ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr inspects first of Canberra trams

The first of the ACT’s eye-catching red trams will ship from Spain to Canberra in the next few weeks.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr this week visited Zaragoza to view the first tram completed by rolling stock company Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles.

Photos from Mr Barr’s trip to Europe reveal the trams will be red with white Transport Canberra and ACT government logos.

Seats will be blue with red handrails and grab rails to match the exterior. It is understood the trams could feature external wraps similar to buses.

The government will spend about $65 million on the fleet of 14 trams. Each tram will be 33 metres long with 66 seats and capacity to carry 207 people.

They will include two dedicated wheelchair spaces, storage room for four bikes, 12 priority seats for passengers with special needs, handrails and grab rails for safety.

Passengers will have access to free wireless internet on board.

The first light rail tracks were laid in Franklin earlier this month.

The government said the Gungahlin to Civic leg of the $939 million light rail project was on track to be running by late 2018.

‘Mum, I’m sorry’: Daughter plagued with guilt over mother’s slow death

Updated October 19, 2017 18:54:23

Rosemary Dupont’s mother felt she a had a fabulous life, and as a nurse who was regularly confronted with death, formed strong views on her right to end it if she was faced with that decision.

She died in 2014 after enduring a decade of deteriorating health conditions including dementia, arthritis and a poor heart.

Ms Dupont said she felt guilt every day over being unable to fulfil her mother’s desire to be euthanised.

“One of the things she made me promise her was that she would not die terribly,” Ms Dupont said.

“I remember one day going to see her when she was bedridden. She said ‘Rosemary, you promised me I wouldn’t die like this’.”

“And I looked at her and said ‘Mum, I’m sorry, there’s not much I can do for you’.”

Ms Dupont felt her mother, along with others whose dire health had robbed them of a fulfilling life, should have the choice to die.

But years of advocating for the legalisation of euthanasia before and after her mother’s death were unsuccessful.

This was despite the ACT Government expressing it was not opposed to debating the issue. Federal law prevents them from doing so.

Greens call for lifting of ‘gag order’ on euthanasia legislation

The Victorian Parliament is preparing to vote on assisted dying legislation, prompting the ACT Greens to push for a gag order on similar proposals in the territory lifted.

The ACT cannot legislate on euthanasia because of a private members’ bill named for conservative backbencher Kevin Andrews, introduced after the Northern Territory legalised euthanasia in 1995.

The 20-year-old piece of legislation blocks the ACT from bringing in its own laws on assisted dying.

ACT Greens MP Caroline Le Couteur says it is time the law was repealed so Canberrans could stop being treated “like second-class citizens”.

“We need to treat the people of Canberra like that adults they are. This is discrimination against us,” she said.

“The ACT Greens are calling for the right for terminally ill people [in Canberra] to choose what they want to do.

“Currently this can’t even be debated in the ACT Legislative Assembly.”

Assisted dying advocate Rodney Syme, also the vice-president of Dying With Dignity Victoria, has been lobbying for 30 years.

Mr Syme said he believed fewer people would end their lives violently if they could instead do so voluntarily, with administered “medication”.

“The Victorian coroner, in his evidence, found that people who had [died by] suicide in a violent and lonely way – a significant number of those were people with an end-of-life situation or a very, very severe chronic health problem – ended their life because the structure of medicine and the fear of the law meant they couldn’t talk to the doctor about it,” he said.

“And if they did they knew he couldn’t do anything.”

A spokesperson for the Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the Federal Government had no plans to repeal the Euthanasia Laws Act.

Topics: euthanasia, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 19, 2017 17:52:59

Canberra man accused of raping ex-partner, throwing knives at girl in ‘game’

A Canberra man accused of raping an ex-partner after pointing a gun at her also played a “game” with another girl in which he would throw kitchen knives at her, court documents revealed on Wednesday.

The 19-year-old man, who has not been named to protect the identity of his victims, had brandished a replica pistol at both women who believed it was real.

He threatened to rape his ex-partner with the pistol, the documents suggest, telling her “if it’s not me it will be the gun”.

He was arrested in March following complaints from his ex-partner. A 15-year-old girl came forward after hearing about the first woman.

The man was arraigned in the ACT Supreme Court on Tuesday where he pleaded guilty to a series of violent and sexual offences against the woman and girl.

The offences against his ex-partner happened in March this year after she visited him at his home and they had sex.

