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Rich and poor lock horns over treaty

THE climate summit was clinging to an uneasy truce between rich and poor last night.A meeting – arranged by the Danish Government to solve the key problem of what major developing countries will do to limit greenhouse gas emissions and how their commitments can be scrutinised as part of an international treaty – was abandoned at the end of a fraught day in which African nations threatened to abandon the talks.As the two-week conference stumbled into its high-level stage, the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, was to speak overnight and the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and his British counterpart, Gordon Brown, were due to fly in.In the United States, President Barack Obama was said to be phoning world leaders before his arrival on Friday.The biggest division in the negotiations has opened up over the future of the Kyoto Protocol, the treaty that at present limits greenhouse gas emissions from industrialised nations only.Most wealthy nations want either a single treaty binding all countries or, at least, a ”two-track solution” including a second treaty that would be created to include the big emitters not covered by a climate pact: China, India and the US, which refuses to ratify Kyoto.Developing nations demand the rich commit to an extension of Kyoto, with tougher emissions targets, before they consider signing up for further action on climate change. The rich have not met the expectation that they would offer cuts of between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020.The Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, said Australia was ”willing to discuss” a two-track process but warned that whatever was agreed had to be more than a reprisal of Kyoto.”Clearly you need to do what is in Kyoto and you need to build on it,” Senator Wong said. ”The US is not a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol. We know the developing countries are going to provide the growth in emissions over decades to come. We need all of these countries … contributing to cut emissions.”The chairwoman of the summit, the Danish Climate Minister, Connie Hedegaard, urged countries to work on two separate treaties. ”We are being delayed in a very, very serious way. We have a window of opportunity right now, there will never be a better time.”She appointed pairs of developed and developing world ministers to seek solutions to the main problems and give some direction to the talks. Among the issues were targets for the rich and long-term climate finance.A Filipina official, Bernarditas Muller, a long-time negotiator who was recently sacked by her government and now represents Sudan, said negotiators should be left in charge because ministers had ”not been dealing with these issues for a long time”.The chief negotiator for the G77, the group of developing nations, Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, accused Ms Hedegaard of being undemocratic.The gap between developed and developing countries was widening, he said, ”because developed countries have accepted that condemning Africa, condemning small island states … to destruction and massive suffering is something acceptable to them”.
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Heater suspected as cause of fire

A Minore Street home was saved after a neighbour noticed smoke escaping from the house and called Triple-0. A mattress was all that was lost. The wire frames can be seen on the lawn. Photo: BELINDA SOOLEAn unattended heater is being blamed for a house fire in West Dubbo yesterday morning.
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On arrival Dubbo firefighters saw large volumes of smoke coming from the single-storey Minore Street home.

Fire crews entered though the back door which had been left open and found a fire in the front bedroom. Nobody was home at the time of the incident. “(The fire) was caused we think by a heater being too close to the bedding,” Station Officer Chris Sanders said.

“We’ve extinguished the fire, removed the offending mattress and we’ve then ventilated the house.

“One hundred per cent of the structure has been saved, unfortunately there will be a bit of smoke and water damage aside from the fire damage.”

Officer Sanders reminded residents to turn off heaters before leaving home.

On seeing smoke a neighbour went to check on the young man who lived in the home.

The neighbour took the man’s dog for its own safety after he could not locate the occupant.

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India lashes out at climate stance

