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Archive for March, 2019

March 30th, 2019 by admin

PM won't comment on Mori delay

Mr Howard declined, however, to comment on those reports.

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Major Mori could be removed from the case after threats from the chief US prosecutor, Colonel Morris Davis, to charge him under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Fairfax newspapers report.

It would take months for a new lawyer to get to grips with the case and the new military commission process.

Prime Minister John Howard has told the United States any action leading to further delays would be unacceptable and would prompt him to demand the return of Hicks, 31, after five years in custody in Guantanamo Bay.

Mr Howard said much had happened in the past few weeks.

"I believe that is the direct result of the representations I have made," he said.

Mr Howard said he didn't know what would happen to Major Mori as that was a matter for US authorities.

"I would expect that to be resolved by the Americans and I am not going to offer a comment on that. I have not had any dealings with him," he said.

"I am not going to interfere in anything that is happening in the US except to repeat that we are very angry that it has taken so long," he said.

"I share the views of many Australians that justice delayed is justice denied, and the delay here has been unacceptable and we really require the meticulous travelling of a speedy pathway towards a trial."

Mr Howard said he remained reluctant to see Hicks brought back to Australia without a trial in America.

"But I am very angry that it has taken so long and we are watching it on a daily basis," he said.

The Fairfax newspapers report says that the chief US prosecutor, Colonel Morris Davis, has accused Major Mori of breaching Article 88 of the US military code.

It relates to using contemptuous language towards the president, vice-president, and secretary of defence. Penalties for breaching the code include jail and the loss of employment and entitlements.

Major Mori denied he had done anything improper but said the accusations left him with an inherent conflict of interest.

"It can't help but raise an issue of whether any further representation of David and his wellbeing could be tainted by a concern for my own legal wellbeing," Major Mori told the newspaper. "David Hicks needs counsel who is not tainted by these allegations."

Major Mori, who has been to Australia seven times, will seek legal advice. The issue will also have to be raised with Hicks when his legal team next sees him, the report says.

Colonel Davis said Major Mori was not playing by the rules and criticised his regular trips to Australia. He said he would not tolerate such behaviour from his own prosecutors.

"Certainly, in the US it would not be tolerated having a US marine in uniform actively inserting himself into the political process. It is very disappointing," he told the newspaper. "He doesn't seem to be held to the same standards as his brother officers."

March 30th, 2019 by admin

Rudd denies any Burke deal

Prime Minister John Howard has attacked Mr Rudd over three meetings the federal opposition leader had with the former Labor premier in 2005.

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The prime minister has accused Mr Rudd of courting Mr Burke's support in preparation for a leadership challenge on former ALP leader Kim Beazley.

Mr Rudd told Southern Cross Broadcasting today that that was completely untrue.

"That is an absolute untruth and Mr Howard should hang his head in shame for saying that sort of thing," Mr Rudd said.

During one trip to Perth in August 2005 Mr Rudd attended a dinner organised by Mr Burke and his discredited business partner Julian Grill.

An email circulated to politicians and business figures by Mr Burke ahead of the dinner promoted Mr Rudd as the main drawcard.

Mr Rudd said again that he had been invited to the dinner by Labor backbencher Graham Edwards, who then told Mr Burke that Mr Rudd was coming.

Mr Burke had then circulated the email without his knowing, Mr Rudd said.

"But when I went along to this dinner I was completely unaware of the email or its contents," Mr Rudd said.

"I knew that I was going to a dinner which Mr Burke would be at and where business people would be at and that's the beginning and the end of it."

Mr Rudd denied ever asking Mr Burke for his support in winning the Labor leadership.

"On the question of the Labor leadership can I be absolutely clear cut about this: at no time had I ever asked Mr Burke to support me to remove Kim Beazley and be replaced by me.

"Never ever, ever, ever.

"It's just an absurd allegation for Mr Howard to make," Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd said it was important to remember that both Mr Burke and Mr Edwards were long-time supporters of Mr Beazley, and would be unlikely to help Mr Rudd topple him.

He pointed out that, in any event, the WA caucus had voted against Mr Rudd when he successfully won the Labor leadership.

Asked what he had spoken to Mr Burke about during his three Perth meetings, Mr Rudd said the pair had basic discussions about state and federal politics.

