Monthly Archives: September 2019

Sydney wins the race to host COSPAR 2020, the global ‘Space Olympics’

The planet Mars beckons. Photo: NASA/AP An artist’s impression of the Square Kilometre Array being built in Western Australia.

Business Events Sydney chief executive Lyn Lewis-Smith at the Powerhouse Museum. BES helped co-ordinate Sydney’s successful bid. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Sydney will host the world’s biggest gathering of space scientists in 2020, at the start of the decade when humans are planning to travel to Mars.

Dubbed the “Space Olympics”, the world assembly of the Committee on Space Research, or COSPAR, will convene in Sydney’s new billion-dollar convention centre in Darling Harbour.

“This is a ringing endorsement of our people, infrastructure and high regard in the global space community,” Science Minister Greg Hunt said.

The successful bid defeated a field of cities including Shanghai, Valencia, Prague and Lausanne.

Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel was delighted that Sydney will host COSPAR 2020.

“We come to the table with a bold vision for our nation’s place in science – and through science, our place in space,” Dr Finkel said.

NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said: “Up to 3000 international space experts will descend on Sydney with more than $10 million direct expenditure expected.”

The announcement is expected to trigger further debate about whether Australia should have a space program.

Australia and Iceland are the only member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development without a formal space program, and Iceland is expected to join the European Space Agency soon.

New Zealand launched its space agency in July.

Professor Russell Boyce is head of space research at UNSW Canberra. Working with the Australian Academy of Science he led Australia’s bid for COSPAR 2020.

“While we have no formal space agency we do, in fact, have a space program,” Professor Boyce said.

“COSPAR 2020 will follow on from the International Astronautical Conference in Adelaide. All these activities in Australia should help reverse the brain drain in space science – these events are laying the seeds of an Australian space agency,” he said.

Professor Boyce said Australia needed a co-ordinating framework, but it was probably too soon for the announcement of a formal agency.

COSPAR 2020 will take place within the timeframe that Elon Musk’s SpaceX program is expected to start sending missions to Mars. The billionaire entrepreneur announced in September he would begin missions to Mars as soon as 2018 with hopes of landing humans there in 2024.

NASA and the European Space Agency are taking a longer time to get there, expecting to have humans on Mars by the late 2030s, but they expect that to start a permanent presence on the red planet.

Lyn Lewis-Smith, the chief executive of Business Events Sydney, which helped co-ordinate the bid, said: “We have vigorously pursued this important gathering, which will enable high-tech jobs to be further developed on our shores.”

Space science activities in Australia include: In November, NASA and CSIRO opened the second of two 34-metre dishes at the Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla near Canberra. That centre will play a central role in supporting the US space agency’s missions to Mars and beyond.On Tuesday the Parkes radio telescope announced it had started listening in to our nearest neighbour, Proxima b, as part of the 10-year $100 million search for extraterrestrial intelligence announced by Professor Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner.CSIRO is working as part of a global consortium to build the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array.In December the first Australian payload to the International Space Station will be delivered by science education start-up Cuberider.The first Australian-built satellites for 15 years will launch early next year to explore the thermosphere.UNSW with the Defence Science Technology Group is launching high-tech cubesat miniature satellites soon.CSIRO with UNSW, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the DSTG have been using the Parkes dish and the 70-metre dish at Tidbinbilla to co-ordinate asteroid detection.

Ardent Leisure to update Dreamworld future this week

Dreamworld was closed on October 25 after four people were killed on a ride. Photo: Glenn Hunt Members of the public left thousands of flowers in the wake of the tragedy. Photo: Mark Jesser

Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate wants Dreamworld to get the OK of families of the four victims from last month’s tragedy before reopening the theme park, according to Sky News reports.

“It’s been a difficult time,” Mr Tate said.

“The timing of reopening Dreamworld – I’d leave that to the management of Dreamworld – they know what to do but I would ask that they talk to the families and get their OK on that.”

This comes as police on Monday handed back the site of the fatal October 25 accident to Dreamworld’s owners.

The fate of the theme park will become clearer this week as the owner, Ardent Leisure, work towards a reopening in the lead-up to the vital holiday season.

The embattled Ardent is expected to clarify the timetable for the park’s operations in coming days, after having gone off media “air” in respect for the families who held funerals this week for the four people killed at the park.

A spokesman confirmed the group would be making an announcement on Wednesday regarding Dreamworld.

The Gold Coast will be inundated with “schoolies” in coming weeks, although theme parks are not generally one of the main attractions for that age group.

After a torrid two weeks that saw the Ardent share price drop by as much as 30 per cent, the shares have stayed around $2 as investors await further news.

It comes as the new Ardent chairman George Venardos took over on Monday from the retiring Neil Balnaves, who held the position for 15 years.

The group held its annual meeting two days after the accident, when the board and chief executive Deborah Thomas said losses from the closure would be “significant” on the group’s overall earnings.

The fate of the new Lego store, which has been billed as a major drawcard for the park, is also in abeyance until the park reopens.

A spokesperson said: “At this stage we have no new information to share on the planned Lego-certified store opening. For further information related to the park, please reach out to Dreamworld Theme Park directly.”

