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June 30th, 2019 by admin

Hail pelts nation’s capital

The wild weather left hail drifts up to one metre deep around city streets.

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Bulldozers were being used to clear ice in the city centre, causing traffic chaos and very long delays for commuters.

The city remains on alert with the Bureau of Meteorology issuing a road weather alert because of ice and fog.

Canberra’s major retail precinct, The Canberra Centre, has been forced to close as has the Australian National University’s city campus, as crews check buildings are safe.

Schools including Canberra Grammar and Campbell High, near the Australian War Memorial, also have been closed.

Government offices affected by the storm include the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

“We have had some flooding … it was an enormous electrical storm,” a spokesman for the Canberra Centre said.

ACT State Emergency Service (SES) chief officer Tony Graham said the SES had received about 100 calls for assistance with 40 officers working through the night.

“The majority of jobs have been for flooding and hail damage with a number of residential properties sustaining collapsed ceilings,” he said in a statement.

Numerous roads were closed overnight including Parkes Way and Vernon Circle in the city, he said.

Bunda Street in Civic was shut this morning as emergency crews worked to clean up.

Fire fighters from the ACT Fire Brigade and crews from Roads ACT worked to clear hail and debris off roadways.

Mr Graham said the storm struck late last night causing widespread damage from Civic through to Belconnen in Canberra’s north.

He said the ACT SES expects more calls for assistance to come in later this morning as people wake up to discover damage to their properties.

Canberra’s commercial centre of Civic, experienced unspecified but extensive damage as hail blocked gutters which then overflowed into shops and offices.

Nature strips across the city’s inner northern were pounded by the hail, leaving little more than mud in places where drought had stripped away top soil.

A spokesman for the territory’s water authority, ACTEW Corporation, was unable to confirm if any rain had fallen over the Canberra catchment area because the ACTEW building has been flooded.

June 30th, 2019 by admin

PM won't name nuke locations

Mr Howard said to name possible locations of any nuclear reactors would harm the prospects of a sensible debate on the issue.

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The opposition party meanwhile released a list of government MPs it says have publicly declared they would not want a nuclear reactor in their electorates.

Those listed are Greg Hunt, Kevin Andrews, Peter McGauran, Russell Broadbent (Victoria), Joanna Gash (NSW), Julie Bishop (WA) and Warren Entsch (Queensland).

But Mr Howard says there's no point in the government indicating where power stations might be located.

"I do not intend … to engage in an exercise in saying nuclear power stations won't be here or won't be there," he said.

"I do not intend to engage in the game of ruling out the location of nuclear power stations in any particular part of this country because that will take with us a sensible debate about this issue."

The government says Australia cannot overlook the use of electricity generated by nuclear power because of its low greenhouse gas emissions.

Row over timing of inquiry

As the debate over nuclear energy heated up, the opposition also challenged the government to reveal what talks it had with a company promoting nuclear energy, which was co-founded by a former Liberal Party treasurer.

Labor leader Kevin Rudd says the opposition can be excused for being suspicious about government links with the nuclear energy company.

The prime minister and Treasurer Peter Costello confirmed that Liberal powerbroker Ron Walker told them of his decision to register a company promoting nuclear power in the middle of last year.

That was about the same time that Mr Howard called an inquiry into the feasibility of an Australian nuclear energy industry.

But Industry and Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane yesterday told parliament that he had not held any discussions with anyone involved with Australian Nuclear Energy (ANE) Pty Ltd.

Mr Rudd said the opposition had been trying to establish when the government had conversations with ANE and where that sat with the commissioning of the Switkowski inquiry into the nuclear industry.

Mr Howard earlier denied setting up the inquiry into nuclear power to benefit Liberal Party powerbroker Ron Walker.

Mr Howard conceded that he called the inquiry into nuclear energy's feasibility about the same time that Mr Walker told him he had registered a nuclear energy company.

But he said he had not been influenced by Mr Walker's decision to start Australian Nuclear Energy (ANE) Pty Ltd.

"There was absolutely nothing riding on my conversation with Mr Walker," Mr Howard told Sky News.

