Adelaide firefighter’s unique gold ring recovered after 13 years offshore


Disaster struck at Henley Beach while Adelaide firefighter Justin Ocenasek was throwing a ball to his mate in 2007.

His unique gold ring, a memento hand-forged by one of his Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS) colleagues, was lost in the waves.

“I got the ring fitted to my right hand because I’m a left-hander, but my right hand was bashed up from playing football, so I moved it to my left,” Mr Ocenasek said.

“I went to throw the ball with my left hand and, as I’ve thrown it, the ring has gone flying off in the same direction and fallen in the water.

“We were looking around with our feet trying to find it, but after about an hour we pulled the plug on the search.

“I have thought about getting Kym (the jeweller) to make me a new one, but it wouldn’t be that same graduation ring.”

But in a story fit for the annals of JRR. Tolkien, the ring sat dormant in the sands off Henley Beach for 13 years before being discovered by an unlikely hero.

Firefighter Justin Ocenasek joked that the ring might be on its way to the US.(Supplied)

A fateful find

For landscaper and semi-professional metal detectorist Bruce Phillips, it was just another day.

“I like to hunt the area, particularly after storms because it moves the sand around and items that have been buried for a while tend to show up,” Mr Phillips said.

A man with a metal detector in shallow water at the beach
Metal detectorist Bruce Phillips managed to find who the ring belonged to.(Facebook)

“This day I hadn’t found too much, just a couple of old coins, but I was just beyond the break line next to the jetty, and I picked up this ring.

“It came up in the scoop and I looked at it and I thought ‘well, it’s definitely gold’, but I couldn’t really make out what the marking was — I thought it was a tulip!”

But the engraving was something far more interesting.

“I got home and gave it a bit of a clean with a gentle polish and noticed there was writing on one side,” he said.

“I thought SAMFS? That doesn’t make sense. Oh wait, SA MFS!

“I realised when I turned the ring around that I was looking at a fireman’s helmet.”

A large ring with a design of a firefighters' hat on it
Bruce Philips initially thought the ring had the design of a tulip on it.(Supplied)

A story fit for the modern age

With nothing but the ring in hand, Mr Phillips set out on a quest to return it to its rightful owner.

“I did a quick Google search because Google is your friend in these sorts of things and found there weren’t any official MFS rings,” he said.

“I reached out to the MFS and a gentleman who works there said he would look back through his books and got in contact with Justin.

“At the same time, his wife had actually seen my Facebook post or she got a tip-off and she said ‘oh my god, this is my husband’s ring’.”

Henley Beach
The ring was lost at Henley Beach, in Adelaide’s west.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Mr Ocenasek said he was absolutely floored when the ring was found.

“It’s beyond a needle in a haystack type scenario — it’s one ring in all the ocean and he found it,” he said.

“My sister lives in America and I mentioned to her on the phone that there’s a fair chance the ring is closer to her than to me after all these years.

Mr Ocenasek offered Mr Phillips a reward, but he turned it down.

“All I would like is to get a photo with [Mr Ocenasek] at the MFS station returning the ring so I can put it in my collection,” he said.

The ring will be returned next week.



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Selling Australia’s offshore detention regime to the world


The term “offshore processing” suggests something industrial, mechanistic. 

In the field of refugee and asylum seeker policy, it involves detaining humans, their dehumanisation and the vast, prohibitive expenditure of funds from the public purse. As a model, one country has sold it with unshakeable conviction and aplomb: Australia. 

It has sent emissaries to countries keen to identify their own processing models, preferably designed to mitigate, if not snuff out altogether, the right to seek asylum.

The most important of these emissaries is Tony Abbott, Australia’s former prime minister who spent time in office fashioning one of the world’s most brutal offshore detention policies. He was by no means a lonely pioneer; previous governments had adopted strict policies to deter boat arrivals to Australian shores. 

Australian policy towards refugees has been, since the 1960s, marked by various offshore processing options, though the more benign term of regional processing was preferred. 

