Mourners mark 10 years since Kerang crash

The 11 lives cut short in one of Victoria’s worst rail crashes have been remembered in a memorial service marking 10 years since the tragedy.

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Family, friends and dignitaries including Premier Daniel Andrews have gathered in Kerang, the country town where seven adults and four children were killed when a semi-trailer smashed into a Swan Hill-to-Melbourne V-Line on June 5, 2007.

Another eight people were seriously injured.

Candles were lit and prayers said at Monday’s sombre service.

Vanessa Reid, granddaughter of victim Harold Claude Long, told reporters the tragedy “still haunts me every day” and she hasn’t been able to catch trains ever since.

Mr Long was pinned under luggage in the train carriage and had to have his leg partially amputated to be freed.

He died on the way to hospital in Melbourne.

“I went into severe denial when he passed. I just shut myself away, I didn’t want to believe it,” Ms Reid said.

“I still can’t believe it. Every time I see a level crossing I close my eyes because I’m scared it’s going to happen again.”

Safety at level crossings has improved since the crash, but Ms Reid said people still tried to cheat trains.

“They must stop, because there’s a lot of people on those trains and there’s a lot of people that can get hurt,” she said.

Truck driver Christian Scholl was charged with 11 counts of culpable driving over the deaths but acquitted by a Supreme Court jury in 2009.

A coronial inquest made 25 recommendations, including calling for improved signage and warnings for drivers approaching level crossings, and better co-ordination between emergency authorities.

Tributes for Kerang crash victims 10 years on

The 11 lives cut short in one of Victoria’s worst rail crashes have been remembered in a memorial service marking 10 years since the tragedy.

长沙夜网

Family, friends and dignitaries including Premier Daniel Andrews have gathered in Kerang, the country town where seven adults and four children were killed when a semi-trailer smashed into a Swan Hill-to-Melbourne V-Line on June 5, 2007.

Another eight people were seriously injured.

Candles were lit and prayers said at Monday’s sombre service.

Julie McMonnies paid tribute to her husband Geoff, who died in the accident.

“We’d been married 26 years, he was my childhood sweethear, my best friend, devoted and loving husband,” she said.

Her daughter Rose also killed in the crash.

Emergency service workers inspect the truck at the point where it hit a V-Line train at a level crossing near Kerang, northern Victoria. (AAP)AAP

“[She was] acting in the school play, crazy in love for the first time and dreaming big dreams about the future,” Mrs McMonnies said.

A decade on, but the pain is still fresh.

Harold Long, 83, was flown to Melbourne after the accident, but died on the way hospital.

His granddaughter Vanessa Reid haunted by the tragedy.

“I’ve struggled every day since that day,” she said.

Mr Long was pinned under luggage in the train carriage and had to have his leg partially amputated to be freed.

He died on the way to hospital in Melbourne.

“I went into severe denial when he passed. I just shut myself away, I didn’t want to believe it,” Ms Reid said.

“I still can’t believe it. Every time I see a level crossing I close my eyes because I’m scared it’s going to happen again.”

Safety at level crossings has improved since the crash, but Ms Reid said people still tried to beat trains.

“They must stop, because there’s a lot of people on those trains and there’s a lot of people that can get hurt,” she said.

Truck driver Christian Scholl was charged with 11 counts of culpable driving over the deaths but acquitted by a Supreme Court jury in 2009.

A coronial inquest made 25 recommendations, including calling for improved signage and warnings for drivers approaching level crossings, and better co-ordination between emergency authorities.

But questions over rail safety continue to be raised.

“When it comes to level crossing safety we are continually doing everything we can to raise the bar, as it were,” V-Line Chief Executive James Pinder said.

But he, like the families, was adamant the day’s focus should not be lost.

“We are here, like everybody, to support the families and the loves ones of those involved,” Mr Pinder said.

– with AAP

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US, Aust stand together on N Korea tests

Australia and the US are demanding China ramp up pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear ambitions, while urging Beijing to stop militarising its artificial islands in the South China Sea.

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The calls come after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne hosted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis for high-level talks in Sydney on Monday.

Mr Tillerson said the US and Australia “speak with one voice” in calling for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

With its increasing economic might, China had a responsibility as a regional power to stop North Korea.

“China and other regional partners should also step up their efforts to help solve this security situation which threatens not just that region but really presents a threat to the entire world,” Mr Tillerson told reporters at a joint press conference after the lengthy AusMin talks.

Ms Bishop branded North Korea’s recent missile weapons tests as “highly destructive behaviour”.

“We see North Korea as a threat to our region as much as we see it as a threat globally,” she said.

US President Donald Trump has warned that all options are on the table when it comes to trying to stop North Korea’s missile program amid fears it could develop weapons capable of hitting North America, Japan and Australia.