"Well Mr Burke has, obviously, a big interest in politics and as I said in my statement the other day in Canberra there was a general discussion about national politics, a general discussion about state politics and I have no recollection whatsoever myself of any discussion of Mr Beazley's leadership," Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd denied he had any debt of obligation to Mr Burke.

He said Mr Howard was running a negative smear campaign against him.

March 30th, 2019 by admin

Hicks' trial possibly delayed

Last week Mr Hicks was formally charged by the US with providing material support for terrorism and is due to face trial before a US military commission within four months.

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But Mr Hicks' outspoken military lawyer Major Michael Mori has said he could be pulled from the case for being too political and that could cause a further delay.

The chief US prosecutor, Colonel Morris Davis, has accused Major Mori of breaching Article 88 of the US military code by actively inserting himself into the political process.

That section relates to using contemptuous language towards the US president, vice-president, and secretary of defence.

Labor has called on the government to defend Major Mori or face the possibility of Hicks' trial being delayed again.

"If the Howard government does not intervene at this point, we face the prospect that Major Mori will not be able to continue to represent David Hicks in future," opposition legal affairs spokesman Kelvin Thomson told reporters.

"This will simply damage the defence case and the search for a replacement lawyer will add more delays to a situation where David Hicks has already been at Guantanamo Bay for over five years without a trial."

Prime Minister John Howard said any delay would be unacceptable.

"We would not regard a further significant delay as being acceptable," Mr Howard told the Nine Network.

However, Mr Howard refused to comment on the threat to Major Mori.

In the past, Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has strongly backed the vigorous defence of Hicks offered by Major Mori as proof the military commission system the US is using to prosecute suspected terrorists is appropriate.

"Extensive safeguards are in place for a fair trial, and of course, Major Mori is part of that process," Mr Ruddock said yesterday.

"I presume that other members of that process will bring the same diligent approach to their roles as Major Mori."

The Adelaide-born Mr Hicks has been held in the US prison at Guantanamo Bay for five years without trial since his capture in Afghanistan in late 2001.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance said any charges against Major

Mori would delay a trial.

"News that … Major Mori could face charges … for inserting himself into the political process would do nothing but create further delays for Hicks," alliance president Simon Morrison said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says he's optimistic the current timetable set down for Mr Hicks can still be met.

Speaking in Jakarta, Mr Downer says lots of players are at fault for the delays, including the Pentagon, and Australia doesn't want any more procrastinations.

March 30th, 2019 by admin

MPs castigate govt drug bodies

Members of a parliamentary committee today accused the department of allocating federal funding to organisations that were deliberately undermining the government by advocating a tolerant approach to drug-taking.

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And the department’s own publications and websites were not sending a strong enough message, MPs said.

House of Representatives Families Committee members said the mixed messages being sent into the community were hampering the war on drugs.

The committee is conducting public hearings on the impact of illicit drug use on families, and today quizzed the health department on the implementation of the government’s National Drugs Strategy.

Committee chair Bronwyn Bishop said the strategy, which had cost $1 billion over the past 10 years, guided policy at all levels of government.

But Ms Bishop seized on a book edited by Margaret Hamilton, a member of the government’s principal drug advisory body, the Australian National Council on Drugs, that promoted harm minimisation because it “avoided the moral minefield about whether drug use is good or bad”.

“This woman is the deputy chair of a government authority, which is supposed to be carrying out zero tolerance in accordance with government policy,” Ms Bishop said.

“We are sending the most terrible mixed messages.”

Liberal MP Alan Cadman said it appeared the department had a different philosophy to the government and thought its views were superior.

Colleague David Fawcett said government agencies had to be “completely unambiguous” in telling children that drugs caused incredible harm.

But the inconsistency meant some troubled and impressionable teenagers were left with the message that taking drugs was still an option for them.

“As a government, if we see people who we are funding are deliberately sending mixed messages, isn’t it reasonable that we look at stopping it?” he asked the department representatives.

Liberal MP Louise Markus said the department had to show leadership to ensure the government’s hard line policy filtered into state-run services such as policing, yet its own publications were not using strong enough terminology.

But the department’s communications branch assistant secretary Laurie Van Veen said focus groups had found department campaigns improved awareness and fear of amphetamines and ice.

She said 97 per cent of young people surveyed believed the government’s campaigns on drugs including cannabis, ecstasy and speed that ran across Australia in 2005.

And department deputy secretary David Learmonth defended the organisation’s implementation of government policy.

