Archive for March, 2019

29 March
Comments Off on Filly on track for Oaks

Filly on track for Oaks

KRIS LEESPREMIER Newcastle trainer Kris Lees is giving Queensland Oaks favourite Express Power every chance of gaining group1 glory.

Express Power is the $4.50 favourite on TAB fixed odds betting in the $400,000 classic for three-year-old fillies on June1 over 2400metres.

Express Power will have her final lead-up to the Oaks on Saturday in the group3 Doomben Roses at Doomben over 2020m.

Lees has Express Power stabled at the Gold Coast while in Queensland.

Early yesterday morning she was taken to Doomben for a vital trackwork gallop on the course proper.

‘‘The Gold Coast was very heavy so I took the chance to give Express Power a look at the track before Saturday’s race,’’ Lees said.

‘‘She has never seen Doomben before, and she really took to the place.

‘‘Jimmy Cassidy will stick with her on Saturday, but I asked his brother Larry to ride her in the gallop.

‘‘He worked her on the outside of the course proper. The track was rain-affected, but in any case she wasn’t sent out to go against the clock.

‘‘My foreman, Cameren Swan, watched the work and he was more than happy with what the filly did.’’

Express Power became favourite for the Oaks after a dominant win in the Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m) on May4. Ridden off the pace from an awkward barrier, the filly was too strong over the concluding stages for stablemate Soapy Star.

Soapy Star, which will also run in the Doomben Roses, returned to Newcastle after the run at the Gold Coast.

Lees thought about running her at Scone over the cup carnival. But she will be floated to Queensland later in the week in preparation for her run in the Doomben Roses.

‘‘We will give Soapy Star another chance on Saturday to see whether we also proceed to the Oaks with her,’’ Lees said.

A track gallop at Broadmeadow this morning will determine whether Lees has a third Doomben Roses representative. Impressive Newcastle winner Masroora has been entered for both the Roses and Sunday’s Warwick Farm meeting.

While Express Power heads fixed odds Oaks betting at $4.50, Soapy Star is at $21 and Masroora $34.

‘‘I want to have a look at Masroora tomorrow morning before deciding which way to go with her,’’ Lees said yesterday.

‘‘She is also showing staying promise and if I do get three runners in the Oaks that would be great.’’

29 March
Comments Off on GT: Port shows off its mussels

GT: Port shows off its mussels

THE Anchorage Port Stephens will show off its mussels when it hosts its first beer degustation on the marina on Fridaynight.

Merretts Restaurant executive chef Luke Carpenter has prepared a degustation menu brimming with mussels to accompany a selection of craft beers from Port Stephens-based Murray’s Craft Brewing Co.

Surrounded by boats bobbing on the water under the stars, guests will be treated to Carpenter’s three-course dinner on the boardwalk. The dinner costs $60 per person. Bookings are essential on 49842555.

Cafe showcases Aussie beer

BEER lovers, rejoice. The highly anticipated The Grain Store is opening its doors in Newcastle’s east end this week.

The iconic Scott Street site formerly known as The View Factory has reopened as a ‘‘craft beer cafe’’ selling 100per cent Australian beer. It is the brainchild of Corey Crooks and his wife Kristy, who previously held the licence at the Albion Hotel in Wickham.

Bacchus degustation dinner

THEY say great minds think alike, and that two heads are better than one.

If that is the case then the next winemakers dinner at Bacchus should not be missed.

Bacchus head chef Tim Montgomery and Alex Head, of Head Wines, have joined forces to create a five-course degustation dinner at the King Street restaurant on May 30.

Head worked with the likes of Tyrrells in the Hunter Valley, as well as Torbreck, Laughing Jack and Cirillo Estate Wines in the Barossa Valley, prior to acquiring a producer’s licence and releasing his first wines.

The dinner will highlight his current releases which will be matched with Montgomery’s fine food. The 6.30pm dinner costs $120 per person. Book on 49271332.