India has labelled Australia an “ayatollah” because of its stridentadvocacy of a one-track approach at the UN climate talks that willeventually force all countries to be bound by a single treaty.In frank comments to the Heraldat the Copenhagen summit, India’s Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh,said bluntly: “Australia is sort of the ayatollah of the single track”.Developingcountries are arguing that Australia and its allies are trying to pushthe outcome of the talks away from the Kyoto Protocol. Mr Ramesh warnedthat this was “a recipe for disaster at the talks”.The IndianEnvironment Minister had just pulled out of a crucial meeting withAustralia’s Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, aimed at breaking thedeadlock in the climate talks.Senator Wong said she did not know why Mr Ramesh pulled out of the crucial meeting. “You will have to ask him,” she said.Mr Ramesh told the Heraldhe had not “pulled out” but said he was unfortunately “too busy” tohold the meeting with Senator Wong and spend three hours co-chairing ameeting with her.”Penny Wong remains a good friend of mine, avery valued colleague,” he said, but he made it clear he would not beco-operating in a session with her to try to break the deadlock evenafter a request from the Danish head of the United Nations conference,Connie Hedegaard.Australia is heavily backing efforts by itsallies, the United States, Japan and Europe, to force China, India andthe developing nations to sign an agreement to curb their emissionsthat will lead to a legal treaty on climate change.At thesame time, the wealthy nations have stalled talks on ambitious cuts inemissions by them under the Kyoto Protocol until there is progress fromChina and India on the new agreement.In an effort to bring bothsides together Ms Hedegaard asked Senator Wong and Mr Ramesh to find away for the big developing countries – China, India and Brazil – toreduce their emissions and lock those efforts into a new treaty.With that effort under question, it is unclear how the fraught negotiations will proceed.As 120 world leaders arrive in Copenhagen to sign a deal on climatechange, concerns are growing that only a weak outcome is likely.On Monday the G77 group of developing nations backed by China, Indiaand Brazil walked out of a side set of talks to show their anger at adecision by rich countries to stall discussion of their emissions cutsunder the Kyoto Protocol, the legal treaty that binds them at present.In what Oxfam labelled a tit-for-tat exercise, Australia’s negotiatorsthen shut down the talks on emission cuts for rich countries.Inthe rancour that followed, Ms Hedegaard worked out a compromise,allotting a pairing of developed and developing nations to discuss thekey issues.But after Senator Wong and Mr Ramesh were slottedto discuss the most thorny issue of the developing country emissionsreductions, the pairing broke down. Senator Wong said it was”regrettable that there are some who are willing to fight about processrather than negotiate about substance when what is asked of us requiresso much more”.With Australia and its allies coming underintense attack over claims they want to “kill” the Kyoto Protocol,Senator Wong attempted to offer lukewarm support for it.”I wanted to make very clear there is a lot in the Kyoto Protocol which is good; there is a lot that we need to build on.”But if we are going to tackle climate change we need to do much more.We need to do what is in the Kyoto Protocol and we need to go further.”The UN’s senior climate official, Yvo de Boer, and Ms Hedegaardrepeated that the Kyoto Protocol and the new agreement had to bediscussed and included in any agreement from Copenhagen on Friday.The chief negotiator of the G77, Lumumba Di-Aping, from Sudan, said thedeveloping countries had “won” the debate on keeping the Kyoto Protocolalive.But members of environment groups now believe theprospects are shrinking that rich nations will come up with anambitious set of targets to cut their emissions by between 25 per centand 40 per cent by 2020, leaving political leaders to pull off acompromise by signing a weak agreement at the end of this week.Marcelo Furtado of Greenpeace said: “What we have here is a crime scene set up for leaders to solve.”
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Councillor calls for internal watchdog

A Dubbo councillor has pushed the idea of a special officer armed with a magnifying glass to make Dubbo City Council “transparent, industrious, lean and fair” but
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colleagues say that’s already happening.

Cr Ben Shields called on his colleagues to support the

creation of an internal council ombudsman to “actively

scrutinise council activities, decisions and operations”.

Cr Shields said the move would renew faith and trust and encourage growth and development, but Dubbo mayor Allan Smith said

council already had processes in place to check its operations.

Cr Shields raised the idea at the 2008 election and put it back on the table at last week’s council meeting.

He was particularly interested in how council could find savings and last year criticised the report of Professor Percy Allan of Review Today for its lack of investigation into the area.

The councillor who received the most first-preference votes in 2008 wants each council division to be “lean and highly efficient”.

“I’ve been on council for 12 years and I’ve never seen a report come on major cost savings,” he said.

“We’ve never gone on an efficiency drive.”

Cr Shields would expect a lengthy resume of any internal ombudsman.

“Typically you would appoint someone with a legal and local government background with sound town planning, environmental and financial understanding,” he said. “It would be very important that the appointment is a good one with the right qualifications who isn’t politically aligned or motivated.”

Although Cr Shields said there was no need for a full-time officer, Cr Smith pointed to an overlap.

Dubbo council already had an internal audit process, making it ahead of the recommendations of the NSW Division of Local Government and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Cr Smith said.

The Bathurst Orange Dubbo Alliance began a search for independent members for its Internal Audit and Risk Management Committees in 2009.

The committee was

established to assist the

council in the delivery of “financial reporting, risk management, internal audits and ethical development”.

