Suu Kyi to Australia: smart money’s on us

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Aung San Suu Kyi has issued a clarion call to Australia’s political leaders: take a punt on us.

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The Myanmar presidential hopeful and National League for Democracy leader has used an address in Sydney to call on foreign governments to take a long-term view of her country as it works to shed the vestiges of a brutal military regime.

She says she understands the impulse for governments to try to bolster relations with entrenched power, but the smart money is on her pro-democracy party.

“I think many governments, not just the Australian government, generally like to get on with whoever happens to be in power at the moment,” she told an audience, including business giant Frank Lowy and NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, at the Lowy Institute on Thursday.

“But as I said it’s better to look to the long run and after all, aren’t Australians supposed to be rather inclined to take risks?”

There were laughs as Australia came in for a gentle ribbing from the Nobel laureate: “Aren’t you supposed to be a rather daring, reckless, young nation?

“You must be very daring and very reckless but at the same time it would be very, very sensible of you to put your bets on us.”

Ms Suu Kyi urged foreign investors to consider the good of her country, which has only recently allowed elections.

“I know that when business invest they invest because they expect to make a profit,” she said.

“(But) you cannot divorce economics from politics, and I would like Australians investing in Burma to promote the right kind of political policies, that our country as well as their business might prosper.”

Ms Suu Kyi is now on her way to Canberra to meet Prime Minister Tony Abbott and others.

This is her first visit to Australia but not her first taste of local culture – the Oxford alumna said she was brought up on Waltzing Matilda.

Belgium close to agreeing euthanasia for children

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A proposed draft bill to extend the practice to minors is expected to be put to the vote in the two houses of parliament in the coming months after its approval by the Senate’s justice and social affairs committee.

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The draft bill was approved by a majority of political parties both in office and in the opposition, with the exception of the centrist Christian Democrats.

A vote in favour would see Belgium follow in the footsteps of neighbour The Netherlands, the first country to legalise mercy killings for people suffering from incurable illnesses, but which allows euthanasia for children over 12.

Factbox: Euthanasia around the world

If adopted, the legislation is expected to concern no more than 10 to 15 cases a year based on statements from doctors and nurses that the practice already exists outside the law for terminally-ill youngsters in physical distress.

“The existence of a law is the best means of guarding against possible malpractice,” said the daily Le Soir newspaper, adding that it was “urgent and indispensable” to extend Belgium’s 2002 euthanasia bill.

Earlier this month, 16 paediatricians also urged lawmakers to approve the legislation.

“Why deprive minors of this last possibility,” they said in an open letter carried in the press, arguing that under-18s were able to make an informed and mature decision when facing death.

“Experience shows us that in cases of serious illness and imminent death, minors develop very quickly a great maturity, to the point where they are often better able to reflect and express themselves on life than healthy people.”

The proposed legislation would allow the euthanasia of terminally-ill minors so long as they are judged capable of deciding for themselves and are in pain that is “unbearable and cannot be alleviated”.

They would be advised by a medical team and their parents’ approval would be required.

A recent poll shows three quarters of Belgians approving the move.

But a group of Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders have opposed the legal change. “We express our deep concern at the risk that such a grave subject will be increasingly trivialised,” said the group.

“The euthanasia of fragile people, be they children or incapable, is totally inconsistent with their condition as human beings.”

Christian-Democrat Senator Francis Delperee agreed. Asking a minor to take such a decision when facing death “is a considerable psychological, human and family burden at a time when the person should be allowed to be calm,” he said.

After The Netherlands and Belgium, Luxembourg in 2009 also approved euthanasia, but for adults only. In Switzerland, doctors can assist a patient seeking to die but euthanasia itself is illegal.

Belgium logged a record 1,432 cases of euthanasia in 2012, up 25 percent.

Earlier this year, Vermont became the third US state after Oregon and Washington to legalize physician-assisted suicide for people facing terminal illness.

It was the first US state however to adopt physician-assisted suicide by legislative process rather than through a voter-initiated referendum.

A Pew Research Center poll found that 84 percent of Americans support allowing a terminally ill adult patient to decide if they want to be kept alive.

New Advisory Council triggers community debate

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(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

Some critics claim more effort should have been put into bringing more Indigenous voices onto the panel.

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The 12 person body has eight Indigenous members including its chairman, the former National Labor President, Warren Mundine.

As Michael Kenny reports, about 300 people applied to be on the council.

(Click on audio tab above to hear full item)

Prime Minister Abbott says he wants the new Indigenous Advisory Council to be an important part of his government’s engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Mr Abbott says the council has brought together well-respected individuals with a broad range of skills and experience, including in business and the public sector.

