Victorian Supreme Court approves $70 million Manus Island settlement

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Cameron Macaulay on Wednesday approved the settlement reached with the Australian government and operators of the Manus Island Regional Processing Centre.

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Some detainees had objected to the $70 million in compensation being too low, but Justice Macaulay concluded it was a fair and reasonable amount.

“I am comfortably satisfied that a figure of $70 million to be distributed without deduction of costs amongst participating group members is a fair and reasonable sum,” he said.

“My degree of satisfaction is not merely marginal but is reached with a strong degree of conviction.”

Justice Macaulay noted the urgency of the settlement given that the centre is due to be closed by October 31.

“I accept that the need for urgency is well founded,” he said.

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By Monday 1383 of the 1923 group members in the class action had registered to get their share of the compensation.

More than 160 of the almost 800 men who remain on Manus ahead of the offshore immigration detention centre’s closure next month raised objections with the court.

The independent counsel appointed to assist the court, Michael Rush, on Monday said 145 of the 164 objectors have registered to participate in the settlement should it be approved.

Mr Rush said the objections included that the overall sum of $70 million is too low and the settlement does not resolve the ongoing plight of the group members who remain on Manus Island or whose claims for refugee status are still to be determined.

No money can be paid until the end of a 28-day appeal period, which begins now that Justice Macaulay has approved the settlement.

During that period, further attempts would also be made to reach the 215 group members who have not been able to be contacted about the settlement, with the deadline for registrations pushed back by a couple of weeks to October 13.

Foreign tourists splashing the cash in Oz

Record numbers of Chinese and American visitors are fuelling a tourist spending boom in Australia.

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Nearly eight million foreign travellers flocked to Australia in the past financial year, splashing a record $40 billion on everything from accommodation and food to package tours, the latest International Visitor survey shows.

Chinese visitors swelled to 1.16 million and spent nearly $10 billion, while nearly $4 billion came from the wallets of a record 706,000 US travellers.

Rod Battye of Tourism Research Australia says the trend is expected to continue, with visitors from China tipped to hit about four million in the next decade while American visitor numbers could climb to 1.3 million.

Most of the Chinese and Americans who visited last year were holidaymakers.

However the number of Chinese visitors who came to study posted its biggest-ever gain of 28 per cent to hit 181,000, while another 73,000 were here for business.

“For China the numbers are continuing to grow across the board”, Mr Battye said.

Visitors from the US have steadily increased during past three years and are now nearly double what they were a decade ago.

Mr Battye said a drop in the Australian dollar, improved economic conditions in the US and targeted tourism marketing campaigns all helped entice more visitors from the US to our shores.

While here, Americans are more likely to explore outside the main tourist hubs.

“They visit areas like Western Australia, the Northern Territory and tropical far North Queensland,” Mr Battye said.

But while Chinese and American travellers are increasing, New Zealand remains our main source of foreign visitors.

Just over 1.23 million Kiwis came across the Tasman last year, but their spending flattened out and their trips were shorter compared with the previous year.

Chinese tourists stayed the longest, followed by visitors from the United Kingdom. But both the number of British visitors and how much they spent dropped.

NSW soaked up $10 billion of the overall spending by foreign visitors, thanks largely to the 3.75 million travellers who descended on Sydney and parted with $9 billion during their stay.

Spending by Chinese travellers in NSW exceeded $3 billion for the first time, with double-digit growth recorded by visitors from the US, Korea, Japan, India and Indonesia.

Holidaymakers accounted for half of all international visitors last year, yet education was the reason 550,000 people visited Australia.

Backpacker numbers also rose five per cent to 645,000, with their spending hitting $4.5 billion.

The survey was based on interviews with 40,000 international travellers who had stayed in Australia for less than a year and were surveyed in airport departure lounges before boarding their flights home.

FOREIGN TOURISM SPENDING STATE BY STATE

* NSW, up 11pct to $10b

* Victoria, up 11pct to $7.5b

* Queensland, up 3.0pct to $5.2b

* South Australia, up 12pct to $1b

* Western Australia, up 8.0pct to $2.5b

* Tasmania, up 24pct to $457m

* Northern Territory, up 16pct to $485m

* ACT, up 27pct to $535m

Nissan revamps Leaf electric car

Nissan’s new Leaf electric car goes further on a charge, is equipped with autonomous drive technology and single-pedal driving, but it remains to be seen if it will catch on with anyone other than the most zealously green-minded.

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The zero-emissions vehicle – unveiled by the Japanese automaker in the US on Tuesday and in a Tokyo suburb on Wednesday – promises a range of about 400 kilometres in Japanese driving conditions or 240 kilometres in the US before needing to be recharged.

