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Monthly Archives: June 2019

Senate leaders nearing US debt ceiling deal

But after weeks without resolution, many are asking what’s behind the deadlock, and how can it be solved?

Jim Himes, Democrat Congressman for Connecticut, described the situation in Washington as a “civil war”.


“The dynamic that is driving Washington, and certainly the House of Representatives right now, is the civil war between the establishment, older legacy wing of the Republican Party, and the right wing populace we call the Tea Party. For them, this is a okay tactic,” he told Dateline.

Signs of hope emerged on Monday, three days before a deadline to raise the US government’s borrowing limit and as a partial government shutdown enters its third week.

After several failed attempts to end the impasse, veteran political prize fighters Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Republican opposite number Mitch McConnell conducted low-key talks aimed at saving the day.

“I’m very optimistic we will reach an agreement that’s reasonable in nature this week to reopen the government, pay the nation’s bills and begin long-term negotiations to put our country on sound fiscal footing,” Reid said.

At the conclusion of Monday’s Senate session, he said that “we are not there yet, but tremendous progress” has been made, in words that eased tension on the markets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 0.42 percent higher at 15,301.26 while the broader S&P 500 rose 0.41 percent to 1,710.14.

Asian markets broadly rose Tuesday on prospects of a Washington deal.

Tokyo gained 0.47 percent in early trade, while Hong Kong rose 0.68 percent and Seoul climbed 0.96 percent higher.

“Everyone just needs to be patient,” Reid said, adding that he hoped Tuesday “will be a bright day.”

McConnell added: “I share his optimism that we are going to get a result that will be acceptable to both sides.”

Their comments were the strongest sign yet that Republicans and Democrats — in the Senate at least — want to end the damaging political crisis that has dented the country’s international standing.

The Reid-McConnell effort is clearly the last chance to reach a deal before the US Treasury exhausts its borrowing authority, but its success is far from assured.

Should the Democratic-led chamber coalesce on an agreement, the focus would then shift to whether Republican House Speaker John Boehner can secure sufficient support from his restive conservative coalition in the lower chamber to send it to Obama’s desk.

But with progress apparent, and White House sources saying the feeling there mirrored the optimism in the Senate, Obama canceled a meeting he had called with Reid, McConnell, Boehner and Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

An official said the talks were put off to “allow leaders in the Senate time to continue making important progress towards a solution that raises the debt limit and reopens the government.”

US crisis: In-depth analysis with Huw mcKay

The Senate Republicans were to convene Tuesday at 1500 GMT to review the plan.

The sudden optimism contrasted with Obama’s terse tone of a few hours earlier, when he lambasted Republicans and warned of the consequences if a deal was not soon reached.

“If Republicans aren’t willing to set aside their partisan concerns in order to do what’s right for the country, we stand a good chance of defaulting and defaulting could have a potentially … devastating affect on our economy,” Obama said.

If Congress does not raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by Thursday, the US government will begin to run out of money and could start defaulting on its obligations.

But it was clear Monday that Reid and McConnell were coming together on a framework agreement.

The Politico news organization reported that the initiative would fund government through January 15 and raise the debt ceiling until February 7.

It would also launch formal long-term budget talks between Democrats and Republicans that would need to conclude by December 13.

Republicans had sought a delay of the medical device tax which helps fund the president’s health care reforms, but Democratic leadership resisted and it is unlikely to be part of the deal.

The two sides instead are considering delaying another “Obamacare”-related tax known as the re-insurance tax.

“The general framework is there, there might be some accoutrements that are still being fleshed out,” Republican Senator Bob Corker told reporters.

Meanwhile the world seemed to be holding its collective breath.

China and Japan — which between them hold more than $2.4 trillion of US debt — have urged Washington to get its house in order.

“The United States is the largest economy in the world and we hope that it can show its responsibility,” China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing, taking the chance to caution Washington.

Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer warned of dire consequences if there was no solution, while US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told the International Monetary Fund last week that Washington understood its reputation as a safe harbor was at risk.

As the new plan is pressed forward there could be further Republican resistance, first in the Senate and then on the approach that will be adopted by the House.

Boehner faces Tea Party-backed conservatives who oppose almost any deal that does not include anti-Obamacare provisions or which fails to rein in federal spending.

