Nine arrested over gang-bashing of 17-year-old asylum seeker in London

Witnesses say up to 20 people watched as a 17-year-old asylum seeker was kicked and punched in a mob assault in south London on Friday night.

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I don’t generally approve of graffiti but saw this in Shrublands today… pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/DkRQlivtjq

— Gavin Barwell MP (@GavinBarwellMP) April 2, 2017

“He sustained serious head and facial injuries as a result of this attack, which included repeated blows to the head by a large group of attackers.”

The teenager remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition which is not believed to be life-threatening, police said.

Officers said they had made nine arrests with eight remaining in custody and have also released pictures of three more people they wish to identify.

“Whilst arrests have been made, we now know that a large number of people, approximately 20, were involved in the attack on the victim,” Castle said.

In a tweet after the attack local MP Gavin Barwell described those responsible as “scum” while London Mayor Sadiq Khan vowed the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

“London is an amazingly diverse city. We don’t just accept our differences, but we embrace and celebrate them,” Khan said in a statement.

“Our communities will not be divided by those who seek to sow hate. And we will always take a zero tolerance approach to hate crimes of any type.”

Britain has seen a surge in xenophobia expressed in threats, taunts and attacks after British voters chose to leave the European Union.

Hate crime has no place in London, Britain or anywhere else. The perpetrators of Friday’s attack in Croydon will be brought to justice. pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/qxNa0KiCSQ

— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) April 2, 2017

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EU helping Spain act like bully: Gibraltar

Gibraltar’s leader has scolded EU Council President Donald Tusk for giving Spain a right of veto over the future relationship between the British enclave and the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc.

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The future of Gibraltar, a rocky British outpost on Spain’s southern tip, has become the first major dispute of the exit negotiations since Prime Minister Theresa May filed the formal divorce papers on March 29.

According to the EU’s draft joint position on the exit talks, “after the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom”.

“Mr Tusk, who has been given to using the analogies of the divorce and divorce petition, is behaving like a cuckolded husband who is taking it out on the children ,” Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told Reuters on Monday.

Picardo said Spain was trying to bully Gibraltar and the EU was allowing the bullying to happen. He said the British Overseas Territory would not allow itself to become a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations.

“We are not going to be a chip and we are not going to be a victim of Brexit as we are not the culprits of Brexit: we voted to stay in the European Union so taking it out on us is to allow Spain to behave in the manner of the bully,” he said.

Picardo said the EU should remove the reference to Gibraltar, which overwhelmingly voted to stay in the EU, from the draft guidelines.

“Removal of the reference to Gibraltar would be a sign of good faith and good will,” he said.

Army base contamination: Government reduces level of ‘safe’ exposure to firefighting foam

The Northern Territory government insists water is still safe to drink after a reduction in standards of acceptable contamination from a potentially hazardous firefighting foam near three Top End military bases.

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The daily tolerable intake level for people exposed to toxic chemicals found at a dozen defence sites across the country is now 7.5 times lower, following changes announced by the federal government on Monday.

“The Commonwealth is taking a precautionary approach to this emerging national issue, introducing some of the most conservative guidelines in the world to ensure Australians minimise their exposure,” NT Health Minister Natasha Fyles said.

The foam was used from the 1970s and pollutants have since leeched into ground and surface water at RAAF base Tindal near Katherine and the RAAF Base and Robertson Barracks in Darwin.

The health risks are still unknown but the federal government continues to provide alternative drinking water to about 50 Katherine homes.

Katherine’s water supply comprises 10-30 per cent of groundwater, while the rest comes from the Katherine River.

Ms Fyles said the town relies solely on bore water for a short period at the end of the dry season and residents could be impacted during this time.

Last November the NT government also urged people not to eat seafood from two Darwin creeks after contamination was detected in shellfish.

In light of the changes, those samples will be reviewed with results due later this month, while results from tests on fish, prawns and crabs are due in June.

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Defence is providing voluntarily blood tests and counselling services to heavily contaminated towns such as Williamtown in NSW and Oakey in Queensland where property prices have dropped.