The council includes the Chairman of the Cape York Land Council and Director of the Cape York Institute, Richard Ah Mat and Indigenous businessman Daniel Tucker from the WA company, Carey Mining.

Mr Ah Mat says he wants to use his position on the council to promote Indigenous welfare reforms long advocated by the founder of the Cape York Institute, Noel Pearson.

Under Mr Pearson’s Empowered Communities proposals, Indigenous communities who choose to sign up to welfare plans, would have to meet certain obligations to qualify for government funding, including boosting levels of school attendance and the number of adults in training or work.

Mr Ah Mat believes the proposals are a sensible approach to combating Indigenous disadvantage which could work in communities across the nation.

“Education is one of the keys, employment is another key, economic development is another key. Just to have input on this committee is fantastic for Cape York. To give first hand advice to the Prime Minister about our problems and possibly create policy solutions – it’s a fantastic initiative and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Mr Ah Mat says he believes Prime Minister Abbott has a genuine and sincere commitment to tackling Indigenous disadvantage and doing so in partnership with big business.

He says the appointment of Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly and Rio Tinto head David Pulver as two of the four non-Indigenous members of the Advisory Council makes sense because the mining and finance sectors are offering a lot of employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians.

Mr Ah Mat says he hopes the new council also focuses on tackling disadvantage at the primary school level, saying he believes that’s the best way to invest in future generations of Indigenous Australians.

“The Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion has said he really wants education to play a key role and that’s what we’ve been trying to do in Cape York. Whether it’s in the first three months or the first term, every child should go to school because education is the key for all Australians – not only Indigenous Australians, but for all Australians. Policies have to be put in place to ensure that parents seriously have to think about sending their children to school.”

Another member of the Advisory Council is the Chief Executive Officer of Reconciliation Australia Leah Armstrong.

The Torres Strait Islander has worked in Indigenous businesses for over 20 years with a particular focus on the training sector.

She believes the new Advisory Council will benefit from the input of Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesspeople as it works towards closing the gap in areas like healthcare, education and employment.

“I think it’s important that there is a good representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. But I believe it’s also important that we do have the engagement of business on the council as well because I think their contribution now and for the future is also vital.”

Ms Armstrong believes the Advisory Council will also benefit from the input of Professor Peter Shergold, the former Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

She says Professor Shergold has a long interest in Indigenous policy under Labor and Coalition governments.

However a veteran academic and former bureaucrat believes Prime Minister Tony Abbott should only have appointed Indigenous Australians to the Advisory Council.

The Dean of Indigenous Scholarship, Engagement and Research at the University of South Australia, Professor Peter Buckskin says he respects the non-Indigenous panellists given their distinguished careers in business and academia.

However the Narungga man from the Yorke Peninsula believes it is critical that the Advisory Council acts as a mouthpiece for the Indigenous community around the government table.

“Well, they’re pretty eminent people, clearly, within the Australian business community and academic world. My strong advice is, to all of those people, is for them to know their place in our space. That they’ve got to remember they will never be Indigenous. They can never represent us. They can clearly provide advice from their world view, but a lot of their world view has been shaped by privilege, power and their own non-Indigenous background.”

That’s a view shared by veteran Darwin Indigenous activist and former Northern Territory Government policy advisor Eileen Cummings.

A member of the stolen generations, Ms Cummings unsuccessfully contested the Northern Territory seat of Solomon earlier this year for the First Nations Political Party.

She believes Prime Minister Abbott should have drawn upon advice from Indigenous businesspeople on the council instead of turning to the heads of companies like Westpac and Rio Tinto.

“There are a lot of our people working in the mining industry, there are a lot of our people working in businesses all around Australia – they are business managers for goodness sake! Who else is better to do this than one of us, ourselves and they’re not giving us that!”

Goal frenzy as Real, United and PSG all advance

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Real, Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester City all scored four as 36 goals went in and the last 16 began to take shape with half the qualifiers known with one round of matches to play.

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Real, United and PSG joined already qualified Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Chelsea, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona in the knockout stages.

Juventus, Benfica and Shakhtar all boosted their chances of joining them with the final round of matches to be played on December10 and 11.

Holders Bayern, assured of their last-16 place before Wednesday’s Group D matches, set a Champions League record of 10 successive wins with a 3-1 victory at CSKA Moscow which beat the record of nine established by Barcelona in 2002-03.

Bayern won in the wintry Russian capital with goals from Arjen Robben, Mario Goetze and a Thomas Mueller penalty.

“Playing on this pitch today was a bit adventurous,” coach Pep Guardiola said when asked about the snow.