He said the department consulted widely and reported its findings to the minister, but acted only in accordance with the policy directions of the government.

March 30th, 2019 by admin

Mori won’t be charged: Davis

The US chief military prosector has denied reports he is moving to charge David Hicks’ defence lawyer, Major Michael Mori, for being outspoken.

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Colonel Morris Davis says he would be "dumbfounded" if the Australian terror suspect's lawyer was court-martialled for his comments.

Col Davis said he had no power to charge him for contemptuous comments made against US President George W Bush, the US Secretary of Defence or Congress.

The prosecutor also said he was not aware of any moves by US officials with that power to bring charges against Maj Mori.

There were fears that if he was court-martialled it would delay Hicks' long-awaited military commission trial.

"I'm not aware of anybody, anywhere that has any intention of charging Maj Mori with anything," Col Davis said.

Col Davis created headlines on the weekend when he suggested Maj Mori may have breached Article 88 of the US Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Article 88 prohibits military officers from using "contemptuous words" against the president, vice president, US secretary of defence or Congress.

Maj Mori, during numerous trips to Australia and in interviews in the US, has been a staunch critic of the military commission system to prosecute Hicks and other Guantanamo Bay inmates.

Mori has gone ‘too far’

Col Davis stood by his allegation that Maj Mori had gone "too far" in his campaign to free Hicks, including attending rallies dressed in US military uniform.

"I certainly wouldn't permit that from my folks," Col Davis said.

"But, he's not one of my folks."

Asked if he believed Maj Mori should be court-martialled for breaching Article 88 of the UCMJ, Col Davis said "it's not my decision".

"He's not in my chain of command," Col Davis continued.

"I have no authority over him.

"I'm in the Air Force, he's in the Marine Corps.

"I'm not responsible for Major Mori."

Col Davis said the origin of Article 88 can be traced back more than 200 years to the British Articles of War of 1769.

He said it was extremely rare for a military officer to be prosecuted for an alleged Article 88 violation.

"You can count the number of court martials for Article 88 violations on one hand," Col Davis said.

"They are very uncommon.

"I would be absolutely dumbfounded if this kind of thing rose to that level."

Adelaide-born Hicks, 31, was charged last Thursday with providing material support for terrorism.

It is expected he will make his first appearance before the military commission at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in late March.

Hicks has been in US custody for more than five years after being picked up on the Afghanistan battlefield in December, 2001.

It is alleged Hicks trained and fought with al-Qaeda against US and coalition troops in Afghanistan.

March 1st, 2019 by admin

Labor support soars

The Newspoll published in today's The Australian newspaper reveals Labor's two-party preferred support has risen three percentage points to 57 per cent – its highest in Newspoll surveys since 1993.

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The coalition has slipped three points to 43 per cent.

The poll was taken on March 2-4 at the height of the government's personal attacks on Mr Rudd over his meetings with disgraced former West Australian premier Brian Burke.

Labor's primary vote is the highest it has been since 2001, nudging up one point to 47 per cent, while the coalition's primary vote has slumped four points to 37 per cent.

The poll shows the Burke affair has soured Mr Rudd's honeymoon with voters, with his personal support dropping six points from its record heights to 62 per cent and his dissatisfaction rating climbing five points to 18 per cent.

Prime Minister John Howard's approval rating has dropped two points to 42 per cent while his dissatisfaction rating has risen three points to 49 per cent.

Mr Rudd has been pegged back slightly as preferred prime minister, slipping two points to 45 per cent as Mr Howard clawed back one point to 38 per cent.

Mr Rudd said he was not surprised his standing had been damaged by Mr Howard's "negative smear campaign".

"When people throw mud, mud always sticks a bit," Mr Rudd told the newspaper.

"But I'm confident in this: when it comes to the Australian people making their judgement in the future, that's when they'll make it on the basis of their judgement of Mr Howard's character and my character."

March 1st, 2019 by admin

Police raid 3 fed MPs' offices

Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers raided the offices of the three Queensland MPs – member for Moreton Gary Hardgrave, member for Bowman Andrew Laming and member for Bonner Ross Vasta – last Friday, but would not comment on the nature of the investigation.

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"We conducted some search warrants in the Brisbane area on Friday," a spokeswoman said.

"That's all we're saying."

