Australia’s role in the fight to recapture former IS stronghold Raqqa

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has described the liberation of the IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria as a “major breakthrough” in the fight against terrorism.

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Ms Bishop confirmed the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) provided support as part of the anti-IS international coalition.

The so-called caliphate has now lost its second de-facto capital following the fall of Mosul in Iraq in July.

“It means that it does not have a headquarters in Syria and Iraq,” Ms Bishop said.

After a four-month battle for Raqqa the Syrian Democratic Forces declared victory on Tuesday as it set about clearing stadiums of mines and any remaining IS militants.

Defence Minister Marise Payne told parliament on Wednesday the capture of Raqqa was “devastating blow” to IS and its ideology.

“A total victory in Raqqa will discredit Daesh (IS) worldwide,” Senator Payne said.

“The majority of the city has been liberated but there are isolated pockets of stiff resistance remaining,” Senator Payne said, adding that some parts were still unsafe for civilians to return home.

Ms Bishop confirmed about 80 Australians, believed to be part of the terrorist group in the region, have been killed and a further 110 are being tracked as the group fled south.

“ISIS is now on the run,” she said.

“Our focus, of course, has been to defeat ISIS. Because that is in our national interest to prevent terrorism spreading from the Middle East to our part of the world.”

Australia has been providing surveillance assistance to the Philippines during a five-month battle to retake the southern city of Marawi from pro-IS militants.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city liberated on Tuesday.

“It’s been a very difficult fight over the past five months,” Senator Payne said.

She will travel to Manila next week for a meeting of southeast Asian defence ministers.

Turnbull faces resistance from Labor states over energy plan

Malcolm Turnbull is pressuring Labor state governments to rubber-stamp the Coalition’s new energy policy, which will end subsidies for renewable energy and force power companies to keep a reserve of on-demand power from sources like coal, gas, hydro and batteries.

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The plan will also include laws that will force electricity retailers to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, but the amount is yet to be legislated. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released the plan on Tuesday, ditching the clean energy target proposed by Australia’s chief scientist Alan Finkel in favour of the so-called National Energy Guarantee.

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Mr Turnbull said it would not be “defensible” for the states to block the plan, given it was based on advice from the independent Energy Security Board, which the states helped set up. 

“I think Australians want this issue dealt with,” Mr Turnbull said on Wednesday morning. 

Energy minister Josh Frydenberg spoke with the states in a phone hook-up he described as “productive” on Tuesday night. 

But South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, who is driving a shift to renewable energy under his Labor government, said the dispatchable power guarantee was basically a subsidy for coal. 

“The Prime Minister is powerless, the Prime Minister is impotent,” Mr Weatherill said, quoted in the Fairfax papers. “This is a complete victory for the coal industry.”

Daniel Andrews, the Labor premier in Victoria, acccused Mr Turnbull of dropping the clean energy target under pressure from Tony Abbott. 

“The fact that he’s prepared to let Tony Abbott junk Alan Finkel’s work, it’s unspeakable, it’s appalling,” he said. 

And federal Labor leader Bill Shorten is also critical of the plan – although he has not ruled out supporting it. 

Today, the choice was made clear: Labor is for renewable energy, Turnbull is for more coal and higher power bills.

— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) October 17, 2017

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison said it was “very possible” new coal plants could be built under the policy.

The government estimates the plan will deliver household power bill cuts of up to $115 a year by 2020-30.

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The reliability guarantee level will be set by the Australian Energy Market Commission and Australian Energy Market Operator, and penalties for retailers missing the guarantee have yet to be determined.

The emissions guarantee will be enforced by the Australian Energy Regulator.

Mr Turnbull described it as a “game-changing step”, while Chief Scientist Alan Finkel said it was in line with what he recommended and would put downward pressure on prices.

However, Labor says the policy could deliver as little as a 50 cent per week saving from 2020 and there was not enough detail for the opposition or industry to properly consider it.

Labor spokesman Mark Butler says the government should be more ambitious in seeking 50 per cent of production from renewables by 2030.

The government will need parliamentary support to legislate a target for the electricity sector of a 26 per cent reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030.

It will also need the backing of the state energy ministers who will meet in November.

Origin Energy chief Frank Calabria said based on initial information the policy had the “potential” to provide greater certainty for investors.