Number two House Republican Eric Cantor said leadership has “not made any decision” yet on selling the potential deal to the rank-and-file.

“We will meet with our members in the morning and determine the best path forward,” he said.

Dateline airs Tuesday, 9.30pm on SBS ONE.

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2019年6月17日 上海性息

Seeking alternatives to child labour

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Millions of children still toil in factories, mines and fields in the developing world despite international efforts to eradicate the problem.


And it’s Western consumers, as well as retailers, who activists say should shoulder the blame.

But as Kerri Worthington reports, moves are underway in some of the poorest countries to ensure children have alternatives to hard labour.

(Click on audio tab above to listen to this item)

International charities, among them World Vision, are campaigning to end child labour, which they say deprives children of their childhood and their potential.

World Vision defines child labour as work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, and work that interferes with their schooling.

The International Labor Organisation said in a recent report* that the global number of child labourers has declined by one-third since 2000, and targets to eliminate child labour are on track.

But Melissa Stewart, World Vision Australia’s senior adviser for child protection and trafficking in persons, says child labour is still a massive global problem.

Ms Stewart says a lot of child labour is in the informal economy in marginalised communities, so it’s hard to know full extent.

But she says more can be done to reduce the problem by educating first world consumers about the children who help produce their household goods.

She says Australians, for example, are unknowingly facilitating the exploitation of children down the supply chain with their high-volume purchases of computer equipment.

“So a lap top or our smart phones have a mineral called coltan it, and one of the suppliers of coltan is the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there is a high incidence of child labour in the mining of coltan. While it’s very difficult to ascertain where it all ends up, I think it is safe to say that because we don’t know we all could be liable for having an unsavoury footprint on this whole manner.”

Mining is one of the most dangerous sectors in which children work, and in some parts of the world work in large numbers.

Child labour is used for mining coal, salt and diamonds across Asia, South America and Africa.

Gold mining has come into focus recently as having a particularly severe impact on children.

Human Rights Watch has produced a report showing children as young as eight years old are working in small mines in Tanzania, Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer.

Janine Morna, a researcher with the US-based organisation says children are at risk of short-term and long-term injury.

“Children work in deep pits, some up to 70 metres deep. In addition very deep down in the pits toxic gas is released by various pumps and machines that are used to keep the water out. Mining is one of the most hazardous forms of child labour. It is prohibited under international law, and the Tanzanian government has strong laws preventing children from going into the mines. However, it hasn’t done enough to put these laws into practice. Children in particular aren’t able to manage with the heavy loads and the use of heavy machinery that is required for mining.”

Many other countries with large numbers of child labourers also have strong laws against employing minors, that are largely ignored by employers.

In Bangladesh, the law allows children to work from the age of 14.

But the garment industry, under the international spotlight for its dangerous conditions and low wages, has instigated its own initiative of officially banning anyone aged under 18 from working in factories which make clothes for export.

A BBC investigation has found the official position does not reflect reality.

Rouma is a 13-year-old girl whose mother was seriously injured in the Rana Plaza collapse earlier this year that killed more than a thousand garment workers.

She’s been forced to work in a garment factory herself to help support her family.

“My mother is very sick so I had no other options but to go there. (Bengali) I feel tired and, you know, I have to work every day. They say that if I do not do overtime they’ll not pay me.”

Rouma has told the BBC she is not the only child working illegally in the sector.

“There are lots of teenagers like me working in the factory and he (owner) says that if someone comes to visit our factory then you must tell them that you are 18. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong because some families have several problems and I also have problems in my family so I have no other options but to go there. It is very hard for me, I cannot do a 12 hour shift every day.”

In neighbouring India, activists say children from poorer families face hardships which few in the West can even fathom.

Soha Moitra from the organisation Child Rights and You says it’s not unusual for children to be forced forced to work and beaten while they do it.

“About 11 million children are street children in India, which is the highest number in the world. And about 28 million children are engaged in child labour. So the gravity of the problem is huge and the measures are really abysmal.”

World Vision Australia’s senior adviser for child protection, Melissa Stewart, says governments need to do more than give lip service to outlawing child labour.