Subo owners take holiday

AFTER earning a coveted hat in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Guide Awards, as well as a bunch of other accolades in the past year, Suzie and Beau Vincent of contemporary Newcastle bistro Subo are set to take a well-earned holiday.

The couple will briefly close their popular restaurant from June 24 until July 10 to enjoy their first big break since opening in November 2011.

‘‘We’re just closing for a couple of weeks,’’ Suzie said. ‘‘We are going to Japan for 10 days, just for fun and some inspiration.’’

Laneway dining popular

PATRONS of Newcastle’s Caffestry have been enjoying more alfresco dining since the Pacific Street cafe introduced laneway dining.

With a Melbourne-esque vibe, the laneway between Caffestry and the Backpackers By The Beach has been filled with patrons enjoying the great outdoors since summer.

‘‘We are just making use of any available space we have in order to give people somewhere comfortable to sit and enjoy a coffee, some nice food and the atmosphere,’’ Caffestry’s Kynan Smyth said.

In conjunction with Podspace, the cafe has hosted film screenings, a mural artist and a jazz guitarist in the laneway.

TOP PAIRING: Chef Luke Carpenter with a bowl of mussels at The Anchorage, which will host its first beer degustation on Friday night. Pictures: Peter Stoop

29 March
Comments Off on GT: Feeding the family

GT: Feeding the family

HECTIC: Curtis Stone has become a dad.CURTIS Stone thought he had a busy life – then his son was born.

Now he totally understands the dilemma facing families who juggle work, kids and cooking good, healthy meals each night.

‘‘You think you have a busy life before you have kids – because you do – and then you have a child and you’re like, ‘My god, now I know what a busy life’s all about’,’’ he said.

And for now, at least, Stone has only one child. His son Hudson is 18months old and hasn’t even begun to utter the phrase so often heard by parents: ‘‘What’s for dinner?’’

But that is why it’s the title of his latest book.

‘‘When you get asked that question, ‘What’s for dinner?’, you’re not trying to create some gourmet experience; you’re trying to feed your family healthy, delicious food. It’s that simple,’’ he said.

Stone is a trained chef who has worked for the acclaimed Marco Pierre White, and run busy restaurants in London, but it’s the family side of cooking that Stone is happy to focus on.

‘‘I’ve been in touch with home cooks for a long time – I am one myself,’’ he said.

Stone understands how mothers and fathers sometimes have to cook with one hand, holding the baby on the other hip.

‘‘In this book I’m not trying to show off how great I am, I’m trying to produce recipes that home cooks will use – it will sort of turn into their bible,’’ he said.

After cooking in hundreds of different homes around the world, Stone said he realised that no matter what the nationality, one challenge common to all was that almost everyone was busy.

‘‘It’s time, it’s money, it’s the washing up, it’s being healthy – so I’ve written a book around those challenges and offering recipes that solve those problems,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re all busy, and we’ve put so much on our plates, literally, that it’s time to get back to that important part of a family’s life, and that’s a home-cooked meal.

‘‘Imagine walking into a home and you open the front door and you smell that someone’s been cooking. You appreciate that person, you co-operate with the rest of the family by setting the table and doing the washing up afterwards, you communicate through dinner. There are all these loving family qualities that happen because of the home-cooked meal.’’

It’s clear Stone is a family man, too. During the interview he waves to his mum and dad, who are upstairs with his wife Lindsay and Hudson.

At the end of his book he thanks his mum, who he calls Lozza, for teaching him the importance of sitting down to a family meal and making him such a good cook.

Stone always includes one of his mother’s recipes in his books, and this time it’s her sticky toffee ice-cream.

The down-to-earth Melbourne-born Stone now lives in Los Angeles, and has done very well in the US, hosting several cooking shows.

With his blond spiky hair

and surfie look, there’s no doubting why he’s been able to win over the likes of talk-show queens Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres.

