Yellen sees little threat to stability

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says she doesn’t see a need for the Fed to start raising interest rates to defuse the risk that extremely low rates could destabilise the financial system.

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Yellen said she does see “pockets” of increased risk-taking, but argued those threats could be addressed through greater use of regulatory tools.

Many of those tools, such as higher capital standards for banks, were put in place after the 2008 financial crisis, which triggered the Great Recession.

In her remarks on Wednesday at a conference sponsored by the International Monetary Fund, Yellen disputed criticism that the Fed had contributed to the 2008 crisis by keeping rates too low earlier in the decade.

She acknowledged that financial stability risks “escalated to a dangerous level in the mid-2000s” and that policy-makers, including herself, overlooked the vulnerabilities in the financial system that would make the subsequent decline in home prices so destabilising.

“Policy-makers failed to anticipate that the reversal of the house price bubble would trigger the most significant financial crisis in the United States since the Great Depression,” Yellen said.

She said the government has made progress since then in closing the regulatory gaps that allowed the financial crisis to erupt.

Yellen spoke one day after the Dow Jones industrial average set a record for the stock market.

Some critics of Fed policies have warned that the central bank could be setting the stage for another dangerous bubble by keeping rates so low for so long.

But in her speech, Yellen said she didn’t see dangerous excesses in the financial system.

She said that there were isolated areas of increased risk taking but that those could be dealt with through regulatory changes rather than by raising rates.

Snowboarder’s body found in woods

The body of a ski resort worker who did not return home from a snowboarding session has been found in a wooded area without trails.

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Perisher in the NSW Snowy Mountains contacted police about 10.50pm (AEST) on Wednesday after the 25-year-old man failed to show up for work.

Searchers found his body about 11.30pm.

Queanbeyan Acting Inspector Graeme Bailey told AAP the man was found in an ungroomed area near Guthega Creek in the NSW Snowy Mountains.

Perisher mountain operations staff abandoned trails and walked through wooded areas to find the man, he said.

Perisher chief executive Peter Brulisauer said it was a sad day.

“Our condolences go out to the young man’s family and friends during this difficult time,” he said in a statement.

The man’s name has not been released.

An autopsy will carried out and initial investigations are focusing on whether he fell while snowboarding.

It’s the second death at an eastern Australian ski resort in a little more than a week.

A seven-year-old boy, Haadi Akhtar, died after being buried by snow that came loose from his lodge at Mt Buller in Victoria.

He was found nearly two hours after he went missing, just 40 metres from where he was last seen.

The latest death also comes only hours after a 21-year-old man was found at Perisher with serious head injuries. He was transferred to Canberra Hospital.

After a slow start to the season, Australian snowfields have received a massive dumping of snow since last weekend.

Blizzards last week dumped 80cm in 24 hours in some parts of the Snowy Mountains.

A Sri Lankan asylum seeker’s worst nightmare on the high seas

Allegations that Australian authorities have intercepted at least two Tamil boats and handed them over to the Sri Lankan navy after only brief telephone interviews are extremely troubling.

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Until now, the Australian government has neither confirmed nor denied these allegations – giving the now long-tired excuse of secrecy around all operational matters concerning border security. 

If Tamils are being handed over to the Sri Lankan armed forces, then the Australian government may well end up with blood on its hands. Sri Lanka has a long and well known record of repression and abuses by its security forces. The UN has implicated the Sri Lankan armed forces in war crimes during the 27-year conflict with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Human Rights Watch has also documented the Sri Lankan authorities’ use of torture and rape against people suspected of links to the LTTE after the conflict, including those returned as failed asylum seekers from countries such as Australia.

