Ex-mining boss cleared
The government yesterday dropped all charges against the former boss of a coal mine where 29 workers died in an explosion and instead accepted a financial settlement — a decision that left some of the victims’ relatives angry. The government last year charged former Pike River Coal chief executive Peter Whittall with 12 counts of violating labor laws following the 2010 methane-fueled blast. Each count came with a maximum fine of NZ$250,000 (US$206,000). However, government lawyers said they considered the probability of convicting Whittall low given the available evidence and instead accepted his offer of a payment of NZ$3.41 million to the victims’ families. Many were unhappy with the outcome. Anna Osborne, whose husband Milton died in the explosion, told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that she has lost faith in the justice system.
PM admits smacking kids
Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday said he smacked his children when they were young and warned against bans that could take political correctness “to extremes.” Abbott, who has three grown-up daughters, was commenting after the issue was raised in the first report submitted to parliament by the newly established National Children’s Commissioner. It highlights the UN’s concern “that corporal punishment in the home and in some schools and alternative care settings remains lawful in Australia.” The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child document recommends “that corporal punishment be explicitly prohibited,” but Abbott said “a gentle smack” was fine. “I think that we’ve got to treat our kids well, but I don’t think we ought to say there’s no place ever for smacks,” he said. “All parents know that occasionally the best thing we can give is a smack, but it should never be something that hurts them.”
Piloting in smog required
Aviation authorities will soon require captains of flights into Beijing to master low-visibility landings to combat chronic flight delays that have been worsened by heavy smog. Travel industry monitor FlightStats says the Beijing Capital International Airport has the worst record for flight delays of any major international airport, with only 18 percent of flights departing on time. Thick smog often cancels or delays flights when the city’s visibility goes down to a few hundred meters. An official at the Civil Aviation Administration yesterday said that the new requirement would take effect on Jan. 1, adding that the new skills would be required of all captains on Beijing-bound flights from major Chinese airports.
Transsexual is legal dad
A transsexual man, who was born a woman, has been recognized by the Supreme Court as the legal father of his wife’s child, in a national first. The court overturned earlier decisions that had rejected the man’s bid to be registered as one of the child’s parents, and said the fact that a third person’s sperm was used in his wife’s IVF treatment was not legally material. The decision opens the door for other transsexuals to gain recognition as fathers, despite their having no biological role in the conception and birth of the child. “A person recognized as a man, and allowed to change gender to that of a man under this law should be considered to be a man under other laws,” the ruling on Tuesday said. “I am very happy,” said the man, whose identity has been withheld. “I can finally become the father of my son in legal documents.”