Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says fears about the safety of a five-year-old boy may have sparked last week’s rampage on Manus Island, in which gunshots were allegedly fired into the Australian-run detention centre.
Mr Dutton told Sky News asylum seekers had been spotted leading the Papua New Guinean boy into the regional processing centre, which could have led to tensions escalating before the fracas on Good Friday.
Members of the PNG Defence Force, who were apparently drunk, allegedly discharged their weapons, threw stones and assaulted refugees, guards and local police officers in the clash.
However, PNG police were unable to confirm Mr Dutton’s account on Thursday, and refugees on the island vehemently denied its accuracy.
In his first comments on the incident, Mr Dutton appeared to link the two incidents.
“There was an alleged incident where three asylum seekers were alleged to be leading a local five-year-old boy back toward the facility,” he said.
“There was a lot of angst around that within the local PNG community. There was concern about why, or for what purpose, the boy was being led away back into the regional processing centre.
“I think it’s fair to say the mood had elevated quite quickly. I think some of the local residents were quite angry about this particular incident and another alleged sexual assault [by a refugee on Manus Island].”
Mr Dutton said he did not yet have all the details about the incident and it was subject to an investigation in PNG.
The explanation differs significantly from that put forward by the PNG Defence Force and Manus Island’s provincial police commander, David Yapu.
Mr Yapu previously said the incident had been sparked by a fight that broke out during a soccer match between asylum seekers and navy personnel.
Defence chief-of-staff Raymond Numa said asylum seekers started to throw rocks at soldiers after they were instructed to vacate the naval oval.
Fairfax Media spoke to Mr Yapu on Thursday afternoon. He said the substance of Mr Dutton’s explanation “needed to be confirmed”, and he had ordered an investigation into the claims.
The boy in question was reportedly the son of a PNG navy officer. He was safely returned to his family.
An Iranian refugee and journalist on Manus Island, Behrouz Boochani, reacted angrily to Mr Dutton’s remarks.
“It’s a big lie,” he said. “His comment is very dangerous and makes this place more unsafe because he is going to make more conflict between refugees and local people.”
Tensions are high on Manus Island after a 28-year-old Pakistani refugee was arrested and charged last month for the alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl in Lorengau.
It was the second sexual assault charge brought against an asylum seeker on Manus Island this year. None have been proven, and both have been contested.
The centre is slated for closure in the latter half of this year after being found unconstitutional by the PNG Supreme Court.
American authorities are assessing refugees who have applied for resettlement in the US as part of an agreement struck with the former Obama administration to take up to 1250 refugees from Manus Island and Nauru.
The PNG government has ordered separate investigations into the Good Friday incident, the PNG Post-Courier reported, following divergent explanations about what happened.
In an earlier statement, Mr Yapu said soldiers had fired their guns “into the air”, but refugees produced photographs they said showed damage from bullets fired into the compound.
Netball greats Catherine Cox and Liz Ellis have savaged the suggestion that players would be prepared to exploit landmark parental leave provisions simply to win themselves a so-called paid “holiday/break” – a claim the Australian Netball Players’ Association allege was raised during last year’s collective bargaining negotiations.
On Wednesday, an ANPA letter signed by representatives from the eight Super Netball clubs was forwarded to the delegates of Netball Australia’s state and territory associations as part of the bitter political stoush over board positions ahead of Friday’s annual general meeting.
It expressed, among other things, the players’ dismay that “the attack on the independence of the NA board is again being led by (member organisations) that during recent collective agreement negotiations aggressively and purposely sought to suggest that if pregnancy rights and provisions were provided into the agreement then the athletes would see it as an opportunity to have a ‘holiday/break’ at the expense of those MOs”.
The league’s pace-setting parental policy covers childcare costs during training sessions and travel expenses for a carer to attend games played interstate, benefiting the likes of Giants’ defender Bec Bulley, who returned this season after giving birth to daughter Indie 13 months ago. It also safeguards a player’s contract should she become pregnant, guaranteeing payment for the term of the contract or a two-year period – whichever comes first.
