TIME Australia

An Australian MP Says Sorry for Calling Chinese Officials ‘Mongrels’ and ‘Bastards’

House Of Representatives Question Time
Leader of the Palmer United Party Clive Palmer during Question Time at Parliament House on July 15, 2014 in Canberra, Australia. Stefan Postles—Getty Images

And says he looks forward to "greater peace and understanding in the future"

Australian legislator and mining tycoon Clive Palmer has “most sincerely” apologized for a blistering attack on the Chinese government, reports the BBC.

During a live debate shown last week by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the 60-year-old billionaire — whose own Palmer United Party holds the balance of power in Australia’s Senate — slammed Chinese officials as “bastards” and “mongrels” who “shoot their own people.”

“They’re communist, they shoot their own people, they haven’t got a justice system and they want to take over this country,” he said at the time. “The Chinese government wants to bring workers here to destroy our wage system … they want to take over our ports and get our resources for free … I don’t mind standing up against the Chinese bastards and stopping them from doing it.”

China is Australia’s top trading partner, and Palmer’s tirade prompted a fierce backlash in a state-linked Chinese newspaper, the Global Times.

His remarks were also criticized by other Australian politicians. “Mr. Palmer’s comments are offensive, they are unnecessary, and it’s unacceptable for a Member of Parliament to make such comments, particularly on a national television program,” said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on the radio.

In a letter to the Chinese ambassador revealed Tuesday, Palmer said, “I regret any hurt or anguish such comments may have caused any party and I look forward to greater peace and understanding in the future.”

TIME swimming

Swimming: Ledecky Leaves Her Mark in Australia

Katie Ledecky
Katie Ledecky of the U.S. smiles as she poses with her gold medal after she set a new world record in her women's 1500-m freestyle final at the Pan Pacific swimming championships in Gold Coast, Australia, on Aug. 24, 2014 Rick Rycroft—AP

And she's still in high school

(GOLD COAST, Australia) — The long, deep breaths were a sign: Elation, satisfaction, relief. And just a touch of exhaustion.

Katie Ledecky had just wiped almost six seconds off her own world record in the 1,500-meter freestyle to win her fifth gold medal of the Pan Pacific championships, rounding off a phenomenal season of competition.

She now owns the world records in the 400- — she lowered her own mark at that distance the previous night — the 800- and the 1,500-meter freestyle events and is the world champion in all three.

And she’s still in high school.

Before the Pan Pacific championships, the bulk of the attention focused on the return to international competition of Michael Phelps, the most decorated swimmer of all time. Ledecky’s performances made sure Phelps had to share the spotlight.

Phelps, who won eight Olympic gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Games and retired after lifting his tally to 18 golds by the end of the London Games in 2012, was frequently asked about his 17-year-old teammate.

“She’s a stud. It’s unbelievable,” Phelps said of Ledecky after she lowered her record in the 400, describing her reaction to all the fuss over her times as “so nonchalant.”

“Watching her swim is remarkable,” he said. “She throws it on the line — she’s very talented, she works hard, and it shows.”

Ledecky enjoys swimming the 1,500, but it’s not an Olympic event for women so it’s not a big part of her longer-term plans beyond the world championships next year. She likes the challenge of it. Her reaction to winning the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle golds were fairly subdued and self-effacing.

Although she said it was “kind of cool” to be the first to set a world record at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre’s new outdoor pool, she said she also loved playing a role in a winning 4×200 freestyle relay for the Americans.

All of her records came in some pretty difficult weather conditions — steady rain and a cold wind off the nearby Pacific Ocean during most of the sessions. It was a final, and uncharacteristic, blast of the last few weeks of the southern hemisphere winter in this part of Australia.

After completing the 30 laps in 15 minutes, 28.36 seconds — her third world record in 15 days — she really let her emotions show, slapping the water in delight after an intense final lap when she pushed harder and harder to the wall.

