Now the Centre Party is needed


It is pretty common for The Centre Party to be the target of malicious comments in “Etelän media”, the media in southern Finland. The party is antediluvian, an anomaly, a special interest party that always betrays, and a treacherous negotiator that introduces last-minute proposal that favor them, to force the other’s hand. Already twenty years ago, it was said that The Centre Party was past its prime, but the party still managed to hold the fort.

Presently the antagonists unfortunately seem to be correct. The poll ratings are plummeting, and it could turn out to be a disastrous municipality election. The Finns Party are predicted to overtake the role of The Centre Party in many municipalities. Instead of celebrating the downfall of the old Centre Party, the other parties and political commentators should take a minute to think.

What does it mean for our national politics if The Centre Party is banished to fourth or fifth place in the party hierarchy? That would cause The Finns Party to take on a key position, regardless of if they become largest or second largest. This would, in turn, lead to complications in formation of future governments; when The Centre Party is not strong enough to secure a middle-block based on the so called red-soil (punamulta) alternative, with The Centre Party and SDP as foundation.

This, in turn, could lead to The National Coalition party having to choose between SDP and The Finns Party, which would probably cause a hard divide between the conservative right and liberal fractions within the party. If the Green League will suffice as adhesive depends on its future strength.

Why does The Centre Party seem to lose grip of their old voters? The process began during Sipilä’s business-minded cabinet, and was bolstered when the party joined today’s cabinet, despite their loss in the election. According to Paavo Väyrynen, the decline was due to the “city liberals” having taken control of the party. He probably labels anyone who does not share his opinions on the EU, the euro, and government-participation, as suspect “liberals”.

Perhaps the Centre Party has not fully realized the gravity of the powerlessness felt by rural people due to the quick urbanization? It awoke too late, when The Finns Party already spread their poison: ´The Centre Party has abandoned the countryside, are ruling together with The Green League, no wolf-hunting, and the fuel tax will be increased`. It is not until now that a new program for a living, decentralized and spacious country with flexible settling rights and advantageous online connections is developed.

If the Finns Party successfully latch on to The Centre Party’s traditional voter-areas, it would also be a loss for democracy. This populist party continues to question the legitimacy of the political system and would replace a party that has deep roots in the history of Finnish democracy. In a way, history repeats itself; backwoods communism (korpikommunismi) also spread false promises of salvation in the poorest rural areas after the war.

Without a serious and influential party of the countryside, close to a million Finnish people could lose trust in our democracy if the Finland they know is impoverished; if the countryside-school, police, and service disappears.

I have often criticized the politics of The Centre Party, but that does not mean that I do not see the importance of it. It is not needed in coastal areas. In these surroundings, I am hopeful that voters are immune to all forms of political conmanship.

Pär Stenbäck


 




Pär Stenbäck is a former Finnish politician who has been an MP, Minister of Education, and of Foreign Affairs in the years before 1985. For a period of twenty years, he held leading positions in the Red Cross movement, among these as Secretary-General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (Geneva). He is a founding member of ICG and the European Cultural Parliament ECP. He received the honorary title as Minister in 1999. Today he is chairing the New Foreign Policy Society in Finland (NUPS) since 2017. He contributes regularly to news media. 

 

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Greens welcome AstraZeneca approval but say further diversity is needed. – 16 News


The Greens welcome the news that AstraZeneca has been provisionally approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for use in Australia.

“However we cannot put all our eggs in one basket. It’s clear with differing rates of efficacy and with new Covid-19 strains developing that we must continue to expand and diversify Australia’s vaccine portfolio”, Australian Greens spokesperson on Health Senator Rachel Siewert said.

“Australia needs to build a diverse portfolio to rapidly pivot to deal with new strains and to develop herd immunity, including securing deals with Moderna and more Pfizer doses.

“We should also be investing in the development of Australia’s capacity to locally manufacture vaccines and medicines that use mRNA technology. This would allow us to produce mRNA vaccines like Pfizer onshore in a publicly owned facility.