“It’s such an insult,” said former Diamonds captain and mother-of-two Ellis, of the alleged objections from some of the state bodies. “I have all sorts of problems with fertility, which is well-documented, so to put it in such a blithe way like that, that the players will just go away and have a holiday, it beggars belief, because it would have actually changed my life, to be able to have my kids earlier.
“But it also isn’t something the players will go into flippantly, because the thought of marrying one occupation where you have to be incredibly selfish, with another occupation where you have to be incredibly selfless, it’s such a difficult thing to do, that ‘holiday’ isn’t the word that springs to mind.”
Ellis said “the fact that this stuff has been bubbling along in the background” after surfacing during the protracted CBA talks may help explain the players’ association’s hardline stance in threatening industrial action and other severe measures should Kathryn Harby-Williams not be re-elected as a director.
“There’s been no hint from any player I know to say, ‘right, I might run off now and get knocked-up, because I can. Then I might have a holiday and I’ll get the nanny in’. Because your netball wage would cover that,” Ellis quipped
Cox, Ellis’ former Australian and Swifts teammate and the mother of 14-month-old Harper, added: “I don’t even have words to describe the stupidity of that comment. Wow. I’m yet to discover what part of motherhood feels like a holiday. That’s crazy.
“Aren’t we professional netballers? Can you imagine any other company saying that? They would be in so much trouble if they said something like that. It’s insane.”
Bulley, 34, who retired after the 2015 World Cup win to start a family, was too early to access paid parental leave, but not too late for the childcare assistance she could not have returned without.
“Years ago I would have loved to have had a baby and come back and played, but it just wasn’t something that you did,” said one of just three mothers in the league. “I think it’s amazing. We’re a women’s sport, it’s fantastic that Netball NSW have been so supportive of me coming back to play and also providing that support for me to have Indie with me. We’re trailblazing in this area.”
The federal government’s plans for more decentralisation of Commonwealth public servants from Canberra and other capital cities was mired in confusion and uncertainty on Thursday, less than 24 hours after the policy was launched.
Nationals’ leader Barnaby Joyce called a press conference to back away from the full scale of the policy ambition outlined by his deputy Fiona Nash at the National Press Club a day earlier, nominating several key departments that would not be moved to the regions.
But it remains unclear if the departments of Treasury, Agriculture and Finance would have to justify their continued presence in the capital and if other large Canberra-based operations would be subject to cost-benefit-analyses or policy templates to determine if they can be forced out of town.
Mr Joyce’s intervention came as the criticism of the scheme from Canberra business, academic and political leaders heightened, including friendly fire from the Coalition’s local senator and the leader of the Canberra Liberals.
There is uncertainty over which Commonwealth employers fall under the scope of the policy after Senator Nash refused to limit options on Wednesday but Mr Joyce ruled out certain moves on Thursday.
“You will have the vast majority of government, your Taxation Department, Treasury and Finance will be in Canberra,” he told the press conference.
“We won’t be moving the Treasury Department to Albury.
“That is obvious.”
But ministers will still be given until August to report back to Cabinet on which of their departments, agencies and other entities are considered suitable for relocation, with Mr Joyce and Senator Nash warning they will be expected to “actively justify” why any agency is unsuitable for relocation.
Business cases are expected to be with government by December.
But the backlash from Canberra against the policy continued from into Thursday with the Property Council of the ACT saying the Nationals’ plan look like it “hadn’t been well thought out.”
The council’s executive director Adina Cirson said Commonwealth tenants accounted for 55 per cent of the city’s office market.
“To rip that out of Canberra would be absolutely devastating, not only to Canberra but to the whole region and we have million people who use Canberra as a regional centre,” Ms Cirson said.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to what has been proposed, the experiment being carried out with Armidale shows there are no cost efficiencies to government.”
Ms Cirson said the latest business confidence survey had shown Canberra going from “strength to strength” but that she expected Wednesday’s announcement to send shockwaves through the city’s commercial community.
“I would bet money that when we do that survey again in June, that certainty will be gone from the market and that is very dangerous for the Canberra economy,” she said.
Stephen Byron, chief executive of Canberra Airport which has major public service departments among its tenants, said the decentralisation push out of Canberra was proving to be unsustainable.
“When you’re seeking to move public servants out of Canberra, you’re getting an 80 to 90 per cent attrition rate in the organisation,” Mr Byron said.