The NT government is lobbying the Commonwealth to provide similar resources to affected Territory communities and to fast track more groundwater testing.

There’s no impact on commercial agriculture in those areas but the pollutants will affect people growing vegetables in their backyards, Ms Fyles said.

And fewer than 1000 of the Territory’s 2.2 million cattle could potentially be contaminated.

Trump says Putin would’ve preferred Clinton as president

US President Donald Trump has said in an interview that he has a good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after the two met for more than two hours in Hamburg last week.

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“People said, ‘Oh, they shouldn’t get along.’ Well, who are the people that are saying that? I think we get along very, very well,” Trump told evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“We are a tremendously powerful nuclear power, and so are they. It doesn’t make sense not to have some kind of a relationship,” Trump said.

Trump, who has come under criticism for his reluctance to criticise Putin directly over Russia’s meddling in US elections last year, said the two had an “excellent meeting” on the sidelines of the G20 summit last Friday.

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“One thing we did is we had a ceasefire in a major part of Syria where there was tremendous bedlam and tremendous killing,” he told Robertson, according to a partial transcript released by CBN.

“The ceasefire has held for four days…. That’s because President Putin and President Trump made the deal, and it’s held.”

Trump said that he felt Putin would have preferred Hillary Clinton win last year’s election – even though US intelligence says the Russian leader directed a covert effort to help defeat the Democrat.

“We are the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful because I’m a big military person. As an example, if Hillary had won, our military would be decimated,” Trump said.

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“That’s why I say, why would he want me? Because from day one I wanted a strong military, he doesn’t want to see that.”

On Saturday, Putin told reporters he had hopes for the bilateral relationship after meeting Trump.

“The Trump that you see on TV is very different than the real Trump,” Putin told reporters at the G20 in Germany.

“He perfectly understands whom he is talking to and answers questions quickly. I think personal relations were established.”

Small improvements to eating habits may prolong life: study

The report in the New England Journal of Medicine is the first to show that improving diet quality over at least a dozen years is associated with lower total and cardiovascular mortality.

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Researchers at Harvard University tracked dietary changes in a population of nearly 74,000 health professionals who logged their eating habits every four years.

Researchers used a system of diet-quality scores to assess how much diets had improved. 

For instance, a 20-percentile increase in scores could “be achieved by swapping out just one serving of red or processed meat for one daily serving of nuts or legumes,” said a summary of the research.

Over the 12-year span, those who ate a little better than they did at the start — primarily by consuming more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish — saw an eight to 17 percent lower risk of dying prematurely in the next 12 years.

Those whose diets got worse over time saw a higher risk of dying in the next 12 years of follow-up, on the order of a six to 12 percent increase.

“Our results highlight the long-term health benefits of improving diet quality with an emphasis on overall dietary patterns rather than on individual foods or nutrients,” said senior author Frank Hu, professor and chair of the Harvard Chan School Department of Nutrition.

“A healthy eating pattern can be adopted according to individuals’ food and cultural preferences and health conditions,” he added. 

“There is no one-size-fits-all diet.”

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Turnbull prays for broad Liberal church

Factionalism is alive and well in the Liberal Party.

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But the factions themselves are fractured almost beyond identification.

The Liberal Party’s factions have historically been identified as “wets” and “dries”, or “moderates” and “conservatives”.

Some MPs and grassroots members embrace the label “conservative” with all the passion of their UK equivalents.

The moderates are less likely to use their label, but more often call themselves “pragmatic” or “progressive”.

Malcolm Turnbull sought to use a speech in London this week to map out where he sits and how he sees the Liberal Party.

However, the leaked paragraphs of the speech offered a blunt point out of context (for the newspapers which received the handout) and became quickly caught up in the quagmire that is the Turnbull-Abbott leadership cold war.

Turnbull was trying to say the party can have its differences of opinion on things like social policy and how far to go on economic and budget reform.