But the US has made clear that while it wants Beijing to pressure Pyongyang to end the program, it’s not happy with China’s militarisation of a series of man-made islands in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan.

During the AusMin talks, the US and Australia reaffirmed their commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, a key regional trading route.

“We oppose China’s artificial island construction and their militarisation that features in international waters,” Mr Tillerson said.

“We desire productive relationships but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarising islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea.

“They must recognise that, with a role as a growing economic and trading power comes security responsibilities as well.”

The US angered China when its Navy came within 12 nautical miles of one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea during a freedom of navigation patrol in late May.

Concerns about China’s presence in the South China Sea featured heavily during a weekend security summit in Singapore, where Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Beijing to respect the sovereignty of other nations.

Before sitting down for talks with her US counterpart, Ms Bishop said China had violated international law by building the islands and that no nation should take “unilateral action to change the status quo”.

We’re not scared of terrorists: Mattis

America and Australia remain steadfast in their fight against terrorism and won’t be scared off by those trying to cause harm, the US defense secretary says.

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James Mattis insists the US does not take its alliance with Australia for granted and wants it to strengthen, particularly when it comes to global security.

“We are united in our resolve even against an enemy that thinks by hurting us they can scare us. We don’t scare,” he told a high-level meeting of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Australia’s foreign and defence ministers in Sydney on Monday.

“We are here to work together in a manner that protects the freedoms and the values we share together and we’re committed to passing those freedoms on to the next generation intact.”

Countering violent extremism, stemming the flow of foreign fighters and shutting down propaganda arms online were shared goals for both the US and Australia, Mr Tillerson said.

The talks follow the latest deadly terrorist attack in London in which three armed men mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing revellers in nearby Borough Market.

Mr Mattis thanked Australia for its commitment to defeating Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, saying its partnership was a foundation for stability and peace in the region and more broadly.

“We stand together. We do not allow ourselves to be intimidated at all,” he said.

“We are going to ensure that, between our forces, our diplomats’ voices are alway backed up by skilful, ethical and fierce force of arms.”

Mr Mattis noted the issue of foreign fighters and the risk they pose in bringing back their skills and message of hatred to attack innocent people.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the federal government had made it clear any Australian who supports terrorist organisations is breaking the law.

“Should they survive and seek to return to Australia, they will be monitored, they will be tracked and they will be subjected to the Australian laws,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Tillerson said he would wait until the review of America’s position in Afghanistan was completed before forming a view as to whether the US should send more troops or request additional resources from Australia.

Just last week, Australia agreed to increase by 30 its personnel numbers following a request by NATO.

Defence Minister Marise Payne said Australia will continue engage with the US and NATO about their plans and consider any future decisions at the time.

The increasing threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear missile program and growing regional tensions about China’s militarisation of artificial islands in the South China Sea were also on the agenda at Monday’s meeting.

The nations jointly called for North Korea to abandon its program, while Mr Tillerson accused China of buying its way out of problems.

The AusMin talks are usually held annually but it’s been nearly two years since the last gathering because elections in the US and Australia in 2016 made it difficult to schedule the high-level talks.

Australia, US say they oppose China’s claims to South China Sea

The US and Australia say they oppose China’s artificial island construction and militarisation of the South China Sea, saying China cannot use its economic power to “buy its way out” of problems.

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Speaking at a press conference following high-level talks with Australia’s foreign and defence ministers, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the long standing friends were committed to freedom of navigation in the contested sea and the rules based international order.

The allies also called for North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program and for China to step up its efforts to help.

“We desire productive relationships, but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarizing islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea,” Mr Tillerson said.

2 countries, 4 ministers: “We stand resolute” in our determination to fight terrorism. #AUSMIN pic.twitter长沙桑拿按摩论坛,/s5ZqaQ1xDu

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) June 5, 2017

Mr Tillerson and US Defense Secretary James Mattis joined Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne for AusMin talks today.

The talks were dominated by challenges on the Korean Peninsula, conflict in the Middle East, terrorism, trade and investment, Ms Bishop said.

The ministers also reaffirmed the strong partnership between the two staunch allies, which was thrown into doubt following the election of Donald Trump as president.

Relations were strained after an acrimonious telephone call shortly after Mr Trump’s inauguration in which he reportedly berated Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refugee relocation deal.

“As you’ve already heard, we stand here before you representing the strongest possible military alliance,” Mr Mattis said.

“This is one that has stood together through thick and thin and through generations.”

President Trump entered office with a “America First” foreign policy, which has seen the US pursue a more isolationist role in the world and reassess some agreements entered into by the previous administration.

Asked about Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Mr Tillerson said the president was not walking away from climate change.

“He’s not walking away from it – he’s simply walking away from an agreement he felt did not serve the American people well, Mr Tillerson said.

Bishop: #AUSMIN talks “productive, useful, important discussions between counterparts, between friends”.

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) June 5, 2017