WA premier promises tough but fair budget

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan has warned the state’s financial could become “more rocky” with a range of state-federal funding arrangements looking very shaky.

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He says the Labor government has been left with the worst debt and deficit per capita of any state or the Commonwealth in Australia after the state’s books showed it would be $1.2 billion worse off that predicted a month ago.

The McGowan government also faces a soft labour market.

The premier promised a “tough but fair” budget and one based on spending on what the state actually needs rather than what it wants.

But he isn’t about to go down the path of other states that rely on revenue from the pokies or road tolls.

He said he was fully aware of the evils of poker machines having been brought up NSW and said WA was fortunate not to have any and recommended other states follow suit.

He said one of his top priorities was sorting out WA’s GST where it is getting just 34 cents in the dollar and issued a stark warning to Canberra.

He said the Turnbull government would be punished at the next federal election noting if the state’s election results overlaid federal seats, Labor would win 13 out of 15 seats.

“The GST issue here is a powder keg underwritten by dynamite with a burning fuse,” Mr MGowan told Sky News on Sunday.

He said he has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the issue, as well as having discussions with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

“(The prime minister) could send a letter to the Grants Commission today to change the formula to better reflect the financial situation confronting Western Australia,” he said.

He believes the GST carve-up between the states and territories should better reward productivity.

He also thinks the present system is wrong in that it rips out royalty revenue from WA and gives it to other states but doesn’t touch pokie revenue from other states and give it to WA.

If pokie revenue was treated the same way as mining royalties, it may encourage states to ditch their pokie machines, he said.

The Sunday Times says a gang of business leaders, including mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, intend to fly to Canberra to thrash out a GST fix for the WA state.

Gunman kills woman, student in California classroom

Police said the two children were believed to have been caught in the gunfire unintentionally as bystanders to Monday’s violence, which unfolded several miles from the scene of a December 2015 shooting rampage that killed 14 people.

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San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said the shooting at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, about 65 miles east of Los Angeles, was an apparent murder-suicide.

Investigators worked to confirm the identities of the gunman and the dead woman to determine their relationship, if any, and whether the shooting stemmed from a domestic dispute, police Captain Ron Maas said at a news conference.

Students from North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, Calif., line the fence (AAP)AAP

The wounded students were hospitalised but their medical conditions were not immediately known. Maas said they were not related to either of the dead adults.

School district secretary Vicki Wood confirmed the dead woman was the teacher and that she was teaching a special-education class at the time. Police said she and the gunman were the only adults in the classroom.

Authorities provided few details about the circumstances of the shooting, except to say that the gunman had gained entry to the school as a visitor and kept his weapon concealed until he opened fire inside the classroom.

The school was evacuated and students were bused to the campus of California State University at San Bernardino to be briefed and interviewed by authorities. From there, they were to be taken to a nearby high school to be reunited with their families, police said.

Aerial television footage from the scene showed children holding hands and walking single-file across the campus from the school building to waiting buses.

Parents and family of North Park Elementary School students stand across the street from the school waiting to hear from their children (AAP)AAP

One young student, reunited with her mother, told local NBC News affiliate KNBC-TV that the incident left her “super scared.” Anxious parents interviewed on camera said they had been given no information from the school other than where their children were being taken.

School officials said North Park Elementary would remain closed for at least two days.

The city of San Bernardino last made national headlines on Dec. 2, 2015, when a husband and wife who authorities said were inspired by Islamic extremism opened fire on a holiday office party of county health workers, killing 14 people and wounding more than 20. The couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik were killed by police during a shootout.

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.

Oslo police detonate ‘bomb-like device’

Norwegian police have set off a controlled explosion of a “bomb-like device” in central Oslo and are holding a suspect in custody in an investigation led by security police.

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A Reuters reporter described a loud bang early on Sunday shortly after Oslo’s bomb squad arrived with a remote-controlled robot once the area was cordoned off by police late on Saturday night.

“The noise from the blast was louder than our explosives themselves would cause,” a police spokesman said, adding that further investigation was needed to find out if the device had contained explosives.

The device, about 30 cm across, had appeared to be capable of causing only a limited amount of damage. Forensics experts will examine fragments to figure out what it was.

Police across the Nordic region have been on heightened alert after a truck ploughed into a crowd in Stockholm on Friday. Four people were killed and 15 injured in what police called an apparent terror attack.

