4zzz Headlines (Pt. 22)

Plain packaging laws effective, research shows
New research has revealed that Australia’s plain-packaging laws are increasing the numbers of Australians stopping smoking.
The study, which was published in The Medical Journal of Australia, examined weekly Quitline calls in New South Wales and Canberra, and found that calls have increased by 78 per cent, since the introduction of the world-first tobacco laws. According to Queensland Health, one in seven deaths are due to smoking, with an average of nearly 4000 deaths each year caused by smoking or second-hand smoke in Queensland.

Greens call on GBRMPA to ban dumping at Abbot Point
In light of yesterday’s announcement for a commission of inquiry into Gladstone Harbour, the Australian Greens are demanding the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) refuse offshore dumping at Abbot Point.
Greens senator Larissa Waters has said that, following  the dredging and dumping that occurred at Gladstone Harbour, the GBRMPA should require sludge be disposed of on land rather than at sea. She went on to say that the commission of inquiry into Gladstone Harbour must be free from political and industry influence, and open to the public.

Court ruling bans forced employee urine testing
The United Services Union has welcomed the decision reached by the NSW court to disallow urine testing for drugs and alcohol in employees.
The case arose after the National Association of Testing Authorities no longer provided facilities for oral testing for drugs, causing Endeavour Energy to turn to both the Fair Work Commission and to court, to try and compel their employees to submit to urine testing. The court found that urine testing was “unjust and unreasonable” as it could detect old drug or alcohol use, rather than current use. The United Services Union feels that drug testing should be for safety, not social monitoring; used only to identify risk for workers or their colleagues.

More on this story tomorrow.

Federal review of welfare system and recipients announced
The Federal government has today announced they will be reviewing the welfare system, describing the current payments as ‘unsustainable’.
The decision was made after a ‘ten-year review’ by the Department of Social Services was made to the government. A report prepared by the Department of Social Services says the number of Australians receiving Newstart and either the disability or aged pension reached more than 5 million in June 2012, costing the government upwards of 70 billion dollars each year. While current welfare recipients will not be removed, Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews says that future applications will be more heavily screened.

Hibernating space probe Rosetta awakens, stretches fins
After 31 months in hibernation, the probe Rosetta has woken up, in time to rendezvous in with a comet this August.
Launched in 2004 to travel more than 7 billion kilometres in the inner Solar System, Rosetta is Europe’s most ambitious project yet. The comet, known as 67P, is made up of clusters of ice and dust which are believed to be from the beginning of our star system. Scientists hope that analysing the comet will reveal how the Solar System was formed and possibly how life on earth began. While it will meet the comet in August, in November it will place a lander on its surface to carry out experiments.

Support group fears ASIO raids will drive members to crime
Islamic outreach group Ummah United has raised  concerns continued ASIO intrusions could radicalise their young members.
The groups aims to attract at-risk and disaffected young men, who might otherwise turn to crime or terrorist activities, and provide them with a safe, clean environment in which to socialise. Because of potential links between Ummah United and a few radicalised individuals, the centre and members’ homes have received frequent, unannounced visits from the Australian Federal Police and ASIO. The pressure is causing many people to leave the group, but organisation founder Mirways Sayed fears they will return to the streets.

Qld LNG project on shaky ground
A major coal seam gas project in Queensland’s Surat Basin is facing major job cuts.
While the company in charge, Arrow Energy, had been given approval by both state and federal governments to develop gas fields at Surat Basin, and build an export plant at Gladstone, they are now looking into joint ventures for the project. Arrow Venture has described the move as part of a series of actions designed to improve the company’s performance globally. The company will not say how many jobs will be lost.

Lebanese ex-PM announces his return to Lebanon
Former Lebanese PM Saad al-Hariri has announced he will return to Lebanon to run for the November elections, as well as work with those in power for the country’s sake.
The former PM has been living in France since his government was overthrown by the Shiite group Hezbollah in 2011. Since last year, a caretaker government has been running the country, which is suffering internal disputes over neighbouring Syria’s war. Until now Mr Hariri had not given any date for his return to Lebanon, but is now willing to work with his rivals and discuss such things publicly.

Claims Northern Territory is ignoring FOI requests
The Australian Education Union has requested certain documents under Freedom of Information Laws from the Northern Territory, which they say are still being kept from them.
The documents requested would show what staff cuts are planned for Northern Territory schools, and teachers fear special-needs supporters and assistance for non-English speaking students will be cut. However the government says they have already published all the figures they are required to. 81 per cent of teachers in the Northern Territory rejected a recent pay offer by their government, as an indicator of their dissatisfaction with the current situation.

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