Australian is oldest Channel swimmer

“The arms were really sore…but I kicked on again,” he told AP.

A 70-year-old Australian man has set the record for the world’s oldest person to swim the English Channel.

Cyril Baldock, from Bondi Beach in Sydney, completed his second round of the journey between the UK and France.

Mr Baldock managed to complete the leg, which spans at least 40km (25 miles), in 12 hours and 45 minutes.

A 73-year-old Australian woman is due to challenge his record by completing the swim later this week.

His first Channel swim was in 1985, when he was the 5th Australian to do so.

Mr Baldock wanted to fulfil his coach’s dream

When his coach, Des Renford, died of a heart attack, it sparked an idea within Mr Baldock, he told ABC.

He took it upon himself to fulfil his coach’s dream of becoming the oldest person to swim the Channel.

“I told Des that when I got to that age I’d have a go at it. But little did I know over that 30-year period the oldest went up 10 years, so I had to wait a while,” he told AP.

His current coach, Vladimir Mravec, has put Mr Baldock through an intense training scheme, swimming at least 40km a week.

His coach, Vladimir Mravec, is experienced in training people for ‘marathon swims’

“It’s helped my fitness, I’ve got five grandkids and I’m able to do things with them that a lot of 70-year-olds couldn’t do,” Mr Baldock told ABC.

Although the English Channel is 34km straight, currents often mean that swimmers end up covering more than 40km.

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VIDEO: Australia MP’s verbal attack on China

An Australian MP has been criticised after he launched an extraordinary attack on the Chinese government, live on national TV.

Mining magnate Clive Palmer made the comments when asked about his legal battle with a state-owned Chinese company.

The BBC’s Phil Mercer spoke to Dani Sinha.

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Crocodile kills Australia fisherman

Saltwater crocodiles are protected in Australia

A man has been killed by a giant saltwater crocodile as he was fishing with his wife in northern Australia.

The man, 57, was attacked by the 4.5-metre (15ft) reptile as he waded into the Adelaide River to unsnag his line, south of Darwin.

His wife heard a scream and turned around only to see “a tail splashing in the water”, officials said.

The body was found a few hours later, and the crocodile was shot dead by the police.

The man – whose name has not been released – is the fourth person to be killed by a crocodile in Australia’s Northern Territory this year.

The attack took place in a stretch of the river close to where cruise ships show sightseers crocodiles leaping from the water to snatch chicken carcasses suspended from poles.

The killer crocodile is believed to be a rare half-albino who had regularly approached the cruise ships.

Crocodile numbers have increased since being declared a protected species in 1971. They are a common feature of Australia’s tropical north.

The Australian government rejected a controversial plan to allow crocodile safari hunting in the Northern Territory in March.

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Australian PM comments ‘offensive’



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Tony Abbott told the Times that supporters of the Yes campaign were “not the friends of justice or freedom”

Scotland’s first minister has said the Australian prime minister’s comments on Scottish independence were “foolish, hypocritical and offensive”.

Alex Salmond was speaking after Tony Abbott told the Times it was “hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland”.

Mr Abbott said those who would like to see the UK break up were “not the friends of justice… [or] freedom”.

The first minister said this was offensive to the people of Scotland.

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on 18 September.

They will be asked the “Yes/No” question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The Scottish government believes the 300-year-old Union is no longer fit for purpose, but the UK government opposes the move, saying Britain is one of the world’s most successful unions.

‘Most outspoken’

Mr Abbott told the Times: “What the Scots do is a matter for the Scots and not for a moment do I presume to tell Scottish voters which way they should vote.

“But as a friend of Britain, as an observer from afar, it’s hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland.

“I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that would cheer at the prospect… are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.”

Mr Salmond told BBC Scotland: “Mr Abbott’s comments are hypocritical because independence does not seem to have done Australia any harm.

“They are foolish, actually, because of the way he said it. To say the people of Scotland who supported independence weren’t friends of freedom or justice, I mean, the independence process is about freedom and justice.”