"I didn't decide to have an inquiry into nuclear power in Australia because Mr Walker told me that he and a couple of his business associates (were registering a company).

"I decided to have the inquiry because I thought it was in the national interest to do so."

ANE was registered on June 1, 2006 – five days before Mr Howard announced his prime ministerial taskforce to review the feasibility of a nuclear energy industry.

Mr Howard pointed out that then science minister Brendan Nelson had proposed an inquiry in November 2005.

"The idea that I thought gee, let's have an inquiry as a result of my conversation with Ron Walker is just ridiculous," the prime minister said.

"They didn't seek any assistance. They don't need the permission of the prime minister to incorporate a company."

Mr Howard also denied discussing possible government subsidies to make nuclear power economical with Mr Walker.

" Southcott simply repeated that it was too early to discuss that aspect.

Watch a debate on the pros and cons of nuclear energy with anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott and the head of the government's taskforce on nuclear energy Ziggy Switkowsky.

June 30th, 2019 by admin

Underworld figure confesses

Victorian police, charged with investigating Melbourne's underworld, have warned the war is not over despite claiming a major scalp, gangland kingpin Carl Williams.

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On Thursday Williams pleaded guilty in the Victorian Supreme Court to the murders of Lewis Moran, 58, his son Jason, 36, and a third man who cannot be named.

The confessions were a major breakthrough for the Purana gangland taskforce charged with investigating Melbourne's underworld wars.

But the taskforce's head, Deputy Commissioner Simon Overland, said today the battle was not over and can never be won.

"No, they never end actually and I've never really liked the term war, it sort of suggests that it is something we can win," he told the Nine Network.

"The point is this is entrenched organised crime that we're dealing with; we know that it never goes away.

"It became pretty public down here, obviously that's put a lot of pressure on us to be seen to deal with it, I think we're now doing that.

"But it's not going to go away and neither are we."

Jason Moran, 36, and his bodyguard Pasquale Barbaro, 40, were shot dead as they sat in a car watching a children's football clinic in Essendon in June, 2003.

Lewis Moran was shot dead in the inner-city Brunswick Club on March 31, 2004.

Details of the third murder are suppressed.

Williams faces spending the rest of his life in jail following the guilty pleas.

He is already serving at least 21 years for the 2003 murder of Michael Marshall, who was gunned down outside his South Yarra home in front of his five-year-old son on October 25, 2003.

The outcome of that trial had been suppressed until yesterday.

Mr Overland said Williams' confessions were a great victory for police and he thanked the officers and law enforcement agencies involved.

"It is a great day for our people, it's a vindication for their efforts and the work they've done," he said.

June 30th, 2019 by admin

Rudd defends Burke meeting

Labor leader Kevin Rudd says he's guilty of nothing more than good manners and bad judgment in his dealings with disgraced former WA premier Brian Burke.

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As the Burke scandal derailed Mr Rudd's dream start as opposition leader, the federal Labor leader said he was unaware of a ban on state Labor MPs contacting Mr Burke when he met him three times in 2005.

But Mr Rudd rejected as "an absolute lie" government claims that he went to Perth to enlist Mr Burke as his numbers man for his leadership challenge against Kim Beazley a year later.

Mr Rudd was subjected to a bruising parliamentary attack on his honesty today over his links with Mr Burke, whose activities as a lobbyist are under scrutiny by WA's Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC).

He later called a press conference and said: "Would it have been better for me not to have met with Mr Burke, had I known what Mr Burke was up to at the time? Of course.

"Did I have the faintest idea that Mr Burke was engaged in activities which are now the subject of the CCC? Of course I did not.

"So therefore, with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight, of course I would not have met with Mr Burke. I had no knowledge of those matters then."

Mr Burke, a convicted fraudster, has already brought down three ministers in the WA Labor state government, sacked during the inquiry into his lobbying activities and those of his business partner Julian Grill.

Mr Rudd admitted meeting Mr Burke three times in Perth in 2005 – once at breakfast, once over coffee and once at dinner – through federal Labor backbencher Graham Edwards, a close friend of both men.