“That was probably one of my most painful races,” Ledecky said. “But it paid off in the end. I figured pretty early on in the race that I was on world-record pace. I wasn’t sure about the middle if I fell off too much, because it did really hurt. I was pretty sure I had it, but breaking it by six seconds was pretty surprising.”

It was the third time in 13 months she’s set the mark in the 1,500, and the second within three months since her 15:34.23 in June.

“The 1,500 is not a huge priority of mine because it’s not an Olympic event — (but) it’s certainly one of my favorite events,” she said. “It was the last day of the meet — last time I broke it, it was the first day of the meet — so pretty different.”

Now, for a change, the 2012 Olympic 800-meter champion will get a well-earned break from competition before training picks up again for the 2015 world championships.

TIME Australia

The Chinese Government Are ‘Bastards,’ Says an Australian MP

Clive Palmer Addresses National Press Club
Clive Palmer speaks at the National Press Club on July 7, 2014 in Canberra, Australia. Stefan Postles—Getty Images

"They shoot their own people, they haven't got a justice system and they want to take over this country"

An Australian legislator and mining magnate has delivered a scathing tirade against Chinese investment in Australia, calling the Chinese government “bastards” who want to usurp control of the nation. He also referred to a Chinese resources company as “mongrels.”

“They’re communist, they shoot their own people, they haven’t got a justice system and they want to take over this country. And we’re not going to let them,” said MP Clive Palmer, during a live debate aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“The Chinese government wants to bring workers here to destroy our wage system … they want to take over our ports and get our resources for free. So far they’ve shifted $200 million [Australian dollars, or about $186 million] worth of iron ore out of this country without paying for it. I don’t mind standing up against the Chinese bastards and stopping them from doing it.”

The comments were uttered in the context of a legal battle between Palmer’s Mineralogy mining company and Chinese-owned Citic Pacific Mining over multibillion-dollar cost blow-outs and royalty payments for an iron ore port in Western Australia.

“We’ll be suing them and they’ll be answering the questions,” Palmer continued. “We’ve had three judgments in the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Western Australia and an arbitration against these Chinese mongrels,” he said.

The comments were not completely out of character for the political firebrand whose newly minted Palmer United Party won a slew of seats during 2013’s federal and state elections on the back of a populist campaign.

Last year, after threatening to sue Australian-born media baron Rupert Murdoch over an opinion column that questioned Palmer’s claims to being a billionaire, university professor and adviser to the G-20, Palmer called Murdoch a “gutless wonder.” He also made some colorful observations about Wendi Deng, Murdoch’s Chinese-born ex-wife.

“Wendi Deng is a Chinese spy and that’s been right across the world,” Palmer told Australia’s Channel 9 TV network. “She’s been spying on Rupert for years, giving money back to Chinese intelligence. Read the truth about it. She was trained in Southern China. I’m telling you the truth. That’s why Rupert Murdoch got rid of her.”

Palmer’s on-again off-again relationship with the Chinese reads like the script of a Judd Apatow movie. Last year, he ordered 117 full-scale animatronic dinosaurs from China for Palmersaurus, a theme park set around the Palmer Coolum Resort in Queensland.

His plans to build a fully functioning replica of the Titanic have meanwhile stalled after it was revealed in May he was yet to sign a contract with the Chinese shipbuilder CSC Jinling despite announcing a deal was imminent early last year.

Palmer offered his version of an apology for his remarks this morning, tweeting that his comments were “not intended to refer to Chinese people but to Chinese company which is taking Australian resources & not paying.”

Concern has nonetheless arisen over the potential economic and diplomatic fallout from Palmer’s verbal attacks against Australia’s largest trading partner, with leading political figures lining up to slap his wrist.

“Hopefully China will ignore it, but I’ll contact the Chinese embassy to point out that these views are not representative of the Australian Parliament and I don’t believe representative of the Australian people,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Fairfax Radio. “Mr. Palmer’s comments are offensive, they are unnecessary, and it’s unacceptable for a Member of Parliament to make such comments, particularly on a national television program.”