Dreamworld is one part of the group’s theme park business, including Sky Point and White Water World, which is about 22 per cent of total revenue, but it has become a sentiment and reputation issue.

An investor, who declined to be named, said recently that only when the park reopens will they be able to gauge whether the earnings loss is down enough to justify the share price sell down, currently about 30 per cent, since the tragedy.

While it is tipped to remain a theme park in the medium term, the site spans 850,000 square metres and sits in a growth corridor for residential housing.

“Our initial view is that Ardent’s carrying value for Dreamworld of $235 million would be supported under this scenario,” Credit Suisse analysts said.

Property agents have said the site could also be redeveloped into a mixed-use hotel and retail area to connect with the nearby Coomera town centre.

Sixth refugee flown from Nauru to Cambodia under $55 million deal

Mohammed Rashid has been unable to find a job in Cambodia. Photo: Nara Lon Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. Photo: Andrew Meares

Australia has secretly flown a sixth refugee from Nauru to Phnom Penh under Australia’s controversial $55 million agreement with the Cambodian government.

The Syrian man who arrived last Sunday is staying in the offices of the International Organisation for Migration, which has received millions of dollars from Australia to care for refugees in Cambodia.

But only one of the five other refugees who agreed to take a one-way flight from Nauru since the deal was signed two years ago remains in Cambodia.

Rohingya Muslim Mohammed Rashid, 26, told Fairfax Media in March that he felt abandoned and feared he would die in the country which admitted in April it does not have the social programs to support the refugees.

Mr Rashid has moved into a rented apartment and is receiving vocational training but has been unable to find a job.

The others – three Iranians and a Rohingya man from Myanmar – have returned to their countries.

Two more refugees on Nauru – one from Afghanistan and the other Pakistan – changed their minds at the last minute and decided not to take Sunday’s flight to Phnom Penh after initially agreeing to the move.

“I do not know why the two other refugees changed their minds because the Australians did not tell us,” Tan Sovichea, who runs the refugee department at the Interior Ministry told TheCambodia Daily.

Cambodian officials who went to Nauru last month had approved the three resettling in Cambodia, one of Asia’s poorest nations that Australia agreed to give $50 million to take an unspecified number of refugees from Nauru at a ceremony attended by then immigration minister Scott Morrison in 2014.

The deal has been condemned by the UN refugee agency, Cambodian opposition groups, non-government-organisations and human rights groups.

The Turnbull government refuses to make public any details about the refugees who arrive in Cambodia.

But they are known to be promised cash payments, accommodation, training and loans to start up a small business.

However the five refugees who previously made the journey privately expressed their unhappiness with the move after giving up any hope of reaching Australia.

Cambodia, a country ruled with an iron-fist by strongman Hun Sen for more than three decades, is the only option available to refugees on Nauru who refuse to be repatriated to their country of origin.

On Tuesday Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said his government has been courting unnamed third countries besides Cambodia to take refugees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus island.

“We are going to land a deal,” he said, without elaborating.

Prince Harry rebukes British press ‘abuse’ of girlfriend Meghan Markle

Prince Harry has issued an official statement rebuking the media for the “wave of abuse and harassment” his new girlfriend has been subjected to.

In an unprecedented move by the Palace and for such a senior member of the royal family, Harry, in a lengthy memo, has outlined the efforts some have gone to for stories regarding his new partner, American actor Meghan Markle.

“Her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker and loved one in her life,” the statement read.

The palace refused to comment on the romance when news broke a little over a week ago that Harry, 32, and the 35-year-old Toronto-based star had been secretly dating for months.

Since then, the Suits actress has been at the centre of a media cyclone which has, according to the Palace, resulted in a maelstrom of sexist and racist commentary online and via “the smear on the front page of a national newspaper”.

“Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” the statement continued, while confirming the pair have been in a relationship for “a few months”.

“He knows that commentators will say this is ‘the price she has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game – it is her life and his.” Kensington Palace has issued a statement this morning about the harassment currently being experienced by Meghan Markle and her family. pic.twitter南京桑拿/EuFZ4fmUIj— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 8, 2016

The complaint about a “front page smear” probably refers to The Sun’s front page ‘exclusive’ last week claiming “Harry Girl’s on Pornhub”, saying she could “be seen stripping off and groaning” in the video, compiled from scenes from Suits.

The Mirror followed the story up online, publishing its own video of “Meghan Markle in raunchy sex scene” and saying a similar video of “steamy scenes… of her stripping off and straddling co-star Patrick J Adams, and in lacy underwear, have been watched more than 40,000 times on the X-rated site.”

Over the weekend the Daily Star Sunday promoted a story on “Harry’s girl sex pics shocker” off its front page.The story turned out to be about fake photographs featuring “Snaps with the US actress’ head superimposed on to the body of a porn star … published on an X-rated site.”

“The images are fake and of poor taste,” the newspaper said, reproducing one of the images with some areas pixelated, sourcing them to a “porn website”.

The Daily Star Sunday along with the Sunday Express was the first newspaper to break news of the relationship.