Cr Smith and deputy mayor Mathew Dickerson said Dubbo’s committee addressed many of Cr Shields’s concerns.

Sutherland Shire Council established an office of

the internal ombudsman in 1999.

Some of the benefits of the office include ensuring that customers’ complaints are dealt with fairly and impartially, assisting staff in focusing on our customers, policies, guidelines and controls and addressing systemic issues relating to poor administration, internal controls or conduct within the council, according to Sutherland

council’s website.

Cr Smith viewed such an office as one that would deal only with “low-level

complaints”, while “anything serious” would still be directed to the division, the NSW Ombudsman or the ICAC.

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Rein in whale hunt activists, Japan’s PM tells Rudd

TOKYO: The Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has asked Kevin Rudd to rein in activists disrupting Japan’s annual whale hunt, describing their actions as sabotage.Japan’s whaling fleet left for its annual Southern Ocean hunt in waters south of Australia last month. Environmental activists of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have set out to disrupt the hunt and are using a futuristic powerboat which holds the record for the fastest world circumnavigation.Mr Hatoyama told Mr Rudd yesterday that the Sea Shepherd’s actions threatened the safety of the whaling fleet and its crew and requested Australia take appropriate action, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry statement.The statement suggested that Mr Rudd, who is in Tokyo on his way to UN climate talks in Copenhagen, again threatened legal action against Japan over the hunt if ”a diplomatic resolution proves difficult”, echoing remarks he made last week in Australia.Australia has threatened to take Japan to the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.Agence France-Presse
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Warning working as fines drop

No fines have been issued since Dubbo City Council warned of penalties skateboard and scooter users would still face if caught riding in the CBD.
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The last fine issued was two months ago with two scooters and one bike confiscated last school holidays, Dubbo City Council Manager Environmental Control Amy Nalder said.

“We warn people and if they persist or give us lip we issue fines. It’s not too bad during the school term but during holidays it is really bad,” she said.

If equipment is confiscated the owner can get it back straight away but they have to pay a fee before their property is handed back and depending on circumstances may also have to pay a $110 fine.

“I’m not sure why it isn’t getting through. We have done a media campaign and have had ranger patrols,” she said.

Ms Nalder encouraged all scooter, skateboard and bike riders to pick up or push their equipment in the CBD out of respect to other pedestrians.

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Mail dispute escalates to a strike

A CHRISTMAS postal strike has escalated, with the union calling a nationwide stoppage today that it said would continue tomorrow.The Communications Electrical and Plumbing Union national president, Ed Husic, said it was the largest industrial action by postal workers since the 1980s.”I can’t recall in the last 10 years a strike before Christmas,” he said. ”Thousands of employees not turning up or not doing their duties will have an impact.”Yet Australia Post yesterday continued to encourage children to write to Santa, insisting letters addressed to the North Pole would reach their destination if posted before Friday.An Australia Post spokesman, Alex Twomey, said 50,000 Santa letters were in the system, many awaiting reply. He said the postal service would move staff from other parts of its business and had hired hundreds of casual workers so that Christmas deliveries got through.”There might be a delay of a day this week. We know the union is targeting parcel facilities in Sydney and Melbourne,” he said .The union and post office engaged in tit-for-tat accusations yesterday about who was to blame for the escalation – from rolling work bans and a ”free mail” protest to a national stoppage.The union provided the Herald with notices issued by Australia Post to its staff last Wednesday that stated if they took part in any partial work bans – including minor protests such as sitting down on the job or not complying with the Australia Post dress code – they would not be entitled to any pay on that day.Australia Post, in turn, pointed to a union advisory dated last Thursday that it planned a strike in ”all states and territories” today, despite statements it would seek to minimise public impact.Mail deliveries in Sydney have already been delayed by partial work bans.Christmas is the most lucrative period for the postal service.
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Parliament time finally arrives for Grant

MP Troy Grant will be sworn into Parliament today. Photo: AMY GRIFFITHSDubbo MP Troy Grant will be officially sworn in to NSW’s 55th Parliament today.
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Known as the bear pit, the state parliament will welcome 51 Liberals, 18 Nationals, 20 Labor members, three Independents and one Green into its Macquarie Street den.

For his first day in parliament the former police inspector has been placed in charge of his Nationals colleagues while they are in the chamber.

Mr Grant was elected as Dubbo MP over after the sitting member Dawn Fardell with a demolishing primary vote of 60 per cent in the March 26 poll. Since his election Mr Grant has met with five ministers while learning the ropes of his new role.