“We need to ramp up CSL’s capacity to start locally producing Novavax at the same time as AstraZeneca given the promising Phase 3 Trial data.

“It is essential that Australia supports our neighbours in the pacific region to receive timely and adequate access to Covid-19 vaccines. No one is safe until all of us are safe.”

 

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Hannah Clarke was murdered a year ago. Criminalising coercive control is only one part of the response that’s needed to tackle domestic abuse


Telling it will not change the fact more women will be murdered in Australia in 2021, but as the momentum to criminalise coercive control grows, it’s time to add my voice to the chorus.

It’s time I told my story.

I’ve told it in bits and pieces, but never under the glare of public scrutiny or in the sort of detail that might identify me.

For legal and safety reasons I still can’t be identified.

I’m the silhouette on the TV screen. The anonymous source. The friend of a friend who had that bad thing happen to her.

The only place my story exists in any great detail is in court documents.

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Holistic approach needed to harness marine resources for national growth: Government


Setting up a mariculture authority of India, a national placer mission to mine minerals found on the seabed and marine clusters for ports-centered development and inclusion of various untapped activities associated with blue economy in the 2008 National Industrial Classification are some of the suggestions put forward by a draft National Policy for India’s Blue Economy 2020, unveiled by the Ministry of Earth Sciences on Wednesday.

The draft policy, which would be placed in the public domain for comments and suggestions till February 27, is aimed at significantly enhancing contribution of the blue economy to India’s GDP in the next five years, improving lives of coastal communities, preserving India’s marine biodiversity and maintaining the security of our marine areas and resources.

The draft policy called for constitution of an apex body — National Blue Economy Council— involving all relevant stakeholders. The council can have ministers of several relevant ministries including earth sciences, defence, external affairs, commerce and shipping, Chief Ministers of coastal States, NITI and Aayog Vice-Chairman as members and MoES Secretary as Member Secretary. Similarly, presidents of CII, FICCI and Assocham can be invitees in the council, it said.

The government’s vision for New India by 2030, first articulated in February 2019, identified blue economy as one of the 10 core dimensions of economic growth. This is probably for the first time the need for having a coherent policy for the blue economy is emphasised by the government.

Proper measurement

The draft policy called for a framework for proper measurement of blue economy activities and their contributions to the national income, scientific assessment and planning of ocean resources and their sustainable use, investment and human resource development to harness the potential of marine resources, ensuring welfare, safety and livelihood of fishermen, among other things.

Stressing that the fisheries sector registered the highest growth with the agriculture and allied sector, the policy suggested an ecosystem approach for fisheries management which includes promotion of aquaculture, cage culture, seaweed and algae harvesting as well as sustainable marine capture.

To harness the potential of marine biotechnology, particularly in non-food sector of fishery resources, it suggested setting up a national level institute for marine biotechnology. It also called for a national mission for placer (an accumulation of valuable minerals formed by gravity separation) to explore workable deposits and to evolve a roadmap for their extraction. It said India should take lead in exploring cobalt-rich Sea Mount Ferro Manganese Crust in the Indian Ocean.

It called for promoting and modernising the ship building industry with a 30-year plan with a thrust on Make in India and also for a launch of a multi-modal network and digital grid to reduce the logistics costs. The draft note emphasised the need for having a holistic approach to enhance logistics and connectivity and also improving the ease of doing business and efficiency including harmonisation of tax regimes.

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‘Urgent’ action needed to fix dangerous Casino intersections



A Richmond Valley councillor is calling for urgent action to fix two dangerous intersections in Casino.

At tonight’s council meeting, Stephen Morrissey will put forward a motion raising concerns about traffic and pedestrian safety along Centre St (the Bruxner Highway) at the Richmond and Canterbury St intersections.

He says roundabouts should be installed and a safer pedestrian crossing facility is needed at the Centre/Barker Street intersection “as a matter of urgency”.

Cr Morrissey wants the council to write to Regional Transport and Roads Minister, Paul Toole, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis and Page MP Kevin Hogan about the issue.