In an agreed statement of facts tendered on Tuesday, he admitted to slapping the woman around the side of her head after she told him she had seen another man while they were apart.

He demanded her Facebook password so he could read her messages.

He pointed a gun at the woman and told her to perform oral sex on it.

He raped her when he placed the gun within reach and told the woman to have sex with him, the documents say.

The sex and assault offences against the 15-year-old girl happened in late 2016.

The man asked the girl if she wanted to have sex with him and she agreed, the documents say. He told her that she could not tell anyone until she was 16.

He played a “game” with the girl that involved throwing a kitchen knife at her.

He would tell her to choose three numbers.

The first number was what part of her body (one being her head and 10 her feet), the second number was for the speed and the third number was for the number of times.

Sometimes he would tell her to pick a number and if she was wrong it meant she had to play the game.

He would make her stand in the living room and throw a kitchen knife with a 15 centimetre blade at her.

One time the knife cut the side of her foot and caused it to bleed.

“You don’t realise how sick in the head I am. I enjoy this, I enjoy doing this to people,” he told her.

He admitted he punched her while he was wearing boxing gloves and then kicked her on the thigh when she fell to the ground.

One day she told him she had kissed another man, the documents say.

He took her phone and smashed it.

On another day he held the replica firearm up to her face. She cried and begged him to move it away, holding a pillow up to her face.

Against the girl, he is charged with sexual intercourse with a person under 16, assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He is also charged with possession of child exploitation material.

Against his former partner he is charged with rape, sexual assault in the third degree and common assault.

He will also be sentenced for possessing an unregistered firearm and using a carriage service to menace, harass or offend.

The case returns to court on February 9 for sentencing.

Which state has the best drinking water in Australia?

Posted October 18, 2017 14:41:32

A city in Queensland has been judged to have the best-tasting drinking water in Australia, with Toowoomba receiving the top gong by popular vote in today’s third annual Best Tap Water in Australia competition.

The winning sample was taken from Toowoomba Regional Council’s Mt Kynoch Scheme.

Water Industry Operators Association of Australia chief operation officer Craig Mathisen said competition this year had been stiff.

Water providers in each state blind tasted samples at their annual conferences to choose finalists for the national competition, where 150 tasters made the final decision.

Finalists included Icon Water in the ACT, SA Water, Goulburn Valley Water in Victoria, and Fenton in Tasmania.

“All the samples were at the high end. Australia is very fortunate to have high-quality drinking water across all of our communities,” Mr Mathisen said.

“It’s an interesting competition and for us it’s a real celebration of what the businesses and operators do 24/7.”

What does water taste like?

“It surprises a lot of people that water has different tastes depending on where it comes from,” Mr Mathisen said.

It’s not until you actually taste samples from various parts of the state or the country that you start to notice some discernible differences.

“A lot of the time it can be dependent on the source of the water.”

Professor Peter Scales, from Melbourne University’s Department of Chemical Engineering, said most of Australia’s drinking water was surface water, sourced from reservoirs.

Aquifer water was used in Perth, Adelaide and various inland sites.

Professor Scales said all drinking water was put through a purifying process to remove particulates and organic compounds, and to adjust the salt component, which contributed to differences in taste and aesthetics.

“A lot of people don’t like water from Adelaide or Perth because it’s quite salty water,” he said.

“Typically waters from mountain streams that don’t have very much salt, organics or toxins tend to be the best-tasting waters.

“But there is quite a subjective nature to what is a good water. People have different tastes.”

Clear and transparent competition

Samples in the final competition were judged on a variety of features including colour, clarity and odour.

Mr Mathisen said the best water had to be clear and transparent, but the true test was taste.

He said 150 tasters from Launceston, the town that took home last year’s title, had been surprised by the variation of the water samples taken from around Australia.

“Some [samples] had a bit more of a murkiness to them, but they were all of a very high quality,” Mr Mathisen said.

“[Tasters] were interested that water doesn’t just taste the same — that was probably the main message we received.”

Toowoomba will now represent Australia at the International Water Tasting Competition in America in February.

“The community of Toowoomba will be rapt with the news,” Mr Mathisen said.

“There’s no cash prize but there’s a lot of bragging rights.

“Obviously it helps those communities celebrate the water and have the communities think about their water supplies, which is really the result we’re trying to achieve.”

