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The immigration minister has blasted the coalition’s asylum seeker policy as the maddest idea he’s ever heard.

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Tony Burke says the “bizarre” idea of buying boats in Indonesia to prevent their use by people smugglers is “simply crazy policy” and doomed to fail. He says the archipelago of Indonesia has three quarters of a million boats and ship builders would make them faster than they could be bought and destroyed.

“Of all the mad ideas I’ve heard in immigration, I think boat buy-back wins,” he told reporters in Melbourne.

“I have no doubt at all it would be great for the ship building industry of Indonesia and they would be lending a hand to the ship building industry of Indonesia in a way in which they’re not willing to lend a hand to the car building industry of Australia.”

Mr Burke said Australians would be outraged if another country sent its police to our shores, yet that is what the opposition planned to do in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

“Now just think, from the perspective as an Australian, if another country unilaterally announced they were sending their police force to our country to conduct their own operations, you can imagine how that would be received within Australia,” he said.

“And the clumsy nature of simply letting embassies know at the last minute that this was about to come, without seeking consent, without seeking cooperation, without seeking any direct engagement of any fashion with the other countries, is a recipe almost guaranteed to fail.”

Mr Burke said the opposition had claimed to have been working on its policy for four years.

“It takes a very special skill to work on something for four years and still deliver it like you’re on the run,” he said. AAP ce/mn/amc

The loved ones of Melbourne baseballer Chris Lane watched a tribute game in his honour today at the field where his sporting dreams began.

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Mr Lane’s family, his girlfriend Sarah Harper and members of the tight-knit baseball community attended the Essendon Baseball Club match in Melbourne’s north.

Family, friends, former teammates of Chris Lane gather for a minutes silence followed by US & Oz anthems @SBSNews pic.twitter.com/lZoPLYrkCX

— Sarah Abo (@_SarahAbo) August 25, 2013

Mr Lane played for the Essendon Baseball Club for 13 years before getting a US scholarship.

   

He was the victim of a random drive-by shooting last week in Oklahoma and three teenagers have been arrested over his murder.

FUNDS RAISED

In Oklahoma the residents of Duncan, where Chris Lane was killed, held a vigil for the murdered Australian.

“The idea came about after visiting with people in the community on Monday and feeling an overwhelming burden that our community is hurting,” Duncan First Baptist Church pastor Bryan Pain said.

An online memorial fund set up by one of Mr Lane’s US baseball team-mates has raised a staggering $US154,000 ($A171,800) in just three days.

It was hoped the fund would raise $US15,000 to help pay for funeral expenses and take Mr Lane’s body back to Melbourne.

But the outpouring of support from people around the world will allow Mr Lane’s parents to set up a foundation to make donations to organisations Mr Lane was passionate about.

The fund is at:

MURDER CHARGES

James Edwards, 15 and Chancey Luna, 16, have been charged with the first-degree murder of Mr Lane. Michael Jones, 17, was charged with being an accessory to murder.

Mr Lane was jogging along a Duncan road last Friday when police allege Luna fired a .22 calibre revolver into Mr Lane’s back in a random attack.

Some locals have blamed the murder on gangs which have infiltrated Duncan, a town that has had just one other murder in the past five years. But the chief said he had no knowledge of gang activity in the city.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says Labor won’t enter into any agreements to form minority government if the election is tied.

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Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has long ruled out any deals in the event of a hung parliament, and Mr Rudd has now followed suit.

“My ambition … is that we are returned as a majority government,” Mr Rudd told reporters in Cairns on Wednesday.

“That is the best thing for the nation.

“We will not be entering into any coalition agreements, we won’t be having any negotiated agreements, we won’t have any deals with any independents or any minor party.”

The move could mean the Greens’ Adam Bandt – elected in 2010 on the back of Liberal Party preferences – faces an even tougher challenge to retain his seat of Melbourne at the election.

Mr Abbott said he didn’t regret preferencing the Greens before Labor at the 2010 election.

“That was then, this is now,” he said.

The last three years had been a “litany of betrayals, of broken promises, of disappointed hopes”, and the Australian people couldn’t afford any repeat of that.

That’s why he’d decided to make this “captain’s call”, and Mr Rudd should be “man enough” to do the same.

“This election is about producing a strong government, a majority government, with a clear majority in the parliament,” he said.

Mr Abbott said it was a different question when it came to doing deals with other minor parties.

