Royals to visit Australia with baby George

Australians should get a chance to see the future king of Britain next year with Prince William and his wife Kate planning to visit Down Under with baby George.

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Speaking at the Anglesey Show on Wednesday, the Duke of Cambridge announced he wouldn’t be taking on another tour of duty in Wales when his stint as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot ends in September.

Instead the new family is expected to move permanently to Kensington Palace in London, with William taking on more royal duties.

Those duties will include, it now seems, an official visit to Australia in 2014.

Speaking to Max and Maxine Davies from Victor Harbor near Adelaide on Wednesday the Duke of Cambridge said: “George is doing really well, thank you.”

“We are all very hopeful of coming to Australia next year,” William added, according to media reports in the UK.

Mr and Mrs Davies, aged 77 and 75 respectively, later said they were thrilled at the prospect of a royal visit.

“We are on holiday here and can’t believe we got to talk to him,” Mrs Davies said at the show, according to British tabloid The Daily Mail.

“How wonderful that the family will come to Australia to visit.”

Prince William was just nine months old when he himself was first taken on a trip Down Under by Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

The new prince was born just over three weeks ago and the miniature monarch-to-be was named George Alexander Louis two days later.

Prince William joked about his young son at the Anglesey Show on Wednesday.

“He’s pretty loud but of course very good looking,” he said.

“I have to say that I thought search and rescue duties over Snowdonia were physically and mentally demanding but looking after a three-week-old baby is up there.”

India says Roche patent "lapsed"

India has denied revoking additional patents related to Roche Holding’s breast cancer drug Herceptin, saying the Swiss giant failed to follow legal procedures so the applications lapsed.

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India granted Herceptin a patent in April 2007 but on Monday said the company failed to protect its intellectual property rights for three other patents related to the best-selling drug.

The Kolkata Patent Office said Roche, which still holds an Indian patent on its main Herceptin invention, failed to turn up for hearings for the additional patents and filed incorrect paperwork.

“Before the patent controllers issued their decisions, the applicants (Roche) were given due opportunity of being heard but the applicants have chosen not to attend,” the office said in a statement.

The Kolkata Patent Office objected to Roche’s patent problems, reported at the weekend, being portrayed by foreign media as the latest in a string of intellectual property setbacks for multinational pharmaceutical firms in India’s $US13 billion ($A14.61 billion) drug market.

The patent office said in the case of Roche, it was following “due course of the principle of natural justice, gave the applicant the opportunity of being heard and then only finally disposed of the matter”.

The Herceptin additional patents had “not been revoked” but the request for them was treated as “withdrawn” due to failure to follow prescribed steps, the patent office said.

The government does not normally comment at such length on patent issues but it has been under fire from the international drug industry and the United States over its series of rejections of patents accepted in other nations.

The country has been smarting from accusations it fails to uphold intellectual property rights — charges it strongly denies.

India’s patent laws are, however, tougher than those in many other countries as part of its attempt to make medicines more affordable for its vast poor population.

It insists drugs must stand the “test of innovation” to be granted patents and refuses to allow so-called “evergreening” — the awarding of a patent for a small improvement to an existing medicine to extend the patent’s shelf life.

Once drugs go off patent, they can be sold much more cheaply.

India, known as the “pharmacy to the world”, has a huge generics industry that turns out cheaper copycat versions of life-saving branded drugs for poor patients in developing nations.

Roche spokesman Daniel Grotzky told AFP that the company could “confirm that the Assistant Controller of Patents at the Kolkata Patent Office has refused” Herceptin the additional patents.

“We are now considering the further course of action,” he said in an email, adding he could not immediately comment on the Indian account of events.

Roche’s drug, Herceptin, has become one of its most successful medicines, blocking the action of a protein that spurs tumour growth.

“The applicant may explore further legal possibilities, as they so desire,” the Kolkata Patent Office said in its statement late Monday, without elaborating.

The Roche controversy comes after the Intellectual Property Appellate Board in India last week revoked a local patent granted to Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline for breast cancer drug Tykerb, calling it an incremental improvement on an earlier drug.

The Roche patents were rejected for procedural problems rather than for intellectual property reasons.

Western drug-makers are seeking to win a larger part of India’s rapidly expanding drugs market to compensate for slowing sales in advanced markets.

India earlier did not grant drug patents but changed the law in 2005 to allow them as part of a World Trade Organisation agreement.

Indonesian Muslims slam beauty contest

Indonesia’s top Islamic authority has lashed out at the country’s decision to host the Miss World beauty pageant next month, saying that women exposing their bodies goes against Muslim teaching.

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The pageant is already facing opposition in Muslim-majority Indonesia, with radicals vowing to stage protests against the contest even after organisers agreed to drop the bikini round in a bid to avoid causing offence.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) added its voice to the protests on Friday, saying a top-level meeting of clerics earlier this month decided it did not want the pageant in the country.

“Exposing women’s bodies in public is ‘haram’, forbidden by Islamic teaching,” senior MUI official Muhyiddin Junaidi told reporters in the capital Jakarta.