But the party comes together, as founder Sir Robert Menzies said, under the name “Liberal … because we were determined to be a progressive party, willing to make experiments, in no sense reactionary but believing in the individual, his right and his enterprise, and rejecting the socialist panacea.”

He noted Abbott had spoken about the “sensible centre”.

But the former prime minister failed to demonstrate it in practice.

Voters reacted sharply to Abbott’s “knights and dames” decision and the harsh measures in the 2014 budget.

And while his decision to roll out a plebiscite on same-sex marriage is now popular after being embraced by Turnbull, it was initially seen as a way of kicking the issue down the road and giving political cover for social conservatives to argue against the law change.

Coalition MPs are now more likely to factionalise around regional and state interests, or issues such as climate change, than ideology.

Queensland members routinely meet when parliament is sitting to talk about taking a united view on certain issues and even projects that require funding.

South Australian members have the ear of the prime minister via Christopher Pyne, who as defence industry minister has a multi-billion-dollar bucket of money to throw around and has been staunch in arguing to protect steel jobs.

Turnbull has used SA’s energy crisis as a political weapon in his bid to cobble together a climate policy by another name – aimed at pushing down power prices, making energy more reliable while cutting emissions.

There are also groupings around personalities, with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Treasurer Scott Morrison enjoying a certain level of popular support but not enough to swing the leadership at this point.

While some Liberals delight in working the numbers within the party and seeking to seize the advantage, others are happy to get on with the daily drudge of electorate work – seeking pragmatic answers to voters’ concerns.

Some party veterans like Tasmania’s Eric Abetz are adamant it needs the two “rails”.

“The Liberal Party is and has always been a train running on small-l liberal and conservative tracks – unless both are tended to the whole train will derail,” he says.

Without giving space for economic dries and social conservatives, voters will go elsewhere – and they are.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives are capitalising on the rise of the small-l liberals championed by Turnbull.

Labor is the beneficiary of this, not only because voters see a divided Liberal Party but One Nation preferences have tended to naturally split evenly between Labor and the Liberals.

Unfortunately for Turnbull, who has trailed in the polls since September last year, he’s about to see another public outbreak of factionalism.

The NSW division’s party futures convention towards the end of July will debate changing the rules governing the way candidates and party officials are elected.

Abbott and junior minister Angus Taylor lead a group seeking greater democracy, to whittle away at the power of the party organisation’s moderate elite.

Turnbull wants change, but not in the way Abbott is proposing and the final outcome will be a compromise of which direction to take to greater democratisation.

The prime minister will be hoping the party can unify around the final result, but that hope may be undermined by a fraction too much faction.

Turnbull weathers global rifts at G20

If there’s one thing that stands out after Malcolm Turnbull’s tour of Europe it’s that global politics is in dire straits.

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Exhibit A is US President Donald Trump.

Trump is a man out of his depth and his “America first” approach to all issues is causing ripples across all areas of politics, trade, diplomacy, economics and the environment.

At various times during the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s home city – Trump appeared asleep, awkward, vague or uninterested.

Many leaders and officials were astounded when his daughter Ivanka sat in for him on a session on African development, refugees and health.

Standing in for leaders is usually only done by senior ministers.

The final leaders communique had to accommodate Trump on two issues – climate and free trade – after the US recently pulled out of the Paris accord and his administration flagged trade barriers to protect US jobs.

Secondly, British Prime Minister Theresa May is a dead leader walking.

The Times newspaper, on the day Turnbull arrived in London from Germany, carried a cartoon depicting May lying in a coffin, surrounded by arguing Conservative cabinet, with the caption “Funeral Rights”.

Brexit, the impending UK exit from the European Union, has made the nation the laughing stock of Europe and its recent national election weakened May’s political position.

She’s now left trying to strike job-saving trade deals with countries such as Australia and the US, and down the track with the EU as well.

Turnbull could help the political fortunes of his former Oxford University colleague with a speedily negotiated trade pact.

