Japan: US prepared to take action against North Korea

Japan: The United States of America has “a strong determination” to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis using military action if necessary, one of Japan’s most senior defence figures has said.
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In saying so, former defence minister Satoshi Morimoto has brushed aside widespread expert views that the rogue regime will drift into becoming a full nuclear power because there is no plausible way to stop them. The remarks also reflect a powerful strain of thought in Japan that the situation cannot be allowed to limp along until Kim Jong-un gets what he wants.

The former defence minister told Fairfax Media the next few weeks will be a crucial period of high tension and brinkmanship on the peninsula.

“North Korea strongly insists the US has to accept the North as a nuclear power. The US cannot do anything like that. So Washington has no intention, absolutely no intention, to open the dialogue with North Korea this time,” said Mr Morimoto, who now serves as a special adviser to current Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera and is influential and well-connected within the government of Shinzo Abe.

He believed the US had a “very strong determination … to destroy the Kim [regime]” – though he later clarified this by saying the US had a “strong determination to find out the solution to the present [crisis]”.

“They have no intention to extend the final decision into the future,” he said. “Something may happen. We have very high tension for the next one-and-a-half months.”

Mr Morimoto, who is also president of Takushoku University, predicted North Korea needed less than a year to have functional intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads that could be fitted on them.

His views reflect deep concern in Japan about the profound ramifications of a fully nuclear-armed North Korea, reflected in a series of high-level briefings provided to Fairfax Media in Japan this week. The latest crisis has exacerbated debate about Japan’s strengthening its defence posture, including even going nuclear, and intensified concerns – already present across Asia since Donald Trump’s election – about US commitment to the region.

Mr Morimoto said the Kim regime would “never … abandon their nuclear and missile programs” and therefore “America has two options: possible military action and very strong pressure through the United Nations Security Council to stop all money flow.”

But he added that most policy-makers in Japan were “very negative and very pessimistic” that China would agree to cut off energy supplies to North Korea – seen as a final ace the Security Council could pull if it wants to truly strangle North Korea.

“Members of the Chinese Communist Party are very reluctant to accept America’s requirement for stopping that crude oil supply.”

Asked whether he was predicting war, Mr Morimoto said: “I think Washington has not decided … The final decision-maker is [US Defence Secretary] Mr Mattis … Not the president.”

He said with North Korea showing no inclination to stop its provocations – and with the region on high alert this weekend for another possible missile launch – the regime was “joining some kind of chicken game with the United States and the United States has no intention to open dialogue”.

“What is the result of the collision course?” he asked.

Mr Trump has been in close contact with Mr Abe in the recent period of crisis. He spoke to Mr Abe twice around the time of the latest tests and well before even South Korea’s leader Moon Jae-in.

A senior Japanese defence official told Fairfax Media that Kim Jong-un’s objective was precisely to “break the ties between the United States and Japan and South Korea”.

“If the US recognises North Korea as a nuclear power, then Japan and South Korea can no longer rely on the US for a nuclear deterrent. These two countries need to face the nuclear threat by the North Koreans on their own,” the official said, stressing he was giving a personal opinion but one that was widely shared by other people.

Ken Jimbo, a respected defence scholar with Keio University, said that if North Korea could develop a stockpile of long-range missiles, the US would face the “classic question” of whether it was prepared to sacrifice Tokyo or Seoul for Los Angeles or San Francisco – a debate that would play out in US media and Congress.

“Even now we have logical doubts about how much the United States will commit to our defence,” Professor Jimbo said. “With North Korea having ICBMs, these kinds of [alliance] decoupling concerns may inevitably arise in Tokyo and Seoul. And that will actually trigger the debate whether we should actually obtain our own nuclear capability … or at least stronger defence capability and conventional strike.”

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Military IT technician breached classified networks

An Australian military staffer breached two classified computer networks while he was deployed in the Middle East, prying into email and other private information.
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The senior IT technician misused his access privileges to get into the email accounts of 10 members of his unit, as well as a personal drive.

He also accessed the deployed Defence secret network and the Defence restricted network several times without authority.

He faced a military trial but, due to a legal technicality, was acquitted of 14 charges. He was, however, convicted of nine acts of unauthorised access and two offences of prejudicial conduct, for which he was reprimanded.

The Defence Department said the incident neither breached national security nor endangered Australian troops.

“No information was lost or passed to outside sources and there were no breaches that threatened or damaged Australia’s national security or reputation,” it said in a statement.

At trial, the allegations centred on whether “network roaming” was explicitly forbidden on the restricted networks that the technician had accessed.

