Gillett delight at Test call-up

Matt Gillett admits to mixed feelings when he learned he’ll make his rugby league Test debut for Australia.

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The 25-year-old Brisbane back-rower intends to savour every moment of Friday’s clash with New Zealand at Allianz Stadium after being rewarded for outstanding early season form.

But it was a bittersweet moment for Gillett when informed he would be called into the match squad to replace Broncos’ teammate Sam Thaiday, who was ruled out on Monday due to his calf muscle injury.

“I am pretty happy with the way things have worked out, but I am pretty disappointed for Sam,” said Gillett.

“He’s been battling for a couple of weeks to come back but obviously his calf is not right. So I think I owe Sammy something.

“I found out only this morning that I was playing after coming down as 18th man and straight on the phone to my wife and mum and dad. It was pretty emotional.

“They’re coming down on Friday and I can’t wait to run out in the green and gold in front of them.”

Sheens said he’d been hopeful Thaiday would be able to play but the decision to rule him out was taken after he struggled to come through a fitness test at Allianz Stadium on Monday morning.

“He did a little bit this morning and it tightened up a bit so we said no,” Sheens told AAP.

“Brisbane weren’t too sure if he would be right, but we had to make a call early in the week and Sam was happy with that.”

Sheens is yet to decide who will replace Thaiday in the starting line-up with interchange forward Boyd Cordner and Gillett both in contention to play.

“Both Boydy and Gillett are good players who have played State of Origin and both do a job if selected,” he said.

North Queensland back Brent Tate will jhoin the squad later in the week as the new 18th man.

Ice cream hurting reef: Qld govt

Ben and Jerry’s ice cream has been hauled over the coals by the Queensland government for supporting WWF’s “propaganda” save the reef campaign.

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Environment Minister Andrew Powell wants Australians to boycott the American company, saying they’ve damaged the reputation of the reef and jeopardised jobs and tourism dollars.

“Another company has signed up to the campaign of lies and deceit that’s been propagated by WWF,” Mr Powell said.

“The only people taking a scoop out of the reef is Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever.

“If you understand the facts, you’d want to be boycotting Ben and Jerry’s.”

The minister says he’d be writing to parent company Unilever to express concerns and brief them on the truth.

Earlier this month, Ben and Jerry’s withdrew popular flavour Phish Food because of its allusion to fishfood, as a way of drawing attention to the potential damage to the reef.

They also embarked on a road trip around parts of Australia, giving out free ice cream to highlight their concerns over damage to the reef.

They say the reef is at serious risk of destruction from intensive dredging and dumping, mega-ports and shipping highways.

The brand has championed environmental causes in its 35-year history, including opposing drilling in the Arctic, and says it’s a proud supporter of WWF’s campaign.

“Ben & Jerry’s believes that dredging and dumping in world heritage waters surrounding the marine park area will be detrimental to the reef ecology,” Australia brand manager Kalli Swaik told AAP.

“It threatens the health of one of Australia’s most iconic treasures.”

The Queensland and federal governments in January approved the dumping of three million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the marine park and World Heritage area to enable the Abbot Point coal port expansion.

The government says 70 per cent of the spoil is expected to settle on the seabed.

WWF fears spoil could get caught in currents and smother or poison reefs just 40km away.

CEO Dermot O’Gorman says Ben and Jerry’s involvement reflects the concern of people around the world about how the reef is being managed.

“Ben & Jerry’s’ tour is a timely reminder that the world expects the Queensland and Australian governments to lift their game,” he said.

UNESCO is due to meet in June to consider the Australian government’s progress in improving the management of the reef.

It’s due to decide this year or next whether to list the reef as a world heritage site in danger.

Splendour add Childish Gambino, Sam Smith

Three more acts have been added to the Splendour in the Grass line-up.

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Childish Gambino, Adelaide’s Hilltop Hoods and Sam Smith will play the three-day event in July, the festival’s organisers announced on Monday.