But he’s a true-blue Aussie and says he’ll always pronounce ‘‘tomato’’ the Australian way – although he admits he has to call a capsicum a pepper when talking to Americans.

‘‘I’ve been lucky in the States to have a few opportunities come my way, and I guess I’ve made the most of them,’’ he said.

But whether it’s a pepper or a capsicum, Stone said he’d never lose his Aussie accent.

His book has already been released in the US and is about to hit shelves in Australia.

What’s For Dinner is divided into eight logical and practical chapters.

It starts off with Motivating Mondays – a selection of healthy meals that start the week off properly.

Then it’s Time-Saving Tuesdays – when dinner can be on the table in 15 to 40minutes.

One-Pot Wednesdays feature dishes that are made in one pot, pan, frying pan or barbecue – which means less washing up.

The Thrifty Thursday chapter is exactly that – meals on a budget – and then it’s Five-Ingredient Fridays for fun recipes to kick off the weekend. For the weekend it’s Dinner-Party Saturdays for something a bit more extraordinary, and then the ever-important Family Supper Sundays – a chapter Stone feels strongly about. Food made with lots of love. AAP

What’s for Dinner? Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life, by Curtis Stone, is published by Random House Australia. RRP $39.95. For your chance to win a copy, go to page 26 of today’s Good Taste.

29 March
Comments Off on GREG RAY:  Feral Budgit at bedtime

GREG RAY:  Feral Budgit at bedtime

DADDY, what’s a Feral Budgit?

You what? What’s that? A feral who?

I was listening to the radio and they were all talking about the Feral Budgit.

Oh, oh yes, that. Umm, it’s like this great big horrible monster in Canberra. It lives inside Parliament House and it drinks blood and has an ugly face that nobody can stand to look at. It’s like a Bunyip, only more horrible.

Really? Is that true or are you being silly?

I’m not being silly at all. It’s perfectly true. Look it up on the internet if you don’t believe me.

Where did the monster come from, Daddy?

Sorry, what monster?

The Feral Budgit, you know!

Umm, it was a sort of experiment that went wrong. Radiation and stuff. There was this giant budgie in Canberra and it got crossed with a burly griffin, like in Alice in Wonderland.

Did they smuggle it?


Did they smuggle the budgie to Canberra?

Why are you asking me that?

On the radio they were talking about this man, he was at a party and they said it was liberal and he smuggled a budgie. Was that the giant budgie, Daddy?

Err, well, no, this budgie was even bigger than that one. It was there long before anybody started smuggling budgies. It was there before the white men came and the Aborigines knew better than to disturb it. They left it alone, but when white people came they wouldn’t listen to the warnings and they dug the top of its hill and put Parliament House there. Then the experiment went wrong and now we are stuck with the Feral Budgit.

Why didn’t they stop the boats, Daddy?

Sorry, what boats was that?

The Aboriginal people. Why didn’t they stop the boats so the white people couldn’t wake up the giant budgie and make it cross with the burly griffin like in Alice in Wonderland?

Umm, why would they do that? The white people came to Australia looking for a better life and the Aboriginal people agreed to share their country.

Really? Is that really true Daddy?

Well, probably. Parts of it. It was a long time ago.

So, how come everybody wants to stop the boats now? Is it to keep the budgie smugglers out?

Of course not. It’s just because the, umm, because … is that your Mum calling?

Angela’s Daddy said the budgie smugglers will be running Australia soon.

Did Angela tell you that?

Yes, she said her Daddy said that. Tell me more about the Feral Budgit.

No, I’m tired and trying to watch TV.

Please. I want to know about the Feral Budgit. On the radio they said they are locking people up with it in Canberra. Why are they doing that? Did those people do a bad thing?

Those people are reporters, they are always doing bad things. But they are being locked up with the Budgit so they can tell us what it wants from us this year.

What does the Budgit want from us, Daddy?