The judge advocate ruled that the policy documents that outlined the ban applied only to strategic networks, and not specifically to the deployed networks used in Middle East operations.

Unlike civilian courts, courts martial do not publish the identity of military offenders.

Defence also declined to provide more information about the punishments, citing privacy laws.

“The [Australian Defence Force] cannot divulge any personal information regarding members, including information about disciplinary or administrative actions taken against ADF personnel.”

The problem at the trial with the policy documents forced the military to abort three other prosecutions for similar alleged misconduct by deployed ADF members.

Those three matters were instead referred to senior commanders to consider administrative action.

The Director of Military Prosecutions, Jennifer Woodward, CSC, said in a report that her office had received an increase in the number of referrals involving misuse of IT systems.

She said her office and other stakeholders were carrying out “significant work” in this area, “which may mean that the difficulties in future prosecutions are reduced”.

Brigadier Woodward also said she would “carefully scrutinise” future decisions to prosecute IT-related offences.

“The resource burden associated with gathering sufficient evidence to prove [IT] related offences to the criminal standard is often disproportionate to the likely outcome of any criminal proceedings,” she wrote.

“Administrative processes, in some cases, may be a more efficient means of resolving alleged misconduct.”

Her report also said a lack of technical IT investigative capability and ambiguous guidelines had inhibited prosecutions.

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High Court could surprise us with section 44 ruling

There’s one thing you can expect from the High Court when it interprets the constitution: the unexpected. For example, it has permitted the same-sex plebiscite despite some of Australia’s best legal brains saying that that was unlikely.
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Next month it is to hear the challenge against the eligibility of seven members of parliament on grounds that they breached the foreign-allegiance bar provided for in Section 44.

In expecting to be surprised, I think the High Court might well say that all seven members of parliament under challenge were eligible to stand for election.

This is why.

Section 44 provides that “Any person who is … a subject or a citizen … of a foreign power … shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.”

It is fairly plain. If you are a citizen of another country you have had it, even if you are an Australian citizen as well. But what if, for example, a mischievous Vladimir Putin got the Russian Parliament to grant Russian citizenship to every member of the Australian Parliament?

High Court judges have referred to that sort of hypothetical in several cases and said that Section 44 would not disqualify people who had irrevocable foreign citizenship foisted on them.

That is the first reading down or reinterpretation of black and white words.

In 1988 the court decided Robert Wood’s eligibility. At the time of election he was “a British citizen who had not received Australian citizenship”. The court held him ineligible.

Then came the big case of Phil Cleary in 1992. Cleary had handsomely won the normally safe Labor seat of Wills as an independent when the Keating government was on the nose.

His election was challenged because he was a teacher and therefore holding an office of profit under the Crown, which is also prohibited by Section 44.

Cleary was held to be ineligible. The court ordered a new election, not a recount as the court has done in cases of a senator’s ineligibility.

Interestingly, though, the challenger to Cleary came fourth in the election and needed to knock out the Liberal and Labor candidates as well.

As it happened they were born in Switzerland and Greece. They had taken out Australian citizenship decades ago and were utterly Australian.

What did the court do? Five of the seven judges concentrated on international law. They said that if a country’s citizenship laws bestowed citizenship upon a person and provided for a renunciation of it in a way recognisable in international law then the Australian parliamentary candidate had to renounce or retract citizenship of that country according to that country’s law or fall foul of Section 44.

In short, eligibility for the Australian Parliament would be determined by the acceptability under international law of foreign citizenship law.

Sure, all the judges accepted that a mischievous law foisting citizenship upon Australians unawares would not offend Section 44. But a majority said that if a foreign power’s law gave someone their citizenship in a way acceptable to international law, that person would need to take all reasonable steps to renounce that citizenship, especially if the country provided the means of doing so, or fall foul of Section 44.

The majority held that the Swiss and the Greek had not taken all reasonable steps because Swiss and Greek law provided for a citizenship-renunciation process which they did not do. The majority held that the candidates of Greek and the Swiss origin were therefore ineligible.

The two minority judges, Mary Gaudron and William Deane, however, put a different view. They looked at the purpose of Section 44. They took the sensible view that people who had taken out Australian citizenship decades ago and did not avail themselves of the foreign country’s passports, social security and the like should not fall foul of Section 44 even if they had not gone through the foreign county’s renunciation procedures.

Gaudron was especially incisive. She pointed to the fact that at the time these two candidates took out citizenship the oath used the words: “renouncing all other allegiances”. It no longer does.

But Gaudron and Deane were in a minority. However, they represented what has now matured into an independent Australian jurisprudence.