There is a “world of difference” between the Greens and virtually every other political party contesting the federal election, he said.

The Greens were against economic growth and were pushing for a bank levy, higher mining and carbon taxes, open borders and 100 per cent renewable energy target, he said.

“These are quite frankly fringe economic policies, to put it at its kindest, and no one has that kind of economic policy,” he said.

Both major parties needed to send a strong signal that they won’t jeopardise Australia’s prosperity by giving the Greens a chance to run the next government.

Mr Abbott was asked whether he would do deals with the Greens on passing legislation in the Senate.

“We are going to get our program through the parliament,” Mr Abbott said.

“If we are thwarted by a recalcitrant parliament, well there are options under the constitution that we won’t hesitate to take,” he said, hinting at a possible double dissolution election.

He said his decision was about principle and “standing up for the things you believe in”.

Greens leader Christine Milne says it’s “absolutely realistic” the party can retain Melbourne.

“This is actually what we thought would happen. It’s the basis on which Adam Bandt’s campaign has been running,” she told ABC radio.

“It’s just really the signal we need to go even harder to get this seat for Adam because I think he’s been a great member for Melbourne and been a wonderful deputy leader for the Greens.”

Senator Milne says Greens need to be re-elected to fight against university cuts, which she says both major parties are supporting.

“We need Adam there as a strong voice for research development for universities and against those cuts, and also on asylum seekers,” she said.

“If the Greens aren’t there, who is going to stand up and talk about caring for people and compassion and decency when both of the old parties just want to engage in a race to the bottom?”

Adam Bandt says that he remains confident of winning his seat in Melbourne.

“Of course, in the Victorian state election the Liberals decided to work with Labor and help Labor members get elected at the state level here, so we’ve presumed we can’t rely on anyone supporting us,” he told the ABC.

“As much as the two old parties say they hate each other perhaps they want to see us out of the parliament even more.”

Maverick MP Bob Katter says he welcomes Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s decision to preference the Australian Greens last.

“The environmentalists movement in Australia had turned into a cancer and had to be cut out,” he told reporters at the Royal Queensland Show in Brisbane on Wednesday.

Mr Katter said he’s not leaning towards any party when it comes to preference swaps.

He said there’s a lot of “wheeling and dealing” to be done before any preferences are decided.

Katter’s Australian Party preferences could be decisive in northern and central Queensland where the party secured large swings in last year’s state election.

Mr Katter said he wants support for transmission lines to new mining fields in Queensland.

Test star Sam Thaiday says the stain of racial abuse remains on rugby league’s intense battlefield but he urges fellow indigenous players to be the bigger man.

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Promoting the first indigenous jersey to be worn by the Brisbane Broncos on Friday night, Thaiday revealed he still hears racial taunts being made in NRL matches.

However, the Broncos skipper and Queensland Origin back-rower said for the most part the abuse is “not intentionally” racist.

“It’s a very tough and physical game,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s man against man and it’s very much like the old gladiators.

“We’re out there to win at all costs and sometimes things get said in the heat of the moment that I think aren’t said as a hurtful thing.

“When things are said in a hurtful way that’s when it crosses the line.”

Thaiday admitted he’d generally come through his 10 years and 186 games in the NRL unscathed but made sure he didn’t react to racial slurs.

The 29-year-old said he spoke to younger Aboriginal players about being cool-headed and careful to respond in a positive way.

“It is a tough thing to hear but you can’t really react to those things these days,” he said. “I think the best way to deal with it is to try and push it aside as much as possible.

“I would rather beat someone on the scoreboard and on the field than beat their face in.”

The Broncos have launched their specially-designed indigenous jersey, displaying artwork by former NRL player and Aboriginal artist Sid Domic, which they will wear against Parramatta as part of the NRL’s `Close the Gap’ Round.

The Close The Gap initiative is aimed at correcting the imbalance between the life expectancy of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

“To finally get the chance to wear an indigenous jersey here at the Broncos is going to be a fantastic honour,” said Thaiday.

President Obama apparently agrees although what gets him itchy is not the over-sized bus tour tourists taking photos of the “Notre Dame” cathedral in Paris but Americans spending too much time in places like Yemen, Afghanistan, or Pakistan.

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It was in Yemen that Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan were killed in a drone strike by the US government. Two weeks later Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son was killed in another drone strike.