“It’s completely unsustainable for a government that wants to govern well and implement its policies, to be moving chunks of itself and stripping out 80 to 90 per cent of its capabilities.
Canberra Liberals Leader Alistair Coe said he was “very concerned by the announcement” while Liberal Senator for the ACT, Zed Seselja, said departments would be wasting their time justifying their capital city presences.
But Senator Seselja’s strong criticism of the plan has surprised some on both sides of the Liberal-National Coalition, with one colleague who asked not to be named, noting even Labor Chief Minister Andrew Barr had been more measured in his response.
Senator Seselja, a former territory opposition leader who is now Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, has spoken out in the past against Coalition cuts to the national capital.
But on Thursday, another government source noted MPs who accept sought-after frontbench positions were required to take on the responsibilities associated with the job, including defending policies of the government.
Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash says Newcastle would “absolutely” be a potential beneficiary of the federal government’s proposed decentralisation policy.
The government announced a policy on Wednesday that would force all federal departments and their portfolio agencies to justify their presence in Canberra andother capital cities, or else face a forced move to rural or regional Australia.
MsNash said all departments in the 155,000-strong Australian Public Service were to be assessed for “decentralisation.
While Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce deniedon Thursday that it would mean moving entire departments out of the capital, Ms Nash told the Newcastle Heraldthat the Hunter could benefit from the policy.
“Newcastle and [the] Hunter would absolutely be eligible for consideration under the Coalition government’s decentralisation policy,” she said.
“People outside Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra deserve the benefits of government departments just as much as capital city people do.”
But Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon says the cost of the federal government’s proposalto send Canberra government agencies to regional Australia would most likely outweigh the benefits of having departments move to cities like Newcastle.
Citing the government’s controversial forced relocation of the Australian Pesticides And Veterinary Medicines Authority to Mr Joyce’s electorate ofNew England, Mr Fitzgibbon said the cost of the move –officially $26 million –was “a lot of roads and bridges that could be built in the Hunter”.
He said the proposal was a “thought bubble”.
“What is most important is that departments and public servants are in close proximity topoliticians so that they can be effective,” he said.
“That’s the very model on which Canberra was built.”
He said Labor was “always happy to talk decentralisation when it made sense” and said the Hunter had benefited from having thetax office in Newcastle.
“Decentralisationcan work and be beneficial where it’s well-planned, logical, and doesn’t undermine the capacity of an agency to do its job,” he said.
A man charged with the murder of a woman more than three decades ago has been granted conditional bail with a court noting there is an absence of forensic evidence to incriminate him.
Rodney Lawrence, 66, is charged with the stabbing murder of Elizabeth “Betty” Dixon, 31, whose body was discovered in her car in bushland at Ashtonfield, in the Hunter region, in April 1982.
The Northern Irishwoman, who had been tied up, suffered 27 stab wounds and head injuries consistent with being struck with a blunt object.
Mr Lawrence has pleaded not guilty to the murder and the alternative charge of being an accessory after the fact.
During a release application in the Supreme Court on Wednesday the court heard Mr Lawrence has consistently maintained his dead father-in-law was the culprit.
On Thursday Justice Elizabeth Fullerton granted Mr Lawrence strict conditional bail, including that he live with his sister and a number of people deposit a combined total of $72,000 surety.
Justice Fullerton said the Crown case was based on the inconsistencies in the accounts he had given to police and to his son about his movements at the time of Ms Dixon’s death.
Mr Lawrence’s barrister Chris Bruce SC had told the court that Mr Lawrence had consistently maintained the “principal offender” was his father-in-law, William Phillips, who had since died, and who Mr Lawrence said had threatened him.
Mr Lawrence’s son had recalled a 2002 conversation when his father told him Mr Phillips had killed Ms Dixon and Mr Lawrence had later assisted him “under duress”, Mr Bruce said.
Another judge had denied Mr Lawrence bail in December 2015 but Justice Fullerton said Mr Lawrence would have been in custody for two years if kept on remand before his trial started in November.
The Crown opposed bail, alleging Mr Lawrence had told lies and was the “perpetrator” despite maintaining his father-in-law was the culprit.
