Monthly archives: September, 2019

Last commander takes over in Afghanistan

The last Australian commander of international forces in Oruzgan Province has started work.

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Colonel Wade Stothart officially took over as Commander of Combined Team Oruzgan this week and will hold the job until December 31 when the mission officially ends.

Then Australian and other international troops will withdraw.

Colonel Stothart replaced Colonel Simon Stuart, who started in October 2012, overseeing the transition of security responsibility to the Afghan National Army (ANA) 4th Brigade.

Throughout the year the ANA and Afghan National Police have demonstrated their ability to secure the province, surprising insurgents with their strength and cohesion, he said.

“They have hit the insurgents hard, have built on our gains, and are growing in confidence with each independent operation.”

Australian troops in Oruzgan are in the process of ending the mission, dismantling the base at Tarin Kowt and dispatching equipment back home.

Colonel Stuart said it was a complex job to reduce infrastructure and personnel on the base while retaining what’s needed to see the mission through to the end of the year.

“We have a deliberate plan to achieve this and we are working closely with our Afghan partners to ensure it is done efficiently and in a way that leaves them able to sustain independent security operations when we leave,” he said.

Colonel Stuart said Australian troops have made great improvements in the province.

From a single under-resourced hospital inaccessible to much of the population, Oruzgan now features greatly improved medical services available to people in every district. Similarly, the education system has vastly improved.

“Our legacy here will be a foundation from which the Afghans can build a future in their own vision. It will not be perfect but the government is now equipped to tackle the challenges that lay ahead,” he said.


Brazil lose to Swiss as Argentina beat Italy

Paraguay, bottom of their qualifying group and with almost no hope of reaching a fifth World Cup finals in a row, managed a shock 3-3 draw in Germany on coach Victor Genes’s debut.

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World Cup hosts Brazil, fresh from their Confederations Cup triumph, were disappointing in Berne where they failed to recover from a Dani Alves own goal just after the interval.

Argentina, missing captain Messi due to muscle fatigue, won their first meeting with Italy for 12 years in Rome with goals from Napoli’s new striker Gonzalo Higuain and substitute midfielder Ever Banega, though Lorenzo Insigne pulled one back.

England, by no means sure of a direct berth into the World Cup finals, fought back twice for a 3-2 win over Scotland at Wembley in an enthralling first clash between the bitter rivals since 1999.

England striker Rickie Lambert made a dream international debut as a substitute at 31 by scoring the winner with his first touch when he headed home a corner seconds after coming on.

Montenegro, who lead European Group H two points ahead of England having played a game more, were held 1-1 by Belarus in Zhodino.

RUSSIA SHOCKED

In the night’s only qualifier, Russia blew a chance to overtake Portugal at the top of European Group F when they were upset 1-0 by Northern Ireland in Belfast, Martin Paterson scoring the only goal two minutes before halftime.

Colombia beat Serbia 1-0 in Barcelona with a late goal from midfielder Fredy Guarin while Uruguay and Chile, direct rivals for places at the 2014 finals, enjoyed high-scoring victories.

Diego Forlan netted two first half goals as Uruguay won 4-2 in Japan with unsettled Liverpool striker Luis Suarez also on the scoresheet as both players increased their joint record national team tally to 36 each.

Chile crushed hapless Iraq 6-0 in Denmark with Alexis Sanchez in fine form, scoring twice and laying on two goals for winger Jean Beausejour.

Another of the world’s leading strikers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, got a hat-trick as Sweden beat neighbours Norway 2-0 in Stockholm.

He was, though, pipped for goal of the night by veteran Anders Svensson who hammered home a twisting, dipping shot for their fourth in his 142nd international.

Jordan, preparing to face Uzbekistan in the Asian playoff for a berth in the intercontinental decider against South America’s fifth-placed team, beat Libya 2-1 in Amman.

(Editing by Ken Ferris)


First woman to umpire AFL game wearing a hijab

Soreti Jibrael made history over the weekend when she stepped onto Etihad stadium to umpire an Auskick match wearing a hijab.

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But being a pace-setter can bring a few nerves.

Everybody was just staring down at you, so you feel like what would they say if they saw a Muslim girl,” says Ms Jibrael.

“I was sort of proud at the same time.”

The 13 year-old started umpiring earlier this year – after taking a course through the AFL.

And while her father, Omar Osman is proud, he is still warming to the code.