“Even though the bikini event is being axed, the contestants will still wear tight dresses and expose parts of their body.”

The group also urged the country’s Muslims, more than 90 per cent of the 240 million population, not to watch the pageant on television.

“The contest tries to trick people by saying that it’s not only a physical beauty contest but also to show inner beauty,” said deputy MUI head, Amirsyah Tambunan.

Junaidi said that the MUI had now made its position clear, and it was up to authorities whether they decided to cancel the pageant.

While most Indonesians practise a moderate form of Islam, a vocal hardline fringe has succeeded in getting events cancelled in the past.

Last year, pop sensation Lady Gaga axed a concert after hardliners threatened to burn down the venue and criticised her for wearing only “a bra and panties”.

More than 130 women will compete in Miss World, with some rounds on the resort island of Bali and the final in Bogor outside Jakarta. Bogor is in West Java province, parts of which are considered a stronghold for radicals.

Organisers revealed in June that the contestants would not wear bikinis during the beach fashion section, to be held in Bali, and would instead wear more conservative attire such as traditional sarongs.

Minister to investigate detention centre claims

A whistleblower has told SBS’ Dateline program that Manus Island is a place unfit to be a dog kennel, where detainees aren’t protected from sexual assaults and abuses go unreported.

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Meanwhile, there have been revelations authorities were warned tensions were likely to erupt on Nauru ahead of last week’s riots.

 

Thea Cowie reports.

 

 

Asylum-seekers protesting at the conditions on Nauru before last Friday’s riot left the detention centre in ruins with the Australian government facing a damage bill of at least $60 million.

 

It’s a situation insiders say may soon be replicated on Manus Island.

 

Immigration Minister Tony Burke has told ABC radio he’ll be wasting no time in investigating allegations about the detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

 

“The allegations are horrific. There’s no other way of describing. I wish I had been able to get the specifics off them earlier than last night because I would have started acting on them earlier than last night.”

 

Mr Burke’s decision to travel to the centres and investigate the allegations comes after former G4S guard Rod St George told Dateline that asylum seekers were being sexually abused and tortured in the Manus centre.

 

He told Dateline some asylum-seekers were raped, while others were coerced into sewing their lips together, or had solvents poured into their ears.

 

He says these allegations were raised in team management meetings attended by Immigration Department officials, but they made no efforts to separate the victims from their alleged attackers.

 

Mr St George also claims acts of self-harm and attempted suicides are occurring almost daily among asylum seekers who are waiting months for their asylum applications to be processed.

 

“Very common. Almost daily. I had just previous to going to Manus left a detention centre where there were approximately 600, so twice as many than were at Manus and we didn’t have the amount of incidences or self harms in a week that we would see at Manus in a day.”

 

Mr St George worked for decades in prisons around the country before working as an occupational health and safety compliance manager on Manus Island.

 

He says what he saw there made him resign after just one month.

 

Other whistleblowers have also spoken out about what they describe as the government’s failure to address concerns about Nauru’s detention centre.

 

Mark Isaacs is one of a team of Salvation Army officers who were providing humanitarian support on Nauru.

 

He told the ABC workers were warning the Immigration Department for months that conditions were so bad a riot was likely to break out at any time.

 

“As shocked as we are we feel that it was an incident that was inevitable considering the condition that the men are kept in and the past events that have occurred in Nauru. In the past ten months there have been a number of incidences. Two riots or two uprisings that I was present for. I’ve witnessed a man suffer a psychotic episode in the camp and not be treated for three days. This deterioration of mental health plays a large part in the incidents that have occurred. There’s been a building tension in the camp, a building frustration ever since we first arrived.”

 

The Salvation Army has since released a statement on behalf of 31 current and former staff highly critical of the conditions they’ve witnessed while assisting asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island.

 

Australian Federal Police Sergeant Brendan Thomson is a former leader of the Operational Response Group on Christmas Island.

 

He told the ABC that riots on Manus Island are likely.

 

“I think Australia’s kind of handed them a grenade without the pin and what’s happened over the weekend is indicative of potentially what we may see in Manus and what we saw on Christmas Island.”

 

The Manus Island whistleblower Rod St George also claims asylum seekers are stockpiling weapons, and he warns people could be killed in a breakout.

 

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister says he can’t guarantee that won’t happen.

 

“But what we have to do is try and manage it so that we reduce the chances of this kind of activity happening like the violence in Nauru. But that was confined to the centre itself it’s not spreading to the rest of the community. So our aim is to try and build a permanent facility that is going to reduce this kind of opportunistic people who are trying to seek attention.”

 

Mr O’Neill says his immigration department is working very closely with Australia’s and he gets regular briefings on the Manus centre.

 

But he says he’s not particularly concerned about what he’s hearing.

 

“Those issues that you are talking about including the whistleblower stated over the last day or so is an ongoing issue you’ve people from different areas living together in one area so they are problems about how they live, how they manage their day to day activity.”

 

But Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the allegations are alarming and the government should have seen them coming.