“Council has long been aware of traffic incidents and pedestrian safety issues associated with the intersection of Canterbury and Centre streets in Casino and has repeatedly advocated to all levels of government for this to be addressed, as recently as late last year,” he wrote in his motion.

“As part of the Bruxner Highway, the intersection is the responsibility of Transport for NSW.

“Council co-ordinated a study of the intersection in 2012, funded by the then Roads and Maritime Services, which recommended the installation of a roundabout to solve the existing traffic issues.

“The study also finalised a concept design for the roundabout, costed at approximately $2.1 million.

“In an effort to secure funding for the project, council has made multiple applications to the Federal Government’s Black Spot Program but has so far been unsuccessful.”

Cr Morrissey said many of the incidents and crashes at these intersections were not reported to police, because they were low-speed or did not cause serious injuries.

However that means it has been difficult for the council to secure funding.

“Traffic numbers are substantial along Centre Street (more than 12,850 vehicles per day) and there is a high percentage of heavy vehicle use, including B-doubles,” he said.

“Both intersections are located close to community facilities, such as schools, shops and the memorial swimming pool and council is concerned at the potential risk to pedestrians.”



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Coronavirus quarantine hotel auditor needed in Australia, epidemiologist Tony Blakely says


A national effort to assess the existing quarantine effort in different states and set a standard for quarantine sites has the support of two of Australia’s leading public health experts.

As states continue to enter lockdown after COVID-19 has escaped the hotel quarantine system, epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely said it was time for the Federal Government to co-ordinate a national auditor for hotel quarantine around the country.

“I’m putting on the table an independent agency to audit and even accredit those facilities,” he said.

“Why aren’t we having an independent agency in Australia that goes round and routinely visits quarantine sites? Sees where the mistakes are, sees where the improvements can be and reports on it openly and transparently.

“That is something the Federal Government could lead.”

He said an auditor could also act as an accreditor, which could approve hotels or other locations, as a quarantine site.

Professor Peter Collignon, a microbiologist and member of the Government’s Infection Control Expert Group, agreed that there should be a national standard for hotel quarantine but did not go as far as calling for an independent auditor.

“I’m of the view we need some ongoing, quality assurance of quarantine hotels and quarantining,” he said.

Professor Peter Collignon said he preferred a co-operative method of assessing quarantine sites.(ABC News: Sonya Gee)

He said any standard would have to be a co-operative effort involving the states.

“It should be a co-operative venture, where you’re learning from each other,” he said.

“New South Wales could check on Victoria one week, Victoria could check on South Australia another week.”

A spokesperson for Health Minister Greg Hunt told the ABC’s PM program that members of AHPPC were considering strengthened national guidance for state and territory health departments on hotel quarantine, which would include consideration of the hierarchy of controls to prevent and control the transmission of infection in quarantine hotels.

“This guidance to states and territories is currently under development and is taking into account the available evidence including the anecdotal reports of transmission in quarantine hotels,” the spokesperson said.

They noted that a national review of hotel quarantine systems was released in December and that authorities continued to share information to improve the system.

“The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee reviews hotel quarantine across all jurisdictions on a weekly basis against the principles of shared learning and continuous improvement,” they said.

Politicisation of hotel quarantine

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said on Saturday that the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, would start every meeting with a discussion of hotel quarantine and what has been learned by the various state and territory authorities.

Professor Blakely said this was important but that an independent body could bring greater improvements to the quarantine system.

“I think that is fantastic. I actually think, though, just like we have independent auditors of the financial markets or people who audit the performance of a range of sectors in our society, given the importance to us of stopping the virus from getting in and disrupting our economy and our social functioning, having an independent group as well as the AHPPC, to me would be rather smart,” he said.

MCU of Professor Tony Blakely wearing black rimmed glasses, grey suit jacket and open-necked light blue shirt
Professor Tony Blakely said the conversation on hotel quarantine had become politicised.(Twitter: Professor Tony Blakely)

Professor Blakely also said an independent auditor would be able to cut through the politicisation of hotel quarantine and establish a national standard for the quarantine system.