“I think it is hugely damaging for Mr. Palmer to make those sort of comments,” added Treasurer Joe Hockey. “He is in a very obvious legal dispute with his Chinese partners, but I’d say to Mr. Palmer, please don’t bring down the rest of Australia because of your biases.”

Condemnation for Palmer has even come from Pauline Hanson, a former MP and poster-girl of the far right, who shot to notoriety after claiming Australia was being “swamped by Asians” in a 1996 parliamentary address. After losing her seat and being convicted, jailed and then acquitted of electoral fraud, Hanson has reinvented herself as a reality-TV star and now, apparently, a voice of reason.

“I’ve always said clean up your own backyard before criticizing other people,” she told Australia’s Channel 7 network. “It’s not up to Clive Palmer or anyone else. It’s not for us or Australia to get involved in that.”

TIME National Security

Study: Passport Officers Struggle to Spot Fake Photo IDs

Officers failed to recognize faces were different from ID photos 15% of the time in a test situation

Officials charged with issuing passports mistakenly accepted photo identification displaying a different person 14% of the time, according to the results of a study published Monday.

The study asked officials to accept or reject someone based on whether a displayed photo matched the person before them. They mistakenly accepted someone with a different photo displayed almost 15% of the time and mistakenly rejected someone whose real photo was displayed 6% of the time.

“At Heathrow Airport alone, millions of people attempt to enter the UK every year. At this scale, an error rate of 15% would correspond to the admittance of several thousand travellers bearing fake passports,” said Rob Jenkins, a psychology researcher at the University of York and study co-author.

Officers fared even worse on a separate test that asked them to match a current photo with identification photos taken two years prior. They matched the photos incorrectly 20% of the time, a figure equivalent to the performance of an untrained control group.

The study, which tested 27 Australian passport officers, found that training had little influence on officers’ ability to identify faces on passports correctly. The best way to address faulty identification is to hire people who are innately better at identifying faces, researchers concluded.

“This study has importantly highlighted that the ability to be good at matching a face to an image is not necessarily something that can be trained,” said University of Aberdeen professor Mike Burton, a study co-author. “It seems that it is a fundamental brain process and that some people are simple more adept at it than others.”

TIME Environment

What We Can Learn From Australia and Turning Off the Tap

500627073
Andrew Bain—Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

The country's long drought taught people that they need to mimic nature

As an Australian, I have been taught from birth the value of water. In school, history lessons always included details of early explorers who died of thirst, such as Robert O’ Hara Burke and William John Wills’ disastrous expedition between the Gulf of Carpenteria and Melbourne in 1861. Today, the threat remains; it’s not uncommon for people to die from lack of water when their cars break down in the Outback.

And while we’re used to water scarcity in Australia, we do have particular periods of national drought, the latest stretching from 1997 to 2010. It has taught all of us that water is priceless, because we cannot live without it. It’s also brought a greater understanding in Australia’s towns and cities of what it is like to live in the bush. A drought so long and severe required all Australians to bear the burden.

Schools and community groups got deeply involved in Waterwatch, a national volunteer water quality monitoring and water education program. Farmers installed observation bores on their property and regularly measured water table levels and groundwater quality, to guard against salinity that can spoil water and land in droughts. If you drove into a country town during the drought, the first thing you saw was a large sign stating the level of water restrictions.

In the cities, people stopped washing cars, then stopped watering lawns, and then stopped watering gardens. Many of us had a bucket between our legs in the shower, but that was voluntary! The country has expanded water recycling, with many places aiming to recycle 100 percent of their waste water. We also invested heavily in desalination (though now, because the drought has dissipated, much of the expensive, energy-consuming equipment is no longer needed). The Australian nation has had to learn together to learn to turn the tap off and treat fresh water as a valuable resource.

Australians love water and we mostly live by the sea, but getting access to fresh water is getting more dangerous for those in the northern parts of Australia. Recently a 15-foot-long crocodile plucked a bloke out of his boat in front of his family in a national park. The croc was shot (a rare event, since crocs have been protected from shooting since 1972) and the man’s body recovered. The culprit was as much the dry conditions as the croc. Crocs always guard their piece of waterway, and they are always growing bigger. As it gets drier, the big crocs and humans have less water to use, and are drawn closer together.