“We didn’t get these three confirmed in time for the line-up announce(d) last Wednesday – too many cocktails over Easter – so we have a special edition announce(ment) for you! Hilltop Hoods, childish Gambino and Sam Smith will be playing Splendour 2014. Better late than never!” said co-producers Jessica Ducrou and Paul Piticco in a statement.

Headliners, hip-hop duo Outkast, inadvertently leaked on their website they would be playing the festival days before the official announcement.

However, organisers weren’t too perturbed, as Piticco explained the slip-up helped generate more excitement for Splendour.

“I think that actually if anything it kind of built the anticipation towards the festival a little bit so I don’t think it was a bad thing,” Pittico told AAP.

“I think everybody’s pretty happy that Outkast are playing, so no harm, no foul.”

Rapper Childish Gambino may also be known as his actor alter-ego, Donald Glover, who starred in TV series Community.

The Hilltop Hoods will join other local acts Angus and Julia Stone, Triple J’s Top 100 winner Vance Joy and The Preatures.

English singer Sam Smith adds to the already eclectic international line-up which includes Lily Allen Interpol, Two Door Cinema Club, London Grammar, Kelis and Foster the People.

* Splendour in the Grass takes place July 25-27, Byron Bay.

Australian doctor fighting ebola epidemic

(Transcript from World News Radio)

The worst outbreak of the ebola virus in seven years is still taking its toll in the West African nations of Guinea and Liberia.

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Thought to be spread by bats, the virus kills nine out of ten people who contract it.

In this latest outbreak 142 people have died, the majority in Guinea.

Australian epidemiologist, Dr Kamalini Lokuge, has just returned from Guinea where she’s been working with the families of those infected as a volunteer for Médecins Sans Frontières.

Brian Thomson has the details.

It’s a frightening sight to observe, especially for the patients: doctors dressed in suits similar to those worn by experts who handle hazardous materials.

With a near 90 per cent fatality rate, the doctors and nurses at a specially established ebola isolation centre in Guinea’s capital are forced to take extraordinary precautions to prevent themselves from becoming infected.

It’s a scene that Australian epidemiologist Kamalini Lokuge is becoming all too familiar with.

Now back home in Canberra, her visit to Guinea was the fourth time she has been to work in an ebola-affected region.

“Because you see it spreading within families and many family members dying, You see it spreading within health facilities and health workers infected and dying. I think all of that combines to make it a disease that is feared.”

It’s Kamalini’s job to map the spread of the disease, to track down affected families and win their trust.

“[In] One family, there was a patient who died, was tested and came positive but had presented very late. We didn’t understand how he got infected and we also very much concerned that he may have had lot of contacts at home while he was sick so went to his house a couple of times… When we first arrived they were very angry because there had been these people from outside visiting, the community had been asking questions, they were feeling stigmatised but we spent time explaining what care was given in the treatment centre, explaining how we control the disease, explaining our role. After that discussion, the head of that family brought two people from the family who had been sick but not willing to come.”

Those who succumb die an horrific death, bleeding internally and externally.

But perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of the disease is the fact that the families of those infected cannot hold their loved ones in their dying days.

“If family members are very keen we give them protective equipment but because of the barriers, because of the precautions, it can often be even more alienating. Particularly for example parents of children, it’s very difficult.”

Thanks in part to the work done by people like Kamalini, only around 2,000 people have contracted ebola since the disease was first identified in the mid-1970s.

And thanks to the precautions taken by MSF, none of their health workers has ever been contracted the disease.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for the families of those who go to help.

“My family and my mum are used to it now. She never says don’t go. I think everyone finds it hard. I have eight nieces and nephews and they’re all under eight yers old. They are all incredibly proud of what I do so that feels good. We’re very lucky in Australia. Every time I come back from an outbreak I think we have everything here and part of acknowledging how lucky we are – for me at least – is to help those who don’t have as much.”