“It has been politicised,” he said.

“I do think the way that we’ve seen today, the comments on the Victorian contact tracing by federal politicians is actually a bit of a diversionary tactic to take the discussion off the Federal Government providing better quarantine facilities and support by focussing on contact tracing.”

He said despite vaccines arriving in Australia on Monday, Australia would need to maintain some level of hotel quarantine based in major cities for some time and that understanding the capacity of appropriate quarantine sites would be important.

“I’m also suggesting we need to flip the paradigm and rather than just say we’ll bring in 20,000 people per month, we actually work out how many facilities we’ve got of an adequate standard and bring in that number of people [that can be processed by those facilities],” he said.

He also noted that while Victoria may be the latest state to announce a lockdown because of the virus escaping quarantine, no state had been immune from failures in the system.

“I think it’s hard to point a finger at anybody in particular, but the system is not working as well as we would like,” he said.

“Up to December last year, New Zealand had the highest rate [of quarantine breach] per person coming into the country who was COVID-positive. But otherwise, there were outbreaks in Sydney around the Christmas and New Year period.”

Hotels ‘not textbook’ settings for quarantine

Professor Blakely said that many hotels in urban centres were not ideal locations for quarantine.

“We’ve got hotels being used for quarantine, and that’s not what my textbook in public health medicine said prior to this epidemic,” he said.

“Normally what you would do [in a quarantine scenario], is you’d put people into small houses separated by natural air, somewhere out in the regional or rural area, ie. what we do at Howard Springs.”

A photo of the Howard Springs quarantine facility — a former workers camp — at sunset.
The Howard Springs quarantine facility in the Northern Territory can currently accommodate 850 overseas arrivals per fortnight.(Supplied: Charlotte George)

He said while authorities were on top of droplet transmission, hotel quarantine was struggling to contain aerosol transmission.

“When you’re in a building that essentially has got dead spaces like corridors and spaces that you transit through that others are transited through, that may not be maximally ventilated, you’ve got a recipe that makes hotel quarantine extremely difficult,” he said.

He said CBD hotels were not always best equipped to deal with these challenges, and that while authorities could increase the use of PPE and other precautions ultimately the best way to improve hotel quarantine would be to ensure ventilation and airflow was improved.

Remote locations not ideal, epidemiologist says

While Professor Blakely called on the Federal Government to look into the creation of more quarantine sites like Howard Springs in the Northern Territory, Professor Collignon was less convinced remote and regional facilities were the solution.

“Howard Springs is only 25 kilometres from a major airport with 200,000 people to service it,” he said.

He said few other regional locations would be able to support a quarantine site and the medical needs of those staying there.

“Even Howard Springs, if they have a cyclone, it’s out of action,” he said.

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Exclusive CRA data suggest a surge in new businesses, but culture change still needed to succeed


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This winter’s COVID-19 lockdowns will likely force even more companies out of business, given the Bank of Canada’s prediction that the restrictions will cause a second economic contraction in the first quarter.

Still, Shopify’s evangelism might be closer to the mark of what’s happening on the ground than what is implied by some of the grimmer headline data. Animal spirits are stirring.

More businesses opened than closed in October for the fourth consecutive month, so the rebuild of Canada’s economic capacity was well underway. “We are going to have more startups,” said Pierre Cléroux, chief economist at the Business Development Bank of Canada, the Crown lender that specializes in small-business lending and startup capital.

Animal spirits are stirring

A similar set of data from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) supports that view.

If you want to legally conduct business in Canada, you need business and GST/HST numbers. Upon request, CRA provided a tally of the new GST numbers that it issued monthly between the start of 2007 and the end of 2020. The numbers sketch the contours of creative destruction, the idea that big shocks destroy legacy companies, creating space for newer, nimbler businesses to thrive.

CRA’s data suggest that Canada’s entrepreneurial spirit was initially crushed by the pandemic, along with employment and so many other things. But in September, the agency issued 27,450 GST numbers, a five per cent increase from a year earlier and the most in any September in at least 13 years.

