Tax fears may be reason for gunman’s fatal rampage

LONDON: The gunman who carried out the Cumbria massacre was embroiled in a tax investigation into an undeclared £60,000 ($104,000) in his bank account and was facing serious financial difficulties, friends and colleagues have said.Detectives are working on the theory that Derrick Bird harboured grudges against several of his victims following disputes over money.Some of those killed in the early stages of his rampage had clashed with Bird in recent weeks, including his twin brother, David, and the family solicitor, Kevin Commons.However, Bird’s victims are thought to include bystanders he did not know.Bird shot and killed 12 people before taking his own life. Eleven other victims remain in hospital.The twins had had a rocky relationship since childhood. David’s family said that his downfall had been ”to try to help” his brother.However, the dispute is alleged to have escalated recently when David reported Derrick to the authorities for evading tax.A friend of the killer, Mark Cooper, said Bird had about £60,000 ($104,000) in undeclared and untaxed earnings in a bank account, which the tax authorities had discovered.”He was terrified he was going to go to prison,” Mr Cooper said.”It had been going on for six months but he only told me a fortnight ago. I had never seen him bothered about anything before.”Bird is understood to have been given details of his mother’s will last week, which was drawn up by David and Mr Commons.Mr Commons, who is believed to have been the first person to be killed on Wednesday, was shot in the driveway of his home.Bird then drove to his brother’s house and killed him while he was still in bed.Other victims include a real estate agent, Jamie Clark; a mother of two, Susan Hughes; a retired couple, James and Jennifer Jackson; and a part-time mole catcher, Isaac Dixon.Bird, a taxi driver, is thought to have fallen out with several work colleagues after they were accused of failing to follow rules when waiting for passengers. The drivers were also reported to have clashed during a recent holiday in Thailand after Bird paid a large amount of money to a Thai woman.At least two of the victims were employees at the Sellafield nuclear plant, where Bird worked until he was sacked and prosecuted for theft in 1990.Detective Chief Superintendent Ian Goulding, who is leading 100 detectives investigating the killings, said Bird appeared be have a motive for some of the murders but others were random.There were questions over the conduct of authorities after it emerged Bird had been granted two gun licences despite a conviction for theft. A former home secretary, Alan Johnson, said the government should consider introducing mental health checks for potential gun owners.However, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said: ”Of course we should look at this issue but we should not leap to knee-jerk conclusions on what should be done on the regulatory front.”You can’t legislate to stop a switch flicking in someone’s head and this sort of dreadful action taking place.”Telegraph, London
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Mardi Gras looks to future

Criticism of this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has lead the organisation that produces it to launch a widespread consultation process on the future and objectives of the parade.After complaints about refusing parade entry to Animal Liberation and its over-commercialisation, the chief executive of New Mardi Gras, Michael Rolik, is encouraging debate on whom the parade is meant for, how it should be funded and how to create a more relevant, entertaining and engaging event.In an open letter in February, Mr Rolik said there was a discrepancy between some people’s view of what Mardi Gras should be about and the reality of the organisation’s constitution and business model.”Let’s look at its purpose, composition and funding and work towards a clear statement (or restatement) of our objectives and values,” he wrote. ”By doing this we’d go a long way to ensuring Mardi Gras’ relevance into the future.”Now New Mardi Gras is acting on his hopes, seeking views from the community.In just a week, the organisation has received hundreds of submissions and online comments to the six main topics: the purpose, participation, what’s working, what’s not, improvements and funding.Online debates have raged about issues including greater quality control of floats, the length and time of the parade and the need to keep issues such as politics and equality on the agenda.Mr Rolik said there had been consultation in the 33 years of the event, but not for some time.”It’s their event, but there’s no use just having a bitch; we actually do want constructive ideas and there’s a lot of great ideas out there,” he said.Submissions will be published online and in July there will a night of debate.www.mardigras.org.au/itsyourparade
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Australia accused of fudging emissions

