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Jakarta still eyeing April execution date

Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran could be executed this month if Indonesian authorities can find a date they consider suitable.

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Indonesia’s Attorney-General HM Prasetyo has said the Asia-Africa Conference, to be held in Jakarta and Bandung from April 18-24, is a consideration in the timing of the executions, which have been in the planning for months.

Mr Prasetyo on Tuesday said it wouldn’t be polite to send drug offenders from various countries – including the Philippines, Nigeria and Ghana – to the firing squad during the international event, “even if it is legal”.

On Wednesday, his spokesman Tony Spontana told AAP authorities were still looking for a date in April “if there are no obstacles”.

Jakarta is waiting for all prisoners in line for execution to exhaust their legal avenues.

Two of the prisoners have applied for Supreme Court judicial reviews, a process Mr Prasetyo has ordered be expedited.

It’s understood their applications are not yet before the judges, who took only five days to process their last application from a death row prisoner, Filipina Mary Jane Veloso.

Mr Spontana told Indonesian news website detik广西桑拿, : “We are still looking for a ‘good day’ in the month of April for carrying out the executions”.

“We’re considering waiting for the Asia Africa Conference, it wouldn’t be ethical if it was at the same time as the Asia Africa Conference.”

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran will this week lodge a fresh legal challenge with the constitutional court, but Mr Prasetyo has said their administrative court action – which failed on Monday – was their last chance.

“We will no longer wait,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

The Australians, who were arrested in 2005 over the Bali Nine heroin smuggling bid, are being held on Nusakambangan island, where Indonesia plans to execute them and eight others as part of its tough stance against drug offenders.

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Charles and Camilla mark 10-year milestone

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are set to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

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Charles and Camilla married in a civil ceremony at the Windsor Guildhall on April 9, 2005, after a relationship that spanned nearly 35 years.

The Prince and the Duchess are spending their Tin wedding anniversary on Thursday privately at Birkhall – a retreat on the Balmoral estate in Scotland where they honeymooned and spent their first wedding anniversary.

Camilla Parker Bowles became a signed-up member of royal family as she said her vows, emerging with a wedding band of Welsh gold on her finger, a future king and husband on her arm and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall as her title.

Ten years on from when the Prince married his former mistress, Camilla’s role within the Royal Family has changed significantly.

In the 90s, she was dubbed a marriage wrecker and the “other woman” – held responsible for the breakdown of Charles’s relationship to Diana, Princess of Wales.

Now the Duchess regally appears at the Prince’s side at the State Opening of Parliament and takes her place on the Buckingham Palace balcony for royal celebrations.

When Camilla married Charles, aides insisted she did not want to be known as Queen when the Prince acceded to the throne, but intended to be known as Princess Consort instead.

But according to some legal experts, unless there is change in the law, Camilla will technically become Queen when Charles is King – no matter what she decides to call herself.

At the time of her engagement to the Prince in 2005, a poll showed that only seven per cent of people believed Camilla should one day be Queen.

A new YouGov poll has found that 10 years later, 49 per cent of the British public now back her becoming queen consort when Charles becomes king.

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Feral cats pose growing threat in Tasmania

Researchers in Tasmania are striving to find a way to save the state’s small native animals from a growing feral cat population.

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The introduced feline has already contributed to the loss of some species on mainland Australia, including a class of the eastern bettong, but it’s not too late for the island state, says Matt Appleby, an ecologist with Bush Heritage.

“Feral cats and foxes have been in high numbers on the mainland for some years and the chance of reversing their impact has passed,” Dr Appleby told AAP on Wednesday.

“But in Tasmania there is still hope that we can prevent it reaching that level.”

Along with a team of PhD students from the University of Tasmania, Dr Appleby and colleagues from Greening Australia are monitoring native animals across the state’s midlands to try to gauge the threats to their environment.

“For a lot of Tasmanian native species … the population trajectory is not good and in some cases we think they are on the way out,” he said.

“Cat numbers have risen quite dramatically and that will only have a negative effect.

“It could only be a matter of a number of years and these (species) could be on our threatened species (list).”

Feral cats feast on a range of animals up to 5kg, which means bettongs, bandicoots and quolls are among their targets.

With Tasmanian devil numbers declining due to a contagious facial tumour, the cat population has blossomed.

“Devils have played a really critical role in suppressing the cat numbers in the past and it will be a long time before we get their population in the wild back up to good numbers,” Dr Appleby said.

The three-year study will assess the impact of agriculture on native species, with Dr Appleby suggesting that areas of open and fragmented vegetation can make it easier for feral cats to prey on animals.