It was the conservative Coalition Government of John Howard that inaugurated the offshore processing policy that came to be known as the Pacific Solution. Its genesis lay in the relentless politicisation of maritime arrivals on the Norwegian vessel, the MV Tampa, in August 2001. 

On September 1, 2001, Howard announced what would become a mainstay of Australian immigration policy: those arriving by boat would be processed in third countries rather than Australian territory.  Offshore detention centres were established on Manus and Nauru islands. Despite being closed in 2008 under Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, they were re-opened by the Gillard government in 2012. 

Then Immigration Minister Chris Bowen declared:

“If you arrive in Australia by boat, you can be taken from Australia by aeroplane and processed in another country.”

For all that, it was Abbott who gave it a formal, military stamp, aided by the Australian navy and a new border protection force. They formed part of what was called Operation Sovereign Borders, described in a report by employees of the Australian Parliamentary Library as:

‘A military-led, border security operation, bringing together the operational elements of fifteen departments and agencies under a single command led by Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell.’

Operation Sovereign Borders involved operations on sea that upended guarantees provided by an assortment of international laws, most notably the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.  Abbott’s then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, and current Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison gave explicit instructions to his staff: asylum seekers arriving by boat were to be described as “illegal maritime arrivals”

Refugee advocates defend convoy protest as fears grow for detainees

This was a wilful libel, as the Convention not only guarantees the right to seek asylum but prohibits signatory states from imposing penalties upon those who arrive or remain illegally. But Morrison was eager to misread it

“I’ve never said that it was illegal to claim asylum.  That’s not what the term refers to. It refers to their mode of entry.”  

Individuals intercepted at sea would either be turned back into the waters of another state, most commonly Indonesia, or sent to Nauru or Manus Island for processing. The facilities became centres of psychological torture, sexual predation and suicide, places of legal and spiritual purgatory. 

Abbott, far from being troubled by these facts, became a political salesman. In 2015, he offered very public advice to European governments facing their own refugee crisis. Australia, he boasted, had stopped the boats. To actually repair such arrivals to Pacific outposts was even humane.

He said:

“If you want to stop the deaths, if you want to stop the drownings you have got to stop the boats.”

In February this year, the International Criminal Court (ICC), at the behest of Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, found that

The terms of the conditions of detention and treatment [at the processing centres on Nauru and on Manus Island], although the situation varied over time … constitute the underlying act of imprisonment or other severe deprivations of physical liberty under Article 7(1)(e) of the Statute.

Greg Barns, of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, also drew the conclusion that Australia had breached the Rome Statute of the ICC:

‘It is extraordinary and shameful that a nation which purports to believe in the rule of law should be found to be in breach of the international law which outlaws cruelty and inhumanity.’

Australian refugee policy even managed to produce its own, modern variant of the dissident Soviet writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn: the Kurdish Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani. In 2016, Australian journalist Julia Baird brought Solzhenitsyn’s language into vogue in describing the offshore detention centres as “Australia’s asylum gulag”. 

Behrouz Boochani's Manus memoir a privilege to read

Masha Gessen of the New Yorker preferred calling them concentration camps.

Boochani gives us a flavour of such camps in his account of being on Nauru, No Friend but the Mountains. He recalls being given a number: MEG45. 

He writes:

‘Slowly but surely I must get used to that number. From their perspective, we are nothing more than numbers. I will have to forget my name. My ears start ringing when they call my name. I try to use my imagination to attribute some new meaning to this meaningless number. For instance: Mr MEG. But there are a lot of people like me.’

Such a minted concentration camp system is finding eager audiences. Since 2015, fact-finding missions have been organised by European delegations to see how the Australian model might be replicated. In June 2016, Austria’s then Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz expressed a degree of enthusiasm for the Australian model of border protection and deterring unwanted arrivals. 

In an interview with Die Presse, he opined that: 

‘The Australian model of course cannot be completely replicated but its principles can be applied in Europe.’