 

“They have to be investigated and if people have done the wrong thing, well they ought to be punished. I should point out that (Opposition immigration spokesman) Scott Morrison has been warning the government for months that there were serious risks of bullying and abuse and violence in detention centres both here and overseas. I’m disappointed that the government has made light of Scott Morrison’s warnings.”

 

Immigration Minister Tony Burke says it was only after the SBS allegations went to air that he learned Mr St George’s identity.

 

He’s says he spoke to the whistleblower immediately and is already looking to implement some of his ideas for improving conditions.

 

“There were some very specific suggestions that Rod St George put to me last night which I’ll be looking at directly. Things as simple as the fact that at the facility it was impossible to separate anyone so if you had one group that was actively demonising and causing all sorts of damage to more vulnerable people there then you didn’t have a way of physically making sure that the more vulnerable people were being kept separate.”

 

Mr Burke says despite the concerns about conditions in Australia’s overseas detention centres he is not about to abandon plans to expand the Manus Island facility.

 

The Minister says enlarging the facility offers a great opportunity for issues of design, staff training and culture to be looked at afresh.

 

The Rudd government says it will enlarge the centre to cater for 3,000 asylum-seekers, up from the current capacity of 600, as part of its new policy designed to discourage boat arrivals.

 

Is support growing for same sex marriage?

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says he’s changed his mind on same sex marriage, and now believes the federal parliament should legalise it.

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Mr Rudd, who voted against the marriage equality bill last year, says Australia should be mature enough for the secular state to have its definition of marriage and religious institutions to have their own definitions.

 

He says the Coalition must allow a conscience vote on gay marriage when it comes before the parliament against on June 6, or allow the issue to be put at a referendum.

 

Amanda Cavill has the details.

 

Last September Mr Rudd was one of 98 federal MPs to vote against a marriage equality bill.

 

He says his change in position has come about as a result of a lot of reflection over a long period of time.

 

But he says any legal recognition for gay marriage should make religious institutions exempt from having to change their own practices.

 

Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt has another marriage equality bill before the House of Representatives and a vote on it is expected on June 6.

 

Adam Bandt says if Oppostion leader Tony Abbott was to allow a conscience vote, he’s certain same sex marriage would pass into law.

 

“This is the Liberal Party that says they don’t believe a government should have a role in regulating people’s private lives including what happens in the bedroom. We’ve seen Liberal MPs cross the floor this parliament on issues from refugees and single parents and it’s time for them to do the same on equal marriage. If Tony Abbott allows a conscience vote then I am confident that before the election it will be legal in Australia for people to marry the person they love.”

 

Mr Rudd says the coalition should allow a conscience vote on the matter in parliament, as the Labor Party does and if they continue to refuse a referendum on the issue should be considered.

 

“I don’t think that’s the proper way that this matter, which affects people deeply and personally and is complex ethically, let’s just grant that point. It’s not one where a party discipline should be imposed imposed. Every Member of Parliament should exercise their own conscience and be free to vote accordingly.”

 

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says she won’t be changing her mind about same sex marriage and voting for Mr Bandt’s bill.

 

But she says every member of the federal parliamentary Labor Party can vote with their consciences.

 

She’s challenged Mr Abbott to follow in the footsteps of conservative leaders such as John Key in New Zealand and British Prime Minister David Cameron and allow his MPs to have a conscience vote on the issue.

 

“When you look around the world and at those nations that have changed their laws and embraced same sex marriage, a hallmark of those nations has been that conservative leaders have given their members a conscience vote. So the step forward we need to see here is Mr Abbott does what I have already done for the Labor Party and that Mr Abbott gives his members a conscience vote.”

 

Opposition leader Tony Abbott says he respects Mr Rudd and the former Labor leader is entitled to change his mind.

 

However, Mr Abbott says he’s not prepared to consider giving a conscience vote to his party room until after the next election – notwithstanding the new vote on the issue in early June.

 

“The point I have made is: we took a particular policy into the last election. The policy we took into the last election is that we support the existing Marriage Act with the existing definition of marriage and my party room was strongly of the view that we were not going to say one thing before an election and do the opposite after an election.”

 

Some members of the opposition claim Mr Rudd has only announced a change in mind on the issue in a bid to gain a political advantage over his Liberal National Party rival for his Brisbane seat of Griffith, former Australian Medical Association president Bill Glasson.

 

But Mr Rudd insists he’s announced his change of heart because of the upcoming vote in parliament – not to score political points.

 

“If you can’t be grown up enough in the Australian national political debate and reach an amended or changed position then frankly you shouldn’t be in the national political debate. If you expect every-one in national political life to have views frozen as of the moment they are elected to the House of Representatives to the day they are either booted out, retire or resign then frankly I think that’s an unrealistic and unhealthy expectation.”

 

Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr says the parliamentary numbers may be shifting in support of legalising same-sex marriage.

 

But he says he’s not certain if that can be reflected in next month’s vote unless all parliamentarians can have an open say.

 

Last year’s vote on legalising same-sex was lost 98-42.