Given such evidence of torture of returnees, it was always peculiar that Australia used the Orwellian “enhanced screening” procedure for Sri Lankans arriving by boat – essentially a fast-tracked deportation procedure after a cursory interview.  Now, it appears such interviews may be occurring by teleconference from the boats. This practice, without access to due process and access to lawyers, is unlawful in light of Australia’s obligations under international law.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) maintains that identification and processing of asylum seekers is “most appropriately carried out on dry land.” The agency notes that shipboard processing often fails to meet procedural standards for determining refugee status, including the failure to provide adequate access to interpreters, ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of interviews, access to counsel, and lack of appeal. In addition to these considerations, people who have been interdicted often are dehydrated, exhausted, traumatized, and fearful of authorities; they are usually in no condition to articulate refugee claims.

If Australia is transferring asylum seekers into the hands of the Sri Lankan navy without adequately reviewing their claim this amounts to refoulement – sending someone back to a country where their life or freedom may be threatened or where they would face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

Australia may want to protect its borders, but it should not risk being complicit in torture by sending Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka without a proper process to assess the legitimacy of their claims. Australian authorities need to come clean about what is happening at sea and give asylum seekers all the rights they are entitled to under international law.

Elaine Pearson is the Australia Director at Human Rights Watch.

Gammy surrogacy scandal deepens

The Thai mother at the centre of a surrogacy scandal is shocked at revelations the West Australian father of the twin children she bore was previously jailed for child sex offences and now says she wants the girl back.

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The man, believed to be the father of baby Gammy, previously abused at least three girls under the age of 13, court documents show.

He and his wife, who returned to Australia with the girl, and are accused of leaving Gammy behind in Thailand after he was diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Gammy is being cared for by the Thai surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua, 21, who has children of her own.

Ms Pattaramon says she refused the couple’s request for her to abort the boy in the womb and has brought him up as her own since he was born in December.

But an unnamed family friend says the allegations are false and the couple was “heartbroken” to leave Gammy behind.

The friend, speaking on behalf of the couple, said the birth was supposed to happen at a major international hospital in Thailand.

But Ms Pattaramon went to a smaller hospital, which allegedly made the surrogacy agreement void and gave the biological parents no legal rights to their children.

The babies were born two months premature, but the couple say they weren’t told Gammy had Down syndrome, only that he had a congenital heart condition, the friend told the Bunbury Mail.

She said the parents had not requested an abortion and never wanted to give him up.

The friend’s comments contradict previous reports that the couple did not know about Gammy.

“Gammy was very sick when he was born and the biological parents were told he would not survive and he had a day, at best, to live and to say goodbye,” she said.

The couple then became embroiled in a legal battle to bring home Gammy’s twin sister while Thailand was in military lockdown.

“The biological parents were heartbroken that they couldn’t take their boy with them and never wanted to give him up, but to stay would risk them losing their daughter also,” the friend said.

Court documents show the man was jailed in the late 1990s for sexually molesting two girls under the age of 10 and was sentenced to three years behind bars.

While serving time, he was charged with six counts of indecently dealing with a child under the age of 13 and convicted and sentenced again.

His wife has confirmed her husband had a conviction but she believes he is a good man.

“If the father is an offender I want my daughter back,” Ms Pattaramon told Seven Network on Tuesday.

WA Department for Child Protection acting director-general Emma White said the department was assessing the girl’s wellbeing.

The federal government is formulating its response, amid calls for an overhaul of surrogacy laws in Australia.

“The one shining light to come from this most unfortunate, deeply regrettable situation is there appears to have been an absolute outpouring of generosity towards baby Gammy,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

An online fundraising campaign for Gammy has so far raised more than $231,000 in 14 days.

Trophies beckon for Arsenal after lean years – Usmanov

“I think we begin a new era for Arsenal where we win trophies,” the Russian billionaire, who owns 30 percent of the club’s shares and has invested 200 million pounds, said in a Daily Telegraph interview on Tuesday.

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Arsenal ended a nine-year trophy drought when they lifted the FA Cup last season, a barren spell Usmanov believes was caused by loading the club with debt to finance a move from the old Highbury site to the 390 million pounds Emirates Stadium in 2006.

“The acquisition was financed with debt, which would be repaid through match-day revenues among other sources,” Usmanov said. “There is another way of doing it: when shareholders buy all of the assets and contribute them to the club.