But he said he had done nothing wrong, other than suffering a lapse in judgment.

Mr Rudd said he felt an "obligation of friendship" to meet with Mr Burke because of their strong mutual friendship with Mr Edwards.

"Sometimes we do things out of friendship and politeness," he said.

But he rejected the chance of a fourth meeting when Mr Burke offered to organise a dinner for him with journalists when he was next in Perth.

"I thought it was going a step too far," he said.

"Having a discussion with someone at a social gathering is one thing, then taking someone's assistance to organise a meeting with journalists in Western Australia I thought was going too far.

"I felt uncomfortable about that and in this business you make judgments about whether that level of assistance is appropriate."

Mr Edwards and a second Labor backbencher, Mark Bishop, have been "counselled" for remaining in contact with Mr Burke since last November, when then Labor leader Kim Beazley banned all MPs from dealing with Mr Burke.

But Treasurer Peter Costello said Mr Burke was a convicted criminal and Mr Rudd should be tainted by his association with him.

"Those who understand politics in this house will say that it was no coincidence in 2005, when the leader of the opposition was looking for numbers for his leadership bid, that he happened to be going regularly to Perth and meeting with Mr Brian Burke," Mr Costello told parliament.

"Mr Brian Burke never does something for nothing. Mr Brian Burke has now been fingered by the crime commission in Western Australia and four (sic) ministers have lost their jobs because of their contacts with him, because anyone who deals with Mr Brian Burke is morally and politically compromised."

Labor tried to turn the attack back on the government, asking Prime Minister John Howard about coalition MPs' dealings with former Liberal Party powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne, who has also been implicated in the CCC inquiry.

Mr Howard said the two cases were not comparable because Mr Crichton-Browne had not been jailed for fraud and the Liberals had expelled him from the party more than a decade ago.

"Anybody who has any understanding of Australian politics would suspect that what the leader of the opposition was about was touting for preferment and favour from a man of influence in the Labor Party in Western Australia," Mr Howard told parliament.

June 30th, 2019 by admin

Thorpe service 'no rock gig'

Sunday's memorial service in Sydney for rock legend Billy Thorpe will be open to the public but won't be a tribute concert, manager Michael Chugg says.

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Details were still being worked out today for the memorial service at Sydney's Entertainment Centre on Sunday afternoon, which is also expected to be televised live.

VIDEO: Glenn A Baker pays tribute

Titled "Over The Rainbow", after Thorpe's cover of The Wizard of Oz trademark tune "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", the March 4 service will begin at 3.45pm (AEDT).

Thorpe, 60, died at St Vincent's Hospital yesterday after a massive heart attack.

Tickets to the hour-long memorial service will be made available to the public from tomorrow.

As tributes poured in for Thorpe, Chugg made it clear the event would be a memorial service, not a rock concert.

"We are working through all this and locking it all in stone, we will release the details on various websites over the next few days," Chugg told the Nine Network.

"Again, I must stress it is not a concert, we want you to come along because we want you to pay your respects to a great person.

"We have been very, very conscious of how Billy would have seen it."

The memorial service is expected to feature tributes and performances by some of Thorpe's closest friends and family.

A spokeswoman for Chugg Entertainment said the service would be telecast live on one of Australia's major networks – Ten, Nine, Seven or ABC – and an announcement would be made later today.

Australian pop star Olivia Newton-John today joined the tributes to Thorpe.

"I was shocked and still am," Newton-John told Nine.

"Billy was so full of life, it's just so hard to imagine. He was always so energetic and alive, it's incomprehensible yet.

"I have lots of fond memories of Billy."

A decision is also expected soon on the release date of Thorpe's last album, Tangier, which was in the final stages of mixing before he died.

Thorpe is survived by his widow Lynne and daughters Rusty and Lauren.

May 30th, 2019 by admin

Hicks to claim UK citizenship

Hicks has been charged with “material support for terrorism” and referred to trial by a special military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said.

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In the meantime British Lawyer Stephen Grosz will bring an appeal before UK immigration courts in May in another bid to have the terror suspect granted UK citizenship.