But the key to the survival of the May government will be a comprehensive agreement with the UK’s European neighbours, rather than a country of 24 million consumers on the other side of the world.

In contrast, Germany’s leader, who faces an election in September showed a great depth of diplomacy and patience during the G20 meeting, particularly with Trump.

Merkel landed the best possible G20 communique – the official meeting statement – in politically charged circumstances.

Despite this. Germany’s Social Democrats – led by former European parliament president Martin Schultz – could either end to her 11-year leadership or put a big dent her government.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who held a mid-air meeting with Turnbull between Hamburg and Paris, offers great hope for Europe’s future.

Macron, France’s youngest president since Napoleon, is savvy, modern and has a keen sense of the direction France should head in.

Turnbull is eager to seal an EU trade deal, which would not only help Australian exporters but meet Macron’s ambitious target of cutting his country’s 10 per cent unemployment rate to seven per cent.

Macron is clearly happy with the $50 billion submarine deal with Australia, which he’s labelled not just a contract but a way of lifting the two countries’ broader economic relationship.

The G20 also exposed a major problem in the way world leaders are handling security concerns, from North Korea to Islamic State.

Many leaders pointed the finger at China for not doing enough to bring North Korea into line, after it recently tested an intercontinental ballistic missile.

However, China and Russia say their influence is overestimated and imposing tougher sanctions on the rogue state could make conditions worse for its long-suffering citizens.

The situation has been complicated by Trump’s hinting at possible military action and sanctions against China.

While Australia is urging China to do more on North Korea, what it actually can do is yet to be determined.

The first face-to-face meeting between Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin was the much-watch event of the G20 summit.

But it’s telling the two officials tasked with briefing reporters on the meeting – Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – offered differing accounts.

Notably, Tillerson said Trump had a “robust and lengthy” discussion with Putin about Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, but Lavrov said Putin had “satisfied” his American counterpart with his answer.

The upside is the leaders are still happy to talk.

As Winston Churchill once said: “To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war.”

Trump jets off to Paris as Russia crisis plagues Washington

Air Force One departed at 7:43 pm (2343 GMT) for the trip to Paris during which Trump, who sported a cerulean blue tie for the trip, is expected to include talks with French president Emmanuel Macron and participate as a guest of honor in the country’s national holiday festivities.

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The visit comes days after the release of emails that the US president’s son jumped at a Russian offer to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton during the campaign — the latest development in the probe into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow during the 2016 election.

“Getting rdy to leave for France @ the invitation of President Macron to celebrate & honor Bastille Day and 100yrs since U.S. entry into WWI,” Trump tweeted prior to his flight. 

He is set to arrive Thursday in Paris for talks with Macron expected to focus on joint efforts against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, where American and French troops are in action side-by-side.

The two leaders will then dine at the Michelin-starred restaurant embedded in the Eiffel Tower, taking in sweeping views of the French capital with their wives Melania and Brigitte.

The following day they will watch French and American troops march down the Champs-Elysees in Paris during the holiday’s traditional military parade.

Trump and Macron, who both entered office this year, appear to have little in common. Last month the mercurial US leader notably withdrew the US from the global Paris climate change agreement to Macron’s dismay.

But the French government has emphasized its newly-minted leader will work to reaffirm “historic ties” between the two allies and prevent the US from “being isolated.”

Bolton fumes after Blues let win slip

Carlton coach Brendon Bolton fumed at the one that got away after his side gave up a late lead against Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday.

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The Demons are the fashionable tip to make the leap into the finals this season, while not much is expected of the rebuilding Blues.

But a dogged Carlton held a slender three-point lead early in the final term before Melbourne ran over the top to record a 22-point win.

The Blues are winless after two rounds and Bolton was in no mood to settle for the gallant loss.

“It was one that got away … (we’re) disappointed (and) frustrated,” Bolton said.

“We have a high expectation of this group even though they’re young.

“We know they’re developing, we know they’re learning but we got ourselves in a position at three-quarter time to win a game and some errors really hurt us.

“It’s a really good learning opportunity but … (we’re) really frustrated that we didn’t get a result.”