The first minister said Scotland’s referendum on independence was a “model of democratic conduct” and Mr Abbott’s comments were “offensive to the Scottish people”.

Mr Salmond said the Australian prime minister was “notoriously gaffe-prone” and he had “put his foot right in it” with his comments.

He added: “If it does anything it will persuade people to vote Yes because the natural reaction to this sort of nonsense is ‘Who is Mr Abbott to lecture Scots on freedom and justice?’”

Shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy played down Mr Abbott’s remarks.

The Labour MP, who was campaigning for Better Together in Clydebank, told BBC Scotland that Australians were “famously outspoken and famously direct” but said “ultimately Scots will make their own decision”.

Mr Murphy said Australian politicians liked to “shoot from the hip” and pointed out that other world leaders had also made their views known.

US President Barack Obama and Chinese premier Li Keqiang have previously voiced support for the UK.

Mr Obama said last month that the US had a “deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner”, while Mr Li said he wanted to see a “united United Kingdom” on a visit to Downing Street.

BBC Scotland political correspondent Glenn Campbell said Mr Abbott’s comments were the most outspoken of any international leader on the forthcoming referendum.

Mr Abbott also held talks with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on the subject of the Ukraine crisis and the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during his visit earlier this week.

Phil Mercer, BBC News, Sydney, Australia

It could be part of Australia’s efforts to flex its diplomatic muscle.

Australia is now a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and it seems to be asserting its new role as an influential middle power.

It was able, for example, to secure safe passage to eastern Ukraine for Dutch, Australian and Malaysian investigators following the shooting down of MH17.

Mr Abbott, after the plane went down, really did lead the international charge in accusing the Russians of probably giving the rebels that sort of sophisticated weaponry.

So in recent weeks we have seen Australia flexing those diplomatic muscles and this fits in with Mr Abbott’s comments today.

I would imagine that many Australians will regard Mr Abbott as trying to meddle in another country’s affairs. There was a caveat to his comments in the Times, he said that what the people of Scotland do is a matter for them and he did say that he didn’t presume to tell people how to vote.

It is not the first time that the prime minister of Australia has courted controversy in recent times.

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Australian PM warning over Yes vote

Tony Abbott visited London earlier this week

The Australian PM has said it is “hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland”.

Tony Abbott told the Times, while visiting London, those who would like to see the UK break up were “not the friends of justice… [or] freedom”, .

He said the nations who would “cheer” the prospect were “not the countries whose company one would like to keep”.

A spokesman for Yes Scotland said: “Independence seems to be working well for Australia.”

Voters in Scotland will go to the polls on 18 September.

They will be asked the “Yes/No” question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The Scottish government believes the 300-year-old union is no longer fit for purpose, but the UK government opposes the move, saying Britain is one of the world’s most successful unions.

‘Most outspoken’

Mr Abbott told the Times: “What the Scots do is a matter for the Scots and not for a moment do I presume to tell Scottish voters which way they should vote.

“But as a friend of Britain, as an observer from afar, it’s hard to see how the world would be helped by an independent Scotland.

“I think that the people who would like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom are not the friends of justice, the friends of freedom, and the countries that would cheer at the prospect… are not the countries whose company one would like to keep.”

A spokesman for Yes Scotland, which is campaigning for independence, said: “These comments have echoes of Lord George Robertson’s “forces of darkness” speech in April which was widely ridiculed, even by No supporters, as one of the anti-independence campaign’s most outlandish scare stories.

“The decision about Scotland’s future is one for the people of Scotland to make – a point that even David Cameron asserts. After a Yes vote, Scotland will take her place as a normal and valued member of the international community – just as Australia did when she gained independence at the turn of the century.”

A spokesman for Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Tony Abbott has a reputation for gaffes, but his bewildering comments have all the hallmarks of one of the Westminster government’s international briefings against Scotland.”