“As a result, these debt-free assets may generate income for the club. The board and the main shareholders chose the debt option at the time, which led to Arsenal going almost 10 years without winning a domestic title or the Champions League.

“As a result of this choice, they were selling player and were unable to buy top players. These difficulties have now been overcome and the team is in a good state.”

The likes of Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Thierry Henry have all been sold by Arsenal since the move to the Emirates although annual qualification for the Champions League and 60,000 home crowds have helped the club wipe off a huge chunk of the stadium debt.

BIG SIGNINGS

Manager Arsene Wenger has already been active in the transfer market this summer, with Chile’s Alexis Sanchez the biggest name signing from Barcelona.

More players could arrive before the end of the transfer window and Usmanov believes Arsenal are now in a position to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea.

“In my opinion, in line with existing rules, the club has the best decision-making process in place, including their selection policy, especially now, when they have the means to buy the best players,” Usmanov, said.

“The club’s finances are in order and I believe that Arsene Wenger and the club’s CEO (Ivan Gazidis) will manage them correctly.”

Usmanov was involved in a battle with Stan Kroenke for a controlling stake in the club right up until 2011 when the American upped his shareholding to 62.89 percent after diamond dealer Danny Fiszman sold his shares shortly before his death.

He admits he has never had any contact with Kroenke but while he is not on the club’s board and is therefore excluded from decision-making, Usmanov said he would not be selling his stake in the club any time soon.

“I have no plans to exit,” he said. “I wish Arsenal success and hope they win trophies.”

(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by John O’Brien)

Conflicts, breaches at Vic water agency

The Victorian government water agency continually breached government policies and handled conflicts of interest poorly, the ombudsman says.

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The underlying attitude at the Office of Living Victoria (OLV) seemed to put procedures and principles second to urgency, Ombudsman Deborah Glass found.

An ombudsman’s report said this led to breaches of public service employment principles, poor contract and project management, the use of exemptions to avoid competition, limited or no risk management and poor planning.

In one instance three companies provided OLV with quotes for an event, at $40,000, $60,000 and $160,000.

OLV accepted the highest quote with no explanation, the report found.

The report concluded that there was an ongoing failure by OLV to comply with government procurement policies and conflicts of interest were poorly handled.

“From the earliest days of OLV, the inclination and focus have been on the end, not the means,” the report said.

Ms Glass said the prevailing attitude at the office had been that it needed to “crash through” a bureaucracy that would stymie effective and timely change.

“Government procedures exist to protect the public purse,” Ms Glass said.

“Poorly managed conflicts of interest fundamentally undermine the integrity of public policy.”

Water Minister Peter Walsh said mistakes were made in the running of the agency but the government had changed how it was administered.

“We would acknowledge that both mistakes have been made around the OLV and Department of Environment and Primary Industries and these are being addressed,” Mr Walsh told reporters, before the report was tabled in parliament on Tuesday.

“Changes have been made to the administration of OLV.”

The agency is now being run out of the Department of Environment and Primary Industries.

Deputy Opposition Leader James Merlino said OLV had been a mess.

“To talk generally, it has been an unmitigated failure of Peter Walsh,” Mr Merlino told reporters, before the report’s official release.

“The office of living it up Victoria, jobs for mates. Absolute rorting. This has been a mess.”

The ombudsman investigated the OLV after a whistleblower made a complaint about its procurement and contract management practices last June.

Mr Walsh said the government would implement all of the ombudsman’s four recommendations, including auditing OLV’s finance management.

“The Victorian Coalition government expects government departments, including administrative offices, to adhere to Victorian government policies with respect to purchase of goods and services,” Mr Walsh said.

He said the agency and the department were working to restore good governance.

Terrorism fears prompt boost to spy powers

The federal government’s plan to beef up counter-terrorism measures, which will allow the collection of telecommunications data, is an unjustified power grab, civil liberties groups say.