All had links to Al-Qaeda so there can be some credible arguments justifying the American action but there is a catch. All three were American citizens. Wait, what? The US government is now carrying out ex-judicis executions of its citizens abroad? Pretty much, yes.

Drones have become Obama’s number one tool in the war against terrorists and it is easy to see why. They are awesome. They are small, hard to detect from the ground, but can carry lethal weapons.

They are unmanned, piloted remotely. This means that a drone in Yemen can be controlled by someone in Nevada or Florida. A “pilot” can sit in a cube at a military base in Nevada or Florida, take out some suspected Al-Qaeda members in Yemen via computer over lunch and then go shopping in Las Vegas after work.

This actually happens. It is not your imagination. It is war like a video game. It is cheaper and less dangerous (for your side) than sending in ground troops to pursue Al-Qaeda and also instills a sense of constant fear in the other guys. No matter where they are, they are not safe.

But like in any war things rarely go the way you plan it. Innocent people get hit and the death of every innocent person is an opportunity to motivate someone else to actually become an anti-American terrorist in order to wreak some kind of revenge upon an aggressor. It’s a video game, for sure, with very real consequences if you get it wrong.

Along with snow storms, the use of drones has created much talk in the US over the past week. Some Democrats are not enthralled with what they see as little oversight of targeted killings while some Republicans have found a reason to actually agree with the President’s methods.

“If you take up arms against America and you fight in a terrorist training camp or on the front lines in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Yemen you shouldn’t be surprised if America reaches out and exacts justice against you,” said Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas.

Former Presidential candidate John McCain opposition was the CIA should not have a role in using drones – it should only be the military’s remit – while Republican Tom Cole said he preferred his terrorists alive rather than dead.

“Human intelligence is much more important than taking out individual targets,” he said.

Much focus is on President Obama’s domestic legacy – healthcare, immigration, gun control – he may also go down in history as the first President to reinvent America’s wars abroad, for better or worse.

And Republicans, for once, are mostly OK with that.

Investors don’t like uncertainty, which often translates to either a muted or softer sharemarket.

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The very nature of an election, whereby there’s a choice of government, can theoretically have an impact on stocks, but as Craig James from CommSec points out; there’s no evidence Federal election results are unambiguously positive or negative for the sharemarket in the short-term.

In each of the last four elections, what we’ve seen is what’s called a ‘U-shaped’ market reaction. The All Ordinaries Index eased by around 3.5 per cent in the three weeks before the vote, but then regained all that lost ground following the election result.

On top of that, there are no real ‘big’ market changing issues this time around. Previously, Work Choices, climate change and interest rates were topical issues, and while the Resource Super Profits Tax did have a direct impact on the market a few months ago, the new Minerals Resource Rent Tax proposal has predominantly corrected that, and seems to have provided some certainty for the sector, for now.

Craig James says that in a big picture, macro-economic sense, it matters little whether the Coalition or Labor wins power, with both sides committed to keeping the budget in surplus.

He adds that the Australian dollar is determined by market forces, while it is investors who set the prices of shares on the market. As for interest rates, the RBA sets those independently of the government.

Next week, expect all eyes to be on the official inflation numbers. Most economists are expecting a one per cent rise in the quarterly headline result, lifting annual inflation to 3.4 per cent.

But strip out seasonal increases like rises in health fund premiums and the tobacco excise and the underlying quarterly CPI is predicted to rise by around 0.8 per cent. That could be enough to see an August 3rd rate rise, smack bang in the middle of the election campaign.

A rise of 0.9 per cent, would virtually assure that the official cash rate will climb to 4.75 per cent. It’s a sentiment shared by economists at NAB, although they are expecting a modest 0.6 per cent increase in the underlying rate, while the broader money market, at this time, has priced in a 25 per cent chance of an August rate hike.

But it’s important to remember that interest rates are set independently by the Reserve Bank, and not by the government. So it doesn’t matter which party wins the election.

The New Zealand dollar declined to a week low against its Australian counterpart on optimism about economic growth in China, Australia’s largest trading partner.

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The kiwi slipped as low as 87.17 Australian cents on Monday morning, and traded at 87.20 Australian cents at 8am in Wellington, from 87.68 cents on Friday.

The local currency was little changed at 80.34 US cents from the New York close of 80.43 cents, and from 79.93 on Friday in Wellington.

The New Zealand dollar, which has appreciated 13 per cent against the Australian dollar this year, gave up some of its gains after Chinese data on Friday gave investors confidence about that nation’s economy, which buoyed optimism about Australia’s prospects.

