NSW police adopt ‘shoot now’ approach for terrorist attacks

NSW police will have the power to shoot armed offenders in terrorist situations on sight under a new policy, but civil libertarians say independent review and high level training are imperative.

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The force is replacing its contain and negotiate policy, and critics are concerned about the lack of detail surrounding the policy, which hasn’t been released for operational reasons.

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties says extensive training will be necessary if frontline police are to be given the discretion.

“There are very high risks involved in a shoot at first sight approach and obviously a one size reaction won’t fit all situations,” vice-president Lesley Lynch told AAP.

“It would be important that any incident which led to the death or serious injury of a person was subject of an independent review.”

The change comes after the deadly Paris attacks but senior officers say the new policy and a training program for every officer in NSW has been in the works for several years.

Contain and negotiate will still be widely used, except in situations where there is an armed offender and lives are in immediate danger or already lost.

“We saw this was coming. It had been an experience of overseas jurisdictions for some time and we weren’t going to sit on our heels and wait for it to come to us before we did something about it,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch told reporters.

Operational decisions, including when the shoot now policy takes effect, will be made by police on the ground, Acting Commissioner Nick Kaldas said.

“If police see evidence of people being killed they have to act.

We’re simply trying to equip them so they can react in a better way,” he said.

The new active armed offender training program is based on an American program by Texas State University, which has already been adopted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It’s expected to take several years to roll out the program.

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Police looking for Slipper diaries: Ashby

Political staffer James Ashby says Australian Federal Police have been searching his parents’ home on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for evidence about former Speaker Peter Slipper.

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Mr Ashby in 2012 made sexual assault allegations against Mr Slipper, his former boss, but later dropped the claims.

“They’re looking for diary records, photographs, correspondence, notes, telecommunications records, travel records, accommodation records, postal records, receipts, spreadsheets, and newspaper articles that relate to the diaries of Peter Slipper,” Mr Ashby told ABC Radio.

He listed a range of people police were searching for information relating to, including federal minister Christopher Pyne, MPs Mal Brough and Wyatt Roy and reporters from the Nine Network and News Corp Australia.

“There is nothing there that is of any use to them,” he said.

“Peter Slipper continues to pursue charges against me for the whistleblowing act of revealing his diary, which later led to charges in Canberra and aided my case.”

Mr Slipper was last year found guilty of dishonestly misusing taxpayer-funded taxi vouchers, but earlier this year had his conviction set aside following a successful appeal.

An AFP spokeswoman confirmed search warrants were executed at Sunshine Coast properties on Tuesday, but would not give further details.

“As these warrants relate to an ongoing investigation, it is not appropriate to comment further,” she said in a statement.

Mr Ashby, who had worked as Mr Slipper’s media adviser, earlier this year revealed he had begun working as a pilot for One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.

Labor MP Graham Perrett said there were serious questions to be answered by senior Liberals.

“Mal Brough, Christopher Pyne and Wyatt Roy have all tried to run a mile from their roles in this,” he said.

“It’s time they each came clean once and for all about what their roles were.”

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Shorten concerned about Muslim Party

The founder of a new Islamic political party insists it’ll bring Australians together amid concerns it could drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims.

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Diaa Mohamed says his Australian Muslim Party is about giving Muslims a platform to express themselves.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was important everyone had a say but raised concerns about bringing religion into politics.

“I don’t necessarily want to see religion being a lighting rod for people being for or against a particular party,” he told reporters in Cairns.

“I don’t think that is going to help the debate about inclusion and multiculturalism.”

Mr Mohamed rejected claims a party based on religion is divisive, insisting people of all faiths are welcome to join.

“There’s a lot of parties out there that are religion-based, so I think it’s a non-issue,” Mr Mohamed told AAP on Tuesday.

He’s also defended his decision to launch days after the deadly Paris terrorist attacks, insisting it had been planned weeks ago.

He’d contemplated calling off the launch on the weekend but thought it would be “insincere” to move it.

“Unless you’re blaming all Muslims directly for what happened … then it shouldn’t sound insensitive at all,” he said.