Australian Solar Council chief John Grimes said his organisation would be launching a political campaign highlighting cuts to clean energy jobs.

He said the laws forcing power companies to keep a level of dispatchable power would essentially lock in coal and gas, as hydropower and batteries for renewables are expensive and take many years to build. Josh Frydenberg, the energy minister, rejected that analysis. He said the price of battery technology was going down all the time.

Mothers wait for news of six missing Queensland fishermen

Seven aircraft are leading the desperate search for six fishermen missing after their trawler capsized off the central Queensland coast.

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Relatives and search crews are refusing to surrender hope despite reports all six of the men were below deck on Monday night when their vessel rolled off the town of 1770.

The sole survivor so far, crew member Ruben McDornan, spent hours in the water, clinging on to the trawler’s hull.

He was saved when a couple on a passing vessel heard his screams for help.

Authorities have vowed to keep searching until all hope of survival has been lost, as the missing men’s families gather, desperate for news.

“We can only wait in hope, knowing he is strong and capable, would not panic or give up,” Jenny Tonks, mother of missing crew member Eli Tonks, has told The Courier Mail.

Kay Bidner’s son Adam Bidner is also missing.

“Right now, were just together as a family and were praying,” she told the paper.

One of the people aiding the helicopter search for the men is RACQ LifeFlight chief operations officer Brian Guthrie, who went to school with missing skipper Ben Leahy.

He said Mr Leahy was a very experienced seaman and diver, and that had given him some hope the men might still be alive.

“He’s always been in boats around the water, diving and things like that,” Mr Guthrie told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“He’s very experienced in the water and I expect his crew would be exactly the same. If anyone’s going to give it their best shot, for the best outcome, these guys would be it.”

Mr Guthrie said six helicopters and one plane were spearheading Wednesday’s search, supported by vessels on the water.

Eight hours of searching on Tuesday yielded some debris but it was not yet known if it came from the missing boat, he said.

The area being searched is larger than it was on Tuesday, allowing for the impacts of sea drift and tides.

Telco complaints soar by a staggering 41 per cent – the highest in five years

Complaints from residential consumers and small businesses about internet, landline and mobile phones are the highest they have been in five years.

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Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Judi Jones says it received 158,016 complaints last financial year.

“The top issues in our complaints are customer service, followed by billing and payments, and then faults, and that’s been consistent across the year so nothing new in that this year,” she told SBS World News.

For the first time complaints about internet services were higher than those about mobile phones. While complaints about landlines were still high.SBS

But for the first time complaints about internet services are higher than those about mobile phones.

“There is a lot of change in the industry at the moment. And whenever there is major change we tend to see more complaints, so a lot of structural change, 1,500 phone and internet providers, lots of new products and services being offered,” Ms Jones said. consumers and small businesses are increasingly reliant on technology to stay connected to be educated and run businesses,” says Ombudsman Judi Jones.

“Consumers and small businesses are increasingly reliant on technology to stay connected to be educated and run businesses.”

The Ombudsman received the most complaints about Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and iiNet with the biggest increase seen for regional telco Southern Phone.

This graphic shows the amount of complaints and the percentage rise in complaints of the featured telcos.SBS

In statements provided to SBS World News, Optus says it has a number of options for customers to have their complaints addressed.

While Vodafone attributed the rise to a range of general administrative matters and Telstra said a key driver was customers moving to the NBN. It has 52 per cent of the NBN market.

The Ombudsman says complaints about services delivered on the network rose nearly 160 per cent.

NBN corporate media executive manager Tony Brown blames the roll-out.

“For much of the last year we’ve been activating about 50,000 premises every single week and that is really what’s causing issues on the network, the sheer volume of activations coming on board,” Mr Brown said.If we look at the actual number of complaints to the TIO, they actually make up only one

“If we look at the actual number of complaints to the TIO, they actually make up only one per cent of total NBN activations.”

Mr Brown says the company is working on customer service.

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“We are doing that, we are working with the retail service providers to improve the installation experience and make sure when the tech comes to your premises they activate your premises first time,” he said.

“Also when people are having issues on board the NBN network, we want to make sure we identify those issues and really end the blame game between NBN and the ISPs.”

Ms Jones says while all complaints made to it are resolved not all of them go the consumers’ way.