Hicks was granted British citizenship in July last year but the British Home Secretary immediately took it away on national security grounds.

The US government has released other UK citizens from Guantanamo following pressure from the British government.

It is hoped that if Hicks were granted UK citizenship it would force the British government to also lobby for his release.

Mr Grosz told ABC radio today that Hicks had his British citizenship removed by the Home Secretary on the basis of statements the Australian made to UK security services in April

2003.

But he will argue those statements were obtained under coercion or through torture and should therefore be inadmissible.

Mr Grosz said statements about torture in Guantanamo Bay to be tendered in the UK case could have an impact on the military commission process.

“Assuming that the trial does go ahead I would certainly expect it would cast considerable doubt on the safety of any conviction which was obtained by the military commission if it were based on evidence that had been discredited in the United Kingdom after the hearing of very substantial evidence,” Mr Grosz said.

The British lawyer said he would detail allegations of beatings, threats by guards with guns, hooding, shackling, the use of drugs and sexual humiliation.

He will also give details of a practice known as “earthing” which is said to involve several armed marines rushing into a detainee’s cell to deliver a beating.

Mr Grosz claimed many of these beatings had been filmed.

“All these earthings are recorded on video and somewhere in the

United States in the department of defence there exists hours and hours of video evidence of these earthings,” he said.

May 30th, 2019 by admin

Hicks trial 'legally baseless'

Hicks was charged today with "material support for terrorism" and referred to trial by a special military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said.

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Major Michael Mori, who is in Melbourne, today said the dismissal of the attempted murder charge was an admission by the US commission system that all the charges laid against Hicks were made up and had no basis in law and fact.

"It's disgusting that he has spent five years in Guantanamo for made-up charges," Maj Mori told reporters in Melbourne.

"Now they are doing it again. They are repeating history by creating a new crime after the fact and trying to apply it to David retroactively.

"This is something that the attorney general in Australia has said is completely inappropriate.

"I want to speak to the Attorney General's Department to make sure they understand the nature of the charge, the illegality of this new charge.

"It's about time they took some action and just didn't rely on US assurances in the matter.

Major Mori said the serious charges the American military originally accused Hicks of two years ago no longer stand.

"None of the original charges – conspiracy, aiding the enemy and attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent – have been recharged.

"This is an admission by the US that there was no basis for the original charges and that the US had no justification to hold David for five years on those made-up offences.

"David has been charged with only one offence – material support of terrorism.

"The material support charge has never existed in the laws of war.

"It was created in October 2006.

"The US is applying this offence to David retrospectively even though Australian (government) ministers have said that is inappropriate.

"Prosecutors claim the offence of material support has been on the books for years, but they are talking about a US domestic offence, of which David is not charged.

"If you put the military commission offence and the federal offence of material support of terrorism side by side, they are not the same offence.

"If the (Australian) government's position is that the commission and US federal offences of material support are the same, and therefore not retrospective, then prosecutors could have charged David five years ago in US federal court rather than let him rot in Guantanamo.

"All this time, we have been told that David had to be tried by military commission rather than in a federal court because the offences were war crimes.

"But after five years, the US has not charged David with a single war crime."

Adelaide-born Hicks, 31, is expected to make his first appearance before a military commission in the next month.

Hicks has spent more than five years at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He was picked up in Afghanistan in late

2001.

"After five years in Guantanamo, David has no hope of facing a fair trial, which would have been provided to an American a long time ago," Major Mori said.

"Australians deserve the same protections as Americans, yet David has yet to receive them and the Australian government has yet to demand that he does."

May 30th, 2019 by admin

Govt endorsing rights for gays

The Prime Minister's office is preparing a cabinet submission on the issue after a concerted campaign by Liberal MPs, The Australian reports.

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It is understood major elements of the package include equal access to the Medicare safety net and the couples' rate threshold for the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Under current laws, married or de facto heterosexual couples without children qualify for the 80 per cent rebate under the Medicare safety net after reaching $716 in out-of-pocket expenses between them.

But same-sex partners are not considered a couple, which means their expenses have to be double before they qualify for the safety net.