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Urgent review of lethal shark net measures needed – 16 News


An alarming new report showing a drastic decline in shark and ray populations is yet another reason shark nets and lethal drum lines must be removed from Australia’s beaches and oceans.

Greens spokesperson for Healthy Oceans, Senator Whish-Wilson, said action was needed urgently.

“Fixed-drum lines and mesh-nets are designed to entangle and kill sharks but are also indiscriminate killers and weapons of mass destruction to protected marine life.

“There is no evidence that nets and drum lines make ocean-goers safe. They are merely designed to provide a sense of security.

“Australia is the only country in the world to utilise these lethal and unjustified measures, making us an international embarrassment.

“Failure from the Federal Government to take action to reverse the decline in shark and ray populations in light of such a damning new report would be inexcusable.

“The Greens have been campaigning for over a decade to replace and transition away from lethal shark nets with measures that both help protect human life and marine life.

“The issue of shark mitigation needs to be a federally coordinated approach that advocates for evidence-based programs and consistency across states.

“As a start The Greens urge the Federal Government to end exemptions granted to state governments that allow them to conduct trials of lethal shark control measures.

Senator Whish-Wilson chaired the 2017 Senate inquiry into shark mitigation and deterrent measures that recommended NSW and Queensland phase out shark nets, immediately replace lethal drum lines with SMART drum lines and increase funding and support for the development and implementation of non-lethal mitigation measures.

“The Greens have a plan to manage the risk of shark encounters and strike the right balance, in both public debate and policy, between the role of government and personal responsibility.

“The Greens would seek to end federal government exemptions for lethal shark mitigation measures and use the COAG Meeting of Environment Ministers to push for state governments to end lethal measures that are within their jurisdictions.

“The Greens would also put $50 million over ten years towards research and development of non-lethal shark mitigation measures including establishing a national sharks working group.”

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ACT SES volunteer says mental health focus needed after nightmarish fire, hail events | The Canberra Times


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One year on, the impact of Australia’s recent bushfires remains a terrifying memory for the nation. While many watched in horror at the news or worried for relatives and friends in threatened areas, ACT’s SES volunteers, like Tammy Bennett, worked for months supporting critical services. It’s an effort the volunteer, who’s put on the uniform for eight consecutive years, feels proud to be apart of. “When it rains, everyone runs inside to get out of the rain, and the SES runs out,” Ms Bennett said. The first few months of the devastating bushfire season meant Ms Bennett drove firetrucks from the territory to northern parts of New South Wales to help support fatigued firefighters early on. But only a few months later in January 2020, the danger had landed on their very own door step. On a hot afternoon on January 22, a grassfire began burning out of control in the Pialligo Redwood Forest, threatening the ACT’s Emergency Services Agency headquarters just down the road. While it was a concern for the Fairbairn office, Ms Bennett admitted, the team simply treated it like any other fire and added it to the list. “When the Beard fire ignited, I was actually working here in [the ESA] headquarters in the incident room … and teams just went into action straight away – there was no fear,” Ms Bennett said. “It was like when you get an email, and you have to deal with another email on top of the 10 emails that you’ve got, so [the response team] just changed their tactics, made their plans and dealt with it.” But it was another freak weather event that stretched the volunteer force even further – Canberra’s monstrous hail storm. The event only lasted around 15 minutes on January 20 but the damage it had wrought on the nation’s capital was enormous, resulting in 2500 call outs to the emergency service. “We had fires on one side [of the incident room], and we had hail damage and everything happening on the other side and it just escalated,” Ms Bennett said. “Once again, we activated volunteers and they had been working hard over the fire season so they were quite exhausted … but they all jumped up and they just got about their business.” READ MORE: It took around two weeks to clear the 2500 jobs the storm had added to the team’s workload but Ms Bennett said it was their professionalism that got it all over and done with. “We’ve never experienced something like this before and it did open our eyes,” Ms Bennett said. “It’s all about what team you’ve got working behind the scenes.” It was an intense time for many and Ms Bennett, who had to face many of the events head on, admitted it could take a toll on her mental health. “Some events are quite gruelling, quite hard, fatiguing,” Ms Bennett said. “[I just] step away, take a breath, and then come back into it and get a whole new perspective, as long as you can take that time.” It’s part of the reason why she agreed to support a new initiative aimed at helping first responders cope with the impact their work has on their mental health. It’s called Peak Fortem and Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday it would become available for free to all first responders and their families in the country to encourage mental fitness. Ms Bennett said she hoped the program would encourage those like her to recognise the signs and to work on strategies to reduce their impact. “You don’t actually know that you might need help until it might be too late,” Ms Bennett said. “It’s not something that’s brought to your attention straight away and to start to stop and think and take that breath and go, ‘you know what? I might need to talk to someone or I might need to sit back’. “I think as a first responder in the heightened emergency situations that we do deal with, looking after your mental health [is important]. If you’re not right, how can you help someone else?” The program is one step in the process. Ms Bennett said it was important having a support network at home once the job’s over but having a supportive and understanding workplace was just as crucial. “Remembering that family connection is very important – making sure you step away and take that time to regroup with your immediate family,” Ms Bennett said. “But as you join the service, you start to have another family in the service too.”