The court also heard there was concern Mr Lawrence would attempt to interfere with his son to “deter him from giving evidence at the trial”.
But Justice Fullerton said any risk could be mitigated by strict bail conditions including that he be of good behaviour and report daily to police. She noted he has long-standing problems with alcohol.
“He’s a grown man with no prior criminal record; he has given various accounts it’s true [but] he will understand more than anybody the need to comply with strict conditions,” she said.
Mr Lawrence will be released from Long Bay Correctional Centre where he is being held on remand.
DINNER: Nathan Brown, left, and Shaun Kenny-Dowall.NATHAN Brown’s credit card has been getting a workout at Newcastle’s eateries.
Having spent the past few weeks courting prospective signings like Jack Bird, Ben Matulino and Kieran Foran, the Knights coach was spotted dining with Sydney Roosters outside back Shaun Kenny-Dowall in The Junction on Wednesday night.
As our exclusive photograph shows, the pairwere deep in conversation. Possibly they were debating whether to order the chicken or the fish, or perhaps they were discussingthe prospects of Kenny-Dowall joining the Knights next season.
It is not the first time Brown has been spotted at a Newcastle cafe negotiating with players, after photos appeared of him and the Fifita brothers, Andrew and David, in Hamilton during the pre-season.
Kenny-Dowall, the 29-year-old New Zealand international is off-contract at the end of this year and could be squeezed outif the Roosters proceed with plans to sign Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco.
Tedesco has been given until close of business Friday to re-sign with the Tigers, amid speculation the Roosters are tempting him with a deal that would be worth close to $1 million a season.
To accommodate him, they would likelyneed to off-load players, potentially giving Newcastle a shot at signing Kenny-Dowall.
In 222 top-grade games, the lanky winger or centre has scored 120 tries.
Of current players in the NRL, only Billy Slater (172), Manu Vatuvei (152), Greg Inglis (139), Brett Morris (134) and Michael Jennings (123) have crossed the stripe more often.
He has also scored nine tries in 20 Tests for the Kiwis and was a member of the Roosters’ 2013 grand final winning team, playing much of that game with a broken jaw.
Brown has insisted since missing out on signing Bird last week that Newcastle would keep bidding for top-tier players.
TARGET: Shaun Kenny-Dowall
“We want to attract a couple of high-profile players with a lot of experience to go with our younger players …the players we’re looking at are very well-credentialled,” Brown said on Wednesday.
The state government has ended months of speculation and announced former Supreme Court judge Peter Hall will become the new chief commissioner of the corruption watchdog.
Former premier Mike Baird courted controversy last year when he announced a restructure of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which effectively ousted serving boss Megan Latham from office.
Justice Latham, who has since returned to the Supreme Court bench, opted not to reapply for a job in the restructured agency.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Thursday the government would propose Mr Hall, QC, be appointed the chief commissioner of the ICAC. The restructured agency will have an additional two commissioners, who are yet to be appointed.
A joint parliamentary committee overseeing the ICAC must approve the appointment but it is not anticipated the recommendation will be opposed.
Shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch said: “We have no objection to Peter Hall’s appointment.
“It’s just a pity there was a vacancy at all.”
Fairfax Media revealed in November that Mr Hall, a former judge of the NSW Supreme Court and a former ICAC assistant commissioner, was a leading contender for one of the new roles.
In 2004 he authored a book on the powers and procedures of commissions of inquiry charged with investigating corruption and misconduct in public office.
Mr Hall was invited by the ICAC parliamentary committee to make a submission on the proposed restructure of the agency, under a plan devised by the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.
However, Mr Hall said he would not support the change.
“No material has been advanced which suggests or establishes any deficiencies or problems associated with the sole commissioner model,” Mr Hall said in his submission.
The Baird government came under fire for passing an Act of Parliament which axed Justice Latham’s position and created a chief commissioner position supported by two new commissioners.
Labor said the move was a “ruse” to remove Justice Latham, who was criticised over her handling of high-profile inquiries including the aborted investigation into Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC.
The High court found the ICAC had no power to investigate Ms Cunneen and the state’s solicitor-general subsequently advised that Ms Cunneen should not be charged with any offence as a result of material gathered by the ICAC.
Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok, was labelled?? “China’s Julian Assange” after appearing in online interviews while in self-imposed exile. Photo: Screengrab/Voice of AmericaBeijing: An Australian property developer says he is “very happy” at the news that Interpol has issued a red alert notice for the arrest of a Chinese tycoon, member of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, living in exile in New York.
“He is a very bad man,” says Melbourne’s Zheng Jiefu, who says his family and business had been threatened by the flamboyant billionaire. “He did damage to my business and damage to my family”.
While some social media users on Wednesday labelled Guo Wengui, aka Miles Kwok, as “China’s Julian Assange”, after his live internet broadcast in which he made corruption allegations against senior political figures, Mr Zheng says he knows a darker truth.
Mr Zheng claims Mr Guo sent thugs to Brighton to follow him around in a Mitsubishi four-wheel drive, and stuffed threatening letters in his mailbox two years ago.
“That was Mr Guo.”
“I am very happy Interpol has issued this notice,” Mr Zheng said by phone.
Mr Guo has been living in luxurious exile in New York and London, profiling his lifestyle on Twitter, and last month it emerged he was a member of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago resort in Florida. He has appeared in three sensational video interviews, broadcast online, in which he has levelled corruption allegations at the family of Chinese vice ministers.
Mr Guo has also admitted toppling a former Beijing deputy mayor by providing a sex tape to police.
Hours before the latest webcast, recorded by Voice of America in New York, went to air on Wednesday, Interpol issued a red notice for his arrest pending extradition. China’s Foreign Ministry labelled him a criminal suspect.
Amnesty International has said the red notice against Mr Guo’s raises questions about the political interference of China in Interpol, whose president is former Chinese vice minister of public security Meng Hongwei.
But Mr Zheng believes Mr Guo is a central figure in one of China’s “black societies”.
The property developer says he has been providing information about Mr Guo to Chinese authorities for the past four years. “I told the Chinese government everything,” he said.
If his safety concerns are overcome, Mr Zheng says he may return to China in the near future to give evidence. His fear in returning to China is Mr Guo’s black society, not the Chinese police, he says.
Mr Zheng has assets worth about $40 million in Australia. But in China, he had controlled a $2billion conglomerate, Tianjin Bohai Circle, until it was appropriated by Mr Guo and China’s then powerful spymaster Ma Jian.
Mr Guo is wanted by Interpol for allegedly bribing former Chinese state security vice-minister Ma Jian with 60 million yuan ($11.5 million). Ma is under investigation for corruption.
Mr Zheng told Fairfax Media in 2015 that Mr Guo and Mr Ma heavied all of his important relationships, destroyed his marriage, threatened his children and, at one stage, turned up with six Reservoir Dogs-style henchmen in sunglasses and black coats.
Mr Guo left China two years ago after his assets of $US17 billion ($22.6 million) were frozen in a corruption investigation into Mr Ma.
Mr Guo has claimed that the red notice was issued to put pressure on Voice of America not to broadcast Mr Guo’s interview.
The interview went ahead, although Mr Guo complained it was cut short after one hour. VOA has said it will broadcast more of the material it recorded after fact-checking.
Another video, appearing to show Mr Ma confessing to how Mr Guo bribed him, was circulating online Chinese sites on Wednesday, in apparent retaliation to the tycoon’s claims.
In it, Mr Ma says he helped Mr Guo harass his business opponents in return for 60 million yuan in bribes, which included borrowing 6 million yuan to purchase six apartments and 20 million yuan to buy 10 offices, as well as 3 million yuan in “red envelopes” and 200,000 Hong Kong dollars worth of shoes and suits. Financial news website Caixin published the video.
The duelling video claims of corruption are being read as a proxy war between China’s elite political factions ahead of an important meeting in November which will determine the transfer of power in the Communist Party’s Politburo for the next five years.
Luke Brattan has a fair idea of what it takes to win an A-League championship.
He was, after all, a member of the record-breaking Brisbane Roar line-up that won three titles in a four-season period between 2010-11 and 2013-14.