Oh, the usual stuff. We have to make sacrifices to please the Feral Budgit and keep it in a good mood. If it gets unbalanced it does stupid awful things and starts eating people up.

I’m scared of the Budgit Daddy. Will it eat us?

Well it might, but usually if you pay it a lot of money it will go away and just eat some public servants.

What does it do with all the money?

Nobody really knows, it just disappears.

I know, it goes into the Budgit’s Black Hole.

Where did you get that from, the radio?

Yes, that man who smuggled the budgie into the party said the Feral Budgit had a big black hole. That’s where it puts all its money.

That sounds about right to me. Now, how about saying goodnight to everybody and hopping off to bed.

Daddy . . .

What is it now?

Daddy, what’s a State Budgit?

01 March
Comments Off on Swan puts surplus on hold

Swan puts surplus on hold

Wayne Swan Treasurer Wayne Swan poses for the media with the 2013 budget at Parliament House. Photo: Andrew Meares

Swan unveils $19.4b deficitBaby bonus scrapped from 2014Full budget 2013 coverage

Middle income families, parents to be, and smokers will lose out in Wayne Swan’s sixth budget designed to repair the debt-ridden bottom line and convince voters of Labor’s economic management credentials.

Declaring the budget to be about ‘‘consistency’’, Mr Swan has eschewed the traditional pre-election spendathon, opting to challenge the opposition to ‘‘choose between making motherhood statements about ending the age of entitlement, or putting their words into action’’ by backing savings initiatives.

Faced with an expected $60 billion shortfall in revenue over four years to 2015/16, the budget confirms billions in new spending on popular disability insurance and education reforms and sets out $24 billion in infrastructure projects – although not all of that represents new spending.

But it carries the political risk that its tiny projected surplus in year three will not be believed by voters, and that its savings will be seen as harsh on business and on middle-income households.

Families in the middle income bracket stand to lose some family entitlements as well as promised carbon tax compensation, while incurring new costs for higher education when scholarship grants are converted to loans.

Smokers too are to be slugged by higher costs per packet when the federal excise and customs duty is pegged to average weekly ordinary time earnings rather than inflation.

Some older Australians will benefit from the rapid fiscal consolidation via a new trial program to encourage them to bank the proceeds of downsizing to smaller homes without affecting their aged pension availability.

Outlining a plan to deliver a tiny surplus of less than $1 billion in the third year of the budget cycle, after a larger than expected deficit nearing $20 billion for 2012/13, the Treasurer has revealed the $5000 baby bonus will be scrapped from March 1, 2014, to be replaced by a lower $2000 supplement payable only to recipients of Family Tax Benefit (A).

The Family Tax Benefit upper income cut-offs – which have been traditionally indexed to take account of inflation – have also been frozen until July 1, 2017, meaning fewer families will remain eligible as their incomes grow.

The two measures will save $2.3 billion over four years as part of a claimed aggregate saving total over five years of $43 billion.

In a surprise to markets and economic commentators, even after being softened up with pre-budget warnings of a current $17 billion revenue write-down, Mr Swan has revealed a fiscal shortfall for 2012/13 of $19.4 billion  in place of what was forecast to be a budget surplus of $1.1 billion.

Business, which has made no secret of its antipathy for Labor in recent months, stands to pay more  under a suite of changes headlined ‘‘protecting the corporate tax base’’.

These include tightening the rules on profit shifting, where multinational companies load up their local arms with debt while shifting profits offshore, usually to low tax jurisdictions. Other changes include removal of immediate deductibility for expenditure on exploration. The measures will secure nearly $4.2 billion for the budget over four years.

Delivering what might well be his last budget, Mr Swan said next year’s balance sheet would show a similar deficit of $18 billion, shrinking to $11 billion in 2014/15, and tipping into the black by just $0.8 billion in 2015/16.

The wafer thin surplus is as much a political gesture for Mr Swan, who has been on the back foot since abandoning his iron-clad commitment to a surplus come-what-may in 2012/13, just before Christmas.