Deane, in minority, in a related area said Australia could not deport people convicted of crimes who had lived in Australia for a long time since childhood even if they had not taken out citizenship. At that time the government was attempting to deport someone who had come with his parents from eastern Europe as a toddler and could only speak Aussie English after he was convicted of some medium range offence.

My guess is that the court will shun all this external stuff about whether international law would recognise that a foreign country had conferred upon someone who is basically Australian their citizenship and whether that conferring was of an moment in Australian law.

I think that they will come around to the Deane-Gaudron view that we decide who are Australians according to Australian laws, not foreign laws and international laws.

It seems absurd that someone who has sworn at a citizenship ceremony that their allegiance is to Australia cannot stand for parliament without having to worry about the law of a foreign country and international law to see whether they have to take active steps to get rid of a foreign citizenship. The Australian swearing in should be enough.

It seems absurd that someone born in Australia (or born of Australian parents while they were temporarily overseas) cannot stand for parliament without having to worry about the law of a foreign country and international law to see whether they have to take active steps to get rid of a foreign citizenship. The Australian birth should be enough.

But how could the High Court rule in such a way, against the precedent of an earlier case?

Well, they can do it quite easily because one thing has not been stressed about the Cleary case. Once the court had held that Cleary was ineligible and there should be a new election, all else was irrelevant. It was obiter dicta, as the lawyers say.

Everything the judges said about the challenge to the other two candidates on the ground of their dual citizenship was legally irrelevant. Interesting, but non-binding.

In the case of Heather Hill in 1999 the court concentrated on whether Britain was somehow not a “foreign power”. The court held Britain was a foreign power. Hill was born in Britain, but critically had used her British passport after taking out Australian citizenship, unlike the Swiss-born and Greek-born in Cleary’s case. So this case would not prevent a rethink of Cleary’s case even though Hill was held to be ineligible.

I expect the unexpected.

The High Court will err on the side of not applying foreign and international law to whether someone can stand for the Australian Parliament. Birth or citizenship ceremony should be enough unless you have actively used your foreign citizenship to get a passport or social security, for example.

Whatever their politics, you cannot deny the essential Australianness of the Gang of Seven. And I think the High Court will see that.

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HPG calls for architects for $600m-plus One Sydney Park

HPG Australia’s $600 million-plus One Sydney Park development in Sydney’s inner west Alexandria has moved a step closer to the starting line with a call to architect and landscape designers to compete in a design competition.
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With its Stage 1 Masterplan now DA approved, One Sydney Park is set within Sydney Park and comprises a 44-hectare park and wetlands.

The property at 205-225 Euston Road, which houses a 7000-square-metre empty warehouse, was purchased from Goodman Group in 2015.

Under the scheme, HPG will develop 1300 sq m of mixed-use retail and it will comprise about 400 apartments across eight six-storey buildings as well as 8800 sq m of public space. There will also be $1.5 million allocated to public art.

Architecture teams confirmed as taking part are Architectus in collaboration with Turf Design Studio for landscape design; Make Architects from London in collaboration with ASPECT Studios for landscape design; Woods Bagot in collaboration with McGregor Coxall for landscape design and MHNDUnion + Silvester Fuller in collaboration with Sue Barnsley Design for landscape design.

HPG’s managing director Dr Adrian Liu said a winner will be announced early next month and it is expected the first-stage sales will be launched soon with construction set to start in early 2018. Rouse Hill

IPartners’ first investment opportunity,a 48-lot residential development on two hectares in Sydney’s Rouse Hill, has closed within two weeks with a $3.3 million equity raising in a special purpose trust to acquire a 49 per cent equity stake in the development.

The pre-tax, projected rate of return, based on the project’s feasibility study by the experienced developer, and 51 per cent project stakeholder, Clearstate, is expected to be 45 per cent over the next two years.

IPartner’s managing directors??? Rob Nankivell and Travis Miller expect their investment platform, featuring 13 other shareholders including David Baxby and Craig Hutchison, will raise up to $75 million in the short term from sophisticated and wholesale investors seeking strong rates of return through investing in property developments and other asset classes.

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Rocket fuel: Sydney solids the country’s golden manure

Stuart Kelly (right) and agronomist with Australian Native Landscapes Roger Crisp (left) check the soil in Stuarts paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty Agronomist with Australian Native Landscapes Roger Crisp checks the soil in the Kelly’s paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty
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Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids are being spread on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids are being spread on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids are being spread on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Stuart Kelly in his paddock where biosolids are being spread on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

A frontend loader moves biosolids towards a spreader in a paddock where its being spread on the property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Stuart Kelly (right) and agronomist with Australian Native Landscapes Roger Crisp (left) check the soil in Stuarts paddock where biosolids have been used on the family property Ferndale, in Caloola, NSW. 6th September, 2017. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Sheep farmer Stuart Kelly is grateful to the people of Sydney for their “continual output of fertiliser”.

