Morcombe parents face accused killer

More than a decade after losing their schoolboy son Daniel, Queensland parents Bruce and Denise Morcombe have come face to face with his alleged killer.

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The Sunshine Coast couple were so close to accused man Brett Peter Cowan when he walked past their seats in the Supreme Court public gallery on Monday, they could have touched him.

Dressed in a grey suit jacket, navy trousers and striped tie, Cowan, 44, did not return the Morcombes’ gaze as he entered the dock for the opening of his long-awaited murder trial.

Mr and Mrs Morcombe have relentlessly campaigned for justice since Daniel vanished in 2003 aged 13, and said outside court they felt closer to discovering what happened.

They were allowed to sit in the crowded courtroom with sons Bradley and Dean, and supporters as Cowan entered a plea. But they had to leave soon after because they are witnesses.

“(After) 10 years, two months and three days we find ourselves here, so it’s been a long grind,” Mr Morcombe told reporters before he entered court.

“But we certainly thank the media, police, the SES and the community for getting us to this point and we’ll see what the next few weeks unfold.”

The couple are set to be the first witnesses to give evidence in the trial, which is expected to run for six weeks.

Three undercover police officers from Western Australia, State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers and a bus driver from Daniel’s home suburb of Palmwoods are among 158 potential witnesses who could be called to give evidence.

Cowan, whose alias is Shaddo N-unyah Hunter, pleaded not guilty to indecently dealing with Daniel and murdering him on December 7, 2003 at the Glass House Mountains in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

He also pleaded not guilty to interfering with Daniel’s corpse.

Eleven people originally selected on the jury raised concerns about their place on the panel after Justice Roslyn Atkinson told anyone who thought they could not be impartial to come forward.

Six were excused.

The judge warned the jury of six men and six women who were eventually selected – as well as three reserve jurors – to ignore the publicity surrounding the case and focus only on the evidence.

“This is a daunting task and no doubt on Friday when you thought about what you were doing next week I don’t imagine too many of you thought you would be sitting exactly where you’re sitting now,” she said.

The prosecution is expected to open its case when the trial resumes on Tuesday.

Daniel disappeared while waiting for a bus at Woombye on the Sunshine Coast in 2003, as he planned to buy family Christmas presents.

Toyota plan ‘may kill car supply industry’

Toyota’s decision to stop making cars in Australia has prompted the nation’s automotive component suppliers to warn that they urgently need government assistance to stop massive job losses.

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The Federation of Automotive Product Manufacturers president Jim Griffin says as many as 28,000 people work in the supply sector, representing far more than the major car makers, and the majority of workers in the industry.

Toyota announced on Monday it would stop making cars in Australia by late 2017, following Holden and Ford’s decisions to do the same, ending local car manufacturing.

Mr Griffin, the CEO of Melbourne component suppliers Diver Consolidated Industries (DCI), said as well as job losses within three years the economy would lose valuable technology, research and development.

“Unless we get some stimulation, unless we get some volume and we get some activity happening in manufacturing then the country’s going to have a very big problem,” he told AAP.

Mr Griffin is worried the three major car makers will actually cease their Australian operations before their planned closures in 2016-2017.

“General Motors, Ford and Toyota will look after their employees,” Mr Griffin told AAP.

“Any (government) assistance needs to be considerate of the vast majority of employees which are in components sectors … many of them in small companies, tier two or three suppliers that are not huge foreign multinationals.

“The most important thing now is for a very calm and clear discussion and consultation between the government, the three car makers and the component industry to make sure that any programs and assistance packages rolled out are well considered, measured and well targeted.”

He said his company DCI had started diversifying away from cars and towards other areas, such as trident workbenches, but conditions were difficult in manufacturing generally and government assistance would buy time to reorganise or close.

“Today is another terrible day and it ups the ante because we are looking at the the demise of the complete industry and the network behind it,” he said.

“What else is there for them to do?”

Five unions named in royal commission

Five unions have been named as specific targets in a royal commission into corruption.

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The Australian Workers Union, Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union, Electrical Trades Union, Health Services Union and Transport Workers Union were named in the terms of reference released in Canberra on Monday before parliament resumes for 2014.