‘‘Because of our deep commitment to jobs and growth, we have taken the responsible course to delay the return to surplus, and due to a savage hit to tax receipts, there will be a deficit of $18 billion in 2013/14,’’ he told Parliament.

‘‘To those who would take us down the European road of savage austerity, I say the social destruction that comes from cutting too much, too hard, too fast, is not the Australian way. Instead we’re making targeted, sustainable savings of $43 billion over the forward estimates.’’

The budget forecasts slower economic growth of 2.75 per cent in 2013/14 before recovering to 3 per cent trend growth thereafter.

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01 March
Comments Off on Wedging, hedging

Wedging, hedging


The opening sentence of Wayne Swan’s budget speech last year was so charged with chutzpah that it invited guffaws of derision from Coalition MPs the moment he uttered it. “The four surpluses I announce tonight are a powerful endorsement of the strength of our economy, resilience of our people, and success of our policies,” he said.

The opening of this year’s speech was altogether more circumspect, less declaratory and even chastened. “Tonight this Labor government makes the choice to keep our economy strong and invest in our future to support jobs and growth in an uncertain world …”

Usually, election budgets are viewed in isolation and are replete with giveaways. This one is joined at the hip to the one that spent money it didn’t yet have, and failed to anticipate the second-biggest revenue writedown since the Great Depression. But it’s an election budget just the same.

This is not a give-away budget, but its purpose is to force Tony Abbott to nominate what he will take away.

It’s about the choices Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard have made – and the choices Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey will have to make. Will they restore the baby bonus (and, if they will, how will they fund it)? Will they reverse the decision to spend $3 billion on public transport in Melbourne (and upset the new Liberal premier and a host of commuters in marginal seats)? Will they deny New South Wales billions in funding to improve schools (and give Labor ammunition in the state where it faces a wipe-out)?

Ultimately, it’s about the choice the voters will make on September 14.

Indeed, this is not so much a budget as an election battle plan. No wonder Abbott was wary of booby traps.

Aside from wedging the Coalition, the aim is to rekindle the credibility lost by charting a sensible “pathway” back to surplus and identifying some $43 billion in savings that will pay for the big-ticket Labor reforms to school funding and disability insurance.

The budget handed down on Tuesday makes a commendable start, but it is hard to overstate the self-imposed degree of difficulty.

On the one hand, Swan is confident he has a good story to tell and, when it comes to the macro economy and the rest of the world, the evidence is there to support him. An unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent, gross domestic product tipped to be 3 per cent next financial year and inflation under control are not contested – and are broadly in line with last year’s forecasts (though GDP this year is a little less than what was predicted).

The most impressive chart Swan cited in the budget lock-up was one showing that, by 2015, the Australian economy will have grown by 22 per cent since the global financial crisis.

The equivalent figure is 9 per cent for the United States and 2 per cent for Japan, while Europe will be yet to enter positive territory.

On the other hand, the problem for Labor is that credibility is earned by what you do, not what you say you are going to do, and even Labor’s successes tend to be sullied by declarations it didn’t have to make, and were generally driven by poor political judgment.

“There will be no carbon tax,” is the stand-out example, but DisabilityCare is also a case in point. Along with the plan to improve school funding, it is the centrepiece of what, almost certainly, is Labor’s swan song budget. Both policies were crafted after thorough reviews, meaningful consultations and painstaking deliberation.

But what should be Labor’s finest example of world best-practice in policy formulation is weakened because the Prime Minister ruled out an increase in the Medicare levy to pay for the national disability insurance scheme until the scale of the revenue black hole became apparent – when this was always the most logical and sensible approach to take.

Thanks to the plethora of unequivocal declarations in last year’s speech (like “meandering back to surplus would compound the pressures in our economy and push up the cost of living for pensioners and working people”), the credibility gap is even greater when it comes to this year’s pledge to balance the budget by 2015-16 and return a very modest surplus the following year.