Norwegian police detained a suspect but declined to give information about his identity. Norway’s police security service, PST, said in a tweet it had taken over the investigation from local police.

“We’re in a very early phase of the investigation,” PST spokesman Martin Bernsen said. More details were likely later on Sunday, he added.

Police took away cordons put up overnight in the Groenland area and residents resumed normal Sunday activities, with shops and cafes open. There was no sign of police at the site.

The Groenland area, a multi-ethnic neighbourhood that is home to popular bars and restaurants, several mosques, and the city’s main police station. The police station is less than a kilometre away from where the device was found.

In 2011, right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik set off a car bomb in Oslo that killed eight people and destroyed Norway’s government headquarters, before going on a shooting rampage that killed 69 people at nearby Utoeya island.

Sloane crowing about Adelaide’s spirit

Adelaide’s Showdown medallist Rory Sloane praised his side’s ability to absorb the pressure in their 17-point victory over cross-town rivals Port Adelaide.

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The vice-captain led from the front for the winners, collecting 31 disposals, including 24 contested possessions, five marks and a goal to help square the Showdown ledger at 21 apiece.

Sloane says it was the most pressure-filled match between the fierce rivals he had ever played in and was pleased the Crows held on after being challenged by the Power mid-way through the final term.

“I think it’s the hottest first quarter I’ve ever played in a Showdown,” Sloane said.

“Normally it (the pressure) lasts about a 10-minute period where there is just real solid heat on the ball. But it seemed to last a whole quarter.

“I think our contest work was really good, but our composure tested out with a bit of Port’s pressure.

“I did hear during the week it was 21-20 and I was like ‘it would be nice to be even or even in front’, but that’s not our focus going into the game.

“We just wanted to get another win, really.”

Sloane praised Charlie Cameron and Wayne Milera, who hurt Port with their lightning speed through the middle.

Despite Mitch McGovern going down with a suspected hamstring injury, Adelaide’s list remains relatively healthy and Sloane expected the battle for spots to continue to heat up.

“It (their speed) certainly helps me because I probably lack a bit of leg speed at times,” he said.

“It’s nice to be able to flick the ball out to those boys on the outside and they can start running with it and I’ll just do the dirty work inboard.

“Guys like Andy Otten, Curtly Hampton, Wayne Milera, these guys come in and we just expect them to play their role and that’s what they are doing for us.”

Daily News, ProPublica win Pulitzer Prize

The New York Daily News and ProPublica have won the Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism for coverage of police abuses that forced mostly poor minorities from their homes.

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Meanwhile, the Charleston Gazette-Mail won the prize for investigative reporting on the spread of painkillers in West Virginia.

David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post took the national reporting prize for reporting on the Donald Trump campaign for president, noting that he “created a model for transparent journalism in political campaign coverage while casting doubt on Donald Trump’s assertions of generosity toward charities”.

The Pulitzers are the most prestigious honours in American journalism and have been awarded since 1917.

The Daily News, a New York City tabloid, and ProPublica, a web-based platform specialising in investigative journalism, uncovered police abuse of eviction rules that ousted hundreds of mostly poor minorities from their homes, Pulitzer Prize Administrator Mike Pride said.

The New York Times staff won the international reporting prize for articles on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to project Russia’s power abroad.

The 19-member Pulitzer board is made up of past winners and other distinguished journalists and academics. It chose the winners with the help of 102 jurors.

More than 2500 entries were submitted this year, competing for 21 prizes in categories ranging from public service and breaking news to commentary, cartooning and photography.

Seven awards recognise fiction, drama, history, biographies, poetry, general nonfiction and music.

The Pulitzers began in 1917 after a bequest from newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. His will established Columbia University in New York as administrator of the prizes and also bestowed an endowment on the university to establish its School of Journalism.

Trump’s border wall threatens Mexico’s protected species

They are not “bad hombres,” as Donald Trump might say – or any kind of hombres at all.

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But like the human migrants targeted by the US president, the jaguars, bighorn sheep and deer-like Sonoran pronghorns of northern Mexico have a lot to lose from his planned border wall.

Such species currently roam at will back and forth across the border of Mexico and the United States in reserves specially protected by both countries’ governments.