Senior government figure Christopher Pyne doubted a religious-based party would be very successful, saying Australia was a “secular, pluralist society”.

“People can launch whatever political parties they choose … as long as they comply with the law,” he said.

Mr Mohamed said major parties were concerned with pushing their own agendas and toeing the party line.

Jill Sheppard, lecturer at the Australian National University’s school of politics and international relations, said the new party would counter the recent rise in anti-immigration parties like the Rise Up Australia Party.

“This redresses that imbalance a little bit – the very loud anti-immigration voices tend to get more attention than they deserve,” she said.

It could also help young Muslims feel more engaged with the community and politics, she said.

The party needs 500 members before it can be officially registered.

It intends to submit candidates in every state in the hope of winning a Senate seat at the next federal election.

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Hearing services sale horrifying: critics

An outspoken health campaigner has slammed plans to sell off government-funded hearing services, telling a parliamentary inquiry rural and remote patients will suffer.

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Justine Christerson, the woman behind the social media campaign Breaking Down the Barriers for Rural Patients in City Hospitals, says she was horrified Australian Hearing had been listed as “available for sale” in the Department of Human Services’ annual report.

“I’m horrified – if it goes private, it’s just not going to meet the needs,” she told a Senate inquiry in Rockhampton on Tuesday.

Ms Christerson said the proposal would have huge impacts if it went ahead.

“There’s enough barriers as it is in indigenous communities to reach the health services that they need,” she said.

The report has put the value of Australian Hearing at $49 million.

The Department of Human Services said Australian Hearing administered investments had been described as “available for sale” since at least the 2010/11 annual report but that the classification didn’t imply that it was for sale.

The government has investigated privatising Australian Hearing but deferred plans to allow for more community consultation with a report due by the end of the year.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the government was working with stakeholders to consider how Australian Hearing could remain viable once the National Disability Insurance Scheme was rolled out.

“The government has not made a decision to privatise Australian Hearing and there is no plan to privatise Australian Hearing,” Senator Cormann said on Tuesday.

He said people who currently received or were eligible for Community Service Obligation services would continue to receive them, either as NDIS participants or clients of the Hearing Services Program.

“There is absolutely no intention to change any of the eligibility criteria or benefits currently available for children under 26 with a hearing impairment,” he said.

The Senate inquiry report is due by June 2016.

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Baby formula shortage: Major retailers further restrict sales

Coles and Woolworths have imposed tighter buying bans on baby formula amid a shortage blamed on Chinese consumers.

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Fearful parents in China are turning to products sourced from Australia after a number of deadly formula scares.

Last week, Coles was limiting customers to four tins each, and Woolworths to eight.

But Coles is now allowing only two tins per customer, and Woolworths four, across all brands.

Both retailers say they’re working to address the supply problems.

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At least two popular Australian-made brands – a2 and the Bellamy’s Organic range – are ramping up production but warn it will take time to catch up with demand.

The spike is being blamed on Chinese customers who don’t trust the products they can buy at home, and are willing to pay vastly inflated prices for Australian-sourced products.

Earlier this month, reports surfaced of people stripping supermarket shelves of quality formulas, knowing they can be resold online and shipped to Chinese buyers for enormous profit.

Sites such as eBay have been carrying ads in both English and Mandarin, offering products that usually retail in Australia for $25 to $30 for between $150 and $190.

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The shortage has been a PR problem for some brands, as mums complain loudly on social media about not being able to get their hands on the products they’ve always fed their babies.

But the spike in demand has been good for The a2 Milk Company.

On Tuesday, it revealed revenue from its a2 Platinum infant formula had quadrupled to $38 million in the four months to the end of October.

The strong growth in formula sales has prompted a2 to upgrade its full year revenue forecast to $285 million, up from previous guidance of $267 million.

The federal government has said it will only intervene in the shortage as a last resort.

Coles says it will give special consideration to families with a genuine need for more than two tins of formula, after a call from the Australian Multiple Birth Association.

“If someone has a genuine need, we’d take that into account and commonsense will be our guide,” a spokesman told AAP.

The association has advised its members to take evidence of their family situations, such as birth certificates, when they head out to buy formula.

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