The irony is that it was apprehension about Abbott’s ability to wound the government that goaded Gillard and Swan into making the very declarations that have eroded public trust because they didn’t come to pass – and will now be exploited ruthlessly, relentlessly, by the Coalition.

The Opposition Leader gave a taste of his post-budget attack in question time yesterday, when he questioned how 10-year funding commitments on DisabilityCare and school funding could be taken seriously (citing Swan as an authority) and asked if the Prime Minister intended apologising for the broken surplus promise.

Indeed, so toxic are the politics that speaker Anna Burke took the unusual step when Parliament resumed on Tuesday of warning MPs on both sides that she will take a zero tolerance attitude to those who would interrupt Swan’s televised budget speech or Abbott’s reply on Thursday.

Aside from an opposition that can already taste victory, Labor faces an increasingly hostile business community – whose disaffection will have only increased by plans to reap $4 billion by “closing loopholes in the corporate tax system” – and an electorate that has stopped listening.

Will this budget transform the contest? Hardly. Does it give Gillard a foundation to wage a campaign? Yes, it does. Will it instil confidence into a caucus that is bracing itself for a crushing defeat? This is doubtful.

The lesson from last year’s budget is that the real test of how this one stacks up will be in 12 months time, by which time a new Treasurer expects to be in the chair – and blaming Labor’s poor management for the tough calls he has to make.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on 苏州美甲美睫培训.

01 March
Comments Off on The federal budget at a glance

The federal budget at a glance

More money for schools.ECONOMY

Budget deficit of $18 billion, balanced by 2015/16 and in surplus by 2016/17

Economic growth of 2.75 per cent, unemployment of 5.75 per cent, inflation forecast at 2.25 per cent

Move to floating carbon price in July 2015, projected to be about $12 a tonne


Tax receipt write-downs of $17 billion in 2012/13 and $60 billion over the four years to 2015/16

Government to address loopholes in corporate tax system to save over $100 million in 2013/14 and $4.2 billion over four years


$9.8 billion in new school funding

$64.6 billion on health funding including $14.3 billion for disability care funded by Medicare levy increase of 0.5 per cent

$3.7 billion on “Living Longer. Living Better” aged care package

$1 billion plan for Australian jobs, with $500 million to create Industry Innovation Precincts

$24 billion for new road and rail infrastructure

$6.2 billion over five years for disaster relief

Defence spending increase to $113 billion over four years

Funding for centenary of Anzac including $25 million for veterans’ mental health services

Funding of $434.1 million over four years for the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse

$75.3 million to reformed Australia Council to support the Arts


Planned increase to family payments scrapped saving over $600 million.

Baby bonus abolished saving over $150 million.

Overseas development assistance target date deferred by a year to 2017/18

7¢ increase in a pack of 25 cigarettes


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01 March
Comments Off on TOPICS: It’s money for nothing

TOPICS: It’s money for nothing

TOPICS keeps being reminded by politicians’ email ‘‘alerts’’ that the budget is in chaos, with deficits ‘‘as far as the eye can see’’.

So it’s time to raise revenue, and do it fairly. We propose the following measures.

Roundabout abuse toll

Collected from drivers who stop at roundabouts when nothing’s coming, and those who whiz up the left lane to push in front of other cars.

Revenue from the toll will fund local infrastructure. Merewether will have a new hospital and helipad within a month.

Apostrophe misuse tax

To be levied on those who throw in apostrophe’s that shouldn’t be there, and on peoples errant lack of them.

Redundant ‘‘what’’ levy

Also known as the Man of the Match tax – ‘‘We defended better than what they did’’ – this mechanism will also target politicians and such sentences as ‘‘Our economy is better than what it was last year’’.

A Topics government would also look at taxing unwanted hairdresser chat, buying a round at the bar using eftpos, and people who can only talk about work.

Which behaviour would you tax?

