transfield Holdings is a minority shareholder in Transfield Services, which holds contracts with the Immigration Department to provide services at detention facilities at Nauru, such as management, maintenance and perimeter security

Transfield Services has also been in talks with the federal government to extend its services to Manus Island and take over welfare services, including education and recreation, at both sites.

Transfield Holdings and Transfield Services are partners in the Transfield Foundation, which supports the Biennale of Sydney.

Refugee advocates have been calling on artists and the public to boycott the event over Transfield’s involvement.

In an open letter to the Biennale board, sent on Wednesday, 28 Australian and international artists called on the directors to abandon the funding arrangement with Transfield. There are some 90 artists taking part in the event.

In a separate statement, the artists said some were “reconsidering their participation” and others were “organising different forms of protest from within”.

Signatories to the letter include prominent British artist Martin Boyce, winner of the coveted Turner Prize.

Australian artists include Callum Morton, Deborah Kelly and Angelica Mesiti – a video artist who won the Art Gallery of NSW’s Anne Landa Award last year.

The artists say mandatory detention contravenes Australia’s human rights obligations and they object to “being funded by an arts organisation whose sponsor is profiting from the policy”.

The furore coincides with a call by Human Rights Commission for an independent inquiry into the conditions in Australia’s offshore detention centres and follows clashes between security forces and asylum seekers on Manus Island that left one Iranian asylum seeker dead and 77 injured.

A spokesman for Transfield Services said “this is a matter for the Biennale and its board to discuss with artists”.

Transfield Holdings has a stake in Transfield Services and its executive director, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, is the Biennale chairman. Transfield Holdings founded the Sydney Biennale in 1973.

Mr Belgiorno-Nettis said: “Many Australians struggle with the problems of managing the transit of refugees to this country; this is a global challenge. The Biennale of Sydney acts as an artistic platform for dialogue around issues such as this.”

A spokeswoman for the Biennale said the board would meet on Thursday to consider the letter.

Transfield Holdings has a long history of sponsorship in the arts and its philanthropy has been directed towards a number of the country’s premier cultural institutions.

As well as the Biennale of Sydney, it has ongoing relationships with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Walsh Bay Sculpture Walk, Sculpture by the Sea and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Mr Belgiorno-Nettis, AM, is not only chairman of the Biennale of Sydney, but also chairs the Art Committees at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and the University of Western Sydney (UWS), and is a member of the Australian International Cultural Committee.

His brother, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, AM, who is also on the Transfield advisory board, is president of the Art Gallery of NSW.

The Biennale’s website says the event, themed You Imagine What You Desire, shows that “powerful art is not divorced from the cultural conditions, political, social and climactic environments in which it is generated”.

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Education union criticises appointment of Greg Craven to chair Coalition’s teacher training review

Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of the Australian Aatholic University, has been chosen to chair the federal government’s review into teacher training. Photo: Louise KennerleyThe Australian Education Union has blasted the Abbott government for appointing a vocal critic of minimum entry scores for education degrees to lead its review into teacher training.
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Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced on Wednesday morning that Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven will chair the government’s review into teacher training.

Mr Craven has previously said that ”university cut-offs are as easy to rig as a bush picnic race meeting” and rejected NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli’s call for all teaching students to have an ATAR of at least 70.

AEU president Angelo Gavrielatos said Mr Craven’s views compromise the review before it begins.

“We stand on the side of rigour and strong standards – Greg Craven stands for something different to that.”

He said the fact Mr Craven’s university enrols students with an ATAR as low as 50 makes him ”part of the problem, not the solution”.

The AEU wants the review to consider setting minimum ATAR entry standards for teaching degrees.

Mr Craven denied that his position at the ACU poses a conflict of interest and said he was prepared to take on the unions over minimum entry standards.

”I would say to the unions: if they succeed in restricting entry to teaching amid a high number of retirements then they are advocating a shortage of teachers and massively increased class sizes,” he said.

”I find it fascinating to see an element of the industrial sector lining up against diversity and more lower socio-economic students coming into education. I am happy to have that debate.”

Speaking in Adelaide today, Mr Pyne said he believed teacher quality was the most important factor in improving student outcomes, ahead of a rigorous curriculum and school autonomy.

