Leadership rules changed
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was branded “Recycled Rudd” by some in media after he lost power in an internal government leadership wrangle and then snatched it back in a similar showdown three years later. Yesterday, he succeeded in changing the ruling party’s regulations to make his job safer. Labor Party lawmakers agreed at a three-hour meeting with his proposal to tighten rules dictating how a prime minister can be dumped by a government. Previously, disgruntled Labor lawmakers could force a leadership ballot if they could persuade a third of their colleagues to sign a petition. They changed it to require a signing by at least 75 percent of Labor lawmakers, and the decision is no longer for lawmakers alone to make. Unelected members of the party now have half the votes in any ballot to decide a prime minister.
Bombs dropped for safety: US
The US military yesterday said it had jettisoned four unarmed bombs on the Great Barrier Reef during a training exercise only because civilian boats had strayed into the drop zone. The US 7th Fleet had earlier said only that the planned target range was “not clear of hazards” at the time, forcing the two Harrier jets to dump their ordnance within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which will work with the defense department to recover the bombs, said they were considered low risk and about 30km from the nearest reef.
Villagers flee volcano
A disaster official says hundreds of people have fled their villages along the slopes of the country’s most volatile volcano after it started belching smoke and ash. Disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says Mount Merapi on Java rumbled as heavy rain fell around its cloud-covered crater early yesterday. He says the volcano unleashed a column of dark red volcanic material 1,000m high. The ash made the rain thick and muddy in several villages as terrified residents fled to safety.
Hunger weakens blogger
A well-known blogger, jailed for 12 years for anti-state propaganda, is “very weak” after a month-long hunger strike protesting at his treatment in prison, his family said yesterday. Nguyen Van Hai — a founding member of the banned “Free Journalists Club” who is better known by his alias Dieu Cay — has not eaten for 30 days, his ex-wife Duong Thi Tan said. “He is very weak... He spoke softly and couldn’t sit up unaided,” she said, following a visit to the prison by the couple’s son on Saturday. She said Dieu Cay went on hunger strike to protest against his treatment in a prison in Nghe An Province. Dieu Cay was sentenced in September last year, along with two other bloggers who received jail terms of 10 years and four years.
Police kill terror suspects
Police shot dead two terrorist suspects armed with a homemade bomb yesterday and arrested another two, officials said. Counter-terrorism police chief Ansyaad Mbai said the men were part of a violent Islamist group and were shot as the anti-terror police unit Detachment 88 conducted a raid on the street in an East Java town. The police squad ambushed the men as they waited for public transport in Tulungagung district, national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said. One of those killed, identified as Dayah, “took out a weapon and began firing at the squad, which led to a gunfight,” Amar said. Police seized a revolver and a homemade bomb.