However, News Limited reported today that the wide-ranging investigation, believed to have been running for at least six months, is linked to allegations of abuse of electoral allowances.

A printing firm from Woolloongabba, in south Brisbane, and a graphic artist's office were also raided as part of the investigation.

Mr Laming, Mr Hardgrave and the printing business told reporters that documents had been seized during the raids, and said they had co-operated fully with police while they executed the search warrants.

Mr Hardgrave, who spent yesterday campaigning with Prime Minister John Howard in Brisbane, said he had done nothing wrong.

"It's got nothing to do with me," he said.

"I've done nothing wrong. They were simply trying to verify some things. It is absolutely nothing I've done or nothing my office has done."

Bruce Flegg says he is not aware of any specific allegations against the three federal government MPs.

He says he learned of the raids through the media this morning and hasn't been able to confirm any details with the State Director of the Liberal Party.

March 1st, 2019 by admin

Crowe narrates Bra Boys' lives

Abberton brothers Jai, Koby and Sunny will be releasing their first documentary-style film Bra Boys, narrated by Oscar winner Russell Crowe, on March 15 in Australia.

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The world premiere for the film, which is based on the Abberton brothers's lives as gang members and professional surfers, will be held at Sydney's State Theatre on Wednesday, March 7.

Russell Crowe contacted Sydney gang member Koby Abberton in November 2005, with the prospect of filming a movie based on the professional surfer's life.

Mr Crowe had watched Mr Abberton talk to ABC's Australian Story about life growing up surrounded by violence, poverty and drugs in the Sydney beach suburb of Maroubra, and saw a potential film script.

"He kept calling saying it was Russell Crowe and I thought it was one of the boys playing a joke so I would hang up," the 27-year-old surfer told newswire agency AAP in Sydney on Tuesday.

"There were emails too but I kept ignoring them, until a mate of mine who plays footy for South Sydney told me Russell had been trying to ring me but I kept hanging up on him. I couldn't believe it.

"He believed in my story … he realised there was more to tell."

Unknown to Mr Crowe, Mr Abberton's older brother Sunny, 37, was in the process of writing a documentary-style film of their troubled life.

On March 15 Sunny will make his writing, directorial and producing debut with the release of Bra Boys, a film about the cultural evolution of Maroubra and the social struggle of its youth, including the tattooed and much-maligned gang known as the Bra Boys.

Mr Crowe narrates the 90-minute film featuring Koby and Sunny Abberton.

"If Russell didn't believe in the film he wasn't going to do it," Koby said.

"He believes in the struggle and he knew it was a story worth telling."

The brothers agree having the Hollywood star's name linked to the project generates greater interest and they hope to market the film overseas.

"Oh, definitely it adds weight," Koby said.

"He is an Oscar winner and one of the best actors in the world, people will listen.

"Hopefully it does well here (the film) and we can tour it through Europe," added Sunny.

Sunny Abberton is already working on a feature adaptation of the documentary, which also stars middle sibling Jai, who was acquitted of murdering Sydney underworld figure Anthony Hines in early 2005.

The case made national headlines and the family gained more attention when Koby Abberton was charged with hindering police investigations.

Last year Koby was convicted of lying to police, but escaped doing time in prison.

Archival footage follows the brothers from 2003, documenting their thoughts throughout the case.

"It was showing the reality of what our lives are like," Koby said.

"We grew up in a very violent home life and violent area, with drugs and crime around, we aren't hiding that … that time in our life (the court case) was tough, but me and my brothers stick together.

"There were a lot of misconceptions about us and now we can show our story in a real and honest light," added Sunny.

March 1st, 2019 by admin

Ellison replaces Campbell

Chris Ellison new Human Resources Minister

Prime Minister John Howard says Senator Chris Ellison will replace Ian Campbell in Cabinet as the Human Services Minister.

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Senator Campbell resigned over a 20 minute meeting he had with disgraced former West Australian premier and lobbyist Brian Burke last year.

"With the permission of his excellency the Governor-General, I can inform you that Senator Chris Ellison will replace Senator Ian Campbell," Mr Howard told reporters in Canberra.

"Senator Ellison has served with great ability in a number of portfolios," he said.

Senator Ellison moves to his new portfolio from his current ministry of customs and justice.

David Johnston new Justice and Customs minister

Mr Howard says Western Australian Liberal Senator David Johnston will replace Senator Ellison as Justice and Customs Minister.