The Australian reports that discrimination in migration law, social security and tax could also form part of the reform plan, including the superannuation contribution rebate.

Meanwhile, the Australian Greens have tried to revive the civil unions debate by introducing a bill that would give same-sex couples the same legal recognition as married couples.

In parliament today, Greens Senator Kerry Nettle introduced the Marriage (Relationships Equality) Amendment Bill, which proposes changing the Marriage Act to define marriage as "the union of two persons, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity, voluntarily entered into for life".

In her second reading speech tabled in parliament today, Senator Nettle said freedom of sexuality and gender identity was a fundamental human right.

"Australians of diverse sexuality or gender identity should immediately gain the legal right to marry, to publicly proclaim and celebrate their love and commitment, and ensure full legal and social recognition of their relationship," she said.

Debate on the bill was adjourned.

May 30th, 2019 by admin

Hicks detention is challenged

The federal opposition has questioned the legality of Australian David Hicks' five-year detention at Guantanamo Bay, saying the charge he faces did not apply to non-US citizens until last year.

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The United States charged the Australian today with providing material support for terrorism, making him the first detainee in the war on terror era to be charged under the new US law for military commissions.

Hicks will face court within a month, but a charge of attempted murder has been dropped.

Labor's attorney-general spokesman Kelvin Thomson said the charge against Hicks was not part of the laws of war until last year.

"It makes you wonder on what basis he has been held legally for the past five years," Mr Thomson told reporters in Melbourne.

"The military commission's act of 2006 applied this offence of material support for terrorism to non-US citizens and did so with retrospective effect.

"Now the Howard government has been claiming all along that it would require retrospective legislation in order to try David Hicks in Australia and this would be wrong.

"Why is it not okay to charge David Hicks with retrospective offences under Australian law yet apparently it is okay to charge David Hicks retrospectively at Guantanamo Bay?"

Mr Thomson said the government needed to end the double-standard and tell the US it was unacceptable to charge Hicks under retrospective law.

"He can have that fair trial in the US under American law, he can have that fair trial in Australia under Australian law but he will not receive a fair trial at Guantanamo Bay," he said.

"If Guantanamo Bay is not good enough for American citizens, it is not good enough for an Australian citizen either."

May 30th, 2019 by admin

PM quizzed by Terry Hicks

Terry Hicks rang a talkback radio station while Mr Howard was on air to ask him about his son's case.

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"How come the Americans can drop one charge and then lay a charge that's been retrospected to cover these charges against David, when the Australian government keeps saying they can't retrospect the law to bring David back to face charges?" Terry Hicks asked.

David Hicks was charged today with providing material support for terrorism and referred to stand trial by a special military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said.

But a second charge of attempted murder was dismissed after Judge Susan Crawford concluded there was no "probable cause" to justify it.

Mr Howard denied that the charge of providing material support to terrorism was retrospective and said the other charge had been dropped because it could not be proven.

"The reason why apparently the attempted murder charge had been dropped is that the presiding authority is not satisfied that it could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt against your son," Mr Howard told Mr Hicks.

He said charges can be dropped " in those circumstances, just as frequently happens in Australia when directors of public prosecutions at a state and commonwealth level decide not to proceed with a case, not because there's no evidence, but because they believe there is insufficient evidence to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt".

"And that, may I say, demonstrates another point – that contrary to what many people have said, the beyond reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence does exist in relation to this military commission process."

Mr Howard told Mr Hicks that the Americans had sped up his son's trial process following Mr Howard's personal appeals to US President George W Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney.

"I have raised on two occasions in conversations with President Bush over the past month my concern, my great concern, at the delay and I raised it with Vice-President Cheney," Mr Howard said.

"I can tell you that David Hicks is the first one to be dealt with in this fashion under the new military commission.

"It is quite obvious that the process has been accelerated and we will continue to press the Americans to keep their foot on the accelerator."

Mr Howard said he was not happy at the delay but the government decided several years ago that justice was better served by having Hicks appear before a military commission.

"If we'd have brought David Hicks back to Australia, he could not be charged unless we retrospectively created a criminal offence, which we were not willing to do," he said.