He calls it “rocket fuel”. Others may be cruder.

Braving freezing winds to survey a paddock filled with lambs grazing on young green oats, Mr Kelly said it could now support four times as many sheep than before it was fertilised a few months ago with biosolids. Biosolids are treated and sanitised human waste with 20 per cent of the water removed.

“Without doubt, these sheep are 20 per cent larger, better grown, mature quicker and have more wool than if they hadn’t had access to this paddock,” said Mr Kelly. His family, including father Cliff and brother Andrew, run 10,000 sheep on the property Ferndale at Ferndale, about 30 minutes drive from Bathurst.

The roots of the oats were also deeper, the grain bigger and the quality better, he said.

Biosolids are rich in phosphorous and nitrogen. They add carbon to the soil and break down more slowly than synthetic fertilisers, conditioning the soil and making it more drought resistant.

More than 20 years ago, most sludge – what remains after sand, grit and water is removed from the waste flushed down Sydney’s toilets and sinks – was shipped to sea.

Now nearly every scrap is being turned into 180,000 tonnes of organic fertiliser a year by Sydney Water. These biosolids are being reused as compost and to rehabilitate mines, but about 70 per cent is being used as organic fertiliser on farms in NSW’s west.

You would think Sydneysiders would be full of it, but demand for the biosolids??? exceeds supply, said agronomist Roger Crisp from Australian Native Landscapes, one of three contractors selling biosolids??? produced by Sydney Water.

The big issue with biosolids was the volume available: “If we go around saying how great it is people will be saying why isn’t everyone using it? There’s not enough.”

Sydney Water’s innovative program was great, said NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities Don Harwin after visiting the Cronulla waste water treatment plant on Thursday as a truck left with another load.

“There’s nothing better than the idea that the waste of the cities is, in fact, generating prosperity and income for the bush,” he said.

Crop yields have improved by 20 to 30 per cent, he said, while Sydney Water was also saving money by generating 21 per cent of its own power [from the clean gas generated during its production],” he said.

The Kellys first used biosolids in 2012 on their worst field. They were looking for a healthier and more cost-effective way to fertilise than synthetic fertilisers.

“It was expensive upfront, but when you get a payout from it five years later, it was cheap in the long run,” said Stuart Kelly.

His brother Andrew said some friends are “quite surprised we are spreading biosolids, human waste”.

“It has been through a biological process,” he said. “The nutrients in the ground are also breaking it down, and then the sheep are eating [pasture fertilised with] it, and breaking it down it even further into protein and wool. It is that far removed, I am quite satisfied eating meat that is grazed on this. We are doing the environment a favour,” he said.

Before farmers can apply biosolids, they need an environmental assessment. Councils and neighbours are notified. The soil has to be tested, governing where, when and how they will use it.

It can’t be applied near a hill or near water. Farmers may not graze stock on paddocks treated with biosolids for at least 30 days although usually this doesn’t occur until later when the crop is ready, and 90 days, for lactating animals. They can’t use it for ground-growing crops such as potatoes, spinach or lettuce.

To remove toxins and bacteria, Sydney Water screens and settles the sludge, which is then baked in digesters at high heat for two periods of 20 days or more.

Over the years it has become better at removing water, making the product more concentrated and cheaper to transport. At the Cronulla plant every litre of waste coming in contains about 180 milligrams of solids, and after biosolids are removed less than one milligram of solids goes to waste.

Like most children’s fascination with scatology, everyone in the industry puns and jokes although it is tough to find a new angle.

Humour was a distraction from the smell emanating from the newly arrived black fertiliser – equivalent to about .05 per cent of Sydney’s output – that had just arrived at Ferndale last week.

Someone said it looks like the truck spreading the solids has left skidmarks on the otherwise golden paddock.

Later that day, a plough worked the biosolids into the soil, a process Mr Kelly describes as pushing s— uphill.

Environmental engineer Jacqueline Thomas from the University of Sydney said Australian biosolids guidelines – such as the level of heavy metals, its use and its application – were stricter and more detailed than overseas. As well, the Australian population was very healthy so the risks were reduced. She said Australia’s use of biosolids was regarded as a model for other countries.

NSW Health says there’s no evidence of an outbreak of illness caused by biosolids.

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