 

 

Banks accused of links with unethical overseas practices

(Transcript from World News Radio)

Australia’s biggest financial institutions have jumped to defend themselves against reports of alleged links to unethical practices overseas.

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Land grabs, unapproved logging and child exploitation are amongst the accusations.

But the banks have told SBS that new international customers and investments are put under scrutiny to ensure that unethical practices are not taking place.

Abby Dinham reports.

 

Australia’s big four banks are being accused of having business dealings with controversial overseas companies at the centre of land grabbing allegations.

 

An Oxfam Australia report claims that ANZ, Westpac, National Australia Bank and the Commonwealth Bank are affiliated with organisations reportedly involved in illegal logging, forced evictions, inadequate compensation and child labour.

 

Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke:

 

“We’re talking about land grabs which are mainly agribusiness which acquire land either illegally or not going through the processes of consent and compensation for the people who owned the land and this has resulted in often illegal practices forced evictions and from our persectives the most concerning thing is that it leaves people with food shortages and often without a home.”

 

Dr Szoke says the scale of the investments is worth billions.

 

“Well Australia’s big four banks the ANZ, Westpac, Commonwealth and the NAB have in excess of 20 billion dollars worth of investments in these kind of businesses overseas so this is a big exposure for them financially and also in terms of reputation risk.”

 

In Papua New Guinea, Oxfam claims that Westpac is supporting a timber company that is illegally logging rain forest, despite order from a P-N-G Commission of Inquiry to stop.

 

In Cambodia, the report says that the ANZ Bank is financing a sugar plantation that has been accused of using child labour, and claiming land by force.

 

The report states that Phnom Penh Sugar plantation issued just 100 dollars to land owners and that families were resettled on infertile land.

 

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Bank has been accused of investing in a Brazilian agribusiness that farm on contested Indigenous land.

 

And the NAB is accused of funding Asian palm oil giant, Wilmar, which has been linked to land grab allegations in Indonesia and Malaysia, since 2011.

 

Doctor Szoke says the decisions of Australia’s big banks are having real impacts on some of the world’s poorest people.

 

“What we’re talking about is men and women with families who often are subsistance farmers who rely on the land for their own livlihoods and what has happened in the big banks investing in these companies is that their situations have become more dire for them because they haven’t had appropriate compensation and are going to bed hungry every night and often homeless.”

 

Oxfam says its investigations show the banks are on shaky ground with these investments, facing potential asset write downs and the possibility that foreign governments and courts will shut down land deals.

 

Stuart Palmer from Australian Ethical Investment says that could result in significant financial loss for the banks and their shareholders.

 

“If they’ve lent to a particular project which is relying on land which has been acquired improperly and that land then is taken away from that company then the risk that the bank won’t get repaid it’s loan is increased so that’s the potential financial impact that these sorts of practices can have on the banks.”

 

And Mr Palmer says the banks also face financial loss if their reputations are damaged as a result of these investments.

 

He says customers are becoming more discerning of where they are investing their money.

 

“We’re seeing a really strong tend where people, our clients, others are really trying to allign their personal values with their money. So partly that’s who they bank with, who they buy things from and also how they invest their money.”

 

NAB has told SBS that it actively assesses issues related to human rights – including improper land acquisition – and that the bank supports actions that promote better outcomes for businesses and the communities in which they operate.

 

The ANZ says almost half the companies it was linked with in the Oxfam report are no longer customers, including one that exited several years ago for social and environmental reasons.

 

The Commonwealth Bank says it does not have proprietary interest in the Brazilian agribusiness it was linked to, but discussions on the report will take place.

 

And Westpac told SBS it has zero tolerance for customers operating outside the law and is currently addressing the claims of improper land acquisitions raised in the report.

 

Doctor Szoke says Oxfam doesn’t want the banks to pull out of investments in these countries but to use their financial leverage to steer clients in a more ethical direction.

 

“It’s absolutely clear that the big four banks can potentially have a really positive role, we’re not saying pull out of investment in these companies we’re saying use your investment power to hold these companies to account.”