As an agricultural consultant on a recent trip to Northern Queensland, which is still in drought, I was introduced to a new term: “sell’em or smell’em,” meaning that that if you do not sell your cattle livestock, you will smell them dead. There was just not enough water to keep them alive.

But droughts are not new to Australia and historically our landscapes have been able to function and flourish. The question is how a modern society can cope with the droughts, which affect everyone in our nation. Perhaps we can learn from Peter Andrews, a racehorse breeder and grazier from New South Wales, who wrote an excellent book called Back from the Brink. The book explains how the Australian landscape was distinguished by its ability to hold fresh water underground in huge floodplains. These plains released water over time, but also accommodated floodwaters by absorbing them into underground aquifers.

This natural process stored excess water and then released it in dry times, feeding streams at their highest point. Reed beds acted like biological safety values. They held water back and the water would rise. The rising floodwater and floating debris increases leverage on the top of the reeds. Then they would flatten like a protective blanket, protecting what was beneath them.

This process is no more as livestock and machinery have drained the floodplains of fresh water, removed the reed beds and in many cases allowed salt to move down into the lower parts of the landscape. The drought has again taught us that we need to mimic nature and learn to read the landscape in order to start to repair it.

For those in drought, my simple message is to remember that a drought normally ends with some form of flood, which can do more damage. As there is little vegetation to slow down the flow of water and precious topsoil is washed away, too much water ends up degrading farmland and undermining bridge foundations. You can’t erase a drought all at once. So be prepared.

Gwyn Jones is an agricultural consultant in Mudgeeraba, Queensland, Australia. This was written for Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Australia

The U.S. Will Increase Its Military Presence in Australia

US Marines Train In Australia's Northern Territory
The first group of 200 U.S. Marines arrives at Darwin's Robertson Barracks for a 6-month training rotation, April 2012. The Sydney Morning Herald—Fairfax Media via Getty Images

The move comes at a time when China has been testing the waters in the region

The United States will be finalizing an agreement to increase its military presence in Australia in an attempt to bolster its ties with allies in the Asia-Pacific, where China has been flexing its muscles, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The negotiations will conclude an agreement made between Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott and U.S. President Barack Obama in June.

At the annual AUSMIN talks between U.S. and Australian defense leaders this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will discuss a proposal to add more fighter jets and bombers to a military base near the northern Australian city of Darwin, Reuters said.

Australia’s defense minister David Johnston and U.S. officials will also sign a 25-year agreement, which will create a larger ballistic missile defense shield for U.S. allies in Asia-Pacific and boost U.S. troops in Australia from 1,500 to 2,500 by 2017. The additional forces will respond to humanitarian disasters and conflicts in the region.

The negotiations for an increased military presence in the region follow Beijing’s rejection of a U.S. request that China and other nations refrain from provocative acts in disputed areas of South China Sea.

TIME russia

Russia Bans Wide Array of Food Imports From the U.S., EU

Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev announces sanctions at the Cabinet meeting in Moscow on Thursday, Aug. 7.
Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev announces sanctions at the Cabinet meeting in Moscow on Thursday, Aug. 7. Dmitry Astakhov—AP

"The situation now requires us to take retaliatory measures."

Russia banned a wide array of food imports from Western countries Thursday in a spiraling sanction war amid the worst ties between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the additional restrictions, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said he signed a decree banning for one year the import of foods such as meats, cheese and vegetables from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway, the Associated Press reports.

The measures will cut off what would have amounted to some $12 billion in imports from the EU and more than $1 billion in imports from the U.S., according to the AP. They are also likely to take a toll on the supply of higher-end food goods for Russia’s wealthier urbanites, according to the AP.

“Until the last moment, we hoped that our foreign colleagues would understand that sanctions lead to a deadlock and no one needs them,” Medvedev said, according to the AP. “But they didn’t and the situation now requires us to take retaliatory measures.”