Topics: environment, water, water-management, water-supply, mount-kynoch-4350, toowoomba-4350, sa, launceston-7250, merrijig-3723, mount-stromlo-2611

ACT Policing seek witnesses to dangerous Northbourne near-miss

Police are seeking witnesses to a dangerous near-miss in the Canberra city centre last month. 

Around 1.20pm on Sunday, September 24, a black Land Rover narrowly missed a cyclist before clipping two cars as it swerved southbound down Northbourne Avenue.

The Land Rover, registration YJW88X, had earlier been stolen from a house in Gungahlin.

Anyone with information on the incident has been asked to contact ACT Policing Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, quoting reference number 6155730.   

Man who allegedly kicked pregnant partner in stomach refused bail

Updated October 17, 2017 15:40:30

A Canberra man accused of kicking his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach, choking her, and threatening to kill her if she went to police has been remanded in custody.

The 35-year-old pleaded not guilty to 11 charges in the ACT Magistrates Court over the alleged attack in the early hours of Monday morning, after he had been out drinking.

In court documents, police allege the man pulled the woman along by the hair, pushed her across the room, kicked her in the stomach knowing she was pregnant, and put his knee on her throat to restrict her breathing.

The man is also charged with threatening her with knives as he demanded passwords for her phone and bank accounts.

Police claim the man threatened to kill the woman and her family if she complained to police.

Prosecutors opposed bail saying there was a risk the man could flee Canberra and that the alleged victim had significant fears.

Magistrate Peter Morrison refused bail saying the man was accused of very serious offences towards his pregnant girlfriend, which would almost certainly end in a prison sentence if they were proved.

Mr Morrison said he was particularly concerned about the threat to kill the woman if she went to police.

The man will be back in court in December.

Topics: courts-and-trials, law-crime-and-justice, domestic-violence, community-and-society, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 17, 2017 15:24:20

Man accused of assaulting 17-year-old co-worker over biscuits

A Canberra man accused of grabbing a 17-year-old girl by the throat at the aged care home where they worked fought the charges on Monday at a hearing in the ACT Magistrates Court.

The teenager had forgotten to check if there were enough biscuits for the day, she told the court, when the man, Lakshman Senanayake, 68, grabbed her throat and said: “I could kill you.”

Mr Senanayake, of Macgregor, denies the allegations and has pleaded not guilty to one count of common assault.

He told police in an interview the teenager did not like him and the allegations were a complete fabrication.

The court heard that part of the teenager’s role as carer was to serve the residents’ food, collecting it from the main kitchen and bringing it on a trolley to the residents’ kitchen.

Another part of the role was to check there were enough biscuits for the day’s morning and afternoon teas, and order more if needed from the main kitchen.

At about 8.30am on June 6 last year, the woman returned from the main kitchen with the breakfasts and found Mr Senanayake in the residents’ kitchen, she told the court.

She said when she returned the man was angry and raised his voice at her, asking whether she had checked the biscuits.

“I said no, and that’s when he grabbed me round the throat and said ‘I could kill you’,” she said.

The woman demonstrated in the witness box how she said the man held his arm out and gripped the front of her neck.

She said the man, who she knew as “Lucky”, used “a lot of pressure” and held on for a couple of seconds.

She said she pushed him away, and he said, “sorry darl”.

She told him “you’ve gone too far this time” and then ran from the room to her supervisors, she told the court.

The man had been rude to her that week, the woman said, and had criticised the way she did her job, including such matters as stacking the dishwasher.

In cross-examination of the woman, the man’s defence solicitor suggested there were residents sitting at the tables in the kitchen when the alleged assault was said to have happened.

The woman said she could not recall, but agreed it was a possibility.

The woman denied suggestions from the solicitor that she was drinking from a bottle taken from the fridge when the man approached her about the biscuits.

She denied she “shooed” the man away.

The woman also denied she was lying about the man saying: “I could kill you.”

In a police interview played to the court, Mr Senanayake, who spoke through an interpreter, said the allegations were a complete fabrication.

He said he had only touched the woman’s hand.

The man, who said he had worked at the aged care facility for five years, said the woman was jealous of him and wanted to create problems.

The hearing will continue at a later date.

PM’s department clears Bruce Billson of breaching ministerial rules

Posted October 16, 2017 13:59:40

An investigation into retired Liberal MP Bruce Billson has cleared him of breaching ministerial guidelines by lobbying his former parliamentary colleagues.