"His position as Minister for Justice and Customs will be taken by Senator David Johnston, a Senator from Western Australia, " the prime minister said.

"Senator Johnston has now been in the parliament for some five years, he's been a very effective senator".

"He has a long experience both as a lawyer and as a leading official in the West Australian division of the Liberal Party.

"He did practise for a period of time in Kalgoorlie, Mr Howard said.

"He will be a very effective new minister and I congratulate him."

Mr Howard confirmed Senator Johnston had in the past been associated with controversial former WA Liberal senator turned party powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne.

"But that association ended some time ago," Mr Howard told reporters.

He also said that Senator Johnston was once an associate of Brian Burke's business partner, Julian Grill.

"He was however an associate of Mr Grill's some twenty years ago. They were in the same law firm and I have been given chapter and verse of all that and that association hasn't had any currency for close to twenty years," Mr Howard said.

"I am satisfied after a very careful discussion with him that there are no issues that arise there but I thought it better to announce that up front rather than get a series of questions," Mr Howard said.

Eric Abetz Manager of Government Business in the Senate

Meanwhile, Tasmania's most senior federal Liberal MP Eric Abetz has been given another job.

Federal Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation Mr Abetz has been nominated the Manager of Government Business in the Senate.

The appointment is part of the Prime Minister's announcement on new ministerial arrangements.

Senator Abetz will be responsible for guiding the Government's legislative agenda through the Upper House and consulting the Opposition on sitting times.

A spokesman for Senator Abetz says the job usually goes to the most experienced junior minister.

March 1st, 2019 by admin

Father may incriminate Hicks

The father of Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks may become a key prosecution witness in the Australian terror suspect's trial.

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Chief prosecutor at the US Office of Military Commissions, Colonel Morris Davis, said he has evidence of Terry Hicks referring to his son as a "terrorist".

Terry Hicks is a vocal supporter of his son and has been a key figure in the campaign to have him released from the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and returned to Australia.

Col Davis, however, said Terry Hicks referred to his son as a "terrorist" in an interview soon after it became public Hicks had been picked up in Afghanistan in December 2001 and placed in US custody.

"The very first interviews I can find when someone referred to him as a terrorist was Terry Hicks," Col Davis told reporters.

"The first time he was interviewed, Terry Hicks described the phone call with David in September (2001) after 9/11 and David was in Pakistan and said he was going to go back to Afghanistan.

"Terry Hicks said he tried to talk him out of it and told him he shouldn't be taking up arms against his own.

"I think his quote was 'He's 26-years-old, he's his own man, and I can't tell him what to do. In our eyes he's a terrorist because he took up arms against his own'.

"I would tend to agree with Terry Hicks."

Asked if Terry Hicks could be called as a prosecution witness or his comments used to bolster the prosecution case, Col Davis said: "Possibly".

"I'm not the lead prosecutor in the case so I don't want to commit him to a particular strategy or not, but certainly Terry Hicks has changed his tune considerably since that time," Col Davis said.

"But, on day one, he's the first one I can find anywhere that refers to David Hicks being a terrorist."

Hicks, 31, was charged last week with providing material support for terrorism and is expected to appear before the military commission at Guantanamo for a preliminary hearing in late March.

It is alleged Hicks trained with al-Qaeda and fought with the terrorist group when US and Coalition forces invaded Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on Washington DC and New York.

Hicks faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if found guilty.

Col Davis said the prosecution was still open to a plea deal and if Hicks did plead guilty he could be back in Australia "walking free" this year.

Col Davis said he could be open to a plea deal of 10 to 20 years imprisonment.

If the sentence was the 10 years, and Hicks was sent back to Australia to serve it, Col Davis said it was his understanding Hicks's five years jail at Guantanamo could be taken into account.

Col Davis said the matter had been discussed with Hicks's US military lawyer, Major Michael Mori.

"In my understanding in talking to Major Mori that there is a strong possibility or likelihood or expectation the Australian government would credit whatever time he spent in Guantanamo once he gets back to Australia they would apply the credit," Col Davis said.

"Depending on the length of the sentence, there's a strong possibility he would be parole ready once he got back to Australia.

"I'm certainly no expert on the Australian parole system, but the way it was presented to me, if it was reasonably accurate, it's possible, and I can't say it's probable or likely, but it's possible he could be back home and walking free by the end of the year."