AUSTRALIA has been accused of trying to cheat its way out of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by pushing for ”dishonest” forestry accounting loopholes at the latest round of UN climate talks.Along with Russia and the European Union, Australia is facing claims it is pushing to change rules so they could include offsets from planting trees but not count emissions created by land clearing.Developing countries and environmental groups at the two-week meeting in Bonn, Germany, said rich nations were attempting to give the impression that they were tackling climate change when in reality they would be undermining genuine cuts.The dispute centres on what year, or series of years, are chosen as a baseline to measure emissions from the land and forestry.The Climate Action Network, a coalition of more than 500 environment and development groups, said a proposed revision of the land use, land use change and forestry rules would falsely exaggerate emission reductions. ”It’s a disgraceful scandal. It would be disastrous for the climate,” said Sean Cadman, an Australian spokesman for the climate network.”This is a massive loophole. All rich countries except Switzerland are now trying to avoid the consequences of increasing the harvesting of forestry.”The deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute, Erwin Jackson, said Australia’s credibility was ”teetering on the edge of an abyss” after the government’s decision to delay emissions trading and the Coalition’s outright opposition to a scheme.”Obstinacy against reasonable calls for Australia to take responsibility for pollution from forestry is counterproductive and the government risks being perceived as trying to cook the books,” he said.A spokeswoman for the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, said the government measured and reported emissions from forestry and the land in accordance with international rules and reported them clearly every year. ”Australia recognises that the world needs smarter treatment of human-caused emissions from the land sector,” she said.”We have been pursuing this internationally for a long time because an effective global agreement will need to include human-caused emissions from all sectors.”The climate network claims that loopholes could account for nearly 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or nearly 5 per cent of the global total. Forest management is seen as key to the climate talks because it is the biggest source of carbon credits and potential mitigation.with Guardian News & Media
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Burma pursuing a nuclear program

WASHINGTON: Burma has begun secretly acquiring key components for a nuclear weapons program, including specialised equipment used to make uranium metal for nuclear bombs, according to a report that cites documents and photos from a Burmese army officer who recently fled the country.The smuggled evidence shows Burma’s military rulers taking concrete steps towards obtaining atomic weapons, according to an analysis co-written by an independent nuclear expert. But it also points to enormous gaps in their technical knowledge and suggests that the country is many years from developing an actual bomb.The analysis, commissioned by the dissident group Democratic Voice of Burma, concludes with ”high confidence” that Burma is seeking nuclear technology, and adds: ”This technology is only for nuclear weapons and not for civilian use or nuclear power.”The intent is clear, and that is a very disturbing matter for international agreements,” said the report, co-authored by Robert Kelley, a retired senior United Nations nuclear inspector.Hours before the report’s release, a US senator announced that he was cancelling a trip to Burma to await the details.”It is unclear whether these allegations have substantive merit,” said Senator James Webb, who chairs a Senate foreign relations panel on east Asia.”[But] until there is further clarification on these matters, I believe it would be unwise and potentially counterproductive for me to visit.”Last August the Herald reported that Burma was building a secret nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction facilities with North Korean help, based on evidence from defectors.The new analysis is based on documents and hundreds of photos smuggled out of the country by Sai Thein Win, a Burmese major who says he visited key installations and attended meetings at which the new technology was demonstrated.Among the images provided were technical drawings of a device known as a bomb-reduction vessel, which is chiefly used in the making of uranium metal for fuel rods and nuclear-weapons components. The defector also released a document purporting to show a government official ordering production of the device, as well as photos of the finished vessel.The Washington Post
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Action over Palm Island death

SIX officers must face disciplinary action over their roles in two investigations into the death of Cameron Doomadgee at the Palm Island watchhouse in 2004.Yesterday the Crime and Misconduct Commission handed down the findings of its review into the handling of Mr Domagee’s death and was scathing of the Queensland Police Commissioner, Bob Atkinson, and his leadership.However, the police union says the commission neglected its moral responsibility to take over investigations into the indigenous death in custody.Mr Doomadgee died from internal injuries after his arrest for drunkenness and a scuffle with the arresting officer, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, who was later acquitted of manslaughter.The Queensland Police Union president, Ian Leavers, lambasted the commission and its chairman, former supreme court judge Martin Moynihan, attacking the organisation’s credibility and independence.Three days after Mr Doomadgee’s death, Mr Atkinson wrote to the commission asking it to handle the investigation, but nothing was done, Mr Leavers said.”This … letter indicated that due to the complexity, the racial issues and the seriousness of the matter … that the CMC should consider taking over the investigation, and nothing was done,” Mr Leavers said yesterday.”The CMC not only had the power, as well as the authority, but they had the moral obligation, too, of taking over this investigation.”The CMC has given the commissioner two weeks to say what action will be taken against the six officers – four involved in the first investigation and two others who carried out an internal review.Mr Doomadgee’s death on November 19, 2004, sparked riots and saw the local police station burnt to the ground, amid widespread local perceptions of a police cover-up.AAPArts – Page 20
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Incentive for seniors to shift from family home