“She is the first one to umpire with hijab, Muslim girl to umpire, I was surprised,” he says.

“Because I don’t know much about the football because footy’s not my favourite, my favourite is soccer.”

Even though she is the first umpire to wear a hijab on AFL ground, for Soreti, it’s just about the love of the game. And the AFL hopes it will encourage more diversity in the code.

National Development Manager at the AFL, Josh Vanderloo says Ms Jibrael will help other young women to take up umpiring.

“She’s a shining light now for other people just like her, she’s there to promote umpiring and to promote her own culture,” he says.

“And we think Australian football’s a great game that anybody can play, coach and get involved in.”

Meanwhile, Ms Jibrael hopes she will inspire more Muslim women to take up the challenge.

“Wearing a hijab or being a Muslim doesn’t discriminate you from playing AFL or umpiring,” she says.


Xstrata cuts back on Philippines mine

Swiss mining giant Glencore Xstrata says it is laying off nearly all workers at its $US5.

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9 billion ($A6.49 billion) copper project in the Philippines which has been stalled by regulators.

The Tampakan mine is cutting costs while it undergoes “an extremely complex and uncertain pathway to ultimate project approval”, said spokesman John Arnaldo of Glencore Xstrata unit Sagittarius Mining on Tuesday.

“At present, the project faces substantial development challenges…. no investment decision can be made until the current project challenges are resolved and necessary approvals obtained,” he told AFP.

He said the hurdles include a local government ban on open-cut mining, while the company must also still obtain a substantial number of community and government permits.

Out of 1,060 workers, the company is dismissing 300 regular and project employees and about 620 contract workers, Arnaldo said.

Under its revised work plan, the company will still be spending about $US1 million a month, down from its previous 2013 work plan of $US4 million a month, he added.

Sagittarius describes the Tampakan project, on the major southern island of Mindanao, as one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits.

The project would be the Philippines’ largest ever foreign investment but it has been opposed by anti-mining activists, tribal groups and church leaders.

Arnaldo said the company has so far invested more than $US500 million in developing Tampakan, and had hoped early approvals would allow it to start commercial production by 2019.

The Philippines is believed to have some of the world’s biggest mineral reserves — the government estimates the country has at least $840 billion in gold, copper, nickel, chromite, manganese, silver and iron ore deposits.

However, the minerals have been largely untapped, partly because of a strong anti-mining movement led by the influential Catholic Church. Poor infrastructure and security concerns have also kept investors away.


Labor targets Abbott in new election ads

Labor’s new attack advertisements personally target Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and paint him as a “negative” leader who plans to slash spending that will hurt families.

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Opinion polls show the coalition leads Labor by an average 51.5 per cent to 48.5 per cent, ahead of the September 7 federal election.

Now government strategists are trying to capitalise on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s personal popularity and edge over Mr Abbott as preferred prime minister with two new television ads.

One features a mum preparing a meal for her children and asking, “what are you hiding Mr Abbott?”.

The other raises the prospect of cuts to fill a $70 billion hole in the coalition’s costings, which it denies.

“This is going to be something that resembles the Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury told Sky News on Thursday.

Asked to weight the tone of the ads against Mr Rudd’s recent call to drop negative and destructive personal politics, Mr Bradbury said: “The truth is not negative.”

Mr Abbott told reporters that Mr Rudd had promised on his return to the prime ministership to be positive.

“He said: `With all my heart I want to get away from this negativity’,” Mr Abbott said.

“Was Mr Rudd telling us a fib then or has he simply lost control of the party organisation?”

Mr Abbott is spending day 11 of the campaign in Tasmania, where he’s launched the second phase of an economic plan for a state which has the highest jobless rate in the country and is growing below the national average.

“Tasmania shouldn’t be like this,” Mr Abbott said in Launceston, in the Labor-held seat of Bass.

“We have a growth plan that has been tailor-made for Tasmania.”

Mr Abbott is advocating spending on the Midland Highway, a better funded Antarctic Research Centre and a $38 million upgrade of Hobart airport so it can handle more air freight and major aircraft.

The plans build on Mr Abbott’s $6.5 million Tasmania job scheme, which offers subsidies to businesses to employ the long term unemployed, announced last week.

The prime minister is in the Northern Territory to discuss economic development, before heading to outback Western Australia and Perth.

The Australian Greens have announced a plan to introduce voluntary euthanasia laws to federal parliament.