Conservationists fear Trump’s vow to build a wall the length of the border to keep criminals out of the United States will doom the beasts to extinction.

It would stop them getting where they need to go to feed and mate.

‘Fauna crossing’

“Caution, fauna crossing,” reads a sign among the cactus and wild bushes in the northeastern desert, where deer, wild cats, coyotes and wolves crisscross the frontier.

The habitat spans the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona and the Pinacate and Gran Altar Desert over in the Mexican state of Sonora.

A metal fence along the border in Sonoyta, northern Mexico.AFP

The latter is certified as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

The reserve is divided only by a simple fence with gaps big enough for the animals to pass through.

“It was designed specially so as not to hurt the animals and so they would have no problem crossing,” said Miguel Angel Grageda, head of natural resources at El Pinacate.

Food and water

Rain is scarce in the parched desert, where the heat soars as high as 55 degrees Celsius (131 Fahrenheit).

The animals have to trot long distances to look for water, food and shelter.

They must also be mobile to keep their numbers up when drought or sickness kill off the species in certain areas.

“If you just go and put a giant border wall between their habitat then you can cut movements off for some species which will prevent them from recolonizing their habitat,” said Aaron Flesch, an environmental specialist at the University of Arizona.

“When animals have trouble moving across the landscape to recolonize those places, the population in those places will never be restored.”

Need of a mate

Gerardo Ceballos of the Ecological Institute at Mexico’s National Autonomous University estimates there are only about five jaguars left on the US side. They rely on partners from the Mexican side to mate.

If the animal populations were split in two and each group left to reproduce only with the limited number of mates on its side, the species would degenerate.

“If we divide the population of the species in two, there will start to be crosses between related animals,” said Grageda.

“Later on we could have problems of inbreeding.”

Resistance to wall

It is not clear when the United States will start putting up Trump’s wall or how exactly its course might be plotted through protected zones such as this one.

But conservationists are imagining the worst.

(File Image) Donald Trump’s proposed US-Mexico border wall will threaten wildlife, according to conservationists.AP

“We don’t know exactly what the results are going to be,” said Flesch. “But we know they won’t to be good.”

Ceballos said various Mexican and US non-governmental groups are preparing a challenge to the wall plan.

“Over here it would require a political decision at the level of Congress” to block it, said Grageda.

“We may not be able to convince Donald Trump.”

Human impact

It is not just the animals who would suffer from a wall, experts say, but the whole desert ecosystem.

Desert mammals break up the sun-baked ground with their hoofs so that when it does rain, the water drains underground.

By tearing up the vegetation to eat it, they help spread the seeds so that desert flowers bloom anew.

A wall could have “a big impact” by blocking and shifting watercourses, Ceballos said.

That, and the untold impact on the soil and atmosphere, could affect humans too.

“When you put up a wall, you destroy everything,” he warned.

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CFMEU robocalls Vic seats for timber jobs

One of Victoria’s most powerful unions has unleashed 150,000 robocalls on three marginal Labor seats in a bid to save 250 timber mill jobs.

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The CFMEU is also pushing out targeted ads on social media as it aims to keep the Heyfield timber mill open.

The Gippsland mill’s owners rejected the state government’s reduced wood supply offer in March, deciding to close the mill in 2018 instead of operating with fewer logs.

“Our members are being left hanging and we won’t cop it. It is soul destroying to leave people not knowing what the future will bring,” CFMEU Victorian district secretary Frank Vari said on Tuesday.

“The government needs to know that the union, our members and supporters will keep up the pressure to save these jobs, save the town of Heyfield and save the wider community that relies on these jobs.”

The CFMEU made 150,000 robocalls in the electorates of Monbulk, Mordialloc and Narre Warren South on Monday night.

Premier Daniel Andrews offered to buy the mill and keep it going if the owners didn’t believe they could make it work, but Australian Sustainable Hardwood said 200 jobs would be lost if the mill had to operate with reduced wood supply.

The CFMEU is strongly linked to former Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett, who quit cabinet after a showdown with Mr Andrews over a controversial firefighters pay deal.

Now a backbencher, Ms Garrett has refused to rule out a tilt at the Victorian Labor leadership in the future.

Deputy Labor leader James Merlino holds Monbulk by five per cent, Tim Richardson holds Mordialloc by two per cent, and Judith Graley holds Narre Warren South by five per cent.

