An Australian news roundup

More Muslim Mayhem

Bandits shot a greengrocer at his fruit shop crowded with Easter shoppers - some of them young children - last night. As the wounded 41-year-old was rushed to hospital, terrified witnesses told how the robbers had burst in screaming threats. "Give the money straightaway, I want the money in two seconds or I will shoot you," one shouted at staff. They then opened fire inside the Fresh Fruit Palace Enfield in Sydney's inner west, leaving the owner, known as Joe, with a flesh wound in the leg. A terrified shop worker rang her husband immediately afterwards and described how two hooded gunmen of Middle Eastern appearance rushed in just before 6.30pm (AEST). "She wanted to get out of there but they were firing guns," the husband said. "She's in shock, I'm just so glad she's not hurt." The man said the shop owner was a hardworking man who did not deserve to be attacked. "The guys who did this knew it would have been a busy time with Easter coming up," he said. At least two children were in the shop. One, aged about six, told bystanders, "He had a gun" before he was hurried home along with his little brother. The gunmen fled in a silver BMW - similar to one that was carjacked recently then used for several robberies in the area.


PETA attacking Australia

They want sheep to be eaten alive by flies!

A billboard depicting a bloody, crucified lamb has been refused space above Sydney's roads this Easter, an animal rights group says. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has been running an international campaign against sheep mulesing in Australia, wanted to mount the confronting image for motorists to see over the Easter long weekend. But the group says billboard owners have refused to lease out the space. "PETA had hoped its new billboard opposing Australia's cruel treatment of sheep - which shows a blood-soaked lamb on a crucifix with the tag-line `Have mercy on them, stop mulesing and live exports' - would be up in time for Easter. "But outdoor advertising companies want no part of it," the US-based group said in a statement. Mulesing, widely practised by Australian sheep farmers, is the surgical removal of folds of skin from the backsides of sheep to prevent the painful and sometimes fatal condition of fly strike.

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Australian government running scared from Indonesia

And genuine refugees from Muslim oppression suffer

Protests were planned at refugee centres today as anger over Australia's new asylum-seeker policy grew, with Amnesty International leading the condemnation. The human rights group said Australia could breach its international obligations if it sent all asylum seekers arriving by boat offshore. The Federal Government has moved to toughen its asylum regime following a rift with Indonesia over Australia's decision to grant temporary protection visas to 42 Papuans last month. Under the changes, anyone entering Australia by boat - whether they made it to the mainland or not - would be sent to one of three offshore immigration detention centres for processing. The Government hopes to send even those found to be genuine refugees to a "third country".

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Scientist urges switch to thorium

Supporters of an alternative energy source say it has the potential to revolutionise the nuclear power industry and is a safer alternative to uranium. Thorium oxide, which is three times more abundant than uranium, is also a radioactive material. But senior research scientist Dr Hashemi-Nezhad, from Sydney University, says it is safe to hold in your hand. "This is the future of the energy in the world - energy without green, without greenhouse gas production," he said. Dr Hashemi-Nezhad says thorium has all of the benefits of uranium as a nuclear fuel but none of the drawbacks. It can generate power without emitting greenhouse gases and it can be used to incinerate the world's stockpiles of plutonium. Dr Hashemi-Nezhad says thorium waste would only remain radioactive for 500 years, not the tens of thousands that uranium by-products remain active. "In fact, the green movement must come behind this project because we are moving in a direction to destroy all these existing nuclear wastes, to prevent nuclear weapons production, to [prevent] Chernobyl accident happening again," Dr Hashemi-Nezhad said. Unlike uranium, thorium is not fissile, meaning it must be coaxed into a chain reaction.

Australian tax not so bad

Research showing Australians pay the eighth-lowest tax in the developed world has all but scotched major tax reform in next month's Budget. Treasurer Peter Costello said on Wednesday Australia's tax system was competitive by international standards and hinted at Budget tinkering rather than the fundamental reform demanded by business groups. His comments came as he released a 415-page report comparing Australian tax system with those in other nations. The report, prepared by Board of Taxation chairman Dick Warburton and business lobbyist Peter Hendy, found Australia's total tax take was 31.6 per cent of its gross domestic product - the eighth- lowest among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's 30 members. The average was 36.3 per cent.

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