“For a long time the anecdotal evidence, surveys and results have shown that neither the students coming out of university, the principals who are employing them or the year 12 students choosing teaching are happy or satisfied with the offerings at university,” he said.

He said he wanted teacher training to involve more experience in school classrooms rather than in university lectures and tutorials.

An independent consultant will also be engaged to conduct a benchmarking study of the world’s best teacher education programs and compare them to Australia’s.

The advisory panel also includes University of Melbourne Dean of Education Field Rickards, University of Wollongong Deputy Vice-Chancellor Eeva Leinonen, Grattan Institute school education program director Ben Jensen, and maths education expert Kim Beswick.

John Fleming, deputy principal at independent Victorian school Haileybury, and Trevor Fletcher, principal of the Eastern Fleurieu School in South Australia, will also sit on the panel.

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‘It won’t survive’: bashed newborn’s Bunbury grandfather reveals heartbreaking pain

“It won’t survive” were the simple, yet heartbreaking words from the grandfather who expected the life support to his one-month-old grandson would be turned off this weekend.
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The prematurely-born baby suffered critical head injuries, allegedly by his 15-year-old father at Bunbury Regional Hospital on Saturday night.

The father, a ward of the state who was abandoned by his own mother three years ago and reported to have atroubled past, has been charged with aggravated bodily harm.

The mother’s family spoke out how they are confused as to how the tragedy was able to unfold.

“We just want to know what happened and how it happened,” the newborn’s maternal grandfather told Radio 6PR.

“I want to know how come that boy was allowed back in.

“He’s supposed to be under care and wasn’t supposed to be at the hospital – that’s what we’re trying to understand.

“Especially at night like that, where were the nurses?”

The grandfather claimed the teenage boy did not have access to the child on Friday and wanted to know what changed between then and Saturday night, when the alleged assault occurred.

“He shouldn’t have been allowed in there,” he said.

His daughter, the mother of the child, was yet to come to terms with the injuries inflicted on her son, he said.

“She’s completely in shock.

“She keeps on asking how it happened, why it happened, all that.

“There’s nothing much I can do, nothing much I can say.

“No one should have let that kid in there – he’s only a kid.”

Department of Child Protection director general Terry Murphy told Radio 6PR that the father’s visitation with his son was restricted, but not banned altogether.

“All the advice that I’ve received from the hospital, from our staff who meet with families through these situations, was that the father’s access to the child was never questioned,” Mr Murphy said.

“At one point, after a meeting between hospital staff and the family, it was restricted to some degree, in so far as it was only to occur between visiting hours and not during the lunch break, and [at] a time at which there would be adequate staffing on the ward and adequate support for what are very young parents.”

But he said hospital staff had not predicted the father would pose a danger to the newborn.

“I, on the basis of everything I’ve seen from the hospital, from our staff, from other government agencies, am of the belief this was not a predictable event,” Mr Murphy said.

“It is a tragedy – there’s no question that this boy had a troubled life, there’s no question that this relationship between these teenage parents had difficulties, but none of those facts would predict such a tragedy as has occurred.”

As far as the department’s investigation had learned, the family had not requested the boy’s access to the child be restricted, Mr Murphy said.

It was reported on Tuesday thatthe father regularly visited and helped feed the babyfrom the day he was born.

Mr Murphy said the department would continue to supply support to the mother where possible.

“We’ve had a relationship with mum since her relationship with father and her pregnancy came to our attention late last year,” he said.

“That relationship continues – this mum needs tremendous amount of support.

“That will come mostly from family, but we will provide whatever support we can to her and her family.”

All future medical decisions concerning the baby will be made by Mr Murphy, following thebaby being taken into the care of the Department of Child Protection.

The baby has been transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital where staff are continually reviewing his health.

Advice given to the family by a PMH neurosurgeon was that they were still waiting for swelling to go down, the grandfather said.

“It’s just a waiting game,” he said.

“I’m going up there now just to hold him or kiss him and show my support.”

All decisions relating to a 28-day-old baby fighting for life after being allegedly bashed by his teenaged father will now be made by Department for Child Protection (DCP) and Family Support chief Terry Murphy.