“This royal commission is designed to shine a great, big spotlight into the dark corners of our community to ensure that honest workers and honest businesses get a fair go,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters.

Honest workers and honest unionists should not be ripped off by corrupt officials and honest businesses should be able to go about their work without fear of intimidation, corruption (and) standover tactics, he said.

The commissioner will not be limited to looking at the five unions, or at employers who may have engaged in improper conduct or criminality.

“This is a sword that will cut both ways,” Employment Minister Eric Abetz said.

Former High Court judge Dyson Heydon will lead the inquiry, which is expected to report to the Abbott government at the end of 2013.

During the past two years there have been many allegations against union officials – some of which are before the courts – including misuse of member funds, standover tactics, kickbacks, bribes and secret commissions.

Mr Abbott said he believed the royal commission could run concurrently with court cases or police investigations without causing any problems.

Attorney-General George Brandis said a royal commission was the right mechanism to deal with allegations of widespread, systemic and ingrained wrongdoing.

“This is not a question of sporadic cases, this is a matter of a widespread culture which requires the powers and the thoroughness of a royal commission,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, a former AWU national secretary, said if the government was “fair dinkum” it would set up a multi-agency task force led by the Australian Federal Police.

“Tony Abbott has never seen a situation affecting real people which he won’t turn into a political stunt,” he told the Labor caucus on Monday.

The government expects the cost of the inquiry will be much less than the $100 million spent on the Cole royal commission into the construction sector a decade ago.

Australian Industry Group chief Innes Willox said that although the Cole commission did not result in any criminal charges, it had its merits as would the Heydon commission.

“It led to a very clear shining of the light on some really poor practices within the construction industry, and led to the establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission,” Mr Willox said.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the inquiry was designed to weaken unions just when workers’ conditions were under attack from the government.

Unions had “zero tolerance” for corruption, which should properly be pursued by police.

Syria’s warring sides head for fresh talks

Syria’s warring sides are heading into a new round of UN-brokered peace talks, 10 days after a debut session managed little beyond a pledge on evacuating civilians from the besieged city of Homs.

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After government and opposition delegates arrived at their Geneva hotels on Sunday, they held separate closed-door meetings with UN and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi.

The Algerian veteran peacemaker, who in late January brought the two sides to the table for the first time since the war began in 2011, was scheduled to hold talks with the opposition at 0900 GMT (2000 AEDT) on Monday.

He is then set to meet with the government delegation, helmed by Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who was also in charge of the regime’s team in the first round.

It was not clear if the two sides will sit down together on Monday for a meeting under the auspices of Brahimi, nor how many days the round was expected to last.

The so-called Geneva II talks – spurred by the United States, which backs the opposition, and Russia, a key ally of Syria – mark the biggest international push so far to end the war.

The aim is to build on an international conference held in the Swiss city in 2012 at which world powers called for political transition in Syria.

That plan was never implemented, however, owing to spiralling fighting in Syria’s increasingly sectarian conflict, and deep divisions between the two sides over what a transition would imply.

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad, whose crackdown on Arab Spring inspired demonstrations in March 2011, insists that his future cannot be up for discussion in Geneva.

But the opposition counters that there is no place for him or his entourage in a future Syria.

Besides appearing far from reaching any compromise on how to craft a transition government, the two sides also disagree on which of a string of other issues should be on the table.

ICC revamp good for cricket: India

A controversial shake-up of the governance and structure of cricket’s world body will benefit the game and ensure its financial health, India’s powerful boss N Srinivasan said on Monday.

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“I think it’s good for cricket overall, good for the financial health of all full, associate and affiliate members. There is meritocracy,” Srinivasan told The Hindu newspaper.

The reforms, which will give more power and money to India, Australia and England, were passed by the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Executive Board in Singapore on Saturday.

Eight of the 10 Test nations approved the proposals – which also make Srinivasan the first incumbent of the newly created post of ICC chairman – while Pakistan and Sri Lanka abstained.