Labor holds a two seat majority in the Victorian lower house.

Mobile health clinics in Somaliland race to treat children as famine nears

Amongst the rugged terrain of the Somaliland desert, in the Horn of Africa hundreds of pastoralist families pack into the small village of Wacays Dhukur, west of the capital Hargeisa.

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The Omar family moved to the area five months ago. Drought has forced them to uproot 20 times in the past two years.

They started out with 300 goats, now they have just 50. Just two metres from their tent made of old clothes, carcasses litter the ground.

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Father, Omar Abi Abdi, says his family has never suffered like this before.

“I’ve never seen a drought like this in my life,” he said. “We moved around with the animals but when we came here they all died.”

Mother, Canab Muse Adan, struggles to feed six children. They share a couple of handfuls of dry rice between them all each day.

She says her three-year-old son is currently fighting for his life in hospital and her two-year-old daughter passed away late last year.

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“She had diarrhoea and died within three days,” Ms Adan said.

Luckily, the Red Cross mobile health clinic is in the area because overnight Canab’s youngest son, Abdi Omar Abi, fell sick.

He is screened by doctors for malnutrition.

Red Cross mobile health clinics travel to areas in Somaliland where there are no medical facilities available.Kirsty Johansen/SBS News

Australian Red Cross Response Manager, Jess Lees, says the clinics are saving lives in rural areas across Somaliland, by travelling to places where there’s no medical facilities available.

“Millions of people face the risk of famine. Australian Red Cross is supporting these mobile health units and are aiming to see them double over the next few months,” Ms Lees said.

At the mobile clinics, children’s height and weight are recorded and they are given basic medication if needed.

There are only 16 beds in the stabilisation centre, but five children are allowed to stay on mattresses on the floor.Kirsty Johansen/SBS News

Head Medical Practitioner, Doctor Saleean Ibrarhim, says the clinic’s main priority is to treat the most vulnerable – children and women.

“We do all kinds of different vaccinations like polio, measles and also tetanus,” Dr Ibrarhim said.

If necessary, doctors can refer patients to the closest hospital. But medical facilities across Somaliland are at breaking point.

We visited the biggest acute malnutrition clinic, situated in the capital Hargeisa, where the situation is so desperate.

There are only 16 beds in the stabilisation centre, but five children are allowed to stay on mattresses on the floor.

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Saynab Maxamed Ismaciil, aged 10 months, has been suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea for the past four months. She has lived off only milk since the day she was born.

It’s a race against the clock for doctors. 

She’s monitored closely, weighing in at just a mere 5kg. 

Her mother, Faadumo Ismail Dirie, says she’s worried she will die.

“At the beginning she got sick. She had vomiting and diarrhoea and now she’s anaemic. It depends on God. She might live or die,” Ms Dirie said.

Mothers travelled for days to reach this clinic, leaving behind dozens of other children.

Somaliland has been in drought for three years.

Faadumo Ismail Hussein arrived here with her daughter, Abdirashiid Mohamud Ahmed, just in time.

The eight-month-old’s been suffering from malnutrition for the past two months, with no food available at all in her home village.

She picked up pneumonia in the past week and almost didn’t make it.

“The first day I took her to the hospital she was about to die but now she’s feeling better and recovering,” Ms Hussein said.

Children are dying every week because there’s not enough space to treat everyone.

General Practitioner, Ahadar Omar, says the hospital’s capacity hasn’t increased since it was built in 1953 and only eight to 10 new patients can be admitted each day.

“If the situation continues like this an emergency situation may happen in the near future,” he said.

“Most of them will cope; we start management immediately and most of them improve and go back to their village. But some of them die because their health situation is very critical.”

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There are several doctors and nurses on hand, but there are no qualified paediatricians in the whole of Somaliland.

Somaliland Member of Parliament and a dual Australian citizen, Ibrahim Ahmed Reigal, says they desperately need help.

“Only god knows what will happen but as a human being it’s a worrying situation,” he said.

“I appeal to my fellow Australian people to join the effort and the people of Somaliland from this severe drought.”

The drought that appears to be worsening has lasted for three years and left more than 6.2 million people without enough food, if any at all.

Somalia is at risk of its third famine in 25 years and it could be declared as early as June if decent rain doesn’t fall.