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Kanye West enlists American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis for Yeezus film

Kanye West brings Yeezus tour to AustraliaFull movies coverage
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Already a man with a musical empire, a fashion business and an ego the size of Microsoft and Apple put together, Kanye West is set to become a film mogul.

The musician who is long past the simple description of “hip-hop star” has inveigled celebrated author Bret Easton Ellis to write the screenplay for a film based on West’s chart topping 2013 album, Yeezus.

The pair began work seven or eight months ago, said Ellis, who told an American website that his initial reluctance evaporated when West gave him an early copy of the album “and I thought, regardless of whether I’m right for this project, I want to work with whoever made this”.

While something of a concept album, being semi-autobiographical and examining West’s pressures, fears and (inevitable) triumphs, Yeezus is not strictly speaking a narrative album with an obvious story within its “three act” structure.

However, as Fairfax Media critic Craig Mathieson put it: “Given [West] is a fashion designer, he knows how to extrapolate small tendencies into big things.” Mathieson said Yeezus was “a fascinating album that is critically focused on remaking both pop music and hip-hop even as it wallows in narcissism”.

If West is new to the film world, Ellis isn’t a stranger to the idea of books and music converted to film, or vice versa. Several of his novels – American Psycho, Less Than Zero and Rules Of Attraction – have been made into feature films while he wrote the screenplay for last year’s Paul Schrader film The Canyons.

Furthermore, not only does music feature heavily through most of his books, as character pointers as much as scene-setters, both Less Than Zero and its “sequel”, Imperial Bedroom, were named after Elvis Costello songs.

It may disappoint West to hear that he is not the first to go this route as films inspired by or made from songs make up a small but surprisingly vibrant sub-genre.

Sean Penn’s directorial debut, The Indian Runner, was based on the characters in Bruce Springsteen’s song Highway Patrolman while Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant Massacree inspired the film Alice’s Restaurant (which could also inspire Kanye West as Guthrie had a role in the film).

Country music’s fondness for stories-in-song helped turn hits such as Harper Valley PTA and The Gambler into big screen efforts; Pink Floyd’s tale of rock’n’roll ennui The Wall was made into a film, starring musician Bob Geldof; and more recently playwright Tom Stoppard adapted Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon for a radio play called Darkside.

Meanwhile, West will tour Australia in May performing songs from Yeezus.

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BHP buyback on the cards, analysts predict

BHP Billiton can continue investing in new projects as well as return money to shareholders, analysts believe.
Shanghai night field

The diversified miner posted an underlying half-year profit of $US7.8 billion on Tuesday and said it was on track to reduce its net debt to $25 billion by June.

Analysts said BHP cutting gearing levels to below 30 per cent would trigger a shareholder buyback or investments in further growth.

”We think they can do both,” Deutsche Bank analyst Paul Young said.

”Management believe they can achieve an average internal rate of return of over 20 per cent for the major project options. We see further project approvals with the 2014 full year results”.

Mr Young suggested the Spence copper project in Chile or the Pilbara iron ore business were the most likely candidates for investment funding.

BHP will spend $US16 billion on projects this financial year. UBS analyst Glyn Lawcock said that figure, combined with a debt reduction, would give the company the capacity to complete a shareholder buyback and invest in growth.

”We believe that BHP’s target of maintaining capex at up to US$15 billion per annum keeps the balance sheet flexible enough to balance shareholder value between investments in growth projects and capital management,” Mr Lawcock said.

”We do not believe that BHP is sacrificing future growth for cash returns. It is more a case of not over spending such that projects suffer from lack of ability to manage from a resourcing perspective.”

Mr Lawcock added the Jansen potash project in Canada to the list of projects for possible investment funding.

He estimated that BHP could announce a shareholder buyback of $US5.3 billion at its full-year result.

”To be conservative, the buyback could be over two years enabling further debt reduction also.”

But Macquarie analysts said while BHP could launch buybacks of up to $US7 billion, it was more likely to favour growth investment, citing a rising share price and fierce internal competition for capital.