Srinivasan, asked if he would try to convince Pakistan and Sri Lanka to come on board, said it was for the entire ICC, and not him alone, to work on it.

“It’s an ICC resolution and eight members have approved it. It (reaching out to Sri Lanka and Pakistan) is not just my responsibility. It’s for everybody to work on.”

Srinivasan, who heads the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), defended Cricket South Africa’s last-minute decision to vote in favour of the revamp after it had supported Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the lead-up to the meeting.

“Maybe some members had some lingering doubts on the proposals. When the doubts got clarified, the proposals found support.”

Srinivasan vehemently denied accusations that the cricket boards of India, Australia and England had formed an oligarchy, which could even veto suggestions made by other members.

In the revamped ICC, India – which contributes 80 per cent of global revenues – and fellow powerhouses England and Australia will have permanent seats on a new, five-member executive committee.

EU to review Swiss ties after vote

The European Union says it will review ties with Switzerland after the non-member Alpine country voted to restrict EU immigration in a referendum cheered by right-wing parties across Europe.

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Final results of the nail-bitingly close plebiscite showed 50.3 per cent of voters backed the Stop Mass Immigration plan pushed by Swiss right-wing populists.

The fall out from the result could sink a raft of deals with the EU, including on the economic front.

Switzerland is ringed by EU member countries and does the bulk of its trade with the 28-nation bloc, but has remained steadfast about not becoming a member.

The European Commission said it would assess EU ties with Switzerland, raising the prospect of restricted trade or other backlash.

“The EU will examine the implications of this initiative on EU-Swiss relations as a whole,” it said a statement.

Wolfgang Schaeuble, finance minister of Germany, Switzerland’s top trade partner, said the result “is going to create plenty of problems for Switzerland in a host of areas”.

But he said it was also a warning sign of European globalisation fears.

Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter said he planned to tour European capitals to explain the vote and seek a solution, starting with Berlin.

“The people are sovereign, and a healthy system doesn’t force the public to follow political authorities with outsized powers,” Burkhalter said.

The Swiss government and a broad swathe of economic lobby groups fearing the EU fall out had battled the immigration curb plan.

But under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, voters have the last word on a huge range of issues.

The Swiss government said it would examine over coming weeks how to “recast relations” with the EU, but stressed that current immigration rules would remain in place until the new ones were drawn up.

The vote obliges the government to renegotiate within three years a 2007 deal struck with Brussels that gave most EU citizens free access to the Swiss labour market.

It was one of a series of accords reached in 1999 after five years of talks that were seen as a way for Switzerland and the EU to enjoy access to each other’s markets without Switzerland having to opt for full EU membership.

Brussels, though, has warned that Switzerland cannot cherrypick from the binding package of deals, which were themselves approved in a 2000 referendum.

Besides free movement of labour, the pacts include equal access for Swiss and EU firms to public procurement tenders, smooth trade in farm goods, air transport and other sectors.

There have been warnings that ripping up those deals could also affect Switzerland’s membership of Europe’s passport-free Schengen travel zone.

It could also hit talks aimed at giving Swiss financial players more access to EU markets, and to prise open Switzerland’s banking secrecy, a hot topic as EU countries try to crack down on tax dodgers.

Trade wings spur hiatus in global warming: Study

An unprecedented spike in Pacific trade winds has seen global warming slow significantly in the past 12 years but the effect is only temporary and temperatures will surge, a study found Monday.

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The Australian-led report, published in the latest edition of Nature Climate Change, said a dramatic acceleration in equatorial trade winds blowing from the Americas to the West Pacific had boosted circulation of the ocean.

“If the trade winds blow particularly strong that warm water that’s piled up there starts to converge in the ocean interior,” said lead author Matthew England.

“In a way it’s locking away energy we’ve obtained from greenhouse gas into the subsurface ocean and that’s what causes the hiatus (in global warming).”

The study examined a pause in global warming since 2001 along with a previous such stall between 1940-75 and identified a close link to negative phases of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) — a wind pattern associated with a cool tropical Pacific and strengthened winds.