But the former member for Dunkley remains the subject of a separate inquiry into whether his actions constitute a contempt of parliament.

In August, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asked the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) to investigate whether Mr Billson had breached rules preventing former minsters from lobbying new ministers within 18 months of leaving their job.

Mr Billson is now the executive chairman of the Franchise Council of Australia, which lobbied Government MPs for changes to industrial relations legislation that passed through Parliament last month.

Mr Turnbull asked the head of the DPMC, Martin Parkinson, to investigate Mr Billson after a question from the Opposition in Parliament in August.

“Mr Billson assures me that he both understands and has complied with his post-ministerial obligations under the Standards,” Dr Parkinson wrote in a letter to the Prime Minster, dated September 4.

“On the basis of the information available to me, I have no reason to conclude Mr Billson has breached either the Statement of Ministerial Standards or the Lobbying Code of Conduct.”

The DPMC only made Dr Parkinson’s letter public after a request from 7.30.

Mr Billson has not responded to a request for comment about the investigation.

In August, 7.30 revealed that Mr Billson failed to disclose he was receiving a $75,000 per year salary from the Franchise Council of Australia before he left parliament.

The former small businesses minister has since apologised for failing to list the salary on the official register of members’ interests.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tony Smith, has since referred Mr Billson to the powerful Parliamentary Privileges for an investigation into whether he should be found in contempt of parliament.

Past and present MPs found guilty of contempt face potential penalties of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Topics: government-and-politics, political-parties, liberals, australia, canberra-2600

Micro gardeners share tips and tricks to help apartment renters keep the gloves on

Updated October 15, 2017 14:26:30

High-density apartment living is on the surge — and downsizers swapping spacious yards for tiny balconies may see no need to pack the garden gloves.

Top five micro-gardening tips

  1. Be creative: Get self-watering pots and a range of boxes to plant into.
  2. Start small: Grow easy vegetables like greens and herbs.
  3. Get a worm farm: This provides instant fertilizer.
  4. Grow upwards: Make trellises and grow things that harvest easily.
  5. Talk to neighbours: Make communal gardens where possible, share resources and tips.

But organisers of a Canberra workshop on gardening in small spaces say anyone can be a green thumb, no matter how small their home is.

The initiative, jointly run by the Canberra Environment Centre and the Tenants’ Union ACT, covered a range of portable gardening ideas for small balconies, courtyards and backyards as well as tricks to keep landlords happy.

Canberra Environment Centre garden coordinator Karina Bontes said she has noticed a new “wave” of younger people wanting to grow their own food.

“A lot of people consider gardening to be something for the over 50s [age group] and there seems to be a resurgence of young people interested in gardening,” Ms Bontes said.

“And I think it’s really amazing that people in the next generation are growing their own food and being interested in cycles of life and what we get on our plates and being passionate about that.

“So I think young people who are renters who are getting into gardening is a really great sign of what’s to come.”

But she said some apartment renters became frustrated with barriers such as minimal space and lighting, causing them to give up gardening efforts without realising there are other options.

“It’s thinking about what kind of things they might be able to grow, doing small scale composting in their backyards, different types of mobile beds like wicking beds or straw bale beds.”

“[Also] vertical gardening, trellising, how to make good soil, how to get good soil, what things might be important in choosing your site.”

Nicola Hearn from the Tenants’ Union ACT said there were ways to be creative with spaces as small as a window sill.

“A big part of what we do is promoting tenants’ ability to feel like their place is their home, that it’s not [something they see as] just an investment property for someone else, owned by a random landlord or property manager,” Ms Hearn said.

“It’s their home, it’s where they live and things like gardens are important so we try and foster that.”

Benefits of being green

Ms Bontes says growing her own food has had a positive impact on her health and general lifestyle.

“I feel like it’s a big form of taking control of your own life,” she said.

“I feel that it gives you many more options than having to shop at a supermarket, when you don’t know necessarily who’s grown what, what they’ve put into it, how far it has had to come to be in the supermarket, and all of those processes.”

“Where as when you grow your own food you know exactly what love has gone into it, what kind of water, what kind of nutrients and you pick it fresh.

“So I feel like it’s a great way for people to be in touch with seasons, with eating seasonally, which I feel has many benefits.”

Topics: gardening, lifestyle-and-leisure, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 15, 2017 12:59:24