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But Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the rising number of Australian passport holders heading to conflict zones in places like Syria and Iraq means it has little choice but to act.

“What we are now acutely conscious of is the danger posed back here in Australia by people returning to Australia who have been radicalised and militarised by the experience of working with terrorist organisations overseas,” he said on Tuesday.

“The first duty of government is to keep our community safe.”

Spy and police agencies will get an $630 million to implement tough new laws to deal with Australians who fight, train with or support terrorist groups overseas.

Intelligence officials say the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have drawn about 10,000 fighters from around the world.

Some 150 Australians are directly linked to the Syrian conflict, including those sending money or recruiting fighters.

About 60 Australians are known to be fighting in Syria or Iraq, and 15 have been killed.

The government has cancelled the passports of 51 people it suspected of planning to join the conflicts.

Under the proposed new laws, the government will blacklist areas so people who travel to these zones will have to prove they went for humanitarian or family reasons, not to fight.

Details of how this would work are still being developed, but the government says it won’t reverse the legal onus of proof.

However, a senior intelligence official said it would be prudent for persons, such as a Red Cross worker, going to Syria to think about how they might create evidence of what they were doing overseas.

The laws to be introduced to the parliament in the Spring sittings will:

* broaden the listing criteria for terrorist organisations to ensure advocacy of terrorist acts includes the promotion and encouragement of terrorism

* make it easier to arrest terrorists by lowering the threshold for arrest without warrant for terrorism offences

* extend the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation’s (ASIO) questioning and detention powers beyond the July 2016 expiry

* extend Australian Federal Police stop, search and seizure powers in relation to terrorist acts and offences beyond December 2015

* make it easier to prosecute foreign fighters

* make it an offence to participate in terrorist training

* enable ASIO to request the suspension of an Australian passport or foreign passport for a dual national.

The government also plans to make telecommunication companies hold onto customer metadata for two years for law enforcement purposes.

The information can include phone numbers called, the time, date and duration of a call, the cell tower area and possibly the name and contact details of customers.

The relevant legislation will be introduced later this year, after consultation with the telecoms sector.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will consider the new laws carefully but has so far signalled bipartisan support.

“Our security agencies need to have the right powers to keep Australia and Australians safe,” he said.

“Australians who travel overseas to fight for terrorist causes should face the strongest weight of the law for their actions.”

The Australian Greens will await the legislative detail but has expressed concerns about the erosion of human rights and the justice system – thoughts echoed by the Australian Council for Civil Liberties (ACCL).

“The measures represent an attempt to use the current problems of Australians fighting with terrorist groups as a power grab for extra powers, the need for which is not currently made out,” ACCL president Terry O’Gorman told AAP.

Mr Abbott denies such claims and is seeking community support for the changes.

“When it comes to counter-terrorism, everyone needs to be part of team Australia,” he said.

Mr Abbott has made a “leadership call” to scrap the government’s planned changes to Racial Discrimination Act, which would have softened laws on bigotry and hate speech, to encourage the support of ethnic groups.

“I want the communities of our country to be our friends, not our critics,” he said.

Cats’ Scott says he’s not focused on Freo

Geelong coach Chris Scott insists he isn’t motivated by their poor recent history against Fremantle as they jostle for top-four positions on Saturday night at Simonds Stadium.

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The Dockers have won four of their past five clashes, most notably upsetting Geelong at home in last year’s AFL qualifying final.

Scott said maintaining momentum and their ladder position was the focus rather than who their opponents were.

He said the old school approach that they ‘owed the Dockers’ was unprofessional.

“Not for me,” Scott said when asked about vengeance.

“I shouldn’t speak for all the players – maybe some of them feel that way. Maybe they’ll get a little bit of extra satisfaction if they can get the result.

“Maybe it’ll hurt a little bit more if they don’t get the result.”

Scott felt his team was very different to the side that was rolled by 32 points by the Dockers in round nine, which was one of only four Cats’ losses for the season.

“We’ve made some steps forward in the way we move the ball and the way we defend opposition teams.