The restrictions follow the harshest sanctions yet imposed by the West last week targeting a large swath of the Russian economy, including finance, oil and defense. Those measures were intended to squeeze the already troubled Russian economy even further, after Russia seized Crimea in March and is suspected of continuing to support pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Medvedev also said Ukrainian airliners would be banned from flying over Russian airspace. He said such measures may be extended to Western airliners, some of which currently fly over Siberia from the U.S. en route to other parts of Asia.

[AP]

TIME Aviation

How a Dutch Firm Plans to Find MH370 in Seabeds Less Mapped Than Mars

Australia Malaysia Plane
In this map released on July 31, 2014, by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre, details are presented in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean. AP/Joint Agency Coordination Centre

Australia said Wednesday that Fugro has won the bid to relaunch MH370's search

A Dutch firm is attempting to crack one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries: how Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777 carrying 239 people, vanished in an age of surveillance and technology.

The Australian Transportation Safety Board (ATSB) said Wednesday it selected the Dutch technical consultancy Fugro to relaunch the search for MH370 after a month-long tender process that solicited bids the world’s most advanced deep sea searchers, according to the firm’s statement.

Unlike some of its fellow bidders, Fugro historically hasn’t focused on deep-sea recovery, but rather on geotechnical services like underwater mapping for off-shore oil and gas clients. Other bidders like the UK-based Blue Water Recoveries and the Odyssey Marine Exploration specialize in recovering modern shipwrecks or search-and-recovery in deep ocean exploration.

Fugro, which has pursued some underwater search missions in European waters, attributes its win not to advanced technology, but instead to a calculated balance.

“In the initial phases of the search, a number of companies deployed very accurate and very sophisticated autonomous underwater vehicles. The advantage of such technology is that it’s very accurate, but the bad side is that it takes a lot of time to cover a square meter,” Rob Luijnenburg, Fugro’s director of corporate strategy, told TIME. “What we’re doing now is a combination of sufficient resolution and the capability to survey a reasonably large seabed in a relatively short time.”

Fugro had previously worked in conjunction with Bluefin Robotics to develop the Bluefin-21 vehicle used in search efforts during April and May. At that time, officials had suspected the plane’s pinger had run out of battery, and swapped in the Bluefin-21 for the Towed Pinger Locator. Other Fugro missions devoted to search-and-recovery have involved partnerships with the UK to recover helicopters downed over water, and ship recoveries near the Netherlands.

Fugro has already been directly involved in the MH370 search, too. Since June, one of Fugro’s ships, the Fugro Equator, has been working with a Chinese ship to conduct preliminary bathymetric surveys (i.e. underwater mapping of the terrain) around the target area. While radars mounted on the two ships have already mapped nearly 60,000 sq. km—much of that area is in the designated search area—Fugro’s AUS 60 million contracted mission involve only the Fugro Equator and another of Fugro’s ships, the Fugro Discovery. The two ships will each tow sonar scans near the seabed to produce higher resolution maps and possibly locate debris.

“Previous estimates [of the seabed] are very, very rough. The resolution is not good enough to find little bits of pieces of aircraft—that we do with the [towed] sonar equipment,” Luijnenburg said.

The designated search area, about 600 miles south of the previous phase’s area, was decided in June by Inmarsat scientists after re-analyzing satellite data. The area, roughly double the size of Massachusetts, is the latest patch of ocean in what’s been a hopscotch around the largely uncharted South Pacific. Estimates indicate that existing maps of this territory are about 250 times less accurate than surveys of Mars and Venus.

To navigate such difficult underwater terrain, further complicated by treacherous weather conditions, Fugro has connected with experts including Donald Hussong, a sonar guru. Hussong, who was brought out of partial retirement to assist Fugro’s sonar towing logistics, said the two vessels will each be equipped with 9 or 10 km. of cable that will tow scanners about 100 to 150 m. above the sea floor. The existing maps, while crude approximations, will be enough to prevent the sonar from impacting the ocean floor, which could dislodge the equipment.

