Across the Ditch: 5 things to read now

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland.
Great Barrier Reef, Queensland.

1 Refugee deal 'not a failure'
It's been dubbed a failure by a top official in Phnom Penh, but Immigration Minister Peter Dutton insists Australia's refugee resettlement deal with Cambodia isn't a A$55 million white elephant. Of the five refugees who agreed to move from Nauru under the deal, only two remain in Cambodia after three opted to return to their countries of origin. Australia offered Cambodia a A$40 million aid sweetener and A$15 million was earmarked for the International Organisation for Migration for resettlement costs. Not all of that money has been spent. "Nobody has been paid A$55 million," Dutton told ABC radio. "We pay as people go across to Cambodia." Dutton declined to provide an exact figure but said it was in the low millions of dollars. Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan admits the country doesn't have the social services needed to support the integration of refugees into Khmer society. "You could say it is a failure, but at least we relieved them from the camp," the spokesman told Al Jazeera.

2 Reef bleaching downplayed
North Queensland's peak tourist body is downplaying the severity of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, saying areas around Cairns remain healthy.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland has launched a social media campaign to entice visitors to the reef, following a scientific aerial survey that reported devastating damage between Cape York and Townsville. The reef is in the midst of its worst coral bleaching event on record, with an reef expert last week describing the most pristine parts north of Cairns as "fried". A National Coral Bleaching Taskforce survey found 95 per cent of those reefs were in the two most severe categories of bleaching. Further aerial imaging showed some 74 reefs between Cairns and Townsville were on average bleached by 25-30 per cent. However, TTNQ chief executive officer Alex de Waal says areas off Cairns and Port Douglas, where the majority of boat tours visit, are "looking great". He added: "The coral bleaching events that scientists have recorded in the reefs off Cape York are of great concern, but we need to temper these reports with what is happening in the sections of the Great Barrier Reef easily accessible to the general public."

3 Arrest over horse deaths
A man has been arrested after more than 40 horses were found dead or malnourished at a Melbourne property. Twenty-two horses, believed to be thoroughbreds or former race horses, were found dead and another needed to be euthanised by a vet after neighbours complained about a foul smell in Bulla on Sunday. Police are now trying to find a new home for another 22 horses suffering from malnutrition. Police said they had arrested a 63-year-old Bulla man who was being questioned. Horse lovers from a nearby riding club took to social media to vent their anger at such "disgusting animal cruelty". Those found guilty of causing death by neglect in Victoria could face up to two years imprisonment, a A$74,620 fine and be banned from owning any animal for at least 10 years.

4 Panama Aussie clients
More than 800 Australian clients of the secretive law firm at the centre of the Panama Papers scandal are being investigated by the Australian Taxation Office. A massive leak of 11.5 million documents held by Mossack Fonseca has revealed how the rich, including political leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, hide their money. The ATO is examining the dealings of 800 Australian high net worth individuals and has linked more than 120 of them to an associate offshore service provider situated in Hong Kong, the Australian Financial Review reported.

5 Surfing koala
A bright blue koala that likes to surf has been unveiled as the official mascot for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Borobi takes his name from an indigenous word for koala and appears to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie. He likes to catch a wave, despite the obvious balance problems his over-sized head would pose. And he arrived on a Gold Coast beach today Tom Cruise-style, winched from a hovering chopper into the arms of surf lifesavers. Aussie surfing champion Mark Occhilupo was on Burleigh Heads beach to greet the mascot, who'll be tasked with selling millions of dollars in games merchandise. The Queensland Government says preparations are well in hand. The A$320 million construction program for competition venues is on track and on budget, with all new and upgraded facilities set to be delivered within the next 12 months.

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