Another Sun story read “Prince Harry ‘was secretly dating David Gandy’s ex while wooing Meghan Markle'”.

The reference in the Kensington Palace statement to ‘racial undertones’ may refer to a piece in the Daily Mail on Markle’s background, which referred to her “mixed-race heritage… more ordinary than the super-aspirational middle-class Middletons”, an ancestor who was a freed slave, and her childhood white and black Barbie dolls chosen to “reflect her biracial heritage”.

Many tabloids, and the Daily Telegraph, also ran stories quoting disparaging comments on Markle from her estranged half-sister.

Last Wednesday The Sun ran that story as a front page exclusive, with the banner headline “Princess Pushy”.

Gossip columnist Alex Wickham on Tuesday published a part of what he claimed was a confidential complaint to press regulator IPSO from “representatives of Meghan Markle”.

According to the excerpt “Ms Markle says that she and her mother have been the subject of harassment by journalists abroad”.

The Mail Online has published paparazzi photos of Markle taken outside her Toronto home, and has also ‘doorstepped’ her mother in Los Angeles and interviewed neighbours in the LA area where she grew up, according to Press Gazette.

A police car was stationed outside her Canada home due to the level of media interest.

BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell said editors in the UK might abide by the prince’s requests but foreign publishers probably would not.

And the BBC’s Peter Hunt  said the “cri de Coeur” from Harry might backfire, as he tried to appeal to newspaper editors’ better nature.

“In going public, Prince Harry has confirmed his relationship of a few months with Meghan Markle,” he said. “There’ll be those in Buckingham Palace who’ll appreciate his pain, but who’ll question the wisdom of issuing this statement.”

The young royal has had a turbulent relationship with the press ever since the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, following a car chase involving paparazzi through a Paris tunnel in 1997.

In 2008, while serving with British troops in Afghanistan, an agreement between the British Ministry of Defence and the media was broken when three outlets, including Australia’s New Idea, published details of his top secret mission before the end of his tour where he was directing air strikes.

Since then he has attempted to build a rapport with the press to publicise his charitable causes and his beloved Invictus Games, where he reportedly first met Markle earlier this year. This official smackdown is not the first time Harry had broken with protocol.

In May, the rebellious royal cast his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, in a social media campaign with the Obamas to promote the event for disabled servicemen and women.

69 public service no-votes but women are the real losers

Policy working well: Australian Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd. Photo: Jay CronanPublic servants have rejected the Coalition’s tough industrial relations rules 69 times since 2014, as a Senate committee prepares to investigate the three-year bargaining saga.

But women working in the Australian public service have emerged as the big losers, according to Canberra-based workplace academics.

As the Senate’s education and employment references committee prepares for its first public hearing in its inquiry into the bargaining round, Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd has revealed in his submission that government workforces had rejected enterprise agreements developed under the policy 66 times since 2014.

Mr Lloyd argued in his submission that the policy was working well, and noted that agreements in 16 agencies were accepted at the second or even third time of asking.

“Enterprise agreements have been finalised in 65 agencies, with 69 agreements being accepted by employees. Fifty-four of these agreements have been accepted since the current bargaining policy has applied,” the Commissioner wrote.

“This demonstrates that the current policy is enabling agencies to make agreements with their employees.

“Since the 2016 federal election, 13 out of 19 agreements put to a vote have been accepted by employees.

“Sixty-six agreements have been voted down in 48 agencies during this bargaining round.”

Since Mr Lloyd’s submission was compiled there have been yes votes at Cancer Australia and, controversially at the ABC while workers at the CSIRO and the Department of Immigration and Border protection have voted no.

On Tuesday, public servants at the Fair Work Commission voted by a margin of 67 per cent to reject a deal, taking the total number of rejected proposals to 69.

The Department of Human Services has a ballot under way and Agriculture will vote next week after a union challenge in the Fair Work Commission to the holding of the ballot failed.

In their submission to the committee, University of NSW workplace academics Sue Williamson and Michael O’Donnell say they are worried that the bargaining policy’s rough edges were being felt most keenly by the public service’s women.

“Gender equality or flexible working arrangements clauses have also been amended – or removed – from agreements, to the future detriment of employees,” the academics wrote.

“Some agencies have reduced important part-time working provisions.

“For example, one agency has amended the relevant clause in their agreement so that employees no longer have the right to work part-time on returning from parental leave.

“Instead, the ability to work part-time is dependent on managerial discretion.

“Yet another clause removes the requirement for managers to provide written reasons for their decision on an application for an employee to work part-time and also removes a principles-based clause that part-time employees should be considered for promotion on merit.”

Dr Williamson and Professor O’Donnell told the committee that Australia has one of the highest rates in the OECD of women working part-time yet some agencies wanted to change part-time work provisions to the detriment of female employees

“Research we have undertaken on APS bargaining suggests that the current round of protracted enterprise negotiations is likely to be damaging employee morale,” they wrote.

“This may be resulting in lower productivity – and is likely to be lowering employee engagement, an important prerequisite for an efficient, creative and productive APS.

“In rather more tangible terms, however, the current bargaining round may be resulting in decreased entitlements for employees with a proportionately negative impact on female employees.”

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