Hussong estimates that the relaunched search over 60,000 square km. will span approximately 9 to 10 months—a heartbeat compared to the nearly 2 years it took locate Air France Flight 447’s debris, a mere 6.5 km from the center of the search. If the Dutch firm’s towed sonars locate debris, then the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which aided in locating the Titanic’s wreckage in 1985, will contribute two autonomous underwater vehicles.

But thus far, absolutely nothing—not even a suitcase, life vest, or crumpled paper—has turned up. Fugro is hopeful that the wreckage will be located, but the Dutch firm acknowledged that there’s a chance the massive search might yet again emerge fruitless.

“If we have contrast between the hard surfaces of debris and sediments naturally on the bottom [of the ocean], then we should find it.” Hussong told TIME. “If it’s some place on a rocky bottom or the side of a cliff, it’ll be difficult.”

Inmarsat, however, the agency that dictates the search area alongside Australian and Malaysian authorities, remains more than cautiously optimistic that Fugro will solve MH370’s mystery.

“We remain highly confident in the analyses conducted,” an Inmarsat spokesperson told TIME in an e-mail, adding that the scale of the task shouldn’t be underestimated. “The next phase of the search is being handled by those trained in this sort of work and we are hopeful that evidence will be found.”

TIME World

Commuters Tilt Train to Rescue Man Who Got Stuck in the Gap

The ultimate display of teamwork

+ READ ARTICLE

A typical Wednesday morning commute in Perth, Australia, took a frightening turn when a man slipped and became wedged between a train and the platform. Workers spent about ten minutes trying to free him, but his leg was stuck and just wouldn’t budge, ABC News reports.
 
Naturally, crowds began to gather to watch the spectacle — and soon, those rubberneckers joined with passengers to push against the train. More than 50 people worked together to rock and tilt the train until the man was able to free his leg and board the train.
 
A few minutes later, the train was on its way, and everything went back to normal. According to ABC News, the man did not appear to suffer from any serious injuries.
 
Despite all of that, the train was only delayed 15 minutes.

TIME Australia

Several AIDS-Conference Delegates in Australia Are Seeking Asylum

Flowers are laid as tributes to those killed in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, at the base of large sign for 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne
A large sign outside the entrance of the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne on July 20, 2014. © Stringer . / Reuters—REUTERS

They fear returning to African countries that have a long history of persecuting individuals associated with HIV/AIDS

As many as 30 attendees from last month’s international AIDS 2014 conference in Melbourne have refused to fly home and are planning to seek asylum in the country after their current visas have expired.

The delegates in question are reportedly from several African nations, including Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ethiopia, according to the Guardian.

“They’re very predictably from those countries where often their lives are at risk, not only from the disease but from the political violence [aimed] towards them,” Pamela Curr, campaign coordinator at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, tells TIME.

On Monday, refugee-support organizations acknowledged that they were providing the individuals with legal advice and helping them secure housing as they begin preparing for the lengthy application process.

However, activists say Australia’s recent crackdown on individuals seeking asylum in the country may make it difficult for the AIDS 2014 delegates to be granted the coveted status.

“It is currently extremely difficult to get asylum,” says Curr. “An asylum seeker in this country is at the absolute bottom of the ladder when it comes to human rights.”

Under the direction of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, authorities have begun enforcing a draconian policy aimed at deterring boatloads of desperate immigrants from washing up on the country’s shores.

Australia currently transfers asylum seekers arriving by sea to shoddy internment centers in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, where they await the government’s decision on their status. Critics of the government’s stance say the policy effectively criminalizes asylum seekers.

Because the conference delegates arrived in Australia by plane with visas, they are not subject to immediate deportation. However, it will take up to two years for their cases to be heard by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Officials refused on Monday to comment on the incident, citing privacy.

“All claims for protection are considered on their individual merits and according to law,” a spokeswoman from Immigration Minister Scott Morrison’s office told AFP.

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