“We’re playing better footy than we were even three weeks ago,” Scott said.

He felt their 32-point win over North Melbourne last round was close to their most-complete performance of the year, however he could see there was still more improvement to come.

“We haven’t played our best footy this year – we think that’s still ahead of us.

“But we’ve got ourselves in a position where we’re in the top four and we’ve been pretty well performed.”

Hamish McIntosh missed that match after hurting his ankle at training but would be available although Scott wouldn’t reveal whether the ruckman or Dawson Simpson would get the nod to counter Aaron Sandilands.

Seven wins Olympic broadcast deal

The Olympics are returning to the Seven Network.

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed on Monday it had awarded Seven the Australian broadcast rights for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Tokyo in 2020.

Kerry Stokes’ network also will broadcast the Winter Games in PyeongChang in 2018 and the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing in 2014.

Seven has acquired broadcast rights on all media platforms.

The last Olympics Seven broadcast was the 2008 Beijing Games after the Nine Network and Foxtel jointly paid $A122 million for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

Ten covered the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Seven reportedly paid less than $A200 million for the rights after Ten and Nine dropped out of the bidding.

“Seven has a lot of experience in broadcasting major sports events, and first broadcast an Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

“We are delighted that we will work with Seven until at least 2020.

“The IOC enjoys long term partnerships and this agreement is something of a homecoming between us and Seven.

“Seven has made a concrete commitment to help promote the Olympic Movement and the Olympic values, not only during each edition of the games, but all year round, and this was an important consideration in our decision making.”

Mr Stokes said he was delighted with the deal.

“The Olympic movement and Seven have enjoyed a long and deep partnership since the Games in Melbourne,” he said.

“We are looking forward celebrating our five decades association with the Olympics in Rio and to taking this partnership to a new level over the coming decade.”

Australian IOC vice-president John Coates, a member of the IOC’s TV Rights and New Media Commission, welcomed Seven back.

“We’ve had a long relationship with Seven, which last covered the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and we are happy to welcome them back to the Olympic team,” he said.

Australian couple speak out about baby Gammy

The Bunbury couple have faced intense media pressure since the story of the surrogacy broke, alleging that they abandoned the baby boy, who has Down Syndrome and was born with a hole in his heart.

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Surrogate mother Pattaramon Chanbua said the couple took Gammy’s twin sister after she was born but left Gammy behind.

But in a statement to the Bunbury Mail through a family friend, the couple say the allegations are lies.

 

The family friend said the birth was planned to take place in a major hospital, but the surrogacy agreement was voided when Ms Chanbua went a smaller hospital.

The change in venue also meant that the couple had no legal right to the babies, the family friend said.

“This has been absolutely devastating for them, they are on the edge,” the family friend said.

The friend said the babies were born two weeks prematurely and the couple were not told that Gammy had Down Sydndrome, instead being informed that he would not survive.

“All this happened when Thailand was in a military lockdown and very difficult to get around,” the friend said.

“The biological parents were heartbroken that they couldn’t take their boy with them and never wanted to give him up, but to stay would risk them losing their daughter also.

“They prayed for Gammy to survive but were told by doctors that he was too sick, not because of the Down syndrome but because of his heart and lung conditions and infection.”

The letter comes amid reports from Channel Nine that the Australian father has served time in prison for an indecent act involving a child.

 

Government to overhaul anti-terrorism laws with tough new legislation

Civil libertarians question proposed terror changes

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also announced it will be an offence to travel to a battle region overseas without a valid reason.

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“Over the last couple of months every Australian has been shocked at the evidence on the internet of Australians participating in terrorist activities in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere,” he said in Canberra on Tuesday.

“What we are now acutely conscious of is the danger posed back here in Australia, by people returning to Australia who have been radicalised and militarised by the experience of working with terrorist organisations overseas.”

Mr Abbott said the terrorist threat was as high as it had ever been.

Attorney-General George Brandis said new anti-terrorism laws would be brought to the parliament in the Spring sittings.