A STAMP duty exemption to encourage the over-65s to downsize to new dwellings has been labelled “an assistance package to builders rather than home owners”. But it has been welcomed as smart policy by property developers and some seniors groups.For the next two years seniors selling their home and buying a newly built dwelling worth up to $600,000 will pay no stamp duty. The measure is designed to remove the disincentive to downsize from the family home to a smaller dwelling.Savings could be worth up to $22,490, but purchasers must live in the new dwelling for at least 12 months to be eligible for the exemption.Developer lobby groups endorsed the initiative, saying it showed the government had listened to the industry on its proposals for tackling the housing supply shortage.Seniors groups welcomed the changes but said it should be extended to cover all housing stock, not only new dwellings.”We understand the rationale behind it, but if the government was serious about encouraging people to downsize they would apply it to all homes,” said Charmaine Crow, from the Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association of NSW.The president of the Real Estate Institute of Australia, David Airey, commended the initiative but said its attractiveness would be limited by the restriction to new dwellings.”In many ways it is an assistance package to builders rather than home buyers generally, but . . . even if it’s a marginal increase in the supply of property, it’s got to have some benefit,” Mr Airey said.Paul Versteege from the National Seniors Association said the $600,000 cut-off was “very reasonable” because it was close to the state’s median house price of $546,000.Kath Brewster, a retiree in the process of selling her family home at Coffs Harbour, also welcomed it. She has lived in the home for 23 years but plans to downsize to a unit in the area.”It’s a very emotional time for older people when they do decide to leave the family home, because of the networks, the community, the social capital they have there,” said Ms Brewster, who is also president of the NSW Council on the Ageing. “We welcome it for those people who are buying into new properties, but it really would have been better had it been available to all buyers over 65.”
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Officials insistent on Crean demand

SENIOR public servants have insisted the Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, did ask them to improve their connections with other officials so he did not get ”surprised” by government policies.Mr Crean said yesterday he was ”disappointed” a report of the remarks to a ”retreat session” for senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials on May 10, conducted under ”strict Chatham House rules”, had been leaked to the Herald.He confirmed that he had ”asked the department to engage more closely with other departments” but denied he had told the public servants he found out about the details of the Henry tax review and the emissions trading scheme delay in the newspapers.In a short and carefully worded statement, he did not respond to the report’s central assertion that one reason he wanted his officials to be better connected with other senior public servants was so he could avoid being ”surprised” by policy developments in his own government.Sources confirmed he did make the remarks in his address to the retreat and that he urged his bureaucrats to liaise better with his office and to not be afraid of offering ”frank and fearless” advice.The Coalition seized on the report as more evidence the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, kept his ministers in the dark and had given Mr Crean ”the mushroom treatment”.The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, said ”the government as a whole has chronically bad process”.There has been disquiet inside Labor that ministers have been shut out of critical decisions by the so-called ”kitchen cabinet” that have contributed to the party’s plummeting popularity but some ministers said cabinet had begun functioning more as a decision-making body in recent weeks.The Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, has admitted the Prime Minister’s department had not informed her beforehand that it was disclosing a significant element of the health reform plan was to be ditched.But she denied opposition claims she was not involved on the decision to dump plans for a national funding authority.
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Stamp duty cuts set to boost supply

THE housing and construction industries are to receive a significant boost from the budget. One of the measures taken by the government to increase housing supply is cutting to zero stamp duty for those buying dwellings off the plan.Additionally, those aged over 65 years will pay no stamp duty on a new dwelling, as long as they live in it for more than 12 months. In both cases, the new dwelling must cost less than $600,00.None of the budget measures here involve a large amount of money but, taken with other measures to cut developer contributions to local councils announced last week, will give the housing construction industry a substantial lift.The government has budgeted $120 million over two years to fund the off-the-plan stamp duty costs, with a further $20 million, also over two years, to finance the stamp duty cuts for those over-65s who are selling the family home to move into smaller housing.To qualify for zero stamp duty, new dwellings most be at the “pre-construction stage” – that is, before the laying of foundations has begun, although site preparation such as demolishing existing buildings is permitted.For off-the-plan dwellings where building is under way, stamp duty will fall by 25 per cent.”What this is about is allowing project finance to be accessed,” the NSW Treasurer, Eric Roozendaal, said of the stamp duty cuts to increase off-the-plan sales. “This is a well constructed plan . . . to get a lot more housing stock into the market.”Since the global financial crisis, property developers have found it difficult to obtain the financing for new developments. A higher level of pre-sale is expected to ease financing pressures, helping developers to get projects off the ground.The chief executive of Urban Taskforce, Aaron Gadiel, said: “This is a fundamental re-shaping of the stamp duty regime so that it supports new housing development.”Coupled with the measures to increase housing supply outlined late last week by capping developer contributions to councils for infrastructure, while also paving the way for councils to raise rates beyond the present rate cap, the stamp duty cuts detailed yesterday will result in a boost in the amount of new housing stock being offered for sale.The NSW acting executive director of the Property Council of Australia, Glenn Byres, said: “The [stamp duty changes] break the back of some of the impediments to bringing housing demand though.”In pre-budget lobbying, his organisation argued for the government to follow Victoria in cutting stamp duties for dwellings bought off the plan. NSW went a step further, in abolishing stamp duty altogether in some cases.Treasury expects the additional measures to boost housing stock by 8000 units, twice the estimate arrived at by BIS Shrapnel based on concessional cuts to stamp duty introduced earlier in Victoria.After the initial two years of stamp duty cuts, they would be reviewed, Mr Roozendaal said.The $600,000 threshold might also need to be assessed, property industry officials said. “The thresholds may need to be reviewed in 12 months time, to see if it is acting as an impediment to some stock being brought to market,” Mr Byres said. Even with the stamp duty cuts, the state government is budgeting for a $400 million increase in stamp duty revenues from property transactions in 2010-11 and again in 2011-12.
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Alarm grows as used US boats flood in