He added: “Scotland’s referendum is a model of democracy, which has been cited as such internationally, including by the US Secretary of State. An independent Scotland will be a beacon for fairness, justice and cooperation in the international community – and a great friend of Australia.”

US President Barack Obama and Chinese premier Li Keqiang have previously voiced support for the UK.

Mr Obama said last month that the US had a “deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united and effective partner”, while Mr Li said he wanted to see a “united United Kingdom” on a visit to Downing Street.

BBC Scotland political correspondent Glenn Campbell said Mr Abbott’s comments were the most outspoken of any international leader on the forthcoming referendum.

Mr Abbott also held talks with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on the subject of the Ukraine crisis and the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 during his visit earlier this week.

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Australia premier’s daughter charged

Ms Wran is the daughter of the deceased Neville Wran, seen here in a 2003 picture with his wife Jill

The daughter of one of Australia’s most well-known politicians has been charged with murdering a suspected drug dealer.

Harriet Wran, 26, is the daughter of former New South Wales state premier and Labor Party president Neville Wran.

She is accused of taking part in the fatal stabbing of a man at a public housing complex in Sydney on Sunday during a drug deal. Ms Wran has been arrested along with two other men.

Neville Wran led New South Wales from 1976 to 1986. He died in April.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Ms Wran and the two men face charges of murder and breaking and entering.

Both the police and her lawyer told reporters that she was involved in a drug deal at the time of the incident.

Fairfax Media said Ms Wran told police she was “numb on ice” when she visited Daniel John McNulty’s flat on Sunday night with the two men.

Police said a fight broke out over a A$70 (£39, $65) drug deal and Mr McNulty was stabbed to death. Another man was left critically injured.

Ms Wran’s lawyer said she had been battling an addiction to the drug ice, a type of methamphetamine, for a considerable amount of time. She had also been living penniless on the streets.

Local media reported that Ms Wran had been studying modern history at the University of Sydney. She is the second youngest of five children.

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Australian banks face class action

Should the class actions succeed, all customers who have ever been charged late payment fees by some banks including Westpac and ANZ may benefit

Australian legal firm Maurice Blackburn said on Tuesday it had filed open class actions against five banks over late credit card fees worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The legal proceedings could become one of Australia’s biggest ever class actions, including hundreds of thousands of customers.

The banks involved are ANZ, Westpac, St George, Citibank and BankSA.

When contacted, both ANZ and Westpac declined to comment on the matter.

Maurice Blackburn is a social justice law firm in Australia.

Should it succeed, the firm said that any customer of the banks involved, who has ever been charged late payment fees, will be able to ask for some compensation for those unfair charges.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

What we’re doing today opens the gates of justice to millions more Australians…”

End Quote
Andrew Watson
Head of Maurice Blackburn’s class action practice

The open class proceedings are being filed by the firm in the New South Wales Supreme Court and are based on an earlier Federal Court ruling against ANZ on late fees.

Maurice Blackburn said in a press statement that banks charged Australian households, not including businesses, AUD$652 ($604m; £360m) in so-called exception fees between June 2009 to July 2010, Australia’s financial year.

Exception fees can be charged when a customer has insufficient funds available to cover a transaction, when credit card limits are exceeded, or when credit card payments are late.

Maurice Blackburn’s open class actions are based on an earlier Federal Court ruling against ANZ on late fees

The statute of limitations has been removed on the proceedings, which means an unlimited number of bank customers can become involved.

There will also be no limit on the number of years the case can take into account.

Gates of justice

The head of Maurice Blackburn’s class action practice, Andrew Watson, said that while the earlier judgement against ANZ on late fees was under appeal, he still thought they had “a very strong case”.

He also said that the course of action selected would provide “the best safeguard for the rights of consumers affected by late fees.”

“What we’re doing today opens the gates of justice to millions more Australians and means that previous estimates of the numbers of people affected and the compensation amounts owed will be dwarfed by the new state of play,” he said.