Abdul Aziz Muhamat, a Sudanese national who spent several years on Manus Island despite being found to be a refugee, warns of the creeping temptations. Speaking on a panel of migration activists organised by the German civil rescue organisation Sea-Watch this year, Aziz, now a resident in Switzerland, claimed that:

“Right now, the EU are trying to replicate the offshore detention centres.” 

He noted enthusiasts in Geneva, who claimed that Australia had “done a beautiful job” in combating irregular migration.

The UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has also entertained island possibilities, with Abbott having her ear. By the end of August this year, some 5,000 people had crossed the English Channel in dinghies. In 2019, the number for the whole year had been 1,890. With a spike in the number of crossings, Abbott’s record caught the attention of the unrepentant demagogue and leader of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage in Australia

Farage tweeted in June this year: 

‘Tony Abbott says to stop the migrant boats from coming, you have to send them back.’

Abbott’s suggestion was very much in keeping with Australian refugee policy: let other parties – in this case, the French – deal with those making the crossing.

According to officials in White Hall, as documented by the Financial Times, a few options for offshore detention centres were considered: the overseas British territories of Ascension Island or St Helena. 

A spokesperson for Patel has, however, dampened suggestions that Patel was too interested:

“The Home Secretary would not want something like this.” 

Officials in the Foreign Office had found the suggestions logistically unfeasible. The Financial Times disagreed: the idea, most probably Abbott’s, had left their mark. 

They wrote:

‘The proposal [for offshore processing] is further evidence of the influence of Tony Abbott’s ideas on the Johnson government.’

An already more than controversial pick as a trade adviser to the Johnson government, Abbott is finding himself most at home. An increasingly isolated United Kingdom, and its flailing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is bound to find his more parochial suggestions tempting. 

Dr Binoy Kampmark was a Cambridge Scholar and is an Independent Australia columnist and lecturer at RMIT University. You can follow Dr Kampmark on Twitter @BKampmark.

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Wrecked Oceanlinx generator to stay put offshore at Carrickalinga as partial removal is delayed


Removal of a wrecked wave energy generator stranded off a popular South Australian seaside holiday town has been delayed yet again, the local ratepayers group has said, six years after the project was sunk.

The 3,000-tonne structure was being towed from Port Adelaide to Port MacDonnell in March 2014 when it started listing due to damaged air bags.

An effort was made to tow it to shallow water but the concrete and reinforced steel structure was jettisoned about 1.5 kilometres off the popular holiday destination of Carrickalinga.

Carrickalinga Ratepayers’ Association president Kim Baker said the Government had committed to undertaking its partial removal in October and November.

“We’ve been on their case about whether that’s going to be happening,” Mr Baker told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“We were only told a couple of weeks ago that it will now be removed in March next year, apparently, or somewhere between January and March in fact.”

Oceanlinx in receivership

Some four years previous, a different Oceanlinx generator sank offshore at Port Kembla, New South Wales, when it broke free from its pylons during rough seas.

Oceanlinx’s wave energy generator started sinking while being towed.(ABC News)

The company went into receivership shortly after its second generator was sunk off Carrickalinga.

Mr Baker questioned why insurance money was not used to clean up the mess.

The State Government in 2014 initially promised to remove the wave energy generator within a year but blamed court proceedings for lengthy delays.

Port Kembla Oceanlinx generator
Oceanlinx also had a generator sink off Port Kembla in NSW.(Supplied: Adam McLean, Illawarra Mercury.)

Partial removal delayed

The newly elected Liberal Government in 2018 announced plans to turn the wreck into an artificial reef by removing the visible top section and allowing the submerged portion to become an artificial reef.

Former SA Transport minister Stephan Knoll said in April that those works had been delayed because a survey undertaken by divers on the structure found it “not as the drawings suggested it was”.

He also said autumn and winter weather conditions would make it too difficult for divers to conduct the work.

Underwater photo of the submerged part of the Oceanlinx wave energy generator.
The wave energy generator has been providing shelter for marine life.(DPTI)

Current Transport Minister Corey Wingard today confirmed the works would take place early next year for similar reasons.