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Law reform needed to allow deaf and blind people on juries


“I knew at the time deaf people weren’t eligible, but I thought I’d test the system,” Mr Phillips said.

“It wasn’t my ability to comprehend or follow the process, it was not being able to have a 13th person in the jury room.”

It’s something the Victorian Law Reform Commission wants to change.

“We are not inquiring into whether people who are deaf, hard or hearing, blind or have low vision should have easier access, we are inquiring into how to give them easier access,” chair of the commission, Anthony North, QC, said.

Ron McCallum, the former Dean of Sydney Law School, pictured in 2011.Credit:Louie Douvis

“What we have recognised is firstly the need for equal treatment, but we’re trying to overcome a misconception these people are not competent.”

The commission is investigating how people who are vision or hearing impaired could have access to jury duty, either by way of changing the law to allow a 13th person in the jury room, or by allowing access to documents converted into braille and other communication technology.

The commission’s work is not unique.

In Australia, the Australian Capital Territory became the first jurisdiction to change its law to allow for a 13th person in the jury room. And in the United States, the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, deaf and blind people have served on juries.

Dr David McKee, a deaf studies teacher in Wellington, told the ABC that his jury duty in 2005 was facilitated by two interpreters who alternated and it “proceeded quite smoothly.” He was elected as the jury foreperson.

In Australia, there’s been several legal challenges that have so far failed to create a seismic shift.

Two NSW residents, Gemma Beasley and Michael Lockrey, took their case to the United Nations after they were blocked from serving. As a result, the UN called for Australia to change its discriminatory laws.

In Queensland, Gaye Lyons went to the High Court after her request for an interpreter was denied. The majority confirmed that a 13th person wasn’t allowed in the jury room to protect external influence, but the Law Reform Commission said the ruling left it open for state legislatures to determine whether interpreters should be allowed.

Former Sydney Law School dean Ron McCallum AO, the first blind person to become a professor in any field, said blind and deaf people could sit on most juries and the circumstances where they couldn’t, such as where the major evidence was eyesight identification, would be few and far between.

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Auslan, Professor McCallum said, is a language already used in court proceedings and qualified signers are bound by confidentiality.

“I really don’t see any problem,” Professor McCallum said.

“A lot of people think, how can this be? How can we let people with disabilities sit on juries? Even some judges would probably be nervous. A lot of it has to do with not knowing persons with a disability.”

Mr Phillips, a senior executive manager with the National Disability Insurance Agency, said his exclusion from jury duty was disappointing and he welcomed the commission’s intent to reform.

He pointed to one of the fundamental principles of the justice system – that people should be judged by a jury of their peers.

“As deaf people, we’re very much a part of society,” he said.

“It’s time the justice system acknowledges that and makes various adjustments to include deaf people as jury members.”

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