The new MP has said he is aware of the task he faces in living up to the Coalition’s

promises regarding the electorate.

Last week Mr Grant met with Education Minister Adrian Piccoli about the review of the Dubbo College structure.

“We have commenced that review and I have accepted an invitation to the P and C’s next meeting,” he said.

Mr Grant also met with Roads Minister Duncan Gay last Thursday in Sydney.

The couple discussed the pledges the Coalition made about more overtaking lanes on the Newell Highway and increasing the speed limit to 110 km/h.

“He’s working on that now to have a timetable for that and the overtaking lanes to occur,” he said.

“We also discussed funding of the Tracker Riley Cycleway.”

Mr Grant will be joined by his wife and their two children at the swearing in ceremony.

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Fishermen forced to halt prawn harvest

GEORGE BAKER has been trawling the Clarence River for 45 years, like his father and his father before him. But the 62-year-old has never seen anything like the undersized prawns that halted the catching season this week and will close the river until early January.”This is probably going to be the worst Christmas that we’ve ever had,” he said. ”The majority agree with [the voluntary closure]. They know we do have a problem and we need to conserve the stock. But it was quite difficult to make the decision. There are people who don’t stand a chance of making any money over the next few weeks.”Mr Baker said that at this time of year he would usually be pulling 100 kilograms of prawns into his trawler each morning. On Monday, there were only a few kilos – and the prawns were as thin as his smallest finger. ”It’s not a good feeling,” he said.The river, in north-eastern NSW, closed for the third time this year on Monday, because the prawns caught were too small. It will remain closed until January 4.”It’s a gut-wrenching decision. It means their income stream is non-existent,” the executive officer of the Clarence Professional Fishermen’s Association, John Harrison, said of the river’s 45 trawlermen.”It was shaping up to be a bumper year. Everything was right: the water temperature was right, we had a freshing flood in early November that brings nutrients down the river … We just can’t explain it.”While the Clarence is a key producer of school prawns in NSW, the decision is not expected to affect the supply of prawns in Sydney.”Can I be brutally honest?” the supply manager at Sydney Fish Markets, Gus Dannoun, said. ”It’s going to have zippo effect.”Mr Dannoun said the supply of king prawns was good.
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Flight chaos looms as BA staff vow to strike

THE Christmas plans of thousands of travellers from Australia and Britain have been thrown into disarray after British Airways flight attendants vowed to strike for 12 days from Tuesday.In a statement the airline said flights would be cancelled if the action went ahead – affecting hundreds of thousands of people globally – and encouraged passengers with existing tickets to change their travel times at no extra cost, receive a refund, or be moved to another carrier.Qantas, which can book passengers on BA flights through its Oneworld alliance, also issued a statement in which it promised it could carry all its existing customers between Australia and Britain.'”We have determined we have sufficient capacity across the 12 days to accommodate Qantas-ticketed passengers booked on BA codeshare flights between Australia and the UK on existing Qantas services,” the airline said.But some BA services from London into Europe would be affected. These passengers may need to change their bookings or travel with other airlines.”Some flexibility may be needed regarding changes to travel dates and times,” Qantas said.Philippa Bole, who flew to Sydney from Britain last month to spend Christmas with her family and celebrate her father’s 90th birthday at Lindfield, faces a nail-biting holiday.She is scheduled to fly BA on December 27, in time to return to work assisting family visitors to Belfast juvenile and women’s prisons two days later.Ms Bole is hoping she will make it – she booked through Qantas – and that her children will be home in time to sit their university exams in the new year.”I just can’t believe they want to make it impossible for families to get here,” the Australian expatriate of 30 years said.”The kids are coming for Christmas … it’s the first time the family’s been together for five years. I think it’s a very emotional time of the year for people … and to make a muck of that.”More than 92 per cent of BA’s 13,500 cabin crew who took part in a union vote on Monday opted to strike from December 22 to January 2. The action, organised by the union for cabin crew, Unite, is a response to cash-strapped British Airways’ proposal to slash 1700 jobs, freeze the wages of existing employees and hire staff on lower wages.The airline is merging with Iberia, a move Unite opposes unless there are no job losses.”British Airways is telling customers that if they can change their trip that will be done free of charge,” a BA spokeswoman in Australia said.with AAP
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