“It was difficult because the players had no grip, But over 90 minutes we were better than our opponents. Getting 10 wins in a row is very hard and I am proud of my players, the club and everyone involved.”

BALE SCORES

In warmer conditions in Madrid, Gareth Bale, the world’s most expensive player, opened the scoring with a stunning free kick in a 4-1 triumph over Galatasaray that ensured record nine-times European champions Real took top spot in Group B.

Real were without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo but were too strong for the Turkish side even though defender Sergio Ramos was dismissed before halftime, the 17th red card of his Real career.

Coincidentally, Real also reached the knockout stage for the 17th successive season.

Juventus moved from bottom spot to second in the same group with a 3-1 win over FC Copenhagen in Turin, Arturo Vidal scoring a hat-trick that included two penalties.

“It’s the first time I have scored three goals in a match in my career so I’m happy especially because we won,” the Chilean said.

The win moved Juve onto six points and they will advance if they avoid defeat at Galatasaray, who have four points, in their final match.

AWAY WIN

Manchester United scored their biggest away win in the Champions League by crushing Leverkusen 5-0 in Group A with goals from Antonio Valencia, an own goal from Emir Spahic, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Nani.

Although he did not score, Wayne Rooney was outstanding while Ryan Giggs, two days before his 40th birthday, was also hugely impressive.

Giggs told Sky Sports: “It was a bonus to score five away from home. The front four were really quick and I am still really enjoying it.”

Leverkusen slipped from second to third due to Shakhtar’s 4-0 victory over bottom club Real Sociedad.

Shakhtar, who have eight points, go to United in their last game on December 10 while Leverkusen, who have seven points, visit Sociedad, bottom and out of Europe altogether with one.

Leverkusen can still qualify if they beat Sociedad and Shakhtar fail to defeat United at Old Trafford.

IBRA STRIKES

Paris St Germain also made it through by beating Olympiakos Piraeus 2-1 in France after Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave them the lead with an early goal on his 100th Champions League appearance.

The match appeared to be going away from PSG when Marco Verratti was sent off early in the second half and Kostas Manolas equalised for the visitors with nine minutes left.

But Edinson Cavani sealed the win with an emphatic drive in the 90th minute to lift PSG on to 13 points.

While PSG were securing top spot in Group C, Benfica improved their chances in the same section with a late winner in a 3-2 victory at Anderlecht that took them up to seven, the same as Olympiakos.

The game swung both ways with Chancel Mbemba giving Anderlecht an early lead before he put through his own net seven minutes into the second half to put Benfica 2-1 up.

Anderlecht made it 2-2 with time running out which left Benfica facing the exit door until Rodrigo, who came on as an 87th minute substitute, hit the winner two minutes later.

Benfica can now qualify if their result in their last match at home to PSG is better than Olympiakos’s against Anderlecht.

Manchester City, who like Bayern had qualified before Wednesday’s games, beat Viktoria Plzen 4-2 thanks to two late goals from Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko.

Plzen had twice levelled on a night that ended with City scoring four to complete a remarkable scoring sequence at home with three, four, five, six and seven goals in their last five matches at the Etihad Stadium – albeit not in order.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez/Mark Meadows)

Prince William rocks out with Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift

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Britain’s Prince William teamed up with US pop royalty Jon Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift on Tuesday night to perform an impromptu version of “Livin’ On A Prayer” at his home, Kensington Palace.

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(Click on the video tab above to see the full story)

The trio belted out the Bon Jovi classic at the end of a gala event at the London palace in support of the homeless charity Centrepoint, of which 31-year-old William is patron.

Bon Jovi began the performance alone with his guitar, but the second-in-line to the British throne and Grammy-winning pop diva Swift came on stage to join him, to huge cheers from the crowd.

Wearing full black-tie, the prince made a decent attempt at the choruses but spent the more obscure verses nodding along with his hands awkwardly clasped in front of his dinner jacket.

He high-fived 23-year-old Swift, who rocked out onstage in a sequinned cream dress.

“Nights like this happen once in a lifetime,” Bon Jovi told the crowd.

“But the chance to effect change can last a lifetime. Each one of you tonight have that chance to effect change.”

William took a night off from looking after his baby son Prince George, who was born to his wife Kate in July, to attend the event and present Bon Jovi with an award for his own work combatting poverty and homelessness.

Bon Jovi founded his Soul Foundation in the United States in 2006. The charity aims to help Americans out of poverty by giving them access to food, training and affordable housing.

William has been patron since 2005 of Centrepoint, which works with young homeless people in London and northeast England.