England said the winds finding helped to explain why global warming didn’t occur in a continual upward trajectory — a criticism of climate change sceptics — but “a series of abrupt steps in between periods of more or less steady temperatures”.

England said the current plateau in global warming at a time when “greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have shot up to record levels” had puzzled scientists.

“This pause in surface warming doesn’t mean that global warming has stopped at all, we see Arctic sea ice melting to record low levels, the land ice sheets across the world are melting rapidly, ocean temperatures continue to warm,” he said.

“So it’s not a contradiction of global warming but it has confused scientists, just because we do expect the surface temperatures around the world to progressively warm decade by decade.”

England’s team, which also included researchers from the United States, looked to the seas for answers and found “there was more than enough heat going into the ocean to account” for the plateau they were seeing.

“The reason the oceans are taking up extra heat, and this is particularly occurring in the Pacific Ocean is that the trade winds have strengthened considerably over the last two decades,” he said.

He described their intensification as “unprecedented in the measurement record and way beyond the strength of the trends ever captured by climate models”.

But England said the surging trade winds were only temporary and their associated cooling effects would likely reverse sharply once the IPO shifted back to a positive phase “within as little as a decade”.

“If the trade winds slow down or stop, what happens is that heat absorption by the ocean reverses and we actually get heat coming back up to the atmosphere,” he said.

“The bad news is that out of this hiatus we’re expecting quite rapid warming to occur.”

Were the elevated winds to persist, England’s study found the current hiatus would extend to 2020.

If they abated in the next few years it was likely to be “short-lived, with rapid warming set to resume soon after the wind trends reverse”.

Steve Rintoul from Australia’s government science agency CSIRO — a partner in the study — said the oceans held the key to understanding climate change.

“More than 93 percent of the warming of the planet since 1970 is found in the ocean,” he said. “If we want to understand and track the evolution of climate change, we therefore need to look in the oceans.”

Toyota pullout changes face of industry

Toyota’s decision to follow Holden and Ford out of car-making will change the face of Australian industry forever, the federal government says.

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Toyota will pull out of making cars by the end of 2017, due to the high Australian dollar and intense global competition.

The company, which has operated in Australia for 50 years, has 3900 workers at its Port Melbourne plant and 150 at its Notting Hill design facility in Victoria.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane was the first government member to be informed of the decision just before 4pm on Monday after the car boss Akio Toyoda tried to contact Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who at the time was launching a union corruption inquiry.

Mr Abbott said later he had been told by Toyota executives the company was satisfied with the encouragement from successive Australian governments.

“I would just like to reassure the people of Australia that that is the constant focus of the Commonwealth government – to ensure that we have a strong economy and that the number of new jobs outweighs the number of closing jobs,” Mr Abbott said.

“Nothing that I say can limit the impact of this devastation and disappointment today (but) there will be better days in the future.”

Mr Macfarlane was disappointed by the decision, but believed jobs would be found for the workers in new industries.

“This will change the face of industry forever,” Mr Macfarlane said.

The minister said he was not aware of any government money having been on the table for Toyota before last year’s election.

But a Labor spokeswoman said $200 million in short-term funding had been earmarked for the car industry, with $150 million a year available in the long-term.

A Productivity Commission inquiry into the auto sector will still report by May, but will now have its terms of reference expanded to include the demise of Toyota.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was an economic catastrophe with a terrible human cost.

“The car industry has died under the Abbott government,” he said.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the car industry was the “bedrock” of the manufacturing sector in Australia and the decision would impact on many thousands of jobs in the auto sector.

Freed Corby still to show her face

Corrections officers met the new parolee only briefly and say she said little and kept her face mostly covered.

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Corby was released on Monday from Kerobokan Prison in Bali after nine years in jail, and has been keeping her comments to officials brief.

A nation obsessed with Corby:

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READ MORE: Why so much interest in Corby?

Corby cried in the prosecutor’s office when asked how she was, saying she felt traumatised by the enormous jostling media pack that had tailed her since her release.