“Not only do we need to adopt legislation but we also need to allocate adequate financial and human resources in national budgets to ensure these things happen. And also to start addressing societal attitudes and contexts that allow these situations to occur. Laws and policies in and of themselves do not make change and we need to ensure that there is implementation of these laws and policies supported by adequate budgets.”

The United Nations cautions that not all work done by children should be classified as child labour that is to be targeted for elimination.

The international body says children’s participation in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their education is generally regarded as being something positive.

Melissa Stewart says World Vision agrees that stopping all children from working is not the best goal.

“Evidence from our programming, for instance in South Asia, demonstrates that responses don’t need to be immediate. And oftentimes to design specially tailored transitional programs to get children out of the work environment, accompanied with support for the family, can have transformative effects on communities, families and children who still do have to work but this allows them to provide pathways for these kids to remain in or return to mainstream education systems.”

The ILO says it’s been supporting one successful program to combat child labour in Malawi.

It involves monitoring rural villages to identify child labourers, and then gaining community support to provide them with access to education or training.

Teenager Alfred Kazakumanja was withdrawn from child labour and has told the ILO he’s grateful to the chief of his village for the new skills he’s picking up in carpentry.

“The chief was going around the community identifying children who should not have been working. He brought us here to learn job skills.”

Another recipient of skills training under the Malawi program is Memory Kaziki Banda, who is learning tailoring and business skills.

“As you can see from my face, this project has made me very happy. This has really helped me and my friends. We can support ourselves because of the project.”


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Qld govt okay on coal royalties

The Queensland government says holding on to mining royalties is not at odds with the federal government’s plans to scrap Labor’s minerals resource rent tax (MRRT).


Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls made the comments while officially opening a $2 billion 20-year extension of Rio Tinto’s Kestrel underground coal mine near Emerald, in central Queensland.

“Well no I don’t think so, we made a decision in relation to royalties that said quite clearly the coal in the ground is an asset of the people of Queensland,” he told reporters.

“lt’s a non-renewable resource, once it’s gone it’s gone and it is entirely appropriate for the people of Queensland to see a fair price for it.”

Last month, premier Campbell Newman ruled out another rise in royalties while opening BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi’s Daunia coal mine.

The state taxes have been causing tension between coal miners and the Queensland government.

Mr Nicholls said the fact that Rio Tinto and BHP were still opening new coal mines in the state – BHP will soon open a third at Caval Ridge – was proof the tax regime was not too onerous or a disincentive to resources companies.

“It is yet more evidence that businesses have the confidence to invest, employ and grow here,” he said.

Speaking alongside Mr Nicholls, Rio’s energy chief Harry Kenyon-Slaney said he understood the need for taxes, and said the company was working closely with the government.

But no business liked additional imposts placed upon it, Mr Kenyon-Slaney said.

The extension to the Kestrel mine will add 20 years to its lifespan and increase production of hard coking coal – used in steelmaking – to around six million tonnes a year.

Rio’s energy division posted a $52 million loss in the first half of 2013, and some analysts are predicting tough times for the industry in Australia, due to high costs.

But Mr Nicholls said record tonnages of coal were being exported out of Queensland, and $2 billion in rail expansions by Aurizon and BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi would boost the industry.

Rio Tinto owns 80 per cent of the mine and Japan’s Mitsui the rest.

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Concerns over FASD funding review

It affects the development of more unborn children than cocaine and heroin, but many women still drink alcohol during pregnancy.



The World Health Organisation says Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder is the number one preventable cause of intellectual and developmental disability globally.


A federal enquiry has found Australia is at least a decade behind America and Canada in dealing with the problem.


Twenty million dollars was committed to help battle the issue but, as Hannah Meagher reports, that’s now at risk.



Simple things like reading, writing and even telling the time, are tough for 18 year old Morgan Phillips.


Morgan’s mum drank heavily while pregnant with her and Morgan was born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.


She struggles to remember things, gets frustrated easily and she blanks out regularly.


“There’s a lot of conversations where I don’t really know what’s going on but I’ve always just learnt to nod and sort of pretend I’m listening or I know what’s going on but I really don’t.”


Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders, or FASD, manifest as various permanent birth defects.