“The conditions would be far more comfortable obviously for people out there on the water, so that’s when those works are planned,” he said.

Mr Wingard could not immediately answer questions about the insurance money but said the diver survey had found the accidental artificial reef to have been quite “beneficial for the region”.

“The increased marine life around the structure and sea grasses and vegetation have occurred around that structure which have been very beneficial environmentally I’m told,” Mr Wingard said.

A ‘danger’ to boats

But Mr Baker said there was a 100-metre exclusion zone around the structure, with fines of $1,250 applicable for anybody who entered it.

“It’s not designed to be a reef and it won’t be an effective reef,” he said.

Mr Baker said that once the works to remove the top section were complete, which represented about 12 per cent of the structure, it would sit one metre below the surface and be “quite dangerous for marine navigation and craft going through the area”.

“They’re going to put a beacon on top of it, and beacons are called, in their own words, a danger marker,” Mr Baker said.

“It’s dangerous.”



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Poland readying legislation to encourage offshore wind farms, official says | The Budapest Business Journal on the web


 Energy Today

 Thursday, October 8, 2020, 16:10

Zbigniew Gryglas, deputy minister for state assets, told a business conference in Lublin, eastern Poland, that proposed new regulations to promote power generation in offshore wind farms were being given their final touches and on track to take effect by the end of the year, reported the Polish Radioʼs IAR News Agency.

Photo by TebNad/Shutterstock.com

Gryglas told the National Economic Summit conference that offshore wind power had the potential to lend “a huge impetus” to the Polish economy in the years ahead.

At the end of last month, a host of Baltic Sea countries led by Poland agreed to work together to harness wind power and develop new offshore energy projects. Climate Minister Michał Kurtyka said at the time that offshore wind energy, alongside nuclear power, was one of two “strategic and long-term” choices for Poland as it seeks to develop its renewable energy sector and achieve climate neutrality in the future.

Kurtyka also said that Poland was eyeing projects worth some PLN 120 billion (USD 31 billion) over the next 20 years to generate 8,000 to 11,000 MW (megawatts) of installed capacity on its Baltic coast.

 

 





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Storm-weary U.S. offshore energy firms prep for massive hurricane



FILE PHOTO: The Petronius oil platform is seen from the air, located 100 miles (161 km) off the coast of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico June 3, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

October 7, 2020

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) – Oil and gas workers withdrew en masse from U.S. offshore production facilities and onshore refineries began preparations on Wednesday as Hurricane Delta was forecast to grow into a powerful storm over the Caribbean on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Delta’s winds declined to 105 miles per hour (169 kph) as it tore across Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula early Wednesday. It is expected to enter the Gulf of Mexico and intensify into a Category 4 storm, the National Hurricane Center said.

Oil producers had evacuated 57 production facilities in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico by Tuesday and halted 540,000 barrels per day of oil and 232 million cubic feet per day of natural gas production. The region accounts for about 17% of U.S. oil output.

Onshore energy facilities and export ports began securing operations. Royal Dutch Shell Plc was preparing three refineries in Convent, Geismar and Norco, Louisiana, for Delta’s arrival. Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, the sole deep water port on the Gulf of Mexico, halted seaborne exports and imports.

Energy prices were mixed. Natural gas futures were up 8% this week on storm shut-ins and the potential disruption to exports from coastal processing plants. U.S. crude oil and gasoline futures each fell about 3%.

Delta is expected to strike the U.S. Gulf Coast on the weekend as the 10th named storm to make a U.S. landfall this year, eclipsing a record that has held since 1916.

After weakening over the Yucatan, Delta is expected to restrengthen and grow into a massive storm. The “significant increase in the size of Delta’s wind field while it is over the Gulf of Mexico” will drive a broad storm surge and wind threats to the U.S. Gulf Coast, the NHC said.

Oil companies have had to evacuate workers repeatedly during this storm season. The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the departures and returns, with some workers required to quarantine ashore and be tested for the virus before returning.