Ships come and go but those arriving on our shores are unloading more preloved American-made boats than we’ve seen before. Capitalising on the favourable exchange rate and apparent arbitrage – that is, the price difference for the ”same” boat in different markets – would-be skippers are lining up for what, at face value, appear to be real bargains. But talk with local industry players and they paint a different picture.Marine consultant Ken Evans, who worked for Mercury for more than 30 years, says while parallel importing was about in the 1980s, it was a drop in the ocean compared with what’s going on today.”One reason is that some of the boats are bloody cheap,” he says. ”They’ve been bought at no-reserve auctions and are distressed sales.”Evans wants buyers to beware. “If people bring in boats with engines in or on them [inboard or outboard power] they are on their own as there is no factory-backed warranty. Only established dealers complying with the manufacturer’s sales structure get factory backing.”Evans says it’s the responsibility of the boat dealer or importer to supply parts and warranty for seven years. So boat import agents could be legally bound to back their customers’ buys.The Outboard Engine Distributors Association is reeling over the number of engines (and parts) being imported outside the manufacturers’ authorised dealer networks.”What’s happening is that people are finding great deals, usually via the internet, on engines which are being brought in from overseas,” said OEDA executive officer Lindsay Grenfell.”But deals that look too good to be true usually are. We don’t want people taking their family to sea with engines which could have come from anywhere and which haven’t been properly checked. There could be any number of serious issues.”Authorised local dealers conduct pre-delivery programs, using specialised diagnostic equipment, to ensure all engines are properly prepared and work as they should. And they also ensure engines are fitted correctly.But it’s not just marine engines that are driving the trade deficit in this area. Parallel or grey imports are considered the biggest threat to the industry.A ship recently docked in Newcastle carrying 62 boats – but just one was a new model heading to an established Sydney dealership – and we hear of 80 second-hand American boats being unloaded in Melbourne. Doubtless, more are on the way.If you must apportion blame then point the finger at the economic downturn in America. At the recent Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show, guest speaker Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said new-boat sales in America were down 80 per cent to 135,000 units last year, compared with 523,000 in 1998. In the first quarter of this year they fell a further 20 per cent. So desperate dealers are looking overseas to offload stock and banks are highly motivated.Then again, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. With the American boat market in tatters and the Aussie dollar soaring, it’s been the perfect mix for importers. Enter Steve Lazarides from his eponymous boat-importation company based in Sydney. He says “business is booming.” Of the abovementioned shipment of 62 boats to Newcastle, 48 were preloved American craft destined for his customers.”I’m a delivery boy … I deliver dreams,” Lazarides says. “Compared with the same local boat of the same year model in the same condition, there are minimum savings of 30 per cent.” There are a lot of boats coming into the country and there does not seem to be an end to it. But it’s not Lazarides’s fault – ”It’s the end user that is deciding the market,” he told Tidelines.Lazarides says the boats he sells are generally out of warranty and buyers do not really care about that anyway.”There are people out there trying to scare buyers who don’t know any better,” he says. ”Dealers are scared because they have to pay rents. And Riviera must be kicking themselves to see their [exported] boats coming back home. At the end of the day, it drives second-hand prices down.”But when all this settles down you will have a lot of boats in the country. All the boats that are selling are 2000- models and up. For those with pre-2000 boats, god help them.”At least it will allow a lot of people with $100,000 to buy a 35-footer in future. But the dollar won’t stay up there forever.”Stephen Milne, director of brand and communications at Riviera, was optimistic.”It was inevitable, considering the dollar structure, but providing people buy a Riviera we’re happy. Second-hand sales are a strong part of the industry and we’re happy to support our owners at the end of the day. Besides, it’s only a certain kind of person chasing these deals. There are always the bargain hunters.”But an apparent bargain is not always the bargain you think. “Some of the boats coming back from America haven’t been looked after and there’s the possibility of horrendous storm damage,” Milne says. “We had a 58-footer in Texas that was lifted over a two-storey building and thrown on its side. It was repaired and then put back on the market. You just don’t always know what you are buying.”Mike Joyce, a boat dealer from Riviera’s R Marine offices at Rushcutters Bay, says the recent imports don’t concern him because he couldn’t supply the boats – 56- and 60-footers – in the first place.”They just weren’t available second-hand here,” he says. “Besides, I’ve imported a specialised boat from America before, a Cigarette for my own uses, and I struggle to understand how anyone could make money out of it. You need to find the boat, inspect it, get a surveyor, have it packed on a ship, organise to have unpacked here, then prepare the boat, swap the electrical systems, radios, lights, and so on … “Meanwhile, online boat sales sites such as Boatpoint and the classifieds in marine magazines are getting more ads for second-hand American craft. Restraint-of-trade laws prevent publishers from rejecting ads, much to the chagrin of local dealers, but the market for big boats, say above 20 metres, has always been international. It’s just that it’s come back to the 30- to 40-footers.”You’re buying a boat off someone on the other side of the world, that you don’t know, who you will never see again, and are relying on the report of a surveyor you also don’t know,” says Tony Poole from Bluewater Power Yachts, the importer of the American-made Luhrs offshore fishing craft in the 30-40 foot league.”Then there are all the issues with compliance, quarantine and quality. The boats have aluminium and not stainless steel rails, old firefighting equipment, TVs that don’t work. They might be hurricane damaged.”You also have to convert the boats from 120 volts to 240 volts with a transformer, maybe add an inverter, but then appliances blow up, and it’s just an electrical nightmare.”At the end of the day, caveat emptor – buyer beware. What you’re buying from your local dealer is peace of mind. If something doesn’t work, call for help. Dealers keen on keeping your custom will dispatch free advice or send someone out to help. And off you go.Making Waves returns next [email protected]南京夜网
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Training just the ticket for PNG boatmen