“This action is a great example of the importance of having a robust and mature class actions regime in place, so that individuals have a genuine opportunity to remedy wrongs that happen on a large scale,” he added.

Maurice Blackburn said it planned to extend the action to cover nine financial institutions in total.

Other banks and financial services targeted would include National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, American Express and BankWest.

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Australia boy ‘holds severed head’

Mr Abbott, now in the Netherlands, announced laws restricting travel to certain conflict areas last week

Australian PM Tony Abbott has voiced strong condemnation after an image emerged showing a boy, reportedly the son of an Australian ex-terror convict, holding a Syrian’s severed head.

The image was posted on the Twitter account of Khaled Sharrouf, The Australian newspaper reported.

Sharrouf, who served time for planning attacks in Australia, has now joined Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.

Mr Abbott said the image showed “just how barbaric” IS militants were.

The image shows a young boy – who looks to be of early primary school age – wearing a baseball cap and a blue shirt, using both hands to hold aloft the severed head.

A caption was included that read “That’s my boy”, The Australian said. It said the image was taken in the northern Syrian city of Raqa.

Another picture showed Sharrouf wearing combat fatigues posing with three children believed by security personnel to be his sons, the newspaper reported.

“What we’ve got to appreciate is that Islamic State… is not just a terrorist group, it’s a terrorist army and they’re seeking not just a terrorist enclave but effectively a terrorist state,” Mr Abbott told Australian radio from the Netherlands, where he is discussing issues related to flight MH17, the passenger plane brought down in Ukraine.

“And this does pose extraordinary problems… not just for the people of the Middle East but for the wider world.

“And we see more and more evidence of just how barbaric this particular entity is.”

Sharrouf was jailed in 2009 for four years for being part of a cell planning attacks in Sydney and Melbourne.

After his release he was banned from leaving the country but used his brother’s passport to travel to Syria with his family.

Australia issued a warrant for his arrest in July after images emerged on what is thought to be his Twitter feed of another Australian, Mohamed Elomar, holding the severed heads of Syrian government soldiers.

‘Back-up assistance’

Last week, Australia announced laws that would restrict its citizens from travelling to certain countries, in a bid to prevent radicalised nationals fighting with extremist groups overseas.

Officials are concerned that dozens of Australians are reported to be fighting with extremist groups overseas

Between 150 and 160 Australians are believed to be fighting with militants in the Middle East, according to reports.

Australia, meanwhile, says it is sending aircraft to help drop supplies to thousands of members of the Yazidi minority trapped by IS fighters on Mount Sinjar in Iraq.

US and British aircraft have already dropped supplies to help the stranded people, who lack food and water and face death at the hands of the militants.

The US has also conducted a series of air strikes against IS fighters.

On Monday Defence Minister David Johnston indicated Australian help might not be limited to aid drops.

“We’re not ruling out providing some back-up assistance to the Americans as they go in and deal kinetically with this terrorist organisation,” he said.

“We are ready to assist in whatever way we can should we be asked to assist by the Americans and the Iraqi government.”

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Australian composer Sculthorpe dies

Peter Sculthorpe added the ancient sounds of the Australian landscape to his compositions

Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe, who was famed for infusing his classical pieces with indigenous music, has died in Sydney at the age of 85.

The Tasmanian-born musician used Aboriginal sounds in a bid to connect to the quiet of Australia’s landscape.

His final major work Requiem (2004) melded orchestral music with ancient instrument the didgeridoo.

Sculthorpe was named as a living Australian icon in 1999 and awarded an OBE for his work in 1977.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott led the tributes to Sculthorpe, calling him a “musical giant”.

“Peter Sculthorpe much deepened Australia’s musical voice and our country is forever richer because of him,” he added.

The musician’s other renowned works included Kakadu and The Rites of Passage in a catalogue of some 350 pieces.

The composer, who began writing music at the age of nine, also drew upon musical influences from South-East Asia, Japan and the Torres Strait Islands in the far north of Australia.

From an early age he hailed the importance of Aboriginal sounds as “the oldest music on the planet”.