“If I don’t understand something I’ve always just zoned out because I know I’m not ever going to understand it.”


Despite the learning and behavioural difficulties attributed to FASD, it’s not recognised as an official disability in Australia so access to support is extremely difficult.


“It was a real struggle through my high school years that no-one knew what it was, no-one knew how to help me, no-one knew how to help my parents and they went through probably hell trying to explain to the teachers what I need. Because I look normal it’s really hard for other people to understand what I’m not capable of, really.”


Twenty million dollars was pledged to address FASD in Australia but that’s now in jeopardy under the new govenrment.


In Australia, half of pregnancies are unplanned and with women binge-drinking more than ever, advocates say this funding is crucial.


Michael Thorn is the CEO of the Foundation for Alcohol Research And Education


“These funds are vitally needed for people affected by FASD so we are keen to hear from the new government that they will confirm the 20 million dollars and that those funds will start to flow.”


The federal government has told SBS they’re reviewing the funding.


feature by Hannah Meagher

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New MPs shown the ropes

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

A kind of school for politicians is being held in Canberra for the nation’s 41 newly-elected federal MPs.


The 28 men and 13 women are being introduced to the procedural and administrative aspects of their new jobs ahead of the opening of the 44th Parliament later this year.

Thea Cowie reports.

 (Click on audio tab above to listen to item)

Wearing their brand new House of Representatives green lapel pins and posing for a group photograph the class of 2013 has begun.

The newly elected member for the Victorian seat of Mallee Andrew Broad says there were a few first day jitters.

BROAD: “It’s a little bit daunting I mean they told us there’s been what is it, 1188 is it? // PITT: “(11)33?” Not many. // BROAD: “(11)33 members of parliament in the history of the Australian Commonwealth so it’s a huge honour and I think that’s a little bit overwhelming for new members.”

Opening the classes, outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives Anna Burke said one of the big things she’s learned in her 15 years in federal parliament is MPs need to make time for themselves.

She says the incoming politicians will sacrifice a lot for their constituents but they need to remember MPs are volunteers, not conscripts.

“You need to remember yourself. That’s a big lesson that a lot of people forget. A lot of the comments I got as Speaker were about my hair. It used to drive me nuts. This big argument that I was channelling Justin Beiber. Why I’d be channeling the Beib is beyond me, my kids don’t like the Beib. But I hadn’t had time to get a haircut. Sue me. The moral of the story is just remember yourself in this process.”

The lessons imparted by Ms Burke have been wide-ranging.

From from when to sit down and when to stand in parliament; to advising MPs to get their own security pass so they can enter and exit the building without being stopped by the media.

Ms Burke has also instructed the MPs to be extremely careful when claiming expenses for attending weddings after six members of the Coalition frontbench were questioned for doing so.

Her advice is going to a wedding is not work.

It’s something incoming Liberal National Party MP Keith Pitt jokes he won’t need to worry about.

“Look at the moment I’ve got none scheduled and I’m not sure about you Andrew but I’m happily married and I hope to stay that way. Look certainly I guess we’re in a very good position in that we’ve got clean slates. I haven’t made a single claim yet and certainly will be very cautious around entitlements because our job is to represent the taxpayer and not to waste their money.”

But Ms Burke says first thing MPs need to learn is how to give a speech to nobody.

At least 30 House of Representatives members must be present when parliamentary sittings begin and when a vote or division is called.

But much of the time the House conducts its business with as few as two or three members from each side of politics.

Ms Burke says although the chamber may be empty, there are always people listening to radio broadcasts, or online – and what they say will be recorded in Hansard.

“I’ll tell you it takes a long time. Because we’re all used to speaking in public. You know you engage with the audience, you talk you get a laugh, you get the eyes. It’s really weird giving a speech to nobody but Hansard. It really takes a while to get used to. You think there’s no one listening but they are. They’re out there on the radio. You’ll be stunned by the emails you’ll get saying ‘I heard you speaking’.”

Not all 41 members of the class of 2013 are fresh faces.

Mal Brough and Jason Wood held lower house seats in the 41st and 42nd Parliaments while Senators in the last parliament – Barnaby Joyce, Matt Thistlethwaite and David Feeney – have moved to the lower house.



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