“First step is complain to the provider, talk to them and explain carefully what the issues are, and what they believe reasonable resolutions would be, and then work with the provider to resolve the issue,” she said.

“If that doesn’t result in a satisfactory resolution then certainly give my office a call or jump online”

Statements to SBS World News

Telstra

“The data shows a key driver in the increase in industry TIO complaints is customers moving to the NBN.  We are currently moving around 20,000 customers to the NBN every week and this number will increase again as the NBN migration ramps up over the next two years.

We are absolutely focused on improving and simplifying our customer service and we’re working on a range of initiatives to deliver a better customer experience and reduce complaints overall.  This includes working with NBN co and the industry to improve the migration and NBN experience for our customers.”

Optus

“Optus has a number of options for customers to have their complaints addressed – including Yes Crowd, live chat, online support, via phone as well as a through a dedicated Social Media Response Team.

Optus’ Social Media Response Team monitors customer concerns across Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat in real time, while Yes Crowd is a peer-to-peer forum for Optus customers, where individuals can ask questions about Optus products and services and have them answered by Yes Crowd members.

In all instances our aim is to provide customers with an efficient timely resolution to their concerns.”

Vodafone

“We are always striving to give our customers the best possible experience every time they use their device and interact with us.

Vodafone’s complaint rate is consistently well below that of the other major telcos, and we attribute this to our great network, commitment to serving our customers, and our simple, transparent products such as $5 roaming.

But there is always room for us to do better for our customers. It’s our aim to avoid the need for customers to make a complaint. But if customers do have a concern for any reason, our specialist team works through issues on a case-by-case basis to find a resolution as soon as possible.

We are disappointed in the annual increase in complaints, which is attributed to a range of general administrative matters, and we are listening to our customers. We’ll continue to work hard to support our customers and minimise the effort they go to resolve any concerns.”

iiNet

“We are disappointed with the rise in the number of TIO complaints received which are related to the increased NBN rollout in the past year. We are constantly optimising our customer service ethos and in the most recent month (September 2017) our performance has improved with a -21% year on year drop in TIO complaints,” a media release read.

“iiNet continues to have a much lower number of internet related TIO complaints per broadband customer and a significantly lower NBN TIO complaints per NBN customer than our main competitors.

iiNet has topped the NBN satisfaction ratings in both Choice’s 2017 Internet service provider satisfaction survey and Canstar Blue’s 2017 annual review of NBN providers and this reflects iiNet’s ongoing commitment to customer service.”

AFLW leaders back transgender decision

Collingwood skipper Steph Chiocci says the decision to block transgender athlete Hannah Mouncey from playing AFL Women’s made sense because of her physical advantage.

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Mouncey was barred by the league from this year’s draft less than 24 hours before it was held in Melbourne on Wednesday.

The 190cm, 100kg ruck was told she would instead be allowed to nominate for the 2018 draft.

A former member of the Australian men’s handball team, Mouncey began a gender transition in 2015 and played for Ainslie in Canberra’s women’s football league this season.

It is understood an AFL sub-committee rejected her draft nomination based on an exception in the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission’s guidelines.

The exception is to ensure players don’t have an unfair competitive advantage in single-sex competitions where the strength, stamina or physique of players is relevant.

Chiocci said she believed Collingwood would have fully accepted Mouncey if she had been drafted.

But the Magpies captain said she could see the logic in the AFL’s decision.

“If you look at a lot of the girls drafted today, the 18-year-olds, they’re still to put on that muscle bulk and actually develop themselves in the gym,” Chiocci told AAP.

“It does make sense in that regard but there are some bigger girls out there anyway that are really strong athletes.

“I’m sure the AFL have made a decision based on really good reasoning and research behind it, and hopefully she gets a crack at it next year.”

Melbourne women’s coach Mick Stinear took a similar view, saying there was more work to be done in teaching players how to protect themselves from injury.

“I hope Hannah gets an opportunity in the years to come,” he said.

“For me, one thing we’re still working closely on is players’ approach and attack at the footy … how to best look after themselves and still get a good outcome of being able to win the footy.

“Once we get better at that – small or tall, like you see with the men – you should be able to compete against anyone.”

The AFLPA on Tuesday criticised the league for dragging its feet on the issue, having long been aware of Mouncey’s intentions to nominate.