The Blues didn’t look capable of being in a winning position late in the game in a sloppy first quarter where Melbourne largely controlled the contest without hitting the scoreboard.

But Bolton praised the increased pressure his players were able to exert on the Demons that helped turn the tide.

Maligned midfielder Dale Thomas left the ground for treatment on a knee injury in the second quarter but returned to play a significant part in his side’s resurgence.

“He’s been working really hard,” Bolton said.

“Even last week he worked hard.

“The game wasn’t as consistent as he would have liked last week, like many of our players and us as a team, but he gave real effort.”

Jack Silvagni (corked thigh) also required treatment in the second quarter but played out the game.

Euro a knife in the ribs of France: Le Pen

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has told a political rally that the euro currency which she wants France to ditch was like a knife in the ribs of the French people.

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The leader of the eurosceptic and anti-immigrant National Front (FN) also told the rally in the city of Bordeaux that the forthcoming election for president could herald a “change in civilisation”.

Encouraged by the unexpected election of Donald Trump in the United States and by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Le Pen hopes to profit from a similar populist momentum in France.

“We are at the mercy of a currency adapted to Germany and not to our economy. The euro is mostly a knife stuck in our ribs to make us go where others want us to go,” Le Pen said.

“We do not want France to be open to all commercial and human flows, without protection and borders.”

A government under Le Pen’s presidency would take France out of the euro zone and bring back a national currency, hold a referendum on its EU membership and slap taxes on imports and on companies hiring foreigners.

Le Pen says she would curb migration, expel all illegal migrants and restrict certain rights now available to all residents, including free education, to French citizens.

She hit out at her two main opponents in the French election, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and conservative candidate Francois Fillon, saying they belonged to “the same system”

“The system is panicking because it sees people are waking up,” she said.

Opinion polls forecast Le Pen will do well in the April 23 first round of the presidential election only to lose the May 7 run-off to centrist candidate Macron.

Storybook reading could help with language

Simple repetition learning techniques could help young children struggling with language to learn vocabulary faster, according to new research.

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The European study looked at whether repeated storybook reading could help youngsters with specific language impairment (SLI) retain information and words compared to children developing at the typical rate for their age.

Working with three-year-old German children, the study built on the results of a 2011 study which found pre-school children learnt more new words through story repetition.

In the latest study, researchers from the University of Sussex in the UK and Germany’s Paderborn University discovered similar results were found in children with language impairment.

Tests were carried out with two groups of children on new word retention following identical storybook reading.

Those with SLI fared significantly worse than their peers on the initial word learning tests, but it emerged there was no difference between the two groups just one week later.

Researchers said the results will come as a big boost to parents of SLI children as they indicated that over time they benefit from hearing the same stories over and over again.

“We hope these results will be encouraging to parents of children with SLI,” said Dr Jessica Horst from the University of Sussex.

“Although there is much left to do, these findings are promising and may help us create cost-effective intervention for children with SLI, including interventions that parents can participate in too.”

Professor Katharina Rohlfing, of Paderborn University, said reading a story again and again, and establishing a reading routine, might the best combination.

‘Use Brexit to pressure UK over frozen pensions’: Lobbyists

Bernard and Sheila Weaver are a softly-spoken couple, hailing from Reading, just outside London.

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He is 83 and she is 79. They migrated to Sydney in 2007.

From that moment, their UK pension payments – based on four decades of contributions to Britain’s National Insurance Scheme – have stayed the same, rather than being adjusted for inflation.

“I’m getting £125 a week,” says Mr Weaver.

“If that was fully uprated, I would probably be getting something near £170 a week.

“We’ve fully paid all our contributions … and we do feel that we’re badly done by.”

If not for some additions, Bernard’s “basic pension” would have been £87.

A Briton who arrived in 1980 still receives a maximum of £27, as opposed to £100 today if the sum had been indexed.

Someone arriving 1995 receives £59, instead of £101 today under indexation.