BHP’s share rose for the ninth consecutive day on Tuesday, its longest rally since mid 2009, to a high of $38.89. Shares were slightly lower at $38.88 in midday trade on Wednesday.

Macquarie said BHP was targeting annual capital expenditure of $US15-16 billion in 2015, double rival Rio Tinto’s 2015 spend of $8 billion.

”And yet BHP’s production is only 40 per cent higher in copper equivalent terms suggesting, this is about more than merely replacing current production, with the focus of future investments being iron ore, copper and petroleum alongside jansen,” Macquarie said in a note to investors.

But Citi analyst Heath Jansen said BHP had scope for a modest buyback. He said he did not expect returns to shareholders to accelerate dramatically until net debt has been been cut to $US20 billion, ”which will not occur until 2015 on our estimates”.

”In addition to capital management initiatives, we expect BHP’s dividend to increase 7 per cent in FY14,” Mr Jansen said.

”The payout ration including buybacks has averaged 50 per cent in the last 10 years, and our forecasts imply a dividend payout ratio of 43 per cent in FY14 and 47 per cent in FY15.

”We expect the total payout ratio after buybacks to be over 50 per cent in FY15.”

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Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra to face anti-corruption commission next week

Bangkok: The immediate fate of Thailand’s beleaguered prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra will be decided on Thursday next week when judges of the country’s anti-corruption commission summon her to answer a charge of negligence over a controversial rice subsidy scheme.
Shanghai night field

If the judges find her guilty she will be suspended from office and face impeachment proceedings in Thailand’s Senate, bringing an abrupt end to the two and half year-rule of Thailand’s first woman prime minister, and plunging Thailand deeper into political crisis.

As renewed violence erupted on Bangkok’s streets, Ms Yingluck lashed out at her political enemies, accusing them of obstructing the implementation of the rice scheme she insisted had benefitted farmers and underpinned the economy.

“I am saddened and must apologise to the farmers as anti-government groups are holding rice farmers hostage and blocking the government from effectively implementing the scheme,” she said in a televised address.

“I must reaffirm the rice pledging scheme is the right policy and there was no conspiracy to corrupt.”

Ms Yingluck’s government is winding down the scheme at the end of February after it had suffered losses totalling as much as $US8 billion because farmers were paid almost 50 per cent above global market rates for their rice.

The government has struggled to find enough money to pay farmers for their latest crops, bringing hundreds of them on to the streets to protest.

Depositors at the Government Savings Bank pulled more than $US1 billion from their accounts on Monday after the bank provided a loan to the agricultural cooperative operating the rice scheme.

Ms Yingluck’s supporters say the anti-corruption commission’s action is part of what they see as a judicial coup orchestrated by powerful figures in Bangkok.

Ms Yingluck, who chairs a body that oversees the scheme that has left Thailand with huge stockpiles of unsold rice, denies any wrongdoing.

Pro-government red shirts in Thailand’s north and north-east have said they will mobilise 500,000 people to fight if she is forced from office, including setting up an alternative capital in northern Chiang Mai.

Meanwhile, clashes appear likely to continue on Bangkok’s streets as anti-government protesters vow to step-up their campaign against Ms Yingluck’s government and refuse to negotiate with police over their weeks-long occupation of protest sites across Bangkok.

Labor minister Chalerm Yoobamrung has warned that protesters must leave the sites at key government buildings this week or police would move to reclaim them.

More than 15,000 police have been mobilised in Bangkok for the operation.

On Tuesday a policeman was among four people killed as police clashed with protesters near government buildings in Bangkok’s historic quarter.

In his latest firebrand speech protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban declared that Ms Yingluck should be forced from the country.

“It is time to run this she-devil out of our native land,” he said.

The upheaval is the latest episode in an eight-year conflict that in broad terms pits one elite group of Thais backed by Bangkok’s middle class with another group backed by exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is Ms Yingluck’s brother.

The protesters have been rallying since November in a campaign to force the powerful Shinawatra family from politics and set-up an unelected body to run the country for up to two years.

The latest violence brought to 14 the number of people killed since the protests began after the government attempted to pass an amnesty bill that would have allowed Mr Thaksin to return from exile without having to serve jail time for corruption.

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