Talks will continue with telecommunications companies on the long-term storage of metadata which can be accessed by intelligence agencies to investigate terrorists.

The legislation sits alongside the extra $630 million of funds earmarked to boost counter-terrorism work by the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), AFP, ASIO and Customs and Border Protection.

Legislation to avoid ‘home-grown terrorists’

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said preventing Australian citizens from becoming involved in terrorist activities was one of Australia’s highest national security priorities.

“We are deeply concerned this security challenge will mean that Australian citizens fighting in these conflicts overseas will return to this country as hardened home-grown terrorists who may use the experiences and skills they have gained to carry out attacks in this country,” she said.

Before the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, there were 30 Australians involved with extremists – 25 of whom returned to Australia and two-thirds of whom became involved in terrorist activities.

“Five times that number are now of interest, fighting overseas or becoming involved,” Ms Bishop said.

Mr Abbott said the “ordinary range” of security monitors would provide a safeguard for innocent Australians returning from designated locations.

But the biggest protection would come in the form of negotiations with the Labor opposition, which had traditionally offered bipartisan support on security issues, he said.

“Democracy in the end is the most important safeguard when it comes to any of these things,” he said.

“We will need to get (Labor) onside, we will need to liaise with them and other members of the parliament to get the legislation through.”

Mr Abbott said the extra funding would come from the budget.

“I know we are under a lot of budget pressure but the community won’t thank us if we skimp unreasonably in the area of national security,” Mr Abbott said.

Racial Discrimination Act changes ‘off the table’

Mr Abbott said he still believed the Racial Discrimination Act needed to be changed.

“But I want the communities of our country to be our friend, not our critic,” he said.

“I want to work with the communities of our country as `Team Australia’ here.

“The government’s perfectly reasonable attempt to amend Section 18C has become a complication we just don’t need and we won’t proceed with.”

Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Labor would take up the offer of a briefing on the measures from the government.

But he also said Mr Abbott had used the cover of the new counter-terrorism measures to suddenly drop the controversial changes to section 18C of the discrimination act promoted by Senator Brandis.

PROPOSED CHANGES:

The laws would:

broaden the listing criteria for terrorist organisations to ensure advocacy of terrorist acts includes the promotion and encouragement of terrorismmake it easier to arrest terrorists by lowering the threshold for arrest without warrant for terrorism offencesextend ASIO’s questioning and detention powers beyond July 2016 when they were scheduled to expireextend Australian Federal Police (AFP) stop, search and seizure powers in relation to terrorist acts and offences beyond December 2015make it easier to prosecute foreign fighters make it an offence to participate in terrorist trainingenable ASIO to request the suspension of an Australian passport or foreign passport for a dual national.

Publish analysis of projects: NBN audit

An independent audit has damned Labor’s rollout of the national broadband network (NBN) and recommends all major infrastructure projects be subject to a published cost-benefit analysis.

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The review by former Productivity Commission head Bill Scales is highly critical of the NBN project, saying the Rudd cabinet gave only “perfunctory” consideration to the $43 billion second stage of its development.

The government-commissioned audit found that while the $4.7 billion NBN Mark I was “in general conducted appropriately from a public policy perspective”, Mark II was “rushed, chaotic and inadequate”.

The Scales review found the second stage, introduced in 2009, was given only 11 weeks consideration by the government.

No business case or cost-benefit analysis was done for the project, which has since been marked by delays and cost blowouts.

The company set up to deliver the project, NBN Co, was not “fit for purpose”, Mr Scales said.

Only a large and established telecommunications company could have rolled out the project in the allotted time.

The audit recommended all taxpayer-funded infrastructure projects worth more than $1 billion be subject to an independent cost benefit analysis, which should be released for public consultation.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has been charged with overhauling the NBN, said the multibillion-dollar infrastructure project was “an extraordinary leap into the unknown”.

“It was just a ramshackle, reckless excursion which has cost the nation tens of billions of dollars,” he told Sky News.