The fall in the Pound now eats further into their payments.

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Pensions researcher Professor Peter Whiteford, from the Australian National University, says the regulation has survived a challenge in the European Court of Human Rights and lobbying by sympathetic parliamentarians in Britain.

“Essentially it’s a way of saving money, I think around £600 million a year,” he said.

“But they do pay indexed pensions in the United States, and I think it’s just the bargaining power of the United States.”

Frozen pensions affect some half-a million Britons across 150 mainly Commonwealth countries.

Nearly half of those people – some 247,000 – live in Australia. Another 144,000 live in Canada, with significant numbers in New Zealand and South Africa.

Jim Tilley, the chairman of the group British Pensions in Australia, says many of those affected are having to return to the UK.

“I know a 96-year-old lady who’s on a full pension of £17 a week from the UK. Come April, it should be £122 a week.”

The Australian Government fills part of the gap by paying pensions to many British expatriates who qualify under the country’s means-tested system.

Tilley estimates this costs the Australian taxpayer $1 billion over four years.

While the British policy dates back to the 1960s, the issue has emerged againwith Brexit.

Older Britons living in Spain fear losing the automatic indexation they’ve received through membership of the European Union.

But many lobbyists see Brexit as a chance for change, urging Australia to raise the issue in future negotiations for a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with Britain.

Tilley can see another way to apply pressure.

“The British Government should be told that the trade negotiation skills that they’re asking Australia to assist them with should be conditional upon Britain indexing the pensions of all British pensioners living abroad, particularly the 250,000 living here in Australia,” he said.

Australia has long opposed the frozen pensions policy and in 2001 protested by quitting a reciprocal Social Security arrangement with Britain.

A spokesman for Social Services Minister Christian Porter has called the policy “unfair and discriminatory”.

However, a British Member of Parliament, Peter Lilley – recently in Australia to discuss Brexit and trade opportunities – says the issue was never mentioned in discussions with Trade Minister Steve Ciobo.

“I’ll be perfectly frank,” he told a business function in Sydney.

“The people who’ll benefit don’t have votes. And if we have £500,000, that’s likely to go on people who do have votes.

“And that’s just a simple fact of life. I know it’s unfair but you’ve gone to a wonderful country, and you will prosper mightily here.

“I’m afraid, to look back to the mother country and hope that we’ll be generous and fair is an unwise hope.”

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Pollution report highlights ‘toxic burden’

State and territory governments have been accused of total failure in the fight for clean air after many of Australia’s largest polluters reported emissions hikes.

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Environmental Justice Australia (EJA) has delivered a scathing assessment of state regulators after crunching numbers from the annual National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) at the weekend.

Toxic emissions from the coal industry’s mines, power stations and export terminals dominated the report.

The Bayswater coal-fired power station in NSW has reported a 770 per cent increase in toxic coarse particle pollution during the past five years.

Further north, emissions from the Tarong Power Station in Queensland increased by 237 per cent in just one year.

A handful of other coal-fired stations on the country’s east coast also reported increased emissions, spurring calls from EJA for the commonwealth to take a bigger role in controlling toxic pollution.

“The health damage caused by air pollution costs Australians between $11 billion and $24.3 billion per annum, yet governments continue to allow polluters to poison communities,” EJA researcher James Whelan said.

“The latest NPI data reveals the total failure of Australian governments to control air pollution and highlights the need for much stronger pollution controls and regulation.”

Electricity generation from coal-fired power stations remains the single largest contributor of deadly fine particle pollution, which the EJA says accounts for more than 3000 premature deaths a year.

Coalmines are the third-largest source of fine particle pollution.

“Particle pollution from coalmines has trebled over a decade, defying state government pollution controls,” Dr Whelan said.

Coalmining is also Australia’s second-largest source of coarse particle emissions, accounting for 393 million kilograms of pollution, which is more than 40 per cent of the nation’s total.

The National Pollutant Inventory is an annual report on air pollution in Australia, published by the federal government using information supplied by various industries and compiled by states and territories.