AT HOME, they learned to navigate by the stars. But after six weeks in Australia learning to handle commercial vessels, 12 young men from Papua New Guinea can also steer by GPS, if need be.The men are in Australia to obtain their coxswain’s ticket to work on motor vessels, in a program sponsored by their local MP for Kimbe Island, Francis Marus.All 12 men took their on-water exam with NSW Maritime at Rozelle this week. It will give them an internationally recognised qualification to operate small commercial vessels or crew larger ones.They hope to gain skilled jobs transporting cargo or equipment for the PNG government or the burgeoning mining industry back home.The 12 students, aged 20 to 25, were selected from a large field of hopefuls to come to Sydney. Their MP, Mr Marus, who is also Deputy Speaker of the PNG parliament, sponsored the trip.Their training in Sydney and Newcastle was supervised by Eric McCarthy from the NSW Fishing Industry Training Committee.”It’s been a wonderful experience. They’re super people, some of the best students I’ve ever had,” Mr McCarthy said.Gaining the certificate was an issue of self-determin-ation. ”They want to see the jobs over there go to them, not to somebody from another country,” he said.Still, not all the training was strictly relevant. ”We were practising going in and out of jetties, and one guy said ‘Why are we doing this? We don’t have any jetties, we just go up on the beach’,” Mr McCarthy said. ”I said, you’ve got me there.”Mathias Loi, 23, hopes to become the skipper of a boat when he returns home to Kimbe Island, also known as West New Britain, which is off the north-east coast of Papua New Guinea. The exam would ”test our skills on handling and manoeuvring the vessels in rough weather, in the ocean, safety precautions and the safety of passengers on board,” Mr Loi said. ”Everything we need to know.”In his home town, unemployment is very high and most skilled jobs are taken by foreigners, he said. The NSW certification would give them all the opportunity for a better job.”They’ve been looking after us very well, especially that bloke over there, Eric, he’s like a father to us,” Mr Loi said.The trip is the first time the men have left their country. Mr Loi was missing home, and feeling the cold, but Jeremy Iko, 22, also from Kimbe Island, loved being in Sydney. ”It’s very great, I’m feeling grateful for being here,” he said. ”One day I want to come back.”
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