Sculthorpe also said that he was seeking the “sacred in nature” by embracing native Australian music.

He studied at Melbourne University’s Conservatorium of Music at the age of 16 and in 1955 gained a scholarship to Oxford University.

But he returned to his native country, saying at the time: “Australia really is the only place I think for an Australian composer. I know that I can’t work properly outside the country.”

Sculthorpe based himself in Sydney where he also taught, in later years becoming Emeritus Professor at the city’s university.

Ross Edwards, composer and one-time pupil of Sculthorpe, told The Australian newspaper that he “stopped [Australian composition] from being a pale reflection of what was going on in Europe.”

“He showed us the possibility of realising, even before politicians, that we were part of South-East Asia.”

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Australia contacts Gammy’s parents

Six-month-old Gammy was born with Down’s Syndrome, a congenital heart condition and a lung infection

Australia’s child protection services have contacted a couple accused of abandoning a baby with Down’s syndrome to his surrogate mother in Thailand.

The surrogate says they deliberately left Gammy behind, but took his healthy twin sister. The couple deny this.

It later emerged that the man had previously been convicted for child sex offences.

Officials say they have now managed to reach the couple, but have no major concerns at present.

The contact follows days of speculation over the couple’s whereabouts.

In a separate discovery, nine babies were found in a Bangkok flat, with a lawyer claiming they were all surrogate babies fathered by a Japanese businessman.

‘Safety plan’

Child protection officers reached the Australian pair after trying for the past few days.

Western Australia Child Protection Minister Helen Morton told Fairfax Radio on Thursday: “We’ve had telephone contact with the family and we’re in the process of putting other arrangements in place.”

The department had no “major” concerns at present, but would consider how to ensure the safety of the baby girl, Gammy’s sister, she said.

Ms Chanbua was paid by the Australian couple to have their child

She urged the media to give the family “privacy and confidentiality” in the meantime, adding that at this stage there was no evidence of anything illegal about the surrogacy arrangements.

‘Good father’

According to court documents, the man was convicted in the 1990s for the sexual assault of several young girls.

However, his adult son, who did not wish to be named, told local media that the man was a “good father” who had changed.

“He’s just got a massive heart. He’s made mistakes, we’ve accepted it… he’s made up for them,” he said.

Ms Chanbua says she will look after Gammy

The case of baby Gammy has made international headlines and caused uproar in Australia.

Besides Down’s syndrome, the six-month-old has a congenital heart condition and a lung infection.

Surrogate mother Pattharamon Chanbua, who has been looking after Gammy, said the couple had asked her to have an abortion when she was told of the child’s condition four months after becoming pregnant.

She said she refused, as it was against her Buddhist beliefs. Abortion on the grounds of foetal impairment is illegal in Thailand.

Ms Chanbua, 21, has said the father met the twins, but only took care of the girl.

The parents have told local media in Australia that they did not know of his existence, and claimed that the allegations made by Ms Chanbua are lies.

‘Nine babies’

Meanwhile, Thai authorities say they have found six boys and three girls, all aged two or younger, in a condominium in Bangkok.

The children were accompanied by several nannies and a pregnant woman.

A Thai lawyer told police he was representing a Japanese man, who was father to all the surrogate babies, telling the Bangkok Post that the surrogacy arrangements were all legal.

Deputy national police chief Aek Angsananont told Reuters news agency: “We are questioning the nannies, as well as asking for co-operation from the Japanese embassy, to help conduct DNA testing.

“If the Japanese man admits that all the children are his babies, we would ask him why he wanted to have so many babies.”

Commercial surrogacy is not illegal in Thailand, although the authorities are now seeking to tighten regulations.

Thailand is a popular destination for surrogacy arrangements, along with the US, India, and Russia.

Thailand’s medical governing body has recently said that its rules prohibit same-sex couples or single people from engaging a surrogate mother, fees should not be paid, and the surrogate mother must be a blood relative of the intended parents.

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