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s lack of firm guidance on further rate cuts in its statement of monetary policy is also supporting the Aussie.

“The Australian dollar has done better over the weekend than we did, on good Chinese data, particularly the industrial production side, and the RBA monetary policy statement that was less than enthusiastic on more rate cuts,” said Peter Cavanaugh, client adviser at Bancorp Treasury Services. “The New Zealand dollar’s rise was stellar and inconsistent with any new data.”

Cavanaugh said the cross rate will likely trade at these levels until given direction by new data.

On Tuesday, Australian business confidence and the pre-election fiscal update will help shape currency markets, ANZ Bank New Zealand economist Sharon Zollner said.

In New Zealand, food prices for July are released on Monday.

The New Zealand dollar advanced to 77.27 yen at 8am in Wellington from 77.06 yen on Friday. It rose to 60.24 euro from 59.72 euro and gained to 51.84 British pence from 51.42 pence. The trade-weighted index was up to 75.32 from 75.01 on Friday.

Teenage golf star Oliver Goss found plenty of reason to smile despite becoming the latest Australian sportsman to suffer defeat at English hands in 2013.

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West Australian Goss, 19, was beaten 4 and 3 by England’s 18-year-old Matt Fitzpatrick in the 36-hole final of the US Amateur championship at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts on Sunday.

Fitzpatrick, who was the low amateur last month in the British Open, was able to celebrate becoming the first Englishman to win the title since 1911, as well as gaining starts in next year’s Masters, US Open and British Open.

Goss gained precious consolation from knowing the beaten finalist usually also gets an invitation to play the Masters at Augusta National in April and he’s assured of a spot in the US Open in June, both provided he’s stays an amateur.

“I’ve definitely got a couple weeks that I’ll keep open in my schedule,” said Goss, who plays college golf at Tennessee.

“If someone told me at the start of the week I was going to have the opportunity to play the Masters and the US Open next year, I’d be speechless.

“I was there this year after a college tournament – we got Monday tickets to the practice round – and it was golf heaven. It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.

“I stood there, and I was like, how do they play under this kind of pressure and with the difficulty of the golf course.

“But I’m really excited to be able to play there next year.”

Fitzpatrick never trailed in the match, taking the lead for good on the second hole of the afternoon round – the 20th of the day – and going 2 up one hole later.

Goss cut it to one on No. 9, but fell behind two again on the 10th hole when he lipped out on a 4-foot putt.

Fitzpatrick went 3 up on the 14th hole and then won the match on No.15, where he had won four of his previous five matches, when Goss was unable to make par.

Hoddle Street mass murderer Julian Knight says jail authorities’ mistaken view he is a psychopath is affecting his chances of release.

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Knight complained in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday that he is being treated differently to other murderers.

“All other cases, they’ve all progressed out of maximum security within a third of their minimum term,” he told Justice Anthony Cavanough.

Knight, who is representing himself, is in court accusing jail authorities of failing to provide him with a detailed sentencing plan to improve his chances of release.

“The treatment I’ve been subjected to is unique,” he said.

“Corrections Victoria have the mistaken belief, apparently forever, that I’m a psychopath with a personality disorder.”

He said this is affecting his progress through the prison system, and authorities are duty-bound to prepare prisoners for release.

Knight was jailed for life for killing seven people and wounding 19 in a shooting spree in Melbourne in 1987.

He will be eligible to apply for parole in May 2014.

Knight was reduced from a maximum security to a medium security prisoner in August last year.

He has been declared a vexatious litigant, meaning he is prohibited from starting legal proceedings without court permission, and is fighting jail authorities in up to 14 matters before the courts.

He argued prison authorities failed to take into account psychological reports recommending he be eventually moved to lower security arrangements and gradually integrated into the community.

But Claire Harris, for Corrections Victoria deputy commissioner Brendan Money, said authorities had considered those reports.

Ms Harris said sentencing plans were tailored to each inmate and were not fixed, depending on changing circumstances.

She said Knight’s sentencing plan was reviewed in August last year and again in last December.

The hearing is continuing.

According to the 2011 Census, couple families – that is, parents living with children – are the most common type of family household in Australia.

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That’s followed by couple families without children.

 

And more than a quarter of all households are one-parent families.

 

But there has also been an increase in the number of grandparents taking care of their grandchildren.