Delta’s evacuations are at least sixth time that some companies have had to remove staff and curtail production since June.

W&T Offshore Inc , one of the smaller Gulf of Mexico producers, estimated the storms cost it 9,000 barrels of oil and gas per day in the latest quarter, more than a fifth of its targeted output.

Shell, the largest Gulf of Mexico offshore oil producer by volume, evacuated staff from nine facilities and is preparing to shut production at several. Chevron Corp was evacuating and shutting production on all its Gulf of Mexico platforms, along with BP Plc , BHP and Occidental Petroleum Corp.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; writing by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Leslie Adler and Marguerita Choy)





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Boris Johnson’s offshore wind plans – Channel 4 News


What’s the story?

Boris Johnson used his keynote speech at the (virtual) Conservative Party conference today to announce that offshore wind will power “every home in the country” by 2030.

It’s part of a “green industrial revolution” that will apparently create “hundreds of thousands, if not millions of jobs” while helping the UK hit its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Is this news?

Not entirely. Some targets announced today are new, like the plan to generate 1GW of energy from floating wind farms (turbines mounted on floating platforms can be used in deeper water).

The pledge to increase the UK’s total offshore wind capacity from 30 to 40GW was included in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto and later confirmed in the Queen’s Speech.

So today’s speech confirms a pledge already made, but it comes at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has put other long-term spending projects in doubt.

Is the 40GW target feasible?

Analysts say reaching that kind of capacity in ten years will require tens of billions of investment, and the government has only announced £160m of extra spending today.

That sum is relatively small, certainly compared to state-funded infrastructure projects like roads, in which the government says it plans to plough £27bn.

But the government has made it clear it expects most offshore wind investment to come from the private sector, backed by a risk-sharing scheme called Contracts for Difference.

The Global Wind Energy Council says the UK target of 40GW is “ambitious” but confirms that this country is still the world market leader for offshore wind, calling it a “monumental success story for the UK”. The trade association says other countries like Poland are copying the UK’s Contracts for Difference funding model.

So how much is the government really spending?

Contracts for Difference is the main way the UK supports low carbon electricity industry. The government agrees to pay electricity generators a fixed price over 15 years, instead of the wholesale electricity prices set by the open market.

It’s a way of ensuring companies with high upfront costs can invest in new technology with a guaranteed future income. It should also mean consumers won’t suddenly see their fuel bills rise if market prices rise higher than the price agreed with the government.

But of course, if the market price for electricity turns out to be lower than the price fixed in advance by the government, the government tops up the companies’ revenue.

The government said today that the UK will double its capacity for state-backed Contracts for Difference.

This obviously means it’s possible that the government could be on the hook for more than the £160m of spending announced today, depending on what happens to electricity prices.

Other experts have predicted that market prices could go so low that electricity suppliers end up paying the government via this scheme – a potential situation dubbed “negative subsidy”.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) told FactCheck that prices agreed between government and suppliers have fallen by around two-thirds since 2015.

He added: “The cost of deploying 40GW of offshore wind by 2030 will of course depend on the extent of further price reductions in the offshore wind sector.

“A more ambitious deployment of offshore wind could increase the costs of the CfD scheme, but because offshore wind projects can also sell electricity to the market at lower prices reducing overall electricity prices, any net impact on consumer bills will be significantly smaller.”

How many jobs will be created?

The Prime Minister referred to the potential for “millions” of jobs to be created in Britain as part of a broader push for more green energy, but it’s not yet clear how big a role offshore wind will play in this.

The government says today’s announcement will create 2,000 construction jobs and “enable the sector to support up to 60,000 jobs directly and indirectly by 2030 in ports, factories and the supply chains”.

Historically, renewable energy has failed to boost jobs in British manufacturing because firms tend to use cheaper overseas companies to make the equipment.

The Mail quotes an unnamed source as saying that the government will impose rules on UK manufacturers so that 60 per cent of offshore wind equipment is made in Britain, but we haven’t seen any assurances given on the record about this.