Frog fridge tops Tub

WHAT’s the scariest thing in a Hunter fridge?

Previously, Topics ran a photo of the heinous contents of The Tub inside our home refrigerator (old whipped cream is the latest theory).

Some colleagues thought it was the work fridge, leading to a hygiene crackdown from the top. Uh, sorry guys. That explains the glares in the lunch room.

The smart folks at the University of Newcastle reckon they can top The Tub.

‘‘The scariest thing in the University of Newcastle’s environmental biology laboratory’s fridge,’’ says one who emailed us, ‘‘is the frogs, who love their specially designed, temperature-controlled fridge.’’

Topics couldn’t confirm if any French researchers use the lab.

Mysterious artist

IT’s a daydream of many of us that tucked away in our homes, in a dank, forgotten corner, lies a treasure.

Topics doesn’t just mean a set of quoits gathering mold beneath the stairs, unless they belonged to Ned Kelly. We’re talking a relic that goes under the hammer for a life-changing amount, or at least gets you on Antique Roadshow.

Margery Howison, of Arcadia Vale, has four paintings.

They’re strikingly similar, depicting a lush, lakeside scene, and two of them carry the artist’s signature: ‘‘C Arnold’’.

Mrs Howison found two of the works in her late aunty’s house at Merewether, and her son Adam happened to pick up the other two in Newcastle.

‘‘It was a bit eerie, seeing how similar they are,’’ Mrs Howison says.

She doesn’t know if they’re significant but buoyed by tales of priceless art plucked from deceased estates, she’s not about to die wondering.

One of the unsigned paintings is labelled ‘‘The Great North Road, Wyong’’. The other is marked ‘‘Como Road’’.

These seemed like telling clues, except that Wyong Shire Council doesn’t list a Como Road.

REDDIT: Frogs enjoy refrigeration. Apparently.

Can anyone help Mrs Howison solve the mystery of the four paintings? Who’s C Arnold, and where’s Como Road?

PRICELESS: A roundabout abuse toll would raise millions quickly. Picture: Phil Hearne

01 March
Comments Off on Boat with 150 Rohingya Muslims capsizes off Myanmar

Boat with 150 Rohingya Muslims capsizes off Myanmar

Bangkok: A boat carrying up to 150 Rohingya Muslims has capsized off Myanmar’s coast as a cyclone heads towards tens of thousands of others living in refugee camps in low-lying flood-prone paddies and coastal areas of the country.

An unknown number of people on the boat are missing amid fears many have drowned, UN officials say.

Tropical cyclone Mahasen moving across the Bay of Bengal is expected to hit Myanmar’s western coast late on Thursday with storm surges that could barrel into camps where about 80,000 Rohingya have been living since deadly racial violence forced them from their homes last year.

Human Rights Watch urged Myanmar authorities to immediately evacuate people to higher ground.

“The Burmese (Myanmar) government didn’t heed the repeated warnings by governments and humanitarian aid groups to relocate displaced Muslims ahead of Burma’s rainy season,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

“If the government fails to evacuate those at risk, any disaster that results will not be natural but man-made,” he said.

Human Rights Watch said Myanmar authorities made limited evacuations as the cyclone grew in intensity earlier this week and numerous camps remain occupied with no apparent plans to move people.

According to the UN more than 140,000 people were displaced in Rakhine state last year and at least half of them are living in low-lying shelters unable to withstand severe storms.

The boat hit rocks off Pauktaw township and sank on Monday night as its passengers “were travelling to another camp ahead of the cyclone,” said a spokeswoman for the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The UN and aid agencies have warned for months of the danger this year’s monsoon season poses to displaced people in Rakhine where about 800,000 Rohingya are stateless and have been described by the UN as among the world’s most persecuted people.

In the past 12 months thousands of Rohingya have attempted the perilous journey by boat south towards Thailand and Malaysia.

Scores are believed to have drowned.

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