That’s up from up to 280 kilometres for current Leaf models.

The distances depend on driving conditions and how much other items in the car such as heating are used. Gas-engine cars generally get as much as 800km to 960km per tank.

Analysts say the biggest obstacle for electric cars becoming more widespread is their limited range per charge. Several breakthroughs in battery technology are likely needed before they become affordable and practical for regular consumers.

Koichi Sugimoto, analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. in Tokyo, says many automakers are selling green models because of tightening emissions regulations, especially in Europe and California, rather than because of what he called “natural sales growth.”

“There really is no outstanding attractive quality about an electric vehicle,” he said, noting drawbacks such as finding charging stations, as well as the time needed to charge, which in the case of the new Leaf is 40 minutes.

“It’s more about an effort to make a better society, so we are looking at a decade or two decades ahead,” said Sugimoto.

The Leaf comes with a pedal that accelerates and slows the vehicle, depending on how much the driver pushes it, eliminating the need for a separate brake pedal.

It’s a feature made possible by the switching on-and-off feature of electric gadgetry, unlike the more standard internal combustion engine, and it’s already available on other electric vehicles like those from US maker Tesla.

The Leaf also offers a technology not directly related to its being electric – an autonomous drive feature that Nissan calls ProPilot can be switched on during single-lane highway driving. It also parks itself, taking control of the steering, accelerating and braking, sliding into a parking spot or parallel parking.

The Leaf’s restyled look is not that different from its past design, billed as sleek and aerodynamic to maximise range.

Crows boss relishes shot at AFL greatness

Deadpan Don Pyke insists he’s excited.

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“I might not show it outwardly,” the guarded Adelaide Crows coach told reporters on Wednesday.

“But this is why we do what we do.

“Running laps in November and doing time trials and other things, it’s all based around getting to this point.

“This month is what creates great players. Great teams come out of this month. And that is the opportunity that presents.”

On the eve of Thursday night’s home qualifying final against Greater Western Sydney, Pyke said his Crows were better-placed to grasp that opportunity than last year when they were beaten semi-finalists.

“We go into it with a high degree of confidence because the previous 22 weeks have earnt us top spot, it has earnt us a home final, and now it’s about taking that opportunity,” he said.

“Compared to last season when we had some easier games , the last eight weeks have been really solid in what has been a super-even year … our preparation sets us up for what is coming.

“They (his players) have matured. That is what happens as players … there’s almost a point where you go ‘I want a bit more’.

“And that more is to actually have some success in finals.

“And that is the point we find ourselves at. And that is why it’s exciting.”

The second-year head coach believed Adelaide’s finals failure last year was a priceless lesson for his players.

“What it exposed them to is the level, the expectation around what finals requires,” he said.

“And it’s not fundamentally different to the home-and-away (season), it just just goes to a slightly higher intensity and the premium on scoring drops away.

“And that is why, importantly for us, in some of the games we have played later in the season we have been able to win in different ways and not necessarily rely on the scoreboard ticking over.

“You can’t hand people experience, they have actually got to earn it.”

Indigenous walker has tense PM meeting

It took nearly a year and roughly seven million steps for Clinton Pryor to reach the prime minister’s courtyard at Parliament House.

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However there was little time to celebrate the indigenous activist’s pilgrimage from Perth when a meeting with Malcolm Turnbull soon turned tense on Wednesday.

The 27-year-old, joined by indigenous elders, presented a list of demands that included plotting a path to a treaty, an investigation into family and child services, disbanding the Aboriginal Advisory Council and abolishing cashless welfare management cards.

Mr Turnbull listened to the demands but defended some of his government’s policies, including the welfare cards, saying indigenous leaders in Kalgoorlie had spoken strongly in favour of them.

“They are all about protecting children and families,” the prime minister said.

That remark prompted an angry response from the group who said those Mr Turnbull had spoken with did not reflect the views of the entire community.

“You cannot get one token spokesperson for the community and punish the entire community,” Roxley Foley said.

Mr Pryor did not think the prime minister had absorbed the group’s concerns.

“Everything we said seemed to fall on deaf ears,” he said after the meeting.

Mr Pryor set off from Perth last September for a near-6000km journey by foot to Canberra to promote indigenous rights.

After arriving in the nation’s capital on Saturday he presented his list of demands to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove on Tuesday.

Mr Shorten indicated he did not support all the proposals, but mentioned markers of indigenous disadvantage, including incarceration rates and the number of children being taken from their parents.