So when he says that his club, Melbourne City, have a deeper squad than that standard-setting Brisbane outfit, it says a lot for the Bundoora-based team, which is preparing to face Perth Glory in a cut-throat elimination final on Sunday.
Brattan can, of course, be accused of bias and of talking up his employers.
But he is careful to stress that while the City squad might be deeper, it doesn’t necessarily mean the first-choice line-up is stronger.
And, he points out, quality and talent are not always the deciding factors. A strong mentality and sheer determination also have a role to play.
“The quality we have in the squad is unbelievable. But sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes it’s about heart, the will to win, and I think we have got that. This is when you need that, the finals bring that out.
“I went through this in Brisbane a fair few times. It’s a different feeling that we are going into finals off the back of a really strange game (the 5-4 loss to Perth Glory in Perth). In Brisbane, we always had a fair bit of momentum going into the finals, teams knew what to expect from us.
“But at the same time, I think this squad is better than the one I was in in Brisbane. I know it’s hard to say that but the quality we have all around the park is phenomenal. I know that we can do things when we play well and we all gel together, it is scary. We see that day in, day out, at training.
“I didn’t say it’s a better team, it’s an all-round better squad but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will win more games or score more points.
“The Sydney squad is not the best squad but they are a good group, they are consistent and have broken records and that’s credit to them.
“The individuals we have in this squad are phenomenal, and it’s rare to get the individuals we have in this squad with a salary cap.”
Like his teammate Tim Cahill, Brattan would be surprised if the City v Glory final was a repeat of the harum-scarum game last Sunday.
“The game in Perth was very, very strange. I have never been a part of anything like that. To have a clean slate now and concentrate on Sunday is fantastic.
“The lesson was that we can score, we are extremely dangerous in the final third, but it’s about not conceding goals. Defence wins you games, we will tighten things up at the back.
“Glory are physical, they are dangerous from set pieces, they cheat a bit up front, but they are good on the counter. When you have the quality of (Diego) Castro, (Andy) Keogh and (Adam) Taggart making forward runs they are dangerous.”
Election-weary Britons head to the polls on June 8. The French will vote this weekend. Americans only recently concluded their distended democratic ritual. Different countries, different systems, different voters. A common theme? Immigration.
Donald Trump pulled off his unlikely victory by invoking a dichotomy: Americans versus others. The antediluvian promise to make America great again was pitched at a demoralised working class, deprived of a social safety net and denied real wage growth for decades.
It cleverly ignored the yawning gulf between a privileged, tax-astute billionaire and his new electoral quarry by excavating an even bigger hole in which immigration was conflated with national security, free trade with job losses, globalism with US decline.
In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front exploits similar tensions by branding asylum seekers “illegal”. “They have no reason to stay in France” Le Pen says blithely because “these people broke the law the minute they set foot on French soil”.
Theresa May’s snap British poll is an aftershock of last year’s stunning Brexit quake when ordinary Brits ignored elite opinion to cut ties with Europe. Their disaffection derived substantially from the EU’s free movement rules that had foreign labour transforming the British economy in ways that suited capital but left workers feeling worse off.
Le Pen, fanning the same anxieties, frames French citizenship as “either inherited or merited”, which may be reasonable coming from a more moderate voice. Most, however, see it as the dog-whistle it is: extremism masquerading as common sense. It is typical of the new xenophobia that parades as an antidote to global uncertainty yet poses an existential threat to French cohesion, as well as European stability.
Against these trends, Turnbull’s deification of “Australian citizenship” reflects Australia’s more sober debate.
It locates Australian identity as a set of beliefs under the rubric of multiple differences: “We’re not defined by race or religion or culture, as many other nations are. We’re defined by commitment to common values, political values, the rule of law, democracy, freedom, mutual respect, equality for men and women. These fundamental values are what make us Australian.”
Unsurprisingly, Turnbull’s new muscularity on Aussie “values”, which, rhetorically at least, sits more readily with his predecessor, Tony Abbott, has fuelled plenty of suspicion. Cynical observers will view it as a Clayton’s boat people fight, the one you engender once the boats have actually stopped being an issue.
Doubtless an embattled prime minister would welcome any electoral dividend and the extra protection within his own party room. But that does not of itself, make the proposed changes wrong.