Prison van ready to take #SchapelleCorby @SBSNews pic.twitter广西桑拿,/HHJCdOdnUK

— Ashleigh Steele (@ashleighksteele) February 9, 2014

The 36-year-old said nothing to the dozens of reporters screaming questions at her, and cried in the prosecutor’s office when asked how she was.

“We asked her about her condition and she once cried, saying she’s still in trauma over the journalists,” said Agung Bagus Kusimantara, head of the Intelligence Section in Denpasar’s Prosecutions Office.

After her release, she had to fulfil official requirements, going to the prosecutor’s office and then to the corrections office, known as Bapas.

She had been in a prison van but she left Bapas in a private car.

Huge police presence outside Kerobokan prison #SchapelleCorby @SBSNews pic.twitter广西桑拿,/XcgoNKV7Nj

— Ashleigh Steele (@ashleighksteele) February 9, 2014

There is speculation she left to do an exclusive interview with the Seven Network.

Ketut Artha, the head of Bapas, said even he was allowed only a peek at the famous parolee’s face, which she has been hiding from the media with several layers – a sarong, a scarf and a hat.

Mr Artha said Bapas officials met Corby, accompanied by her guarantor, brother-in-law Wayan Widyartha, for about 20 minutes.

“I actually wanted to give her lots of directions, but in the situation it was not possible,” he told reporters.

“Lots of questions were unanswered. And when she answered, she only said yes.”

Prosecutors got Corby to sign a release letter, stamped three of her fingers and took a photo.

But Mr Artha said she didn’t cry in his interview.

“She was not crying, just reluctant to speak,” he said.

He advised her to calm herself, be kind and not violate the conditions of her parole, which will see her live with Wayan and her sister Mercedes in Kuta until 2017.

“I got a chance to ask to see her face and she only opened her cover a bit,” Mr Artha said.

Earlier at the prison, where Corby rushed into a green prison van through a human tunnel of police, prison boss Farid Junaedi told reporters Corby’s condition on Monday morning was “just fine, only a little bit nervous and asking why there’s so many people and reporters”.

READ MORE: Detained for drugs: Australians convicted abroad

Mr Junaedi said Corby was searched before she was released.

“After she was clear, then she could get out,” he said.

“According to the last data, Corby will stay in her sister’s (Mercedes) house.”

He said she took her make-up and clothes with her as she left.

Earlier, Mr Junaedi said Mercedes didn’t join her husband at the jail because of the crush when she visited on Friday.

He said if Corby violated her parole, he would “pull her back”.

In Queensland, her mother Roseleigh Rose celebrated Corby’s release with champagne and dancing at her home in Loganlea.

An elated Ms Rose was screaming and crying as she watched Corby leave the prison on television.

“It was just beautiful to see my beautiful Schapelle come out from those doors,” she told the Seven Network.

 

I’ve never seen Wenger so angry, says Arteta

“The manager was really upset at half-time, that’s normal because it wasn’t good enough for this football club,” Spaniard Arteta said of Wenger.

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“It was the angriest I have seen him.”

The half-time rant failed to spark a recovery, with winger Sterling adding his second seven minutes after the restart before Arteta scored the consolation goal from the penalty spot after 69 minutes.

The loss saw Arsenal slip to second in the Premier League, one point behind Chelsea who beat Newcastle United 3-0, but Arteta was confident they were capable of picking themselves up and staying in the hunt for a first title since 2004.

He highlighted December’s 6-3 thrashing by Manchester City, after which they won six of their next eight matches, a run that came to a sudden halt at Anfield.

“We have had two big crises already,” the former Everton midfielder added.

“I think the Manchester United defeat was a different game to this, but City and this one are really hard to take. We have to react because there is nothing we can do about this now.”

Wenger did not spare their blushes in public either, saying the performance was simply not good enough.

“We were feeble in every important aspect of playing at the highest level: concentration, strength in the challenge and naivety,” he told French media.

“So from that moment on it’s impossible to win a game when you’re playing at that level.”

He did, however, defend record signing Mesut Ozil, who came in for heavy criticism after match for a lethargic display in midfield.

“It is difficult to criticise an individual on this performance … that would be unfair because nobody really played well.”

(Reporting By Josh Reich; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)