 

Peggy Giakoumelos looks into it.

 

The traditional Australian family has always been the nuclear family – mum, dad and the kids – now known by demographers as the couple family.

 

But that model hasn’t always served the needs of Australians.

 

“We came here with no relatives around here. No network of support. We’re working full-time, both working full-time. It’s very hard. Like on the weekend sometimes we’re too busy we can’t find anyone to look after (children). If we have grandparents it’s very good for us, especially for the Chinese language. In China, people live in three generations together it’s very common. But now it’s gradually changed, but it’s still very common. Parents expect to live with kids when they get older. So parents are willing to help children to help grandkids so this is very common in China.”

 

Originally from China, business owner Nancy Ding is married with two children.

 

She says her parents came and stayed with her to help her look after her first child when he was born, but returned when he started school.

 

Nancy Ding says in China, multigenerational households are extremely common.

 

Demographer Bernard Salt is a partner with KPMG’s Property & Demographic Advisory group.

 

He’s taken a closer look at data from the 2011 Census looking at family household composition and says Australians are increasingly more likely to live with extended family members.

 

“I was looking at a number of different household arrangements and I identified the largest number and the fastest growing compared to the situation five years earlier, and the number of kids living with their grandparents had certainly increased. It was something like double digit growth over that five year period, whereas the Australian population increased by nearly 7 or 8 per cent over that period. So doing better than average as a life form, as a way in which Australians simply want to live.”

 

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures show that in 2011 more than 16,000 children were in kinship care.

 

This involves children being raised by their grandparents or other relatives as part of a growing trend to place at-risk children into kinship care rather than foster care.

 

But Bernard Salt says beyond kinship care, his analysis of the 2011 census shows an increase in the number of young Australian – many young adults – choosing to live with their grandparents rather than being forced to.

 

“There may well be a family bust-up, if you like, a family separation or divorce of their parents. A child in their late teens for example might find it easier to live with grandma or grandpa for a while. There is also the argument that grandchildren beyond school age might move to a different city in order to pursue job opportunities, education or training and for that reason they might be living temporarily for example with a grandparent. I think the Australian incarnation of what we see overseas where the grandparents live with the parents and the grandchildren, the Australian version is grandma/grandpa might live in a nearby unit and the grandchildren shift and shuffle between parental home, one grandparent’s home, perhaps another grandparent’s home, and there’s this constant movement based on family which is a little different to how it happens overseas, where it’s all in the one geography. We split it out over a number of properties. I think that’s how it works in Australia.”

 

Beyond permanent care, grandparents also provide child care for many Australian children.

 

ABS figures show that in 2011, 937,000 children received child care from a grandparent on a regular basis.

 

Vivi Germanos-Koutsounadis is the Executive Director of the Ethnic Childcare Family and Community Services Cooperative.

 

The non-government organisation assists migrant and refugee communities with child, aged, and disability care needs.

 

Vivi Germanos-Koutsounadis says grandparents can play an important role when caring for their grandchildren, but this should be complemented with the structured learning of early childhood education.

 

“Grandparents are playing a major role in bringing up children because they do transmit the culture and the language and religion and also some of the positive traditions and also they assist the parents with childcare. However I do think that it is important for the child to also have exposure to pre-school services, and childcare services which are really wonderful in Australia. And also subsidies that the government provides so that children can attend and also to enable women to go to the workforce. Sometimes parents don’t now about the services so they don’t access them.”

 

Cate Kloos was born in Germany and migrated to Australia with her husband.

 

Finding herself feeling lonely and isolated she took matters into her own hands and set up a service called Find a Grandparent.

 

After a police check, the service matches up families with people who are prepared to play a grandparenting role in the family’s life.

 

“I’m originally from Germany. I don’t have any grandparents for my children here in Australia. And when I was pregnant with my first child, I felt quit lonely, a bit isolated and therefore I was looking for a surrogate grandparent. We found Irene a year ago and we’ve been meeting her at least once a week ever since and it worked out really well for us. I started a not-for-profit company that’s called Find a Grandparent and we connect families like ours who don’t have any grandparents with surrogate grandparents and she signed up with us and we’ve been seeing her every since.”

 

Every year the United Nations observes an International Day for Families.

 

The theme for this year is intergenerational solidarity.

 

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says the extended family plays an important role in maintaining social cohesiveness and he’s called on decision-makers to provide more support for strengthening extended family relationships.