It was already coalition policy to have a cost-benefit analysis for projects worth more than $100 million, Mr Turnbull said.

He agreed there was a good case for making them public, “so the public understand what the government is doing with their money”.

The coalition has promised to rein in spending on the NBN, which under Labor relied on expensive fibre-to-the-premises technology.

It plans to introduce a mix of technologies, including fibre-to-the-node and fixed wireless.

Labor dismissed the Scales audit as a political attack on the NBN, saying it proved the government is not committed to broadband.

“We will create a digital divide in this country where a few people will have access to the best and fastest internet … and the rest of Australians will get second-rate helpings from the Abbott government,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

World Bank pledges millions to Ebola fight

The World Bank has pledged $US200 million to help contain the deadly Ebola virus sowing panic across west Africa, as Nigerian authorities say a doctor in Lagos has contracted the disease, the second case in the sprawling city.

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The confirmation that a fourth doctor in the region had developed Ebola came on Monday as fear and anger about the dead being left unburied in Liberia’s capital Monrovia brought protesters into the streets there.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone’s president said the regional epidemic threatened the “very essence” of the nation.

The World Bank said on Monday that it would provide up to $US200 million ($A216.39 million) to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help the west African nations contain the deadly outbreak.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, himself an expert on infectious diseases, said he has been monitoring the spread of the virus and was “deeply saddened” at how it was contributing to the breakdown of “already weak health systems in the three countries”.

The funding will help provide medical supplies, pay healthcare staff and take care of other priorities to contain the epidemic and try to prevent future outbreaks, the World Bank said.

The bank made the announcement as African leaders, including 35 presidents, are visiting Washington for a US-Africa summit.

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak on Monday reached 887 after 61 more fatalities were recorded, according to the World Health Organisation.

The latest doctor to be infected had attended to Patrick Sawyer, who worked for Liberia’s finance ministry and contracted the virus from his sister before travelling to Lagos for a meeting of west African officials.

Nigeria’s Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu told journalists that 70 other people believed to have come into contact with Sawyer, who has also died, were being monitored.

Of the eight now in quarantine, three show “symptomatic” signs of the disease, he said.

More worrying still were reports from Liberia that victims’ corpses were being dumped or abandoned. Protesters, who blocked major roads in the capital on Monday, claimed the government is leaving the bodies of victims to rot in the streets or in their homes.

The Liberian government had warned against touching the dead or anyone ill with Ebola-like symptoms, which include fever, vomiting, severe headaches and muscular pain and, in the final stages, profuse bleeding.

“Four people died in this community. Because the government says that we should not touch bodies, no one has gone to bury them,” said Kamara Fofana, 56, a protester in the Monrovia suburb of Douala. “We have been calling the ministry of health hotline to no avail.”

Deputy health minister Tolbert Nyensuah said the government was doing its best to collect bodies as quickly as possible.

In neighbouring Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma called for the nation to unite to counter the threat posed by the outbreak. “This is a collective fight. The very essence of our nation is at stake,” he said in a televised address.

Streets in the capital Freetown were empty on Monday as people observed an emergency “stay at home day” called by the authorities to help them reorganise their fight against epidemic.

Sierra Leone has the most confirmed cases of any nation – 574 – including 252 deaths since the virus spread from neighbouring Guinea in May.

President Koroma, who declared a state of emergency last week, urged families to ensure that victims were reported to health authorities.

Meanwhile, Kent Brantly, the US doctor infected with the virus, “seems to be improving”, the director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control, where he is being treated in an isolation unit, said on Sunday.

A second American infected with the virus while working in Liberia was being flown back to the US on Tuesday.

The Christian missionary group SIM USA said Nancy Writebol, 60, was in a “serious but stable condition”.

A man was admitted to a New York City hospital on Monday with Ebola-like symptoms though odds were he was not infected, a hospital official said.

The patient, who was placed under strict isolation, had recently travelled to West Africa, said David Reich, president of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.