A BEIS spokesman told us: “Many offshore wind components are large, and need to be made relatively close to their deployment locations.

“The UK has a strong manufacturing heritage, and by creating new large scale portside manufacturing hubs, the new funding will make the UK sector ever more competitive – helping it play a full role in the delivery of 40GW by 2030, and creating and retaining high quality jobs here in the UK.”

Patrick Worrall and Simon Roach



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U.S. energy firms shutting down offshore Gulf of Mexico production as storms loom



FILE PHOTO: A boat sails near an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana, November 16. 2012. REUTERS/Sean Gardner

August 22, 2020

HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. oil producers on Saturday continued to shut down offshore production while evacuating workers from Gulf of Mexico platforms as two tropical storms took aim at the major oil-producing region.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc said it began shutting down production at most of its offshore operations on Saturday, joining other energy majors BP Plc , Chevron Corp , which began shutdowns on Friday.

Storms Marco and Laura are poised to enter the Gulf early next week, with each forecast to make landfalls on the Gulf coast by mid-week. However, neither storm is expected to become a major hurricane and the forecast storm tracks cover a wide area.

Storm Marco on Saturday is expected to become a category one hurricane with winds of at least 74 miles per hour (119 km) but faces wind-shear conditions that will limit development. Storm Laura is on a track to travel over Hispaniola and Cuba, and is likely to remain a tropical storm, said Matt Rogers, a meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group.

“We don’t see the intensity and strengthening risk” to either storm, said Rogers, whose company advises energy and agricultural firms. The prospect of either becoming a damaging, category three storm is just 10%, he said. Unlike Hurricane Harvey, which struck the region three years ago, neither is expected to linger inland, reducing risk of coastal flooding.

Still, helicopters on Saturday were crisscrossing the Gulf of Mexico, ferrying workers off platforms in precautionary measures, said Tony Hermans, base manager at Bristow Galliano heliport in southern Louisiana. Scheduled evacuations will be completed by Sunday, he said.

U.S. Gulf of Mexico offshore wells account for 17% of total U.S. crude oil production and 5% of total U.S. natural gas production. The region along the Texas to Mississippi coasts also accounts for 45% of total U.S. petroleum refining capacity.

BP, Shell, BHP and Chevron each had begun removing personnel from offshore facilities on Friday. Occidental Petroleum and Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, a major oil export and import terminal, reported they had begun implementing weather procedures.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams and Erwin Seba; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Daniel Wallis)





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Protesters demand release of asylum seekers after seven years of offshore detention


Hundreds of protesters have staged a sit-in on 1 of Brisbane’s busiest arterial roadways in assist of the launch of additional than 100 asylum seekers holed up in a Kangaroo Stage hotel.

It coincided with the 7-12 months anniversary because the Australian Federal government, below Labor, launched offshore processing for asylum seekers.

The rally, organised by Refugee Solidarity Brisbane/Meanjin, was held outside the Kangaroo Point Central Resort exactly where about 120 males are staying detained.

Some have been confined to the resort for a 12 months but have notched seven years in detention in general.

Right after about an hour, the rally moved into a facet road in which a band performed and the crowd chanted “free of charge the refugees”.

Hundreds of protesters gathered at the hotel on Sunday.

AAP

The detainees stood on the balconies of the resort to check out the proceedings.

Messages of appreciate and empathy – as perfectly as calls for House Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to be ditched – were scrawled on the highway in which the protesters sat, some with their wrists crossed in the air.

A selection of speakers took to a makeshift podium to contact for the males remaining launched, even contacting the Labor occasion “torturers” with “blood on their hands”.

One of the placards at the protest.

One of the placards at the protest.

AAP

Protesters are demanding neighborhood release for the men who were being introduced to Australia for healthcare remedy from offshore detention less than medevac orders.

The hotel has found a succession of protests that have ramped up in the past handful of months.

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge has formerly claimed the guys came out below Labor’s medevac legal guidelines and people decided to be refugees could resettle outside of Australia.



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