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Australian Aid groups ‘forced to break promises to world’s poor’

Australian aid groups say the country’s international reputation is being trashed as they inform donor-countries that they are closing programmes due to budget cuts.

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In December, the federal government announced a cut of $1 billion to the aid budget, which represents 20 per cent of aid spending. Aid projects funded by government but delivered by non-government providers such as World Vision and Plan face closure or downgrading.

Last month Foreign Minister Julie Bishop fought off further attempts by senior government figures to cut the aid budget.

World Vision Australia CEO Tim Costello told SBS that the cuts undermined the government’s aid goals and had a huge impact on people in need.

“We have had to cut $5 million in programmes and will close in Senegal around child-protection programmes. In Lebanon were are making ‘Sophie’s Choice’ decisions between cutting health or education or child protection. It is simply devastating to ring national directors and tell them this,” Reverend Costello said.

“The really sad thing is we are breaking promises to the world’s poorest because really promises have been broken here to us. A billion dollars cut from the aid programme means we are all impacted.”

World Vision Australia has informed donors and today made public cuts confirmed to projects in Kenya, Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, India and Laos. Decision on funding of domestic violence, education and health programmes in East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Island will be confirmed over the next week.

Plan International told SBS it would be cutting back the “Action for Children” project in Ethiopia that was due to reach more than 4000 children this year.

Plan is also reducing an “Empowering Families” programme in Cambodia. In a statement, Plan said: “We had been hoping to extend this project, but can now only maintain where we are. That means we will not reach the anticipated 8,500 families – around 45,000 people – we had been planning to reach. We will continue to work with families we have already reached in the coming financial year, after which the project is essentially finished for us.”

Plan is also cutting its Cambodian vocation training programme.

Reverend Costello says it was a sad day for Australian aid.

“This is harsh. It is not who we are. It really begs the question of what sort of nation we are now when we can do this,” he said.

“In our near neighbourhood, PNG, East Timor, Vanuatu we will be making cuts to programmes that get girls educated, gender programmes that give them priority, having to choose between those programme and health programmes that are life-saving. It is an awful, awful choice.”

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Navy launches inquiry into suicides

The navy has launched a top-level inquiry into a cluster of suicides by past and serving sailors from Perth naval base HMAS Stirling, some linked to the drug ice.

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Assistant defence minister Stuart Robert said he was extremely concerned and called navy chief Vice Admiral Tim Barrett and asked him to launch the investigation.

It will be conducted by a navy rear admiral and the navy’s senior warrant officer, who will examine the issues of suicide and allegations of rampant drug use at Stirling.

They’ll report back to Vice Admiral Barrett and the government.

“That’s a fairly significant review,” Mr Robert told ABC television.

He said Defence knew exactly how many serving members had taken their own lives – 106 in the past 15 years – but had little knowledge of those who had committed suicide after leaving the forces.

Mr Robert said Defence’s policy of mandatory drug testing meant 25 per cent of all sailors could expect to be tested without notice, which picks up around 11 sailors a year.

“We have certainly noticed that the drug of choice has slowly changed to ice,” he said.

Mr Robert said all evidence indicated the drug testing was rigorous and could not be gamed.

ABC reported on Tuesday that five serving and former sailors from HMAS Stirling had taken their own lives in the period 2011-12 while another died of a drug overdose.

All were associated with a culture of hard drinking and consumption of the drug ice.

ABC reported on Wednesday there had been at least nine suicides of Stirling sailors over the past four years.

The biggest dealer at Stirling was said to be a chief petty officer who purchased drugs cheaply while deployed in Asia.

One sailor named only as Brendan told the ABC drug use at Stirling was rampant and regarded as perfectly normal – “expected, almost”.

He said drugs such as ecstasy and amphetamines were popular because they didn’t remain in the body long enough to be detected in random drug tests.

“It’s not thought of from within as a rife or rampant culture – it’s just normal,” he said.

Another former sailor Paul Papalia, now a state Labor MP, said Western Australia had twice the national rate of methamphetamine use.

“HMAS Stirling is right in the middle of that,” he said.

“The figures of use of methamphetamine and subsequent suicides at HMAS Stirling are staggering and very disturbing.”

Mr Papalia said there needed to be an inquiry.

Despite the revelations, prime minister Tony Abbott said family members can trust Defence.

“I think everyone who has a family member in the military can be confident that their people are being as well looked after as possible,” Mr Abbott said on Wednesday.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.