It’s the wet season, but the land remains desolate brown.

SBS reporter Kirsty Johansen in Somaliland.SBS News

We saw it rain in some of the villages we visited but it only lasted for a couple of minutes. Small amounts of rain just making the situation worse, spreading disease even more.

Any drop of water people can find is highly contaminated.

A local businessman helped those suffering by filling a nearby well.

Pastoralist, Faadumo Ali, says she walked for hours to fill her jerry cans.

“We haven’t had water for the last three months,” Ms Ali said. “When I give the animals and the family this water it will run out immediately.”

Kirsty Johansen travelled to Somaliland with the Australian Red Cross as part of their East Africa Food Crisis Appeal.

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Victoria braces for heavy rain, strong winds and flash flooding

The worst is yet to come for Melbourne and most of southern Victoria as authorities brace for damaging winds and flash flooding after a night of rain.

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Gusts of up to 110 km/h are expected in Victoria’s east on Sunday, while winds and heavy rain are expected to hit most of southern Victoria.

A run of warm days over the past week ended abruptly overnight as a deep, low-pressure system reached the state’s southwest on Sunday morning.

The SES say they received 140 calls for help between Saturday night and Sunday morning, but that number is expected to grow.

“We’re gearing up for another day of potentially strong winds,” a spokesman told AAP on Sunday.

The low pressure system is forecast to move across Melbourne and the high country on Sunday afternoon

Rainfall of up to 60mm is likely in Melbourne while totals approaching 80mm may be recorded in the state’s alpine region through Sunday night.

The Bureau of Meteorology say there is a possibility of flash flooding on Sunday night going into Monday in the state’s east.

A severe weather warning is in place for Victoria’s central and southwest, and the flood risk is expected to contract to the state’s east, particularly in East Gippsland.

Geelong, Ballarat, Kyneton, Kilmore and Falls Creek and Bacchus Marsh may also be affected by heavy rainfall and damaging winds.

As always, the SES is warning people to secure loose items and to stay out of floodwaters.

FLOOD WATCH AREAS

* East Gippsland – Mitchell, Tambo, Snowy, Cann and Genoa rivers and Gippsland Lakes

* Greater Melbourne – Werribee, Maribyrnong, Yarra, Dandenong and Bunyip

* West and South Gippsland – Latrobe, Thomson, Macalister, Avon and South Gippsland rivers and Gippsland Lakes

* Barwon – Barwon, Leigh and Moorabool Rivers and Otway Ranges.

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Pauline Hanson announces boycott of ABC after Four Corners, Insiders

In a recent video posted on Facebook, Pauline Hanson has announced she will boycott the ABC following a Four Corners report on One Nation and a revelation on Insiders that the controversial senator planned to visit Iraq and Afghanistan.

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“I’ve been a little bit – you know – down lately, and that’s why you haven’t seen much of me doing much of the media,” she told followers. 

“To tell you the truth, I’ve had a gutful of the media.”

Hanson slammed the ABC’s new Political Correspondent, Andrew Probyn, for revealing the senator was planning to visit Australian troops Iraq and Afghanistan, forcing the trip’s cancellation over security concerns. 

“You know what I was really looking forward to, is spending Anzac Day with them,” she said.

“Good on you Andrew, great one mate.”

Mr Probyn revealed the upcoming trip in an episode of Insiders on Sunday March 26.

“Given Pauline Hanson’s comments about Islam and vaccination, I wonder how she’s going to go when she visits Afghanistan on a defence trip in coming weeks or months,” he said.

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Senator Hanson also criticised an investigative Four Corners report which aired criticisms from former candidates, allegations of intimidating behaviour from One Nation adviser James Ashby, and questions over party finances.

“What a stitch up that was,” Senator Hanson said, saying she would speak about the Four Corners report “in my own time”.

“I’ve got no time for them, I won’t be doing any interviews with the ABC – and they are actually really out to get my scalp, and so are other journalists,” she said.

“So to the ABC: Don’t bother ringing me up for any interviews, it’s not happening.”

It comes on the back of a troubling few weeks for the party, with the Labor Party referring One Nation to the Australian Electoral Commission over allegations it breached political donation laws